Local Republicans see unity in November

Daphne Dove-Pierce went into her polling place Tuesday with the intent of casting a protest ballot in the Republican presidential primary.

The president of the newly formed Republican Women of Muscogee County had planned to vote for former New York City Mayor Rudy Guilani, who dropped out of the race last week.

But when it came time to cast the vote, she couldn't and ended up voting for Sen. John McCain instead.

McCain got the most Republican votes in Muscogee County, 4,935, or 40 percent, to 4,372 (35 percent) for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and 2,616 (21 percent) for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Voter turnout was higher than Muscogee County Director of Elections Nancy Boren had predicted. Boren had said she expected between 25 and 30 percent to turn out. But close to 42 percent of registered voters showed up at the polls.

About 30 local Republicans gathered at Loco's, a Midtown restaurant, Tuesday night to watch the local and national results come in.

Dove-Pierce's reason for not wasting her vote was personal. In the 1920s, her grandmother chained herself to the fence at the home of the British prime minister to help English women gain the right to vote.

"I couldn't do that to my grandmother," Dove-Pierce said. "I didn't want to waste my vote."

Others in the local Republican Party decided they could not support McCain, Romney or Huckabee. Muscogee County Republican Party Chairman Josh McKoon cast his vote for former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who exited the race last month.

"He most closely represented the issues that I was most concerned about — traditional conservative values such as less government, lower taxes and strong on defense," McKoon said of Thompson.

McKoon said he will have no problem falling in line behind whoever the Republicans put on the November ballot.

"I think any of the candidates will be an excellent standard bearer for the party," McKoon said.

Colin Martin, the vice chairman of the local party, said McKoon's selection was a wasted vote.

"If Fred Thompson had stayed in the race, that would have been my choice," Martin said. "But we have got to move beyond that."

Martin said he voted for McCain, and part of the reason was because of all of the backlash McCain was receiving from conservative personalities Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

"I am not happy the way the talk-radio folks have bashed McCain," Martin said.

David Helmick, president of the Muscogee County Young Republicans, said he voted for Romney because of his business and management experience.

"He would be the best leader for our country," Helmick said.

Martin was philosophical about his vote.

"I heard someone say today that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line," Martin said. "That is basically what my vote was today."