Primary 2020 Results: Race For New Hanover County Commissioners Down To Three From Each Party

Mar 4, 2020

There were 15 candidates for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in Tuesday’s primary. Six Democrats and nine Republicans. Three winners from each party made the ballot for November. Meanwhile four Republicans battled it out for the county’s Board of Education. 

On the Democratic side of the County Commissioners race, three candidates clearly separated themselves from the pack. Leslie Cohen, Kyle Horton, and incumbent Johnathan Barfield. Each walked away with about 24 percent of the vote.

The other three candidates – Don Betz, Steve Miller and Travis Robinson lagged far behind.

Leslie Cohen looks forward to November.

“Well, you know, from the first time I stepped into this public arena in 2018, I said that the reason I was doing it is I was tired of leaders who are making decisions who either didn't know or didn't care that they affected real people. And I think that is where I differ from the, uh, the fields. And obviously, when I look at Kyle Horton and Jonathan Barfield, I think they also really care about what's going on.”

Kyle Horton

“You know, I think I'm looking into November many of the issues that we've already seen come up. Um, in terms of the crisis in our public schools, in terms of the fate of NHRMC, in terms of the future of development as traffic and even affordable housing has been kind of in crisis. I think those are going to continue to be tight top of mind as is the future of public transportation. And, and why, why I think those issues are so important is that if you're thinking about each and every one of those, they're intertwined with whether or not we are healthy and safe in our County.”

On the Republican side of the race, former commissioner Skip Watkins took the top spot, with almost 18 percent of the vote. Bill Rivenbark took about 15 percent for 2nd, and in a nail-biter Deb Hays narrowly beat out Matt Rhodes for the 3rd and final spot.

Skip Watkins.

“Well, there's a couple of things I think is going to come up. You know, what are the final results going to be on the New Hanover Regional Medical Center? Whether the current commission makes a decision or not, you know, that's really going to be up in the air. But the big things really, I think is for most people is just the continued growth. And how do we keep a balance? So I call it smart growth. So how do we take the environment? How do we meet the needs? Cause we got 50,000 people coming in the next 10 or 15 years minimum. So we do have to provide housing for them. And you have to, we have to look at traffic.”

Deb Hays also believes the medical center will be the issue leading to November.

“The big elephant in the room is the hospital and whether or not that will be decided this summer. So that could potentially be, if that's not, I think we will be discussing schools and we will be discussing infrastructure, which also has to do with water. So I think there will be several things that will be at the top of the list. But depending on how things go, the hospital may be right up there.”

In the race for New Hanover County Board of Education, four Republicans were vying for three slots. Stephanie Kraybill, Pete Wildeboer and Janice Cavenaugh will all advance to November, each finishing with around 26 percent of the vote.

Vince Winkel, WHQR News.