Democrats counted a big win on election day when Heath Shuler upset eight-term Congressman Charles Taylor in western North Carolina. But the party has even more to celebrate in a region that's been a Republican stronghold since the Civil War.
Along with Shuler's win, Democrats added four western district seats in the state Legislature and 16 seats on county commissions in the western third of the state. The party also won sheriff's races in Ashe, Polk and Watauga counties, where the incumbents were all Republicans.
Party activists say there was more to how the west was won than a national wave of anti-Republican sentiment spilling out of Washington. They spent time and money starting last year, hiring staff and organizing volunteers to convince unaffiliated and Republican voters that Democrats better reflected their values.
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