Why incumbents lost

Published 9:30 am Saturday, November 12, 2011

CAPRON—As head of Southampton County’s Democratic Party who also lost his seat on the Board of Supervisors during Tuesday’s election, Moses Wyche has theories on why most incumbents in Western Tidewater were ousted.

“I guess people just wanted a change,” said Wyche, a two-term supervisor defeated 455 to 367 by independent Bruce Phillips in the Capron District. “People have been complaining about higher taxes and what not. The opponents say they will get the taxes down. I don’t see how they will get it down until they get some businesses here.”

Wyche was among four supervisors to lose their seats in Southampton County. Others were two-term incumbent Walter Brown from the Newsoms District, two-term incumbent Anita Felts from the Jerusalem District and four-term incumbent Walter Young from the Franklin District.

In Isle of Wight County Smithfield District Supervisor Al Casteen kept his seat, but Newport District Supervisor Stan Clark and Windsor District Supervisor Thomas Wright were defeated as was Sheriff Charlie Phelps. In the school board race, Windsor District representative T. Hayes Griffin also lost.

Another loser was 10-term state Delegate Bill Barlow, D-Smithfield, to Republican challenger Rick Morris in the 64th District.

As for Southampton County, voters have been expressing concerns about the county’s $69 million debt, much of which was incurred after building a sewer system in Courtland and renovating and building schools.

“The sewer system is something we had to have,” Wyche said. “(With the schools), it was necessary because the older buildings had been there for a long time. They needed something done.”

The 69-year-old also believes this year’s redistricting hurt him. Of the county’s seven districts, Wyche’s changed the most after the 2010 Census was completed due to a shift in population.

“I lost a lot of people in my Capron area,” he said. “I had people in Capron who went to Drewryville and Newsoms and other places to vote for me and my name wasn’t on the ballot. They didn’t look at their cards (mailed to voters with their polling places) and realize they had to go somewhere else.”

Wyche, who four years ago defeated Kay Pope with 56 percent of the vote, picked up the Berlin area, where he said not as many people know him.

“I knew I was in trouble when I only won by two votes in Capron (precinct),” Wyche said. “I know about 100 more whites voted in Sebrell than blacks.”

Michele Joyce, chairwoman for the Isle of Wight County Democratic Committee, said she believes incumbents lost their seats due to voter dissatisfaction with the amount of money being spent by supervisors and the School Board.

“When talking to people, whoever, they said ‘I’m voting for the challenger,’” Joyce said. “I think Bill Barlow got caught up in that, which is very unfortunate. I don’t think it was a statement against him. The mood was oust the incumbent.”

Bruce Powell, treasurer for the Isle of Wight Republican Party, said he believes voters felt the Board of Supervisors was doing things behind closed doors.

“They were not being open and spending too much money,” Powell said.

He was referring to a water agreement with Norfolk and buying land at the end of the James River Bridge, for which there is no plan, he said.

“And the situation with the sheriff, I think it was kind of a perception that things weren’t quite right down there,” Powell said.