With autumn leaves still falling, primary elections for local offices in 2020 are just 14 weeks away.
The filing period for the March 3 North Carolina primary election runs from Dec. 2 to Dec. 20, beginning and ending at noon on those days. Republicans have dominated local elections over the last eight years, and if that trend continues local offices could be decided eight months before our next president is picked on Election Day.
Lawrence McNabb, chairman of the Cherokee County Democratic Party, said Monday there were several Democrats considering running for local and state offices.
There are two county commission seats up next year. One of those will be contested by newcomers, as vice chairman Roy Dickey plans to step down after his final year to spend more time with his family.
Dickey leaves an opening in District 5, which includes Hanging Dog, Hiwassee Dam and Unaka. He took over the at-large seat vacated by Commissioner Cal Stiles when he won the race in District 1 in 2014. Dickey was then elected in 2016 for his current term.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I look forward to my last year on the board, but I am ready to move on to other things,” Dickey said.
One District 5 resident considering a run is Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Steve Coleman.
“I think the commissioners are doing a good job, and my main priorities would be education and emergency services, as theirs have been,” Coleman said. “I also want to see what we can do about having industry here and creating some way for our young people to go to work here, including vocational and technical opportunities.”
Commissioner C.B. McKinnon will seek a third and final term in District 2, which includes Marble, Peachtree and some parts of Murphy. McKinnon said seeing Corridor K through and working with other N.C. Department of Transportation projects were among his higher priorities.
“I want to keep this county as free as possible,” McKinnon said. “I believe in limited government and low taxes, and we have tried to keep it that way. I think I have enough of a record now after eight years that folks can see how I have dealt with issues and how I will continue to do so.”
Three seats are up on the Cherokee County Board of Education, including two from the east end of the county. Chairman Jeff Tatham said Monday he plans to run for a second term.
“I want to continue to see the school system run even more efficiently, with our facilities needs being addressed with more long-range planning,” Tatham said, adding that the first step of that is the building of the new Tri-County Early College/The Oaks Academy/vocational center. “It needs to be the first step of a long-range plan. We have to find ways to be better stewards of taxpayer money and improve the educational experience for all students.”
Tatham also said he would like to see continued growth at all the county’s schools. Fellow Andrews board member Tim West is undecided about running again, but said Monday he is leaning toward stepping aside.
Arnold Mathews, who represents District 2, did not respond to an email asking him about his election plans. Mathews represents a district that includes Bellview, Brasstown, Hanging Dog, Grape Creek, Peachtree, Murphy and part of Unaka.
N.C. Rep. Kevin Corbin (R-Franklin) is running for the state Senate after two terms in the House.
Corbin is hoping to take over the seat left behind by the retiring N.C. Sen. Jim Davis. His main competitor in the primary will likely be Dr. Sarah Conway of Sylva.
Davis has endorsed Corbin, as the two have partnered on several pieces of legislation together.
“I talked to Sarah, and I said if she has an interest in politics that she run for local or county commissioner or ask to appointed to a local board rather than go for North Carolina Senate right out the gate,” Davis told The Mountaineer about Corbin’s opponent.
Coleman said he was not aware of any Cherokee County Republicans who had spoken openly about an interest in running for the vacated House seat.
“You have to give four months of your life to be in Raleigh and for not all that much money,” Coleman said. “So it has to be someone with the time who is not doing it to make money. Our citizens like a representative who will actually call them back and try to help them if they can.”
The House’s 120th District represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Macon counties.
Macon County commissioner Karl Gillespie announced his bid for Corbin’s old seat Saturday. Gillespie was elected to the Macon County Board of Commissioners in 2016. A fifth-generation resident of Macon, he said he takes his responsibility to the county and its people very seriously.
When it became clear that a seat in the House was becoming available, he felt it was his time to serve Macon County and the rest of the district on a larger scale.
“I look forward to the opportunity to represent the people of the 120th district,” Gillespie said.
“I’m happy to see him file,” Corbin said of Gillespie. “My biggest concern when I decided to run for Senate was finding a strong advocate for our district to take my place. Karl is that advocate.”
Jake Browning of the Franklin Press contributed to this report.