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Preliminary NHC election results: Strong GOP showing upends school board, holds state-level positions

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Grace Vitaglione
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New Hanover County Public Library's Northeast branch is a polling location for the midterm elections.

While election results aren’t yet finalized, based on preliminary results Republican candidates swept the race for New Hanover County Board of Education, took the top spot in the race for two county commissioner seats, and held onto three contested local state-level races, including the expensive battle between Marcia Morgan and incumbent Michael Lee for State Senate District 7.

With all precincts reporting in New Hanover County, here are the preliminary results following Election Day, based on 92,688 ballots cast, representing roughly 51.5% of registered voters. The final tally will include additional provisional ballots and absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day. Local race results won’t be finalized until the county canvass on Friday, November 18 — state races will be finalized on Tuesday, November 29.

Based on preliminary results, none of the races appear within the range for a recount — defined as 1% of the total votes cast for any two candidates — but those numbers could change based on additional ballots approved at the canvass.

New Hanover County races

In the race for two open seats on New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners, Republican challenger LeAnn Pierce took the top spot, followed by Democratic Incumbent Rob Zapple, defeating Democrat Travis Robinson and Republican Tom Toby, both challengers.

Pierce is the former mayor and councilwoman from Carolina Beach. She's likely to join Vice-Chair Deb Hays and Commissioner Bill Rivenbark as part of a 3-2 Republican majority on the Board of Commissioners.

TOTAL

For four spots on the Board of Education, Republicans swept the race, with top vote-getter Pat Bradford, a challenger, followed by incumbent Pete Wildeboer (appointed in 2020 to replace Bill Rivenbark, who resigned to successfully run for Board of Commissioners) and challengers Josie Barnhart and Melissa Mason.

Both Democratic incumbents, Nelson Beaulieu and Judy Justice, were defeated, as were Democratic challengers Veronica McLaurin-Brown and Dorian Cromartie.

TOTAL

If the numbers hold, the Board of Education will now have a 5-2 Republican majority.

In the race for New Hanover County Sheriff, Democratic incumbent Ed McMahon won his fourth full term, defeating Republican challenger Matt Rhodes.

Local uncontested races

There were several uncontested races — many of which have been uncontested for several election cycles — including District Attorney Ben David, who represents Pender and New Hanover counties, his brother, Jon David, representing Bladen, Brunswick, and Columbus counties, and Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram V.

State-level races

There were four contested state-level races in the Cape Fear Region — incumbents held all four; three were long-time GOP incumbents.

Additionally, Republican State Senator Bill Rabon, representing Brunswick County and parts of downtown Wilmington, and State Representative Charlie Miller, representing southern Brunswick and southern New Hanover counties, both won uncontested races.

For District 17, covering Leland, and western Brunswick County, Republican Frank Iler defeated Democrat Eric Terashima. For District 18, covering northern New Hanover County and downtown Wilmington, Democrat Deb Butler defeated Republican John Hinnant. In District 20, covering eastern New Hanover County, Republican Ted Davis defeated Democrat Amy Block DeLoach.

And in the state senate battle over District 7, covering most of New Hanover County, Republican Michael Lee defeated Democrat Marcia Morgan. The race was one of the most hard-fought in the state, seen as key to the GOP’s hopes — now realized — for a state Senate supermajority. It brought in record-breaking amounts of campaign spending by both parties, exceeding a million dollars from each party.

Supermajorities, but not quite veto-proof

Across the state, the GOP won a supermajority on the state’s highest court, but fell just short of a veto-proof majority in the state’s house of representative.

In the State Senate, Republicans secured 30 out of 50 seats, a supermajority — but in the House the Democrats held on to some key seats, leaving Republicans with 71 — one shy of a supermajority.

On paper, this means the GOP will be unable to override vetoes from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. However, if Republicans can pull some moderate Democrats across the aisle — or conduct votes when some Democrats are absent in the House — they could still be able to override some vetoes.

On the seven-member North Carolina Supreme Court, Republicans have completed a takeover, going from one conservative judge in 2019 to now holding a five-two majority. The state Supreme Court has blocked several pieces of Republican legislation pushed through by supermajorities in the past. The new makeup of the court could benefit Republicans on legal issues concerning voter photo ID, Leandro education funding, and new district maps.

Federal races

In federal races, Republican Tedd Budd, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, defeated Democrat Cheri Beasley for the U.S. Senate seat left open by Richard Burr. Beasley, the former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, had consolidated Democratic support, convincing rising star Jeff Jackson to step aside (Jackson appears to have won his bid for Congress), and out-fundraising Budd. Beasley had a decisive lead based on early-voting numbers, but Budd caught up as Election Day results came in.

Also, longtime incumbent Republican David Rouzer held onto North Carolina's Congressional District 7 against Democratic challenger Charles Graham, formerly a longtime incumbent in the State House of Representatives.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.