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Candidates for New Hanover County Sheriff: Democratic incumbent Ed McMahon and Republican challenger Matt Rhodes

On this episode: the race for New Hanover County Sheriff, which is seeing a contested seat in the general election for the first time in eight years.

Sheriffs are one of the most powerful elected officials in any county, rivaled only by District Attorneys. Unlike city councils or county commissioners, Sheriffs oversee an entire government entity by themselves, and while they receive funding from the county they generally have unilateral authority over how their offices are run.

Sheriffs in North Carolina also have the almost unique power, shared only with Registers of Deeds, to command political loyalty. Sheriffs can fire employees who don’t support them politically, something that would be illegal in a county or city government office.

That puts a lot of power, and a lot of responsibility, in the hands of one person — overseeing an office that, in New Hanover County, has over 500 employees and a budget of over $60 million.

This year, the office is contested for the first time since 2014, with current Sheriff Ed McMahon defending his position against challenger Matt Rhodes.

Democratic candidate Sheriff Ed McMahon started his law enforcement career as a Vermont State Trooper before moving to Wilmington and joining the Sheriff’s Office in 1991. He was first appointed New Hanover County Sheriff in 2009, and won elections in 2010, 2014, and an uncontested race in 2018. Earlier this year, he defeated Democratic challenger Kelvin Hargrove in the primary by a comfortable, nearly 2-to-1 margin. (You can hear McMahon's interview from the primary election here).

Republican candidate Matt Rhodes is a small business owner and conceal-carry instructor. He has served on the county’s juvenile crime prevention board and is a member of the New Hanover County Law Enforcement Officers Association – a community service nonprofit organization.

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.