Results in the at-large Commissioner race

Elect either one

I still can't get over the race for the at-large seat on the County Commissioners. I'm sure no-one was surprised that Bernadette Pelissier won the primary handily. She was a well-qualified and well-organized candidate, and I think she'll be a great addition to the Board. Neloa Jones had very little name recognition, and even less resources to back up her campaign. I was quite impressed with her 20% showing. It demonstrated some real voter concern about the landfill and the racial justice issues that she raised.

But what really shocked me was the nearly 30% voting for Mary Wolff. This was a candidate that had almost no visible campaign other than the ambigious yard signs that will presumably be recycled in the fall for her husband's Republican run for the same seat. Having never heard of her before, and knowing that the Wolffs just moved to the community 3 years ago, I wrote her candidacy off. My expectations were quite wrong, so I decided to dig deeper into these results...

Click for Google map of precincts

The fact that Wolff did so well raises some questions. The first question that comes to mind is: how much money did she spend? Unfortunately, both she and her husband indicated that they would spend less than $3,000 on their respective campaigns and are therefore not required to report how their campaigns were financed. Given that they clearly pooled resources on signs, I wonder what other expenses she had and whether their combined campaign might exceed $3,000 in spending. (Shades of Cook & Ryan. No?)

Of course, I am also wondering who are the folks who looked at this ballot and decided that Mary Wolff was the best candidate, and how did she reach them (especially on that under-$3k budget)? So I've been reviewing the unofficial results to see what I can see. I learned that Mary Wolff came first in 4 precincts: Caldwell, Cameron Park, Carr, and Cheeks - all in rural Orange County. Neloa Jones came first in 3 strongly African-American precincts - Northside, Tolars, West Hillsborough - as well as in provisional ballots. She was also second (beating Wolff) in 7 other Chapel Hill and Carrboro precincts. The majority of precincts broke down in the same order as the overall vote total.

PrecinctRegistered VotersJonesPelissierWolffTotalJ>W
BATTLE PARK9421713.6%8164.8%2721.6%125 
BOOKER CREEK1,9175517.1%17353.7%9429.2%322 
CAMERON PARK2,3619920.3%18237.3%20742.4%488W
CEDAR FALLS2,2786217.6%17349.0%11833.4%353 
CEDAR GROVE1,32710331.0%11835.5%11133.4%332 
COKER HILLS1,2715818.2%19360.7%6721.1%318 
COLES STORE1,5473512.2%17260.1%7927.6%286 
COLONIAL HEIGHTS2,6897017.5%24360.6%8821.9%401 
COUNTRY CLUB2,7842025.0%3847.5%2227.5%80 
DOGWOOD ACRES2,7986414.5%23553.4%14132.0%440 
EAST FRANKLIN2,2913028.0%5652.3%2119.6%107J
ESTES HILLS2,3176014.2%26763.0%9722.9%424 
GRADY BROWN3,2118217.4%20443.3%18539.3%471 
HOGAN FARMS2,66813527.3%22044.4%14028.3%495 
KINGS MILL2,0534412.1%22561.6%9626.3%365 
LIONS CLUB2,6929024.1%19151.1%9324.9%374 
MASON FARM2,8343424.5%6043.2%4532.4%139 
NORTH CARRBORO2,4368117.2%28560.5%10522.3%471 
ORANGE GROVE3,1438611.1%43055.6%25833.3%774 
ST JOHN2,62713924.8%29752.9%12522.3%561J
ST MARYS2,3845211.7%20847.0%18341.3%443 
TOWN HALL1,8458025.2%18759.0%5015.8%317J
WEAVER DAIRY3,41712518.5%41461.2%13720.3%676 
WEST HILLSBOROUGH2,30819839.2%14628.9%16131.9%505JW
WHITE CROSS1,7329921.1%23449.9%13629.0%469 
ONE STOP HILLSBOROUGH059925.1%1,21250.9%57224.0%2,383J
ONE STOP CARRBORO055220.6%1,54657.6%58821.9%2,686 
ONE STOP MOREHEAD075516.4%2,11645.9%1,74137.7%4,612 
ONE STOP SEYMOUR024918.7%80960.9%27120.4%1,329 
ABSENTEE BY MAIL06819.2%21961.7%6819.2%355 
TRANSFER00 0 0 0 

(KEY: Jones is highlighted in precincts where she beat Wolff. Wolff is highlighted in precincts where she beat Pelissier. Click here for a Google map of Orange County precints.)

So, is this about rural voters not being comfortable supporting strong environmentalists or African Americans? What are your theories?



Mary Wolff is not black and she's not a member of the Sierra Club.

I don't know why or how Mary Wolff did so well in rural Orange, but it's certainly not about race. Cheeks and Carr are heavily African American and that's part of the reason I implored Neloa Jones to campaign heavily here. In fact, Leo Allison did well in some of the same precincts where Mary Wolff did well.

I think it's far more likely that Neloa was simply an unknown in rural Orange and Wolff was the anti-Pelissier vote.

I think Mary Wolff was a "none of the above" vote.

Mike, while Cheeks has a large black population, whites still make up about half the Dem primary vote there, probably 2/3 in Efland and many of them are conservative Democrats. It was different folks voting for different candidates in different races for different reasons, if that makes sense, that gave what may appear to be contradictory results, like Wolff and Allison both winning Cheeks. Allison is the Democratic Party precinct chair of Cheeks and he worked the polls there himself most of the day, which is a major reason why he did much better against Yuhasz there (Yuhasz only got 22% in Cheeks) than in the district as a whole. Luther Brooks was second in Cheeks and that is reflective of the large black vote there (Cheeks has the third largest % of black voters, West Hillsborough is first, Carr Store is second but small, Cheeks is also one of the largest precincts in the county). 

And it couldn't have been about race anyway in the AL seat, since the number 1 and 2 candidates were white. Wolff took votes from Pelissier up here, not from Jones. As I posted earlier, Mrs. Wolff's showing up here was about ideology, not race. And Mr. Wolff's votes up here, and he'll do well in November up here, will be about the same thing. But in November, he can also get votes of GOP voters too, which she couldn't get in the primary.


Speaking of that, I've been arguing for years that all elections need  a binding "none of the above" vote option, where if "none of the above" gets the most votes a new election with new candidates is forced by law.

This would be particularly useful in races that are unopposed.

I agree with Mike it was not about race. But I also agree with Mark that is about the Sierra Club and who is NOT endorsed by them. And Wolff was perceived as more conservative than Pelissier and Jones was unknown.

>about the Sierra Club and who is NOT endorsed by them. And Wolff was perceived as more conservative than Pelissier and Jones was unknown.

Spot on.

She got a big "protest vote" here in northern Orange where she was perceived as the most conservative candidate. She benefitted from the organized opposition among conservative Democrats up here in northern Orange against the transfer tax. "They" got out "the word" out, however they get it out (not publically) that she was "their" candidate. Even in the northern Orange precincts she didn't win, she ran well, look at Efland, where she was only 8 votes behind Pelissier. My guess is there were a lot of Wolff--Yuhasz--No Transfer Tax voters here. Consider that Jamie Daniel carried a number of these northern precincts in the 2004 and 2006 gneral elections running as a Republican. I expect Mr. Wolff (and yes, the signs are staying up) to do get a similar vote. But it will be a 99% anti-the-current-BOCC vote; very few will cast an affirmative vote for him, as very few did for her.

Mike Swaim, this works in theory, but I'd be afraid the NOTA vote would serve as a "don't know" option more often than a "don't like" option.  "Don't like" is an informed choice.  Voters who don't know would use it as an out.  I wish the ballot would say, "If you don't know, don't vote for any of these candidates." 

Mary Wolff couldn't possibly have gotten 30% of the commissioner vote because of her ideology.  What ideology?  She didn't campaign enough to express one.   I believe we're looking at quite a few "don't know" voters here.  


A "don't know" vote for NOTA is far more appropriate than a "don't know" vote for any given candidate.

If it was just "don't know" voters, her strength would have been spread around more evenly, not just in northern Orange. for whatever reason, she was the choice of the conservative Democrats up here. And my guess is they were correct, she was the most conservative of the three.

I think there is a definite link between transfer tax opponents and Mary Wolff votes.  

Did Pelissier or Jones come out in favor of the transfer tax?  If they did I missed it.


Jim Rabinowitz

Bernadette stated multiple times in forums that she personally supported the transfer tax. I can only recall one time in the campaign that Neloa addressed it publicly, at the OCDW forum, and she gave a somewhat mixed answer if I recall correctly (supported raising more revenue from diverse sources but thought we needed more time to discuss it... please correct me if someone remembers better than I do).

But honestly (no disrespect to either Neloa or Bernadette), I don't think that their personal support or lack thereof mattered much in people's decision making. Support for Mary Wolff and opposition to the transfer tax were probably more about correlation than causation. I would guess that voting for Mary and against the LTT for a lot of folks was not about either the candidate or the tax, but about voicing an opposition to the way the county is currently being run.

I would rank Ms. Pelissier the better known candidate. Then Ms. Wolff and Ms. Jones in rural Orange.

Don't know how much Ms. Pelissier campaigned in the rural areas? I do know that she and her supporter played up the environmental tag and there are those who think she would be a "great addition to the Board". There are others who desire more diverse opinions on our Board of Commission and I believe those votes were cast for Ms. Wolff and Ms. Jones.

As a side bar to this discussion I fine it interesting that with the transfer tax being defeated so badly. How will this affect the elected leaders in this county/cities as proposed property tax increases are debated? Their votes may stoke the fires for the fall elections. Were you listening to the voters on May 6th may be a rally cry.


Just because I think Bernadette will be a good Commissioner doesn't mean I voted for her. In fact, I encouraged people who asked me to vote for Neloa, as I did, to send the message that we are not satisfied with the County's handling of environmental justice issues.


Wasn't refering to you I have heard the "great addition to the Board" from a number of corners. I guest this means you will support and vote for Ms. Pelissier now that she is the winner. Plus you proved my point that voting for Jones or Wolff was a vote for a more diverse opinion to the Board than is currently there or represented by Ms. Pelissier.
I think people are generally pretty happy with the services they get for their taxes around here. There are some loudmouths out there who foresee a Reagan revolution in the tea leaves of the transfer tax vote, but they are delusional.

Interesting -- in Morehead early voting it was Pelessier 45.9, Wolfe 37.7. This was Wolff's strongest showing in Chapel Hill and Bingham Townships (the area of the county south of Hillsborough).  Why? This box was mostly students. Was Wolff campaigning at that precinct? Did her signs have an unusual impact there?  Did a DTH story about her signs have an impact among voters least likely to be following the race?


I heard many reports that Mary or Kevin Wolff were stationed at this polling site, talking to voters on their way in. I wonder what they told people.
Bingham Township is not "the area of the county south of Hillsborough."  It's southwest Orange County.  If you look on a county map, you'd see that Chapel Hill Township extends west the entire latitudinal length of Hillsborough.  Looking on the same map of the county will show you that Hillsborough and the Efland area really aren't "north" Orange County, they're in the center or the county.  There's a whole lot of Orange County north of Hillsborough...  I'm not quite sure when the people in the southeast portion of the county are finally going to understand the geography of the county they're commenting on, but I've been checking in on this blog for years and it hasn't happened yet.
The media has been making the same mistake forever, which also keeps the sloppy representation alive.

It is all relative.  From the standpoint of Chapel Hill, Hillsborough is "northern" Orange. From the standpoint of Hillsborough, Schley is "northern" Orange. Folks in Chapel Hill called Hillsborough northern Orange 40 years ago.  What we call a Western Omelette is a Denver Omelette when you get west of the Mississippi.  What we call the Middle East is Western Asia once you get to Asia. 

French Fries are now Freedom Fries. Oops, off topic.

What do folks in Schley consider northern Orange?
Prospect Hill and Hurdle Mills

What do folks in Schley consider northern Orange?

following the polar route, I would say Starpoint on Smith Level Road

Folks in White Cross are rural and some are even south of Chapel Hill.  They are in the Orange County School District.  Do they fall in the "northern" group?


That would be rural southwest Orange County, or the Lost Quarter as I like to call my region.
Mark, we also call Bingham Township the "red hair step child of the county".

Geography is relative only when people keep perpetuating the same misinformation.  When you say that Bingham Twp is the area south of Hillsborough, it's just not correct.  Parts of Carrboro are due south of Hillsborough; Bingham Twp, not really (unless you include a very small sliver of Hillsborough's ETJ that extends into Cheeks Twp; Cheeks and Bingham Twps share the same easternmost longitudinal boundary), although it *is* in the southern portion of the County.

I agree with the person who pointed out the rural/urban component.  But in order for people to up the level of intelligent debate about issues in this county, don't you think it's kind of important to talk about geography in a non-relative way? 



Upon re-reading your post, I see that I may have mis-interpreted/mis-read what you wrote.  You seem to have meant that C.H. and Bingham Twps are both south of Hillsborough whereas I read your post to mean that Bingham Twp is directly south of Hillsborough.  I realize that my concern that far too many people seem to not realize how big C.H. Twp is (it's far beyond the city limits) clouded my read of your post.

I apologize. 



I did a spreadsheet showing the dropoff from the Presidential vote to the At-Large commissioner race.  The northern part of the county had the least dropoff, meaning their votes were magnified relative to many southern Orange voters who skipped the race. Below see the percentage dropoff, highest first, by precinct.  County wide it average 31.1%. Almost half the Battle Park voters skipped the race!  In Northern Orange the dropoff range varied from 15% to 26%.  In Chapel Hill Township it ranged from 26% to 46%.  No Chapel Hill/Carrboro precinct had less dropoff than any northern Orange precinct


PrecinctAL commPREZDROP
BATTLE PARK12523446.6%
DOGWOOD ACRES44081045.7%
COUNTRY CLUB8014544.8%
CEDAR FALLS35363644.5%
EAST FRANKLIN10718542.2%
KINGS MILL36559638.8%
BOOKER CREEK32249334.7%
COKER HILLS31848434.3%
ONE STOP MOREHEAD4612700434.2%
MASON FARM13921134.1%
HOGAN FARMS49574933.9%
ONE STOP CARRBORO2686405933.8%
WEAVER DAIRY676101033.1%
LIONS CLUB37455732.9%
GRADY BROWN47170132.8%
ESTES HILLS42462632.3%
ST JOHN56182231.8%
ONE STOP SEYMOUR1329192531.0%
TOWN HALL31745129.7%
ST MARYS44359725.8%
CEDAR GROVE33243623.9%
WHITE CROSS46961023.1%
COLES STORE28637122.9%
CAMERON PARK48862922.4%
ORANGE GROVE77492516.3%

Kevin Wolff & his young son were working the Orange Grove poll.

 Anyone who saw a commissioners forum or read any of the candidates issue statements could not help but conclude that Bernadette was a superior candidate by any comparison to her rivals - and one of the most prepared and thoughtful candidates to ever run for commissioner. Neloa, by her own admission, knew very little about local government or many of the issues beyond the Rogers Road situation. Mary Wolff was lost & clearly winging it at the forums. She only seemed at ease when she got to answer a question after Bernadette and could clumsily piggy-back on whatever she could learn from her answer.

 It's always interesting (and represents quite a challenge to campaigners) to see how many votes are cast on thin knowledge or for one-issue message sending. Especially when confronted with a candidate of Bernadette's stature.


Are you Bernadette's campaign manager or a member of her steering committee?
I think it's a valid question - made more interesting by your apparent disinterest in answering it.

I don't answer questions from anonymous people.

I'm happy to answer questions from people who communicate with integrity.

I will ask are you Bernadette's campaign manager or a member of her steering committee???

First I will say it is beyond me that anything I have posted here makes it an interesting question for anybody. Especially since she is already elected to the Board.

 Second I will reiterate that I have nothing to hide, but that doesn't mean I feel any obligation to answer any questions posed by anonymous posters.

Third, the shocking truth is that I was on Bernadette's campaign committee. Now what does that mean? 

Who are you?
try clicking on my name and figure it out.

Not lazy - I mean how hard is it to mouse click...

Just not well-versed in the nuances and layers of anonymity.

I know I am responding late to Mark's comment, but I have been quite busy catching up with life, so I had not been able to read this until now.  People who know me well will tell you that I do not like being mis-represented or misquoted.

     Therefore, for the record, Mark, I have never stated to you that I knew little about local government.  However, I did say that I was learning more about the issues and more about local government, which does not necessarily mean I did not have opinions or knowledge of my own.  Yes, this is a fine distinction, but it certainly conveys a different impression than the one you convey in your statements above. When I spoke with you, certainly, I was gathering information, which is what I should have been doing.  One of my specific concerns was the escalating cost of housing, and yes, I wanted your point of view on that issue.  You, however, were only one of many people I spoke with about housing and certainly I did quite of a lot of reading.

    I wonder how much Bernadette knows about housing in Orange County?  I doubt she knows much at all.  My point is that while I may not have known YOUR issues (or Bernadette's), I certainly knew something about somebody's issues.

     Furthermore, as you well know, I did not spend a year planning my campaign.  Nor am I retired, so I had much less time to prepare for what indeed was a last-minute decision to run for the office.

    But, everyone, campaigning was great!  I learned A LOT, met some WONDERFUL people, and "burned out" because I just couldn't do enough quickly enough  Had to work and be out of the state twice!

Neloa Jones

I have lived in Hillsborough for over 10 years.  Before Hillsborough, I lived in Chapel Hill/Carrboro for 7 years.  Politically I consider myself a moderate-liberal Democrat.

 My view--Hillsborough and Northern Orange County (in general) is very reluctant to support a Chapel Hill politician (aka Pelissier) for various reasons, mostly distrust and ignorance.  However, Pelissier showed up in Hillsborough atthe Last Friday night (last friday in April).  She came off very frazzled and wooden, plus she did not seem to relate very well with the Hillsborough folks.  I voted for her, but overall I found her to be distant and aloof.

 I also met Mary Wolff.  Her personality would mesh much better with your typical Hillsborough crowd.  She's somewhat a people's person who is comfortable talking to anybody.  I didn't vote for her because her views were more conservative than my own.



Bernadette lives near Hillsborough in the rural part of the county, last I checked.  District 2, if I am not mistaken.

I don't think you understood my point--her mannerism is what I was concentrating on, not her location.



Mary Wolff's personality and politics are more in line with the more rural northern orange county democrats.  Bernadette appeared distant and unsure of how to relate to a lot of us north of I-40.

Aren't there others who feel the Wolff's dual campaign is somewhat . . .

. . . *SHADY* . . .

Please say so.
(Or atleast, Let's trust that common sense will prevail, PLEASE !!!)

I don't know if you have looked around this site much, or even read my post above. I think you'll find that many of us are very unhappy with the Wolff's and their apparent tendency to see the electoral system as some kind of game.

For example, claiming that they would each spend under $3,000 and then campaigning together seems to have allowed them to avoid campaign finance reporting entirely. In addition, Mr. Wolff's claim that he would have dropped out of the race had his wife won her primary is another reminder of the disingenuousness of their campaigns.

Voters in Chatham County have shown that ethics can be optional for some Commissioner candidates, apparently we have some of those voters in Orange as well. (About 8,000 of them!)

I personally believe they are clever in how they campaigned together.  What they have done is perfectly legal.  Let's focus on their platforms instead of the ethics surrounding their campaign practices.  If you say they don't have the best interests of Orange County, I would totally agree with you. 



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