Northwest GOP candidate disappointed in party’s help
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On paper, the election for Northwest Ward looked winnable for Republicans.
Incumbent Democrat Wanda Merschel, who announced in June that she wouldn’t run for re-election, had recorded only 53 percent of the vote in 2009. With her out of the running, the seat would be wide-open in a ward where neither political party holds a majority.
But the strong campaign of Democrat Jeff MacIntosh came to the fore in 2013 during early voting and on Election Day, as he not only turned aside the GOP challenge from Lida Hayes Calvert but also improved on Merschel’s performance in 2009.
“We covered a lot of neighborhoods,” said MacIntosh, who is a former neighborhood association president. “Neighborhoods are where I come from and I understand how they work because I have been involved in them. We knew we had to meet the people who were in the neighborhoods where we had not been.”
The election results showed MacIntosh winning heavily in precincts closer to the center of the city, leaving only three far-western precincts to Hayes Calvert. And even there, the GOP candidate did not win overwhelmingly: Hayes Calvert received 52 percent of the vote in two of them and 58 percent at Pfafftown Christian Church, her best precinct.
By contrast, MacIntosh carried between 60 percent and 67 percent of the vote in some of his larger precincts, and even garnered 54 percent in Mount Tabor, which Merschel lost in 2009.
MacIntosh and Susan Campbell, who chairs the Forsyth County Democratic Party, both said there was a lot of cooperation and sharing between MacIntosh and the party.
But Hayes Calvert said she was disappointed in the support she received from the GOP.
“I felt when I started the race that the Republican Party would help me more than what they did,” Calvert said, adding that she did get good support from the county’s Republican Women’s group.
“I talked to Scott Cumbie many, many times,” Hayes Calvert said, referring to the county’s GOP chairman. “I begged for help. He said he was doing the best he could — which was not a lot.”
Cumbie declined to respond to Hayes Calvert’s remarks. He did say that the party spent a lot of effort trying to get a good turnout.
“That is what our concern was going into this and clearly that was the problem,” Cumbie said. “We did quite a bit of door-to-door and telephone calls. We made a big effort to reach out and encourage people to get out and vote.”
Campbell said that the Democratic Party and its candidates worked closely together.
“In particular, Jeff MacIntosh did a terrific job building his grassroots campaign,” Campbell said. “He was strong from the very beginning and engaged with the party. He came to us, worked with us, showed up at all our events. We had candidate meetings to coordinate campaigns and he got a lot of support from the party and the other candidates.”
Campbell saw the Hayes Calvert effort as one that did not make as many personal contacts with voters as MacIntosh did.
“I think it was a great testimonial to what you do to turn in a solid campaign to talk to the voters directly rather than sending out large mailers,” Campbell said.
Robert Clark, the only Republican on the council, said that MacIntosh’s experience working with the Merschel campaign probably gave him an edge.
“Anytime it is someone’s first time running, it is a learning experience,” Clark said, speaking of Hayes Calvert. “Jeff knew how the game was played. I think it is a rookie mistake to think that the party has all this money, and really, the party doesn’t have the resources. If you have never been in a campaign you don’t understand that it is really up to the candidate to do everything. Having said that, I think she (Hayes Calvert) ran a very good campaign.”
Hayes Calvert calls herself a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. On the campaign trail, she said, she was disappointed to find people telling her that they liked her, but not her party and therefore couldn’t vote for her.
MacIntosh said he tried hard to keep voters focused on local events.
“It is hard to keep the conversation at a local level with people,” MacIntosh said. “Quite often it was changed to Washington and Raleigh. People who are following state politics and who are not too happy with what is going on there may have expressed their opinions in the general election.”
By Wesley Young/Winston-Salem Journal