Wednesday, February 8, 2023

New Hanover County Commissioner candidates say they can work together to better New Hanover County

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC — Election results for the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will be unofficial until the canvass on Nov. 18. However, the commissioners-elect were unanimously confident that the ultimate results will be unchanged by any uncounted provisional or postmarked ballots that remain to be tallied. They also expressed optimism moving forward, despite the fractious political climate at the national level.

However, not all the candidates are at peace with the results.

Dem. Jonathan Barfield
Jonathan Barfield

Democratic Commissioner-elect Jonathan Barfield echoed the majority of candidates, expressing relief and gratitude that the campaign season had come to an end.

“Oh my goodness, I was tired out,” Barfield said on Wednesday. “I was up until 5 a.m. last night, picking up campaign signs, too much anxiety to sleep.”

The canvass will make the election results official. It takes place 10 days after an election and counts provisional ballots, as well as absentee ballots postmarked as late as election day.

Barfield said that he felt any ballots still not tallied “shouldn’t be enough to affect the margin, so I feel really good there. Now I’m looking forward to staying focused, getting back to bringing jobs to our county, protecting our environment, and making sure we’re providing the best education possible for our kids.”

Barfield said he was also looking forward to working with both new and incumbent board members.

Woody White received the most votes in Tuesday’s election.

“I sent Woody a congratulations text last night,” Barfield said. “I know we can work together. One of the great things about democracy is that we can all work together. We’ve got five people together on this team. We might have different approaches, but we all want to get to the same place. We’re on the same page. And those unique approaches, that uniqueness is what makes us strong.”

Republican Commissioner-elect Woody White said he too foresaw no upset during the canvass.

“I do not expect any material changes from the canvas process.  The people have spoken, and now is the time to move forward and get to work.”

“I’m thrilled about the results,” said White, who placed ahead of Barfield and Patricia Kusek by roughly 3,500 votes in the unofficial tally. He added, “I look forward to Patricia Kusek joining us on the board and returning fiscal discipline back to New Hanover County.”

Rep. Patricia Kusek
Patricia Kusek

Commissioner-elect Kusek said she was also excited about joining the board, despite being exhausted by the final days of the campaign.

“Quite a night. Quite a roller coaster across the board,” Kusek said of the late evening hours of Election Day, “I’ve never been through anything like that in my life. We got the early voting results and I was in fourth, and then I was in third, then second, then fourth again. It was an amazing experience.

“I got about three hours of sleep,” Kusek said. “I had to be up and ready for a television interview this morning at 6:30. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was there.”

Kusek said she was looking forward to a brief break in the frantic pace before she begins her term as on the board.

“We’re sworn in on Dec. 5, so there might be a couple of weeks on not-complete madness.”

“After that,” Kusek said, “the budgeting process will start. It’s an opportunity to tighten the belt, to keep our taxes level, and even potentially lower than they’ve been. So that’s the first priority.”

“The next thing will be the special use permit,” Kusek added. “It’s going to set clearer deadlines and improve transparency for any business looking to come to New Hanover County. And ultimately that’s going to help bring business here, to create jobs here.”

Of working with her fellow candidates Barfield and White, Kusek was enthusiastic.

“I’m very much looking forward to it,” she said. “The five of us will be able to do great things for this county.”

Republican candidate Derrick Hickey and Democratic candidate Julia Boseman, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, were both very close in the final but unofficial tally.

Boseman demurred from speculating on any upset in the canvass, saying that her next move will be to “concentrate on our family and our two boys and raise them to be respectful young men.”

Hickey, who was short a mere 500 votes of Barfield, appeared to have conceded the race with a post on his campaign Facebook page, just minutes after midnight:

I congratulate each of the candidates on races well run and wish the commissioners-elect well.

I am particularly sorry to have let those of you down who were depending on me to effect change with regard to the CFPUA. I have learned many of your stories and your suffering though this campaign, and it falls heavy on my shoulders that these concerns, in all likelihood, will not be heard.

However, today Hickey said “my campaign is preparing an official statement that we will present in the next few days.” There is no information on whether Hickey will request a formal recount or wait for the canvass.

Nelson Beaulieu, a Democractic newcomer to the New Hanover politics, said he was less concerned with the Commissioner election than with Donald Trump’s victory in the Presidential election.

“Honestly I was more concerned about the national results. I was disappointed, personally, with the local elections, but I was stunned nationally,” Beaulieu said.

“For me, it was never about polls or numbers, there were just so many things the President-elect said and did that were disqualifying,’ he said. “There was a genuine lack of character.”

With regards to the Board of Commissioners, Beaulieu said he was “down but not out.”

“I’ll have to figure out why I lost, and correct that … I want to stay involved,” he said. “The fight will be back, and I’ll be back. These are my issues, I said what I believe and I stand by that. As a politician you can’t come to New Hanover County and not talk to people, and not represent their concerns.”

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