Two Incumbents Out, One Remains in 2020 Brunswick County Primaries

Mar 4, 2020

Three Brunswick County Republican candidates will advance to the November elections. The 2020 primary victors include Pat Sykes for Commissioner in District 3, David Robinson for Board of Education in District 2, and Steven Barger for Board of Education in District 4. Those two latter races ended in upsets.

As a newcomer to the race, Steven Barger beat out not one, but two former Brunswick Board of Education members in the Tuesday, Mar. 3 election. 

The small business owner led the three-way contest with around 45% of the vote. That means incumbent Ellen Milligan, as well as former board member Shirley Babson, are out of the District 4 race. The two received 28% and 26% of votes, respectively.

In a February interview with WHQR, Barger stressed that one of his biggest concerns is teacher salary. He acknowledges the issue is caught up at the state level, but says county leaders can still boost teacher pay by increasing supplement funding. And, he wants to support teachers in other ways:

“So whether that may be taking a teacher who wants to become a math teacher and supporting them in their quest to become certified in that subject matter, or taking a teacher assistant and helping them further their education and their skill set.”

Barger wants to use this support to help better recruit and retain teachers, which he says is a top priority as the county grows. And a final key change he’d like to see is more vocational and technical programs in county schools.

“Brunswick County is the second fastest growing County in the state of North Carolina and one of the fastest growing counties in the country. And we need to take a proactive approach to our growth so that we aren't falling behind, and being reactive in our decision making.”

Over in the District 2 Board of Education race, another newcomer saw success. David Robinson’s win over incumbent Catherine Cooke was narrow, however -- at a margin of just 114 votes.

Robinson, who’s a veteran of the Holden Beach Fire Department and rescue squad, spoke to WHQR last month. His top concern is bullying. 

“I hear a lot of issues on a daily basis with regard to parents dealing with this in the school system. It's not only a situation where we have children bullying children, but there are adults in the mix as well.”

How he wants to address the issue? By enforcing current policies and procedures that are in place, as well as enacting new policies, through the creation of a special committee. 

“We take a look at best practices, other school systems and districts are using across the United States and come back with some solutions to implement it here locally, to help combat the bullying. I think that's a good start to the problem.”

Robinson says he knows the board can never stop bullying altogether. But he hopes his passion and his experience can help promote some change.  

“I've been in emergency services here in Brunswick County for nearly 30 years. I've been in the homes of many children and adults. So I have some firsthand knowledge of how the system works. And what I would like to do is bring my experience of the system in addition to my 30 years of public service together, and try to bring some fresh perspectives to the school board.”

In the Brunswick County District 3 Commission contest, incumbent Pat Sykes cruised to victory, defeating Jeff Winecoff by a significant margin -- 69% to 31%.

Sykes resides in Southport, and has worked in various government positions for over 30 years. This will be her third term on the board. 

Come November, she will face off against Democrat Bill Flythe for a seat on the District 3 Board of Commissioners. District 2 Board of Education candidate David Robinson will run against Democrat Sherrill Jolly. In District 4, no one else has filed for the Board of Education -- making Steven Barger the sole candidate.