CoastLine Candidate Interviews: New Hanover County Commission - Watkins, Cohen, Horton

Sep 24, 2020

New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners has five seats.  Each member is elected to a staggered, four-year term.  In 2020, there are three open seats.

Two of the incumbents, Patricia Kusek and Woody White, have chosen not to run again.   The third incumbent, Jonathan Barfield, is seeking re-election,; we heard from him last week in Part One – along with candidates Deb Hays and Bill Rivenbark.  You can find that episode here

On this edition, we meet the remaining three candidates. 

Segment 1 - Skip Watkins

Skip Watkins has lived in southeastern NC all of his life.  He met his wife in college at The University of North Carolina Wilmington.  Thirty-six years later, they have two grown children.   Skip Watkins is an independent Financial Advisor with Capital Investment Companies and he teaches Economics for the University of Mount Olive part-time.   He has worked with Cape Fear Fair and Expo for more than 30 years and has served as Manager for more than 25 of those years.

He and his wife have also volunteered for the Azalea Festival for over three decades.  Skip Watkins was elected to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in 2014.  When he ran for re-election in 2018, he lost by a very slim margin – slightly more than one percentage point.  

Segment 2 - Leslie Cohen

Leslie Cohen and her husband owned and ran a commercial graphics firm for twelve years -- designing advertising for Fortune 500 companies.   In 2002, Cohen says they transitioned their business to fine art.  Seven years ago, the Cohens moved to Wilmington.  Three years later, the state legislature passed HB2, popularly known as The Bathroom Bill.  This was the impetus for the Cohens' political involvement.  In 2018, Leslie Cohen ran for the State House, challenging incumbent Holly Grange.  Cohen lost by about five points. 

New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners is her second bid for public office.

Segment 3 - Dr. Kyle Horton

A medical doctor who earned her MBA and MD from Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, Dr. Horton completed her residency at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond.  She has taken her experience as an Internal Medicine Physician from Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center to consult with and advocate for veterans and their clinicians – specifically on improving care for those veterans exposed to toxic substances.  

In 2018, she challenged Representative David Rouzer for the seat in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District.  She lost to the incumbent by almost 13 percentage points, but in New Hanover County – one of 8 counties in the district, she beat Rouzer by almost five and a half points.