Obama has best Democratic showing in 16 years

Barack Obama did better in Shelby County than any Democrat in 16 years, but Republican leaders say this is still GOP country.

The president-elect earned 20,575 votes, far behind John McCain’s 68,945. Still, Obama captured 23 percent of the vote, his party’s best showing here since 1992.

“Obama is a very effective communicator,” said Dick Bell, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party. “He delivers a message that is very easily understood. He knows how to bring about excitement.”

Obama received a larger percentage of votes than John Kerry (19 percent) in 2004 or Al Gore (21 percent) in 2000.

Not since Bill Clinton in 1992 have Democrats had a stronger outing. Clinton earned 27 percent of Shelby County’s vote then.

Republican leaders point out they still won by large margins in every contest.

“I think our candidates did excellently,” said Matt Fridy, chairman of Shelby County Republicans. “The Democrats ran really strong campaigns. The candidates that ran as Republicans are solid and have strong track records. We still beat them 3-to-1.”

The three Republican candidates for county commission won handily too. Larry Dillard, Rick Shepherd and Robbie Hayes each earned at least 72 percent of the votes in their races.

“We’re excited about how we did, and will start focusing on 2010,” Fridy said.

But Bell said his party won’t go away and will continue working for a stronger presence in county politics. His wife, Cindy, lost to Dillard for the District 6 seat.

“This won’t be the last time a Democrat runs for office in Shelby County,” said Bell. “This is going to be ongoing; we’re going to continue to be active.”