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Newsroom conversations: Election 2023 candidate forums, important voter info

WHQR, along with our media partners Port City Daily and WECT, are hosting two upcoming candidate forums. WHQR News Director Ben Schachtman and reporter Rachel Keith discuss the details and what you need to know for the 2023 municipal elections.

BNS: Ok, Rachel, when and where are these forums taking place?

RBK: Our first forum is the New Hanover County Towns of Carolina and Kure Beach on Tuesday, October 17, at Cape Fear Community College’s Union Station starting at 6:30 p.m. And quick note here, all the Town of Wrightsville Beach candidates declined to participate. Just so voters know – mayoral incumbent Darryl Mills is being challenged by Henry Temple, and the town’s Alderman seats are uncontested, so Zeke Partin and Jeff DeGroote will be re-elected.

The next forum, at the same location, will be the Wilmington City Council candidates at 6:30 p.m. on October 23rd, where you’ll hear from seven candidates for three open seats.

BNS: Let’s talk more about what people can expect for the first forum.

RBK: The first hour will have the four Town of Carolina Mayoral candidates – and the three town council candidates. For mayor, incumbent Lynn Barbee is being challenged by Tyler McDowell, Michelle Alberda, and Chad Kirk. For the council, there are two open seats. Incumbents Jay Healy and Deb LeCompte want to remain in office, but they are being challenged by newcomer Danny McLaughlin.

The second half of the evening will feature the Kure Beach Commission candidates. Two incumbents David Heglar and Dennis Panicali are being challenged by Tracy Mitchell and Connie Mearkle.

Candidates will be able to give both opening and closing statements, and in between they will be answering questions from reporters – and the audience.

BNS: We’ll ask about issues like parking, beach renourishment, stormwater, walkability and bikeability, affordable housing – and the perennial issue of Freeman Park in Carolina Beach. Plus, we want to know what your questions are so we can ask those, too. You can submit them here.

And for our Wilmington City Council forum on the 23rd, we’ll be pulling questions from our community agenda, a program that’s reached over 1,000 Wilmington-area voters to hear what you want candidates to talk about – so far, those have been development, infrastructure, and of course, affordable housing.

Related: Community Agenda

RBK: Yes, and if you missed submitting your issues to the community agenda, there’s still time to submit them online here. These would be for Wilmington candidates Neil Anderson, Kevin Spears – who are both incumbents, John Lennon, Kathryn Bruner, Salette Andrews, David Joyner, and Marlowe Foster.

BNS: Let’s go through some important reminders and dates for our listeners.

RBK: Yes, this Friday, October 13th, is the deadline for voter registration. Early voting begins on October 19th and runs through November 4th which is a Saturday. You can still register to vote during this early voting period.

Early voting dates and locations
NHC Board of Elections
Early voting dates and locations

You can also request an absentee ballot right now – and it has to be postmarked by actual Election Day, which is Tuesday, November 7th. For those voting in person on the 7th, you will have to show up to your precinct listed on the voter look-up tool on the North Carolina Board of Elections website. All Election results will be official on November 17th.

Important Voting Dates for NHC voters.
Important Voting Dates for NHC voters.

BNS: And Rachel, there’s something new for this election – something we haven’t seen for a while.

RBK: Yes, you have to have an ID to vote. If you don’t have one, you can go to the Board of Elections office or the DMV and they will print you one for free. And even if you don’t have an ID, you can still go to your polling place and fill out a Photo ID exception form. If there’s ever a question about voting, please visit the New Hanover Board of Elections website, everything is there.

Resources for 2023 Municipal Elections, New Hanover County

WHQR Reporting for 2023 Municipal Elections, New Hanover County

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR
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.