Voters in New Hanover County will have plenty of options when they head to the polls in March 2016, as primary challenges emerged across the board as the deadline for candidate registration ended on Dec. 21.
Local Republican voters will have a choice for their party’s candidates for their senator, congressional representative, governor, attorney general, state house representative, state school superintendent, county board of commissioners, county board of education and register of deeds, among others.
Democrats will have fewer options, but there are some competitive races, including for governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general and, locally, county board of education.
Some of the most competitive campaigning will be for the county board of commissioners opening. After Commissioner Woody White announced this week that he would run for re-election, all three incumbents whose terms expire in 2016 are competing for re-election, as commissioners Beth Dawson and Jonathan Barfield, Jr. both filed as candidates on the first day that the candidate registration process opened.
Republican voters will also have several options to elect new commissioners, as seven candidates will be on the March 15 ballot to be selected for the Nov. 8 general election contest. In addition to White and Dawson, Republican voters will have other experienced choices.
Patricia Kusek, a financial planner who also serves as chair of the Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority board, had a crowd of supporters when she filed. Dr. Derrick Hickey was narrowly defeated in his 2014 bid for the board by current Commissioner Rob Zapple. Campbell Dodd, a local real estate broker and life insurance agent who is a member of the New Hanover County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the New Hanover county Board of Equalization and Review, unsuccessfully sought a seat on the board of commissioners as a Republican primary candidate in 2014, while Jim Brumit made a run for the county board of education in 2014. Another Republican candidate, John Babb, is a member of the Cape Fear Community College board of trustees.
Voters should also expect a competitive general election once the Republican candidates for commissioners are decided in the primary. In addition to incumbent Democrat Barfield, former commissioner and state senator Julia Boseman will try to reclaim a spot on the board. Nelson G. Beaulieu, a Cape Fear Community College professor, will also be on the general election ballot as a Democratic candidate for the board.
The congressional representatives serving New Hanover County will also have to face primary challenges in order to make it to the general election ballot. Rep. David Rouzer, Republican representing the 7th district, will have a primary challenge from former Johnston County Republican Party Chairman Mark Otto. The 7th district includes Wrightsville Beach and other parts of New Hanover County, including the other beach towns.
Whoever wins the 7th district primary will face Wilmington attorney Wesley Casteen in the general election. The 2014 Libertarian candidate for the seat, Casteen said in a press release he chose to run for the seat this time as a Democrat after Barfield, who also ran for the seat that cycle, announced he would run to retain his place on the board of commissioners.
Republican voters in the central and eastern part of the county will also have a selection in the primary for the 3rd congressional district, currently represented by Republican Rep. Walter Jones, who has two challengers. Taylor Griffin, of New Bern, said he got 45 percent of the vote when he ran against Jones in 2014, while Phil Law, a Jacksonville computer technician and former Marine, is also challenging Jones.
State Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat representing district 18 that includes part of downtown Wilmington, is facing a primary challenge from Republican Gerald “Jerry” Benton.
Democratic voters in New Hanover County will not see as many options on the primary ballot in March, but they will have several choices for three contested seats on the board of election, including Emma Saunders and Chris Meek, who both lost bids for the school board in 2014, as well as candidates Rev. James Jamison Jr., Kevin Spears and Sandra Leigh.
There will also be a primary for the Republican candidates for board of education. Incumbents Jeannette Nichols and Lisa Estep are running for re-election, with candidates Frank Christopher Meares and David Lee Wortman vying for re-election. And for the register of deeds office, Republicans Peter McClain and Tammy Beasley will challenge each other in the primary.