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After 2016 split vote, political expert says Jackson County one to watch in 2020

Jackson County voting 3.JPG
Jackson County was just one of four N.C. counties in the 2016 general election that split its vote based on party affiliation; the county voted Republican for president and Democrat for governor. Political expert Chris Cooper says 2020 might yield similar election results for the county. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

With just eight days until the election, political expert Chris Cooper, chair of Western Carolina University’s political science department, said Jackson County will be an interesting county to watch.

“In 2016, Jackson County voted for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, and they also voted for Roy Cooper, the Democratic nominee for governor,” Cooper said.

Cooper said those voting results made Jackson County one of only four in North Carolina that split the presidential and gubernatorial vote in 2016 based on party affiliation.

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“I see a lot of fervor in the Trump camp,” said Mike Fitzgerald, owner of Fitzgerald Shoe Repair in downtown Sylva.

“If I talk to the locals, almost every one of them supported Trump, and I’m not including (Western Carolina University) in the locals,” said Jim Wallace, a customer at the shoe repair store on Monday, Oct. 26.

Wallace said Monday at Fitzgerald’s that he thinks the county will again vote for Trump. Another customer on Monday disagreed.

“Biden all the way,” the second customer said, who shared that she voted for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. She that asked News 13 not identify her by name.

Fitzgerald said he thinks Roy Cooper won't do as well in the county this election.

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“I believe Roy Cooper’s going to lose,” said Fitzgerald. “We were shut down for about two months. I think people are tired of wearing masks and tired of restrictions.”

Cooper said the early vote breakdown of registered voters in the county so far has been 39% Democrat, 26% Republican and 34% unaffiliated.

Cooper said the unaffiliated voters largely chose to vote in the Democratic primary earlier this year, but he said that could be because the race then was more interesting given President Trump had no opponent for the Republican nomination.

“The past voting behavior outside of Buncombe County in most of Western North Carolina is certainly ruby red,” said Cooper of WNC counties, including Jackson.

However, Cooper said he feels the county will definitely be one to watch given its 2016 history.

“We expect this bright purple dot in Jackson County,” Cooper said. “We can’t really predict what’s going to happen there, well, at all.”

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