Monday, June 27, 2022

Voter Guide: New Hanover County Commissioners race sees familiar faces [Free read]

(Clockwise from top left) Deb Hays, Bill Rivenbark, Skip Watkins, Jonathan Barfield, Jr., Leslie Cohen, and Kyle Horton are all running for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy of the candidates)
(Clockwise from top left) Deb Hays, Bill Rivenbark, Skip Watkins, Jonathan Barfield, Jr., Leslie Cohen, and Kyle Horton are all running for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy of the candidates)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Five challengers and one incumbent are running to fill three open seats on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

Though the five aren’t currently serving on their board, all candidates are no doubt familiar to engaged New Hanover County voters.

Read more: Catch up on PCD’s election coverage, free candidate interviews

Commissioners Pat Kusek and Woody White’s terms expire this year; both are not seeking re-election. The lone incumbent, Jonathan Barfield, Jr., is running for a fifth term.

Former one-term commissioner Skip Watkins is giving the race another go after an unsuccessful re-election bid in 2018, while freshman board of education member Bill Rivenbark would leave the school board if elected to the county commission half-way through his term. Former county planning board chair Deb Hays is giving public office another try after unsuccessful bids for county commission and city council. Both Leslie Cohen and Dr. Kyle Horton are eyeing the county board after unsuccessful bids for state seats in 2018.

Three Republicans (Hays, Rivenbark, and Watkins) will appear on the ballot alongside three Democratic candidates (Barfield, Cohen, and Horton).

Voters may choose three out of the six candidates on the ballot.

Port City Daily sent all six candidates a detailed questionnaire and asked them to provide a short-hand answer for each question, which links to the candidates’ full answer to each question.

At press time, Barfield and Rivenbark had not responded to the questionnaire. The voting guide will be updated if and when the candidates provide their answers.

Early voting is underway. Same-day registration is available during the early voting period, which ends Oct. 31. Election day is Nov. 3. Check your voter registration and county elections office to confirm polling locations, dates, and hours.

Port City Daily emailed all candidates the below questionnaire and ran their responses ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Port City Daily edited responses for spelling and grammatical errors only.

Tip: If viewing on mobile, scroll right to view all candidate responses in each table.

PCD: How would you rate the county’s (i.e. NHC Sheriff’s Office’s) response to the protests?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
NeutralStrongVery weakVery strong
   

PCD: As a commissioner, would your priorities differ from what’s currently expected of the Sheriff’s Office? 

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Yes“See detailed answer”YesNo
   

PCD: How would you rate the county’s economic development strategy?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
StrongRoom for improvementWeakVery strong
   

PCD: How satisfied are you with the level of citizen engagement in the county’s planning process?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Very unsatisfied“See detailed answer”Very unsatisfiedVery satisfied
   

PCD: How familiar are you with the county’s planning process?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Very familiarVery familiarVery familiarVery familiar
   

PCD: Do you think the county’s current plans adequately anticipate future environmental issues?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
NoRoom for improvementNoYes
   

PCD: How well do you think the county balances development with “livability” (i.e. moderated traffic, preserved greenspace, etc.)?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Somewhat poorlyRoom for improvementVery poorlySomewhat well
   

PCD: How concerned are you about New Hanover County’s environmental quality?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Very concernedConstant concernVery concernedVery concerned
   

PCD: How well do you think local officials have handled public transportation?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Very poorly“See detailed answer”Very poorlySomewhat well
   

PCD: Do you think the county’s supplemental funding to the school district is appropriate? 

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
NoNoNoNo
   

PCD: Would you have voted in favor of the hospital sale?

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
No“Done”NoYes
   

PCD: Are you comfortable with the community foundation being private? Explain.

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
NoYesNoYes
   

PCD: Agree or disagree: The public adequately prepared, included, and briefed on the sale of the hospital.

BarfieldCohenHaysHortonRivenbarkWatkins
Strongly disagreeAgree & disagreeStrongly DisagreeStrongly Agree


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