New Hanover Co. primary results: Dawson upset, Democrats looking to challenge school board Republicans is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Beth Dawson during Monday's State of the County address. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Beth Dawson lost in Tuesday night’s primary election. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

The current chair of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners suffered an upset during Tuesday night’s primary.

Beth Dawson, who has served on the board since 2012, placed fourth out of seven GOP candidates, garnering 9,345 votes. After early returns showed her in fifth place and down by thousands of votes, Dawson closed in on the gap but couldn’t quite overcome it, losing out on third place by just 367 votes.

The top three finishers move on to November’s General Election.

The board’s other Republican incumbent, Woody White, led the pack with 15,819 votes. Joining him on the November ballot are current Cape Fear Public Utility Authority chair Patricia Kusek and former New Hanover County Board of Education member Derrick Hickey.

White, Kusek and Hickey will face off against three Democrats in November: incumbent Jonathan Barfield, Jr., former county commissioner and state senator Julia Boseman and Nelson Beaulieu.

The other big county race in Tuesday night’s primary was for the three open seats on the Board of Education. Some of the candidates were present at the election night viewing party at the New Hanover County Government Center, including Democrats Emma Saunders and Sandra Leigh.

“I’m excited and thankful about what I see,” said Saunders, who was the top Democratic vote getter with 13,350. “I’m very, very thankful for the support I’ve received from the community.”

Saunders, a former educator and administrator said her biggest goal is to set up county-wide pre-kindergarten. Working together with the community, parents, teachers, city and county to serve all the children is also a goal, one that she shares with Leigh, who placed second behind Saunders.

“To me, the success is not the numbers or percentages,” said Leigh, who garnered 12,446 votes. “I feel that every step of the way, we’re coming closer to changing the climate of schools in New Hanover County so they work for all students and represent everyone.”

Emma Saunders (left) and Sandra Leigh talk during Tuesday night's election viewing party. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Emma Saunders (left) and Sandra Leigh talk during Tuesday night’s election viewing party. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

Leigh said any of the five Democratic candidates would have done the job as they all have similar views, but she was honored to be one of the three chosen to move on to the general election. The primary, however, is just the first step.

“I believe that if all the progressive people in the city come together in November, we can bring about change. There’s not a lot one person can do,” Leigh said of trying to make a dent in the Republican-controlled board. “Success of all students is not the main idea of the current board.”

Saunders echoed those thoughts.

“We need ongoing unity,” Saunders said. “It’s necessary to be together on one accord for all the children – and it’s important to say ALL the children of New Hanover County.”

Community activist Kevin Spears, who got 9,906 votes, will be moving on with Saunders and Leigh to face Republican incumbents Jeannette Nichols and Lisa Estep (who topped the GOP ballot with over 30 percent of the vote) as well as David Lee Wortman in the general election.

In the race for the register of deeds, Republican incumbent Tammy Beasley easily defeated challenger Peter McClain by 10,000 votes.

Click here for complete election results from New Hanover County.