At Chatham Industrial Supply, a hardware store here, its owner, Richard Kernodle, grumbled recently about what he called the “liberal artists” who have moved to this city of 8,100 — opening galleries, throwing pottery and generally bringing the kind of lifestyle and politics one might expect 45 minutes away in the progressive college town of Chapel Hill.
Mr. Kernodle, 56, said that some of the newcomers wanted to paint murals on downtown buildings without securing the proper permits. They want gay rights taught in the schools. And he has heard a rumor that some of them tend their gardens in the nude.
So with liberals making inroads even in towns like Siler City, was it them or the wingnuts who had the upper hand in North Carolina? Mr. Kernodle, a lifelong repugican, did not know: “I’ll tell you,” he said, “It’s a 50-50 thing here.”
Unlike other Southern states, which have shifted decidedly rightward in recent years, North Carolina often seems like it is moving in both directions at once. Barack Obama shocked the political world by winning the state in 2008. Two years later, repugicans stole control of both legislative houses for the first time in more than a century.
In Siler City, N.C., Richard Kernodle says his hardware store, Chatham Industrial Supply, has weathered many changes since he began the business in 2000.