Tuesday, November 7, is Municipal Election Day with North Carolina voters in 465 municipalities across 86 counties heading to the polls. WFDD’s David Ford looked into a few interesting races in the Piedmont. He spoke with University of North Carolina at Greensboro political science professor Hunter Bacot.

In Rural Hall, two members of the Town Council — Terry Bennett and Susan Gordon — are vying for the Mayoral seat. This election comes following the resignation of three council members and the town manager in 2021, and an audit released earlier this year indicating that officials violated state law by allowing the Town Council to appoint a new clerk, and by not releasing public records among other infractions.

Hunter Bacot calls this situation “atypical” when it comes to municipal politics.

“Most of our small-town politics and the administration are pretty routine. And they're done by people who typically last in these positions for years and years, particularly on the political side. The city manager is supposed to hire the town clerk, because we have this Manager-Council form of government. So, the council, they make the decisions and the managers execute those decisions. And the manager usually hires and fires based on the best practices for personnel. What you saw there where you had a mass resignation a couple of years ago, it's probably not uncommon to see some of these questions about the hiring of the attorney, and some of the other factors that were brought up in the auditor's report — a lot of it is just inexperience, and not having the time to really adjust and make some adaptations. because when you have an abrupt change like that, then you lose a lot of institutional knowledge all at once, you're going to have some challenges. At the same time, it's pretty clear in the general statutes what a town can and cannot do.”

In Thomasville, one school board candidate was arrested for depositing a bogus check and his court hearing is scheduled for Municipal Election Day. His name is Ja’Quez Taylor. Meanwhile, also in Thomasville, city council candidate JacQuez Johnson claims that his campaign has taken a hit due to confusion over the similar first names. Johnson, who works in Thomasville City Schools as an English teacher, is one of seven candidates running for three seats on the city council. Taylor is one of five candidates running for the five open seats on the school board.

“That's going to be interesting. Because if it's a felony it would probably take the board dismissing him or he might be declared ineligible. But, the court hearing and the election kind of coincides. But in all seriousness — in a civics situation — it does draw a good example about what can happen. I mean, you're talking about the last week of a campaign and it's just so unfortunate for the person who's trying to get onto the town council, someone who didn't try to even have this cast upon them.”

In Burlington, Democrat Beth Kennett is attempting to oust longtime councilmember Jim Butler, who won the mayor’s seat in 2021. Bacot says she has a steep hill to climb.

“Burlington per se is not a small town, but it still operates in the sense of small-town politics where you have a lot of face-to-face campaigns, the issues are local and local issues are usually revolved around education, crime and infrastructure of some sort. And so it's all very personal and it's all very community oriented. I think given Burlington’s disposition as more a conservative city and a conservative county, trying to unseat him is probably not going to be very successful, or it's going to be an uphill battle.”

And in Lexington, fiscal conservative Burr Sullivan is challenging incumbent Mayor John Hayes who is serving his first term. Hayes took over for Newell Clark who decided not to run again after serving five terms as mayor. Sullivan’s campaign messages include lowering the city’s property taxes and raising Lexington’s comparatively low median family income which currently stands at just over $30,000. Bacot says that’s no small task.

“I don't know what a mayor can do to really change the income levels. Obviously, you can do some economic development and bring in new jobs that are higher paying and better paying. But the headwinds are pretty strong right now with regard to some of these communities losing manufacturing facilities. So, that's about the best that they can do. But at the same time, if you're trying to run on a platform to reduce costs, but you need to spend in order to attract industry, then you open yourself up to some rear flank attacks that you want to talk about reducing the cost at that same time you want to talk about spending. So again, that's what makes these local community races so fun and, and a joy to watch and see. It's because you see new politicians coming in cutting their teeth, trying new perspectives and new ways to appeal to the voter. So, these are very nuanced races, and it's almost like a popularity contest and who people think they can trust to do the job better.”

Municipal Election Day is Tuesday. Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and voters in line by 7:30 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.

The State Board of Elections offers the following tips for municipal election voters:

1.    On Election Day, polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voters in line at 7:30 p.m. will be able to cast a ballot.

2.    Voters must go to their assigned Election Day polling place. Find your polling place through the State Board’s Voter Search tool.

3.    Sample ballots for eligible voters are available through Voter Search.

4.    Voters will be asked to show photo ID when checking in at their polling place. Most voters will simply show their driver’s license, but there are many other acceptable photo IDs. For more information, including the full list of acceptable IDs, visit Voter ID. If a voter cannot show a photo ID, they can still vote by filling out an ID Exception Form and voting a provisional ballot.

5.    As required by state law, every N.C. voter will cast a hand-marked paper ballot or use a touch-screen ballot-marking device that produces a paper ballot for the voter to verify before casting. All voters will insert their ballot into a tabulator that has been tested before the election. To find which voting equipment is used in your county, read Voting Equipment.

6.    North Carolina residents may not register to vote on Election Day, unless they became eligible after the regular voter registration deadline due to becoming a U.S. citizen or having their rights restored following a felony conviction.

7.    Voters who need assistance at the polls must request that assistance. Curbside voting is available for voters who are unable to enter the voting place without assistance due to age or disability. Once inside the polling place, voters who experience difficulties should request help from an election worker. For more information, see the Help for Voters with Disabilities page.

8.    If you present to vote and your name is not on the voter list, you may request a provisional ballot. About a week after the election, voters who cast a provisional ballot can check the status of their ballot with the Provisional Search tool. For more information, read Provisional Voting.

9.    State and federal laws forbid intimidation or interference with voters, including hindering access to the voting place, whether inside or outside the buffer zone. The law also makes it a crime to interfere with election officials carrying out their duties. Penalties for violations include prison time, a fine, or both. The State Board takes these incidents very seriously. When they occur, we will work with our law enforcement partners on appropriate responses. Voters who are harassed or intimidated should notify an election official immediately.

10. Election results will be posted throughout election night at the State Board’s Election Results Dashboard.


300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.