Democratic incumbents Katie G. Dorsett and Dorothy K. ``Dot' Kearns were leading their races for the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, and Republican Steve Arnold was leading for the third available seat, according to partial, unofficial returns this morning.

Republican incumbent W. Dean Dull was losing his re-election bid.Kearns was leading in District 3 with 6,681 votes, Arnold had 6,405, Dull had 6,363 and Democrat W. Gart Evans had 6,096 votes in the district including High Point, Jamestown and western Greensboro.

Dorsett, a Democrat, was leading Republican challenger Frederick A. Robbins, 128 votes to 76, to keep her seat in District 1, which includes southeastern Greensboro.

The returns are for 33 of Guilford County's 107 precincts plus precinct transfers and absentees, but by 12:45 a.m. elections officials could specify which precincts had reported.

If the results hold up, Republicans still would hold a 4-3 majority on the board that takes office next month. Republican incumbents Jackie Manzi, Calvin Hinshaw and board Chairman Chuck Forrester, and Democratic incumbent Jim Kirkpatrick were not up for re-election.

Victories by Kearns and Arnold would send a mismatched team to an already fractious board. Kearns and Arnold are not mere ideological political opposites - they are adversaries.

The District 3 campaign was the more contentious of the two commissioners' races on the ballot.

In deciding to leave the General Assembly and seek the county office, Arnold set out immediately to challenge Kearns personally for her seat - even though the district's two seats go to the highest vote-getters, regardless of party.

Republicans hoped the Arnold-Dull tag team would be enough to oust Kearns, the board's former chairwoman and a lightning rod for GOP criticism.

Kearns fought back, ridiculing Arnold for what she called his lackluster two years in the N.C. House of Representatives.

The campaign became aggressive even before it officially began in January, with Arnold saying in late 1989 that he'd consider giving up re-election to a second term to run against Kearns.

He personally blamed her for bigger county budgets, higher taxes, cronyism, and most of what he said is wrong with local government. When the campaign heated up after the May primary, Dull and Arnold teamed up, dedicated to defeating Kearns. Evans was the odd man out.

Kearns, meanwhile, had steeled herself to accept a no-holds barred campaign, and she geared up to fight back. She took on both Arnold and Dull, criticizing their blanket cut-spending attitude without assessing needs.

She pulled out heavyweights in corporate and civic communities, assembling the likes of bankers Bill McGuinn and Sue Henderson; lawyer Jim Morgan and furniture executive Gene Kester literally to stand beside her as she campaigned.

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