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GOP shows power in Wilson County
Nov 03, 2004 12:00 am
Fueled by a massive voter turnout, Election Day became a show of Republican strength in Wilson County, where even an unknown GOP challenger with no funding or name recognition ran neck and neck with an incumbent Democratic congressman.
With over 74 percent of Wilson County's 55,958 registered voters participating, the local electorate went heavily for President George W. Bush while returning both of the county's two Democratic Congressional incumbents to office.
But one of those – Fifth District Congressman Jim Cooper, whose district encompasses heavily Republican West Wilson County – found it tough going among local voters.
Cooper defeated challenger Scott Knapp of Bell Buckle – who waged virtually no public campaign – by only a 484-vote margin in Wilson County.
Cooper's narrow local margin of victory and the large voter turnout were perhaps the biggest surprises of Election Day 2004 in Wilson County, where voters streamed in and out of polling places at a steady pace throughout the day with few delays or problems.
Though Cooper emerged victorious in Wilson County by only the narrowest of margins, he racked up impressive victories in Davidson and Cheatham Counties to win his second term to the seat created just two years ago by redistricting.
Cooper finished with 16,102 votes in Wilson County compared to 15,618 for Knapp. Unofficial returns gave Cooper 50 percent of the vote against 49 for the challenger.
Cooper downplayed his small local margin of victory as returns made his victory apparent Tuesday night, saying "I'm just proud to be able to continue to work for the people of Wilson County," he said.
He said his narrow margin of victory in West Wilson County "shows how hard it is to inform voters."
"Most voters didn't even realize my opponent wasn't even supporting his own party's presidential candidate," Cooper said. "It just goes to show how tough it can be sometimes to get the word out."
Meanwhile, Sixth District Congressman Bart Gordon cruised to another easy re-election victory, once again carrying Wilson County by a significant margin. Unofficial returns showed Gordon winning 6,134 Wilson County votes while his closest challenger, Cookeville Republican Nick Demas, polled 2,805 local ballots. Two independent candidates and a write-in candidate accounted for 191 votes among them.
"No matter what the situation is, you're always just a little nervous on election day," Gordon said. "But at the same time, you always realize how grateful you are for all the volunteers and for the support of all of your constituents."
Gordon, like so many others, had a theory about the high voter turnout, which drew more than 41,000 Wilson Countians to the polls.
"I think people felt engaged and they felt like they had clear choices," Gordon said. "I also feel like the race in 2000 made it awfully clear to people just how important each and every vote can be, and this year, people just weren't taking any chances."
Wilson County Election Coordinator Lynn Harris called the voting "constant all day."
"It's been steady all day … There have been a few lines, but everybody else said people went right on through … It was a steady stream all day," she said.
Harris said no computer problems were reported and no machines malfunctioned during voting, a fear across the nation in the wake of the snafus that cropped up during the 2000 presidential election.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.