Prior to the election, we here at the Spirit had plenty of politicians, Democratic and Republican, reach out to us and ask us for our endorsement.
Each time, we politely refused.
When I talk to people in our profession about endorsements, the discussion can sometimes get pretty lively. There are some who feel like it is a newspaper’s job to offer endorsements. And others feel that it’s overstepping a boundary.
Here at the Spirit of Jefferson, we are of the latter opinion.
Not only that, but I feel like it’s important for our newspaper to reflect the values of its community. Not part of the community, but all of it.
And since I have arrived here in Charles Town a little over a year ago, I have formed an opinion of where this county sits politically.
And that’s down the middle.
Of course, there are numbers from the county election officials that basically say that the registered voters are pretty much divided into thirds, Republican, Democratic and Independent. And while that’s true statistically, I have come to the conclusion that our county is roughly a 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans.
Each year, a good deal of the races are decided by less than a few percentage points. The election results can go in either direction. Nothing is concrete here in Jefferson County.
In 2018, it leaned Democrat. This year, it leaned in favor of the Republicans. But not by much.
Prior to the election, there was a lot of concern that Donald Trump was going to bring Republican voters who would vote down the line, straight ticket Republican.
And while that happened to some extent, it really didn’t appear to be as prevalent as some were thinking.
Trump won nearly 55% of the votes for president in Jefferson County. And those voters, for whatever reason, split off and voted for other things and other people, that didn’t necessarily line up with the Republican agenda.
The biggest example of the diversity of voters’ opinions in Jefferson County came with the vote for the school bond and the school levy.
A lot of heavily conservative groups in this county labeled both a mega tax and tried to mount a campaign to stop both from passing.
That campaign fell flat. The voters in Jefferson County were hearing none of it.
The excess levy passed with 67% of the vote. The bond passed with nearly 62% of the vote. There were a lot of people in Jefferson County who voted for Donald Trump, and turned around and voted for the levy and for the bond.
There are three other races in Jefferson County that also demonstrate this point.
And some of these races may have been close because Democrats crossed party lines.
The first was the Sheriff’s race. Republican Tom Hansen won the election with a little over 43% of the vote, beating out Democrat Mike Chapman, who finished with close to 41% of the vote. Now there were three other candidates in this race. It’s hard to say which candidate took votes away from the two front runners. Everyone is going to have their opinions on this. I prefer to focus on the end result.
The second result came in the West Virginia Senate District 10 race between Republican Patricia Rucker and Democrat Pete Dougherty. The district includes voters in Jefferson County and Berkeley County. I’m just focusing on Jefferson County. When you look at the Jefferson County numbers for this race, Rucker won by less than 1 percent. Again, it appears that some of the people who voted for Trump also cast a vote for Dougherty.
Also, let’s take a look at the House of Delegates race between Democrat incumbent Sammi Brown and Republican challenger Wayne Clark. This race was decided by less than 1 percentage point. It literally came down to the absentee ballots being counted during the canvass.
For the most part, in Jefferson County, it was good to be a Republican in the 2020 general election.
It wasn’t quite what you would consider to be a red wave, but the streets did get a little flooded.
The results were encouraging in that voters crossed party lines to make their voices heard. A lot of Trump supporters voted for things and people that you wouldn’t consider to be Republican or conservative in nature. And it appeared that some Democrats also voted out of step with their party.
Such actions demonstrate an informed voter base that acts on its own and not according to what the party bosses have to say.
I have no opinion on the decisions that these voters made, but whenever you see people voting in the way that voters did locally this year, it means good things for democracy in Jefferson County.
Griffin is the editor and publisher for the Spirit of Jefferson