Candidates for county commission, education boards begin to file for March primary

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The New Hanover County Board of Elections office is in Suite 38 at 230 Government Center Drive, Wilmington.
The New Hanover County Board of Elections office is in Suite 38 at 230 Government Center Drive, Wilmington.

Candidate filing for the North Carolina primary election began this week, with several incumbents as well as new challengers already placing their name on the official ballot for local positions just days into the filing period.

The race for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners has just one name so far on the list of Democratic candidates, incumbent and current chairman Jonathan Barfield Jr. On the Republican side, incumbent Beth Dawson has filed for re-election along with two other candidates. Campbell Dodd, a local real estate appraiser with Airlie Appraisal Group, previously ran for county commission in 2014. He lost in that year’s primary but has again put his name on the ballot for next year. Patricia Kusek, the president and founder of Kusek Financial Group, has also filed her candidacy as a Republican. She has served on the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority board for five years, serving as chair for the last two.

There are three seats up for election on the county commission: those of Barfield, Dawson and Woody White, who last week announced he would not be challenging fellow Republican David Rouzer, who represents North Carolina’s 7th District, for his Congressional seat. White has not yet indicated whether he will run for re-election to the county board.

Three spots will also be up for grabs on the New Hanover County Board of Education. Incumbent Jeannette Nichols, who is currently the board’s vice chair, has already filed to defend her seat and is the lone GOP candidate so far. Fellow Republicans Tammy Covil and Lisa Estep are also up for re-election, but Covil has already declared her candidacy for the NC House District 20 seat, which is being vacated by Rick Catlin.

There are already four Democrats officially on the ballot for the board of education race. Sandra Leigh, Kevin Spears, Chris Meek and James Jamison, Jr. Meek, who has taught in schools in southeastern North Carolina, previously ran for the school board in 2014, losing in the general election.

For both the county commissioners and school board, the number of candidates who move on from the primary for each party is determined by the number of open seats. This election cycle, both boards have three seats open, meaning the three leading vote-getters from each party move on to the general election in November. If the number of candidates from a party is less than the allotted spots, all get a spot on the November ballot.

The candidate filing period began December 1, earlier than in previous years due to the state legislature recently consolidating the state’s two primary elections (one for national and major state offices held in May and the other, held in March, for local offices). This was done to cut back on costs as well as take advantage of the larger number of voters who typically turn out for a presidential primary and make North Carolina a bigger player on the national scene. The later May date often meant that parties had already chosen their presidential candidate by the time it was North Carolina’s turn to head to the polls (South Carolina, for example, has a February primary date).

Candidates have until December 21 to file for office. The primary election in North Carolina is set for Tuesday, March 15, 2016.