WHQR Talks With Port City Daily's Ben Schachtman on Local Issues and Upcoming Primaries

Feb 19, 2020

Early voting is underway for primary elections in the Cape Fear Region – and finishes on Feb. 29th. Voting day is March 3rd. So what are this year's major contested races? WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn talks with Port City Daily’s Ben Schachtman.

Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Ben Schachtman, managing editor of Port City Daily, early voting is underway for the 2020 primary in North Carolina. Voter turnout is notoriously low in primaries, but this is a presidential election year, and there are also some pretty compelling local issues that might be driving voters to the polls this year. What do you think the main issues are?

Ben Schachtman: I think definitely the hospital is driving a lot of people to the polls. Even though we don't really know how that issue is going to shape out, I know WAVE is an issue on a lot of people's minds. Water quality remains an issue at the top of mind for a lot of people. And as you mentioned, I think a lot of people will be at the polls already because of their interest in the presidential primary.

RLH: I think that's true. Water quality is certainly one of the issues driving people to the polls, but how does that translate into choosing candidates? Is it different at the local level versus say the state level?

BS: Absolutely. And we've actually seen some tension between local politicians and state politicians in terms of not feeling the state has done enough or not handled things in the right way. I will say that on the local level, County Commissioners in Brunswick and New Hanover County have already taken a lot of steps in terms of getting new filtration system set up. At the state level, it's a different story, and we see a lot more daylight between how Democrats would like to handle water quality issues and how Republicans would like to handle it.

RLH: In Brunswick County, there is only one County Commissioner race in the primary and that's District Three but everybody in Brunswick County votes for all of the districts. That's Jeff Winecoff, challenging incumbent Pat Sykes, but in New Hanover County, wow, is it a different story? How many candidates do we have?

BS: Fifteen, so we have nine Republican candidates and six Democrat candidates. That will be whittled down to three on each side, but it's just a really wide race and I think that's probably great because it gives you a lot of different, you know, personalities, a lot of different perspectives on things.

RLH: We also only have one incumbent running in New Hanover County, which is an interesting twist with such a wide race.

BS: Yes. So County commissioners, Woody White and Patricia Kusak both announced last year that they would not run again. Jonathan Barfield is running again, but that means no matter what, we'll see at least two new members on that board.

RLH: Now at the state level, Republican Representative Ted Davis from New Hanover County has historically represented District 19, but we have new maps for this election year and that means he is moving to District 20. Can you help us out with the geography here in the simplest possible way?

BS: So District 19 Ted Davis's old stomping grounds used to be Southern New Hanover County, Kure Beach and Carolina Beach. Now it's Figure Eight Island, Wrightsville Beach area, and sort of like the top, Northeastern corner of the County.

RLH: There is also a District now, District 19 has no incumbent. So we're looking at primaries on both the Republican and the Democratic side.

BS: Yeah, we've got four very different candidates two Democrats, two Republicans. I encourage people to go and read those interviews. The, the on-air interviews you guys have done and the print interviews we've done because they're two very different kinds of Democrats and two very different kinds of Republicans. And, I think there's a lot to sort of dig into there.

RLH: Ben Schachtman, managing editor of Port City Daily. Thanks for being with us today.