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Two Republicans in Brunswick County Commission District 3 primary, unaffiliated candidate eyes general election

A graphic showing the three candidates for District 3 of the Brunswick County Commission: Pat Sykes, an older white woman with short blond hair and a string of pearls; Jwantana Frink, an older black woman with a dark blazer; and Bob Fulton, an older white man smiling on the beach.
Two Republicans and one unaffiliated candidate are stumping for votes this primary season.

Pat Sykes and Jwantana Gardner-Frink compete for the Republican nomination. Meanwhile, Bob Fulton hopes to secure enough signatures to be on the ballot in November.

Longtime incumbent Pat Sykes will be competing with former Southport alderman Jwantana Gardner Frink for the Republican nomination in the race for the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners' District 3.

In the meantime, Bob Fulton hopes to secure enough signatures to run as an unaffiliated candidate in November.

Here's what you need to know about the candidates.

Pat Sykes

Sykes is about to finish her third term as county commissioner. And in her view, Brunswick County has gotten a lot done since she joined the board. She told WHQR that her proudest accomplishments included spearheading a land sale, improving the county's bond rating, and raising $60,000 to erect monuments to the Constitution in front of the courthouse.

Still, she said, there's a lot to be done.

"I would love to get our reverse osmosis plant finished," she said. "That is something that we need to push. And we're pushing as hard as we can."

Sykes told WHQR that she also hears residents' concerns about growth in the county. Her solution for managing it is to revise the unified development ordinance to "slow down" development and provide housing for the workforce.

"When we change the UDO," she said, "[we can] work with the developers and say a percentage has to be affordable houses."

Jwantana Gardner Frink

But Frink, who's running against Sykes in the Republican primary, thinks that there's more that the county can do to create affordable housing.

"If it's still the topic of the election — the topic of Brunswick County — that means it hasn't been done yet or done on a level that we can feel it," she told WHQR.

Frink previously served as an alderman in Southport, and now sits on the board for Dosher Memorial Hospital. Frink wants the county to incentivize affordable housing from developers. She pointed out that it wasn't just the workforce who needed housing — Brunswick County seniors also need it. She thinks that in order to cope with the explosion of growth in Brunswick County, the county commission must have "hard conversations" with developers.

"I don't think I'm naive in thinking that I can find developers that are willing to be a part of this particular process," she said.

Bob Fulton

This primary election also features something of a dark horse candidate. Fulton moved to Southport in 2012. Since he settled here, he's been struck by what he calls the "overdevelopment" of Brunswick County's greenspaces, including forests and wetlands.

"I go to the planning board meetings and listen to people showing up and asking for help," he told WHQR. "Asking for some ordinances to protect our wildlife, to protect our wetlands, to protect our trees, and slow down the development. And not a word back from the commissioners. That's why there are more candidates this year than you've seen before."

Much like his opponents, Fulton is concerned about the growth boon in Brunswick County. But unlike Sykes and Frink, Fulton is a registered Democrat. And since he entered the race after the candidate filing period last year, he had to run as an unaffiliated candidate.

He will not be on any ballot for the primary race. But if he wants to get on the ballot this November, he'll have to secure 5,222 signatures from Brunswick County voters — 4% of the county's population — by noon on March 5. So even though he's not on the ballot, he'll also be stumping up til primary day.

And even though Brunswick County remains a solidly red county, Fulton thinks that his values transcend partisan lines.

"Our county commissioners, they seem to really be pushing development," he said. "But they're not pushing what's been needed to sustain our communities."

Early voting continues until March 2. Election Day is March 5. You will need photo ID. Unaffiliated voters can choose which party ballot to vote.

Click herefor voter information and WHQR’s coverage of the candidates.

Nikolai Mather is a Report for America corps member from Pittsboro, North Carolina. He covers rural communities in Pender County, Brunswick County and Columbus County. He graduated from UNC Charlotte with degrees in genocide studies and political science. Prior to his work with WHQR, he covered religion in Athens, Georgia and local politics in Charlotte, North Carolina. In his spare time, he likes working on cars and playing the harmonica. You can reach him at nmather@whqr.org.