It was a night of heads bowed over phones, of groups huddled up at various spots around Greenville, all awaiting the slow trickle of results from Tuesday’s contested city council races.
At the night’s end, a veteran Republican incumbent was unseated by a Democrat, and a two-time Republican candidate finally got the spot he’d been seeking.
In the race for city council’s At Large seat, Democrat Dorothy Dowe defeated incumbent Republican George Fletcher. Dowe took home 4,489 votes, or about 56 percent of voters, against Fletcher’s 3,533 votes.
In the race for the open District 1 seat, Republican John DeWorken bested Democrat Matt Johnson. DeWorken took home 1,494 votes, or about 55 percent of votes, against Johnson’s 1,199 votes.
The night was, of course, a study in contrasts between the victorious candidates and their disappointed counterparts.
Passing the torch with class
For At Large seat winner Dorothy Dowe, the moment provided a sense of assurance she hadn’t felt in months.
“Of course the race was never a sure bet at all,” Dowe said in the moments after her opponent Fletcher called to concede. “We’ve been in it to win it from the start, obviously, but this moment is something special. We had an incredible campaign team. All those people, the more than 6,000 doors we all knocked on, all the volunteers: I want to share this moment with all of them.”
Fletcher, who won his seat four years ago, said he was disappointed by the results, but admitted, “It’s tough when you’re up against such a qualified candidate.”
Amongst the group of supporters, family and friends in Fletcher’s camp, the mood was disappointed but proud, as one-by-one individuals came up to congratulate him for all he had done for his community in his four years on city council.
“There’s still a lot I want to do, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Fletcher said. “And listen, here’s what I want people to know most of all: There is no other role in public service that is more fulfilling, more rewarding and substantive, than running for local government. You can do so much. You can impact so many lives. And you’re not holed away in Washington; you’re right here, seeing the change in your community. I’ll miss being able to make that difference, but I’m glad we both ran a positive race and will be able to move forward for Greenville.”
Dowe, for her part, said she admired Fletcher’s class and his years of service to the community.
“He called me and was such a gentleman,” Dowe said in reference to Fletcher’s concession phone call. “He is just such a wonderful community servant. I’m so excited it was a positive campaign for both teams, because we both truly want to make Greenville a better place for everyone. I have the utmost respect for the service he’s done for Greenville. We’ll be meeting soon to talk about how we both can continue working to move the community forward.”
Second time’s the charm
Gathered together at Community Tap, the group of friends, family and supporters who stood behind Democrat and District 1 candidate Matt Johnson were disappointed as the results began to steer out of their favor.
“They’re not what I want them to be,” Johnson said of the poll results.
Still, Johnson kept a smile on his face as he shook hands with those who had come out to support him. People of all ages – from the elderly, to middle-aged folks, to millennials sipping craft beer, to young kids who spent the night petting the giant Bernese Mountain Dog who lay relaxing on the barroom floor – all kept spirits high as the final results came to show that Johnson had not managed to take home victory.
“We ran for all the right reasons,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, that’s really what matters. All of the people behind me, who made this possible, I’m so grateful for that.”
Elsewhere across town, the supporters of Johnson’s opponent, Republican John DeWorken, had been watching the poll results with intense focus, perhaps no one more so than DeWorken’s wife Sunnie DeWorken.
Two years ago, Sunnie DeWorken was taking care of a newborn baby when her husband first ran for city council. On this latest election night, that infant was now a little toddler wearing a DeWorken For City Council outfit as he meandered through the crowd of adult legs shuffling all around him.
As fate would have it, Sunnie DeWorken has just recently given birth to another newborn, just as her husband’s race began picking up full speed.
“It’s seems like a pattern, doesn’t it?” she said with a laugh. “But I assure you we didn’t plan it that way.”
Sunnnie DeWorken, as she looked at the crowd of people who had gathered here to support her husband, said she was incredibly humbled.
“The truth is you don’t do this on your own,” she said. “All the people who made phone calls, knocked on doors, shared signs; all the people who convinced their neighbors to get to the polls, or who had people watch their kids while they went out to help John: you can’t explain what it feels like to have all those people wrapping their arms around you and your family.”
The new council members will be sworn in next month.