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Pat Bradford, Veronica McLaurin-Brown emerge as top party candidates in NHC School Board race

2020 Primary Board of Education.jpg
Ben Schachtman/WHQR
NHC Board of Elections
Top left to right - Pat Bradford, Melissa Mason, Josie Barnhart, Pete Wildeboer, Chris Sutton; Bottom left to right - Veronica McLaurin-Brown, Dorian Cromartie, Judy Justice, Nelson Beaulieu, and Jennah Bosch

Republican candidate Chris Sutton has lost his bid for the New Hanover County School Board. On the Democratic side, it’s still a toss-up between two candidates, one of whom won’t be advancing to the general election.

Both parties fielded five candidates for four potential seats. School board Democratic incumbent Nelson Beaulieu leads candidate Jennah Bosch by only 3 votes for fourth place.

But those results could change on Friday, May 27, when the county Board of Elections completes its canvass and releases an official tally that includes remaining absentee or provisional ballots.

Depending on the final vote count, a fifth-place candidate Bosch or Beaulieu could request a recount by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 30 — if the difference between them is within the recount margin, which is 1% or less of their combined vote total (i.e. after preliminary vote counts, the recount margin would be 1% of Beaulieu's 7,296 and Bosch's 7,293, or 146).

Nonetheless, Candidate Veronica McLaurin-Brown, an advocate of ending young student suspensions, was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary. At a town hall forum in April, she said she has the chops to do the job.

“I have more than 30 plus years of work in New Hanover County. I've worked from pre-K to central office. I was a teacher, a principal, a special assistant to the superintendent, and a county-wide observer evaluator. I have the knowledge; I have the experience. I have the time; I have the passion to serve on our school board effectively,” said McLaurin-Brown.

Moving forward, she said she’ll focus on elevating the reputation of the school district.

“I absolutely believe that if a child is riding a bike to school, or walking to school, or being driven to school, that when they get to their school door, and they open it they should enter a school of excellence. And that should not be negotiable. That should be the only goal we should have,” said McLaurin-Brown.

And if elected in November, one of her top priorities will be addressing the student achievement gap.

"We can do so much better. And what we're doing, it's just shocking to me that we are where we are with our school system," said McLaurin-Brown.

For the Republican primary, Wrightsville Beach Magazine publisher Pat Bradford received the most votes. At the April forum, she said it’s time for new people to take the helm.

“We need fresh leadership on this board. With my real-world experience and wisdom, I am that leader. I am a child advocate. I am a parent advocate. I am a teacher advocate. And I want to rebuild our children's futures from the ground up with [a] curriculum that teaches them to read and to write,” said Bradford.

While school board incumbents Pete Wildeboer, a Republican, and Judy Justice, a Democrat, will be on the ballot in November, they didn’t emerge as top contenders in their respective races. In both cases, political newcomers took those spots.

On the Democratic side, Dorian Cromartie received more votes than Justice. For Republicans, Melissa Mason and Josie Barnhart topped Wildeboer.

BOE vote.png
State Board of Elections
NHC BOE results as of Wednesday, May 18, 2022.

After the vote canvass, four members from each party will face off in the 2022 general election on Tuesday, November 8.

*Editor's Note: We'll update this story when WHQR receives comments from Bradford.