JEFFERSON-After sweeping Republican victories in local races last week, Ashe County GOP Chairman David Desautels said he’ll soon be stepping down from the post.
“Obviously I’m very pleased with the way things turned out locally,” Desautels said Nov. 9, the morning following the 2016 election. “We put a lot of effort into these races and I’m happy the way things went.”
Desautels said he would step down from the post effective Nov. 15.
Republican candidates picked up wins in many state, local and national races last week, including a three seat sweep for the Ashe County Board of Commissioners.
Incumbent commissioners Larry Rhodes and Gary Roark retained their seats, while newcomer Republican Paula Roark Perry will join them in creating a five-member Republican commission.
In something of a surprise, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump knocked off Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States in January 2017, and Trump brought home a larger share – some 70 percent – of the local vote than any presidential candidate since at least 1992. Republican Mitt Romney, in comparison, gained just 65 percent of the local vote in 2012, while Republican John McCain earned just 60.6 percent four years earlier.
Incumbent Republicans, state Sen. Deanna Ballard and Rep. Jonathan Jordan, also picked up victories. It was Jordan’s win Tuesday night that Desautels singled out for praise.
Jordan was re-elected to office on the strength of his vote total in Ashe County. Challenger Sue Counts narroly earned more votes in Watauga County than Jordan, but lost the race after Jordan picked up 65 percent of votes cast in Ashe County.
“We gave out approximately 7,500 voter guides,” Desautels said. “We worked early voting at both Fleetwood and the courthouse and we stayed within the rules as we knew them. So we advanced Jordan’s candidacy and (Ballard’s) which was a cakewalk by comparison. As chairman, of course I’m interested in the state and national races, but my primary focus was on the local races, as these are the people that most influence our lives.”
Desautels was elected chairman of the local GOP earlier this year, after taking over for his sister Mary Desautels. His short time as party director was marked by both electoral success and inter-party controversy.
He invited outspoken local progressive Melissa Edmondson to speak to the GOP in April – a move which elicited grumbling from local Republicans – but also brought former Appalachian State University Head Football Coach Jerry Moore to address Ashe County this summer.
Desautels said he’d change none of his decisions.
“I felt like I was put in as chairman to do a very specific job,” Desautels said. “I feel like I have done that job successfully. I believe that was to elect our county commissioners and state house and state senator. I believe that I have had a cool head in this process. I think I’ve reached out to people on the opposite side, and I’m pleased with the personal and professional growth that has come to me.”
Now that the election has passed, Desautels said he’s confident local Republicans will install solid leadership beyond him.
“I’ve gone and kept my head down and advanced the causes I believe in,” Desautels said. “In what has been an incredibly divisive election year, I’ve been able to say I have friendships that I have been able to maintain, and that’s what’s important.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.