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Elizabeth Cook: Here’s who will win on Tuesday

Some of the barbs and name-calling of this primary season bring to mind a quote from Nelson Mandela.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
I heard yesterday that a candidate made fun of me and some other folks during a talk at the Republican Men’s Breakfast Saturday. I am flattered to be worthy of notice. Drink up, my friend.
Political campaigns and elections give me a rush. I learned a long time ago that, whether the people I vote for prevail or not, journalism wins. A crucial election creates big news without bloodshed or major property damage — not literally, at least. And we get to cover it.
Some of my favorite stories and moments have come while following politicians around, back in my reporting days — like listening to Congressman Bill Hefner sing “I’ll Fly Away” at one of his gospel rallies.
Once I interviewed Jesse Helms during one of those in-between times when he was in town for a visit but not on the campaign trail. I was interviewing him in a car, on the way to the airport, I think. As Helms lit up a Lucky Strike, I asked if he was going to run for another term.
The only thing I’m running for is the kingdom of heaven, he said.
And then there was the time I tried to interview Jim Hunt as he was chomping down on a barbecue sandwich at a Stanly County political rally.
I asked who had the best barbecue in the state. In my imagination, he made a choking sound. But I wouldn’t swear to it.
Hunt said he would rather talk about a less politically sensitive issue, like China and favored-nation status. Favoring one region’s barbecue over another’s would be political suicide.
Smart man.

Election night at the Salisbury Post requires all hands on deck. Though officially we have a designated political reporter, one person can’t cover all the races. So we divide them up and fan out, mostly to the Board of Elections across the street.
The tradition in Rowan — and other counties, I would think — is for candidates, supporters and journalists to gather in the place where the Board of Elections reports the results.
Years ago, that was a cramped office in the county building at 402 N. Main St. After the elections office moved to the J. Newton Cohen Sr. Rowan County Administration Building on Innes Street, the election-night watch moved into the stately room where commissioners meet.
After the Board of Elections’ next move, we can gather to watch the results at West End Plaza.
It’s an odd social occasion — political adversaries in the same room nervously smiling as they watch numbers displayed for all to see.
We could all sit at home and read the results online just as fast. The Board of Elections updates its site throughout the evening.
But then we wouldn’t get to see the political who’s who that fills the room. We couldn’t talk about which precincts are still out and speculate about how they’ll affect the outcome.
And winners can’t be in a victory photo on the front page of the Post if they stay home in their pajamas.
Be sure to follow our staff on Twitter that night — #rowanvote — and keep an eye on our Facebook page and website. We’ll be updating the numbers too and adding other information.

Once they have the final count, reporters try to contact all the candidates to get their reactions. There’s more to election night than numbers. Candidates can be fascinating people — citizens civic-minded enough to take the risk of running for office. I commend every one of them. Even those who don’t win — maybe especially they — deserve a chance to comment on the results before everyone moves on.
After the last headline is written and the last page is proofed, we hit the magic button to send the images to the next stage, the plate room. Before long the press will be humming.
It’s music to my ears, I tell the fourth-graders who come here for tours. Do you know why?
They guess. Because you like loud noise?
Nope. It’s because it means we’ve done our job — gathered the news and put together the pages — and soon the carriers will be delivering those pages to homes all across Rowan County.
There’s not a better job in the world, at least not for me.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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