At first glance, it looks as though early voting in New Hanover County is up slightly in the first twelve days compared to the last municipal election. As of October 29th, 2019, 18% more people voted compared to 2017. This does not necessarily mean that voter turnout as a whole will be higher in 2019; that remains to be seen.
But we can examine which issues are driving voters to the polls, why municipal elections often turn out the fewest voters, and how the tone of the campaigns differs at the local level from years past.
In the Cape Fear region, municipal elections are non-partisan races.
This year, one Surf City candidate, Jeremy Shugarts, is facing six felony charges for election law violations; his opponent, Mayor Doug Medlin, watched as his adult son was accused of creating a fake campaign website to attack his father’s challenger.
In Oak Island, a mayoral candidate has voted not in Oak Island – or anywhere in Brunswick County over the last decade. Ken Thomas, as reported by Port City Daily, has voted in Columbus County – where he also has a residence.
In that same municipality, according to Port City Daily, Mayor Cin Brochure is avoiding questions about her adult son’s plea of "no contest" on child porn charges. She also declined WHQR's invitation to appear on the CoastLine Candidate Interviews to answer questions about her campaign for re-election.
In Southport, one candidate for that city’s board of aldermen, Eric King, pled guilty seven years ago to insurance fraud; should that be a factor for voters this year?
We received a statement from his lawyer mid-afternoon October 30th regarding the conviction. J. Ryan Smithwick, Attorney at BaxleySmithwick PLLC, sent us this email regarding the expungement of King's conviction:
"Attached please find an expungement order regarding the two offenses referenced in the WWAY article. Under NCGS 15A-146, 'No person as to whom such an order has been entered shall be held thereafter under any provision of any law to be guilty of perjury, or to be guilty of otherwise giving a false statement or response to any inquiry made for any purpose, by reason of his failure to recite or acknowledge any expunged entries concerning apprehension or trial.'
"I’m not sure why the article, as it was originally written, still appears in the public record, in that WWAY also has a copy of the expungement order. Eric did admit guilt to a Class 2 offense of Misdemeanor False Statement on Insurance Application. The expungement for that particular offense is now also pending in Raleigh and will be granted within the next few months.
"I’d appreciate if you would please carefully review the attached Order and the law under NCGS 15A-146 and hopefully agree that the law absolutely allows Eric to state, even under oath, in a sworn proceeding, that he was never arrested for insurance fraud and/or obtaining property by false pretense.
"Thank you for taking the time to review this message. I know Eric is certainly willing to talk to you regarding the misdemeanor offense he just had some hesitation as to how he should respond with respect to the expunged offenses."
Eric King had scheduled an interview with WHQR for October 18th. He did not cancel the interview or show up for the appointment.
In Wilmington, six-term Mayor Bill Saffo, faces a challenge from a political newcomer.
In Brunswick County, two municipalities are fighting over the future of H2G0, a water and sewer utility – as voters decide on the next board members of that utility. This election could change the trajectory of H2G0.
Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th. It’s an elections round-up today – where we look at the issues and the candidates.
Nadine Gibson, Assistant Professor, Department of Public and International Affairs, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Benjamin Schachtman, Managing Editor, Port City Daily