It's up to the voters


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Today is election day in Elizabeth City.

Polls are open citywide from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Barring surprises, voters today will decide who will be the next mayor of Elizabeth City and fill the eight seats on the city council. It's also possible voters may be so split between some candidates that it'll trigger a runoff election. If needed, that runoff will be on Nov. 7.

Today provides a last chance for candidates to make their case to voters. Mayoral candidates Bettie Parker and Sam Davis III, and their respective supporters, will be out throughout the day.

Though both candidates are well-known, lifelong residents of the city, Parker entered election day with the edge in fundraising and advertising, as well as an endorsement from Mayor Joe Peel, who's not seeking a fourth term. Parker is a retired math teacher now serving as a Pasquotank County commissioner.

Davis has been nonplussed about those advantages, however, touting his own governmental experience and decades-long business background. Davis is a Realtor and past Pasquotank commissioner who also ran for mayor in 2015, but lost to Peel.

Today's election will also deliver change to the First Ward, where five candidates are vying to replace incumbents Jean Baker and Ray Donnelly, who aren't seeking re-election. They include: Frank Caruso Jr., a retired Naval officer; Billy Caudle, an arts director at Arts of the Albemarle; Bridget Colbert, a professional photographer who founded the citizens' group “Enough is Enough EC” over the city's recent billing problems; Alice Redding, a landlord and retired nurse; and Jeannie Young, a daycare operator and former city councilor.

If any contest this election is to trigger a runoff, it most likely will be in the First Ward, where there are the most candidates of any ward.

A state law governing the city's election, General Statute 163-293, provides that Elizabeth City's council candidates must get more than 25 percent of the vote to receive a majority and be elected. That's because each voter is asked to vote for two positions, meaning even a candidate supported by all voters should only get 50 percent of votes cast. With five candidates on the ballot, it's possible each could get less than a fourth of the vote, allowing one or more runners-up the right to a runoff.

With only two candidates for mayor and only three or four candidates in the Second, Third and Fourth Wards, runoffs could only occur in those races if there were numerous votes for write-in candidates.

Candidates are aiming for decisive victories, however. In the First Ward, Young said she's working the phones and encouraging people to get out and vote. She's also offering rides to seniors who need help to the polls.

Come election day, she said, she plans to spend a lot of time at River Road Middle School, the polling place for most First Ward voters. She's going to focus on thanking voters for coming out rather than trying to win last-minute votes. Voters have hopefully already reached educated decisions about who they're voting for, she said.

In the Second Ward, candidates are planning to spend a lot of time greeting voters at the Knobbs Creek Recreation Center. Gabriel Adkins, a 30-year-old small business owner, said he'll be out there, and he's confident about his chances after door-to-door campaigning. Adkins, along with military veteran Paul Riggs, is running to challenge Mayor Pro Tem Anita Hummer and Councilor Tony Stimatz, two long-serving incumbents.

Stimatz plans to be at Knobbs Creek as well, but said Monday that he's focused on calling up constituents and encouraging them to go vote. Making a last-minute case to voters at the polls isn't effective, he explained.

“The votes are in the ward,” he said.

Asked about his chances, Stimatz said the demographics of voters so far are similar to prior elections that elected him and Hummer. Both Stimatz and Hummer are arguing they should be re-elected based on their records and experience.

In the Third Ward, there are three candidates on the ballot, plus one write-in. Incumbent Rickey King is seeking re-election, while former councilor Kem Spence is seeking a return to council and Linwood Gallop is seeking a first term on council. Incumbent Councilor Michael Brooks said earlier this year he's not running for re-election, but agreed last month to serve again if elected by write-in.

In the Fourth Ward, both incumbents are seeking re-election, Johnnie Walton and Darius Horton. Challenging them is Jason Gillis, a local attorney who ran and lost against both men in 2015.

There are six polling places open today. They are:

* Camden: The Camden County Board of Elections, 117 NC Highway 343 South.

* North precinct: Knobbs Creek Recreation Center, 200 E. Ward St.

* South precinct: Kermit E. White Center, Elizabeth City State University, 1704 Weeksville Road

* East precinct: River Road Middle School, 1701 River Road

* West precinct: Pasquotank Elementary School, 1407 Peartree Road

* Mt. Hermon: Evangelical Methodist Church, 820 Old Okisko Road

Voters should be aware that election precincts do not line up with the city's ward lines. First Ward voters are divided across the North, South and East precincts, plus a handful who vote in Camden. Second Ward voters are divided across the North, East, West and Mt. Hermon precincts.

Third Ward voters are divided across the East, West, and Mt. Hermon precincts. Fourth Ward voters are divided across the South and Nixonton precincts, but city voters in Nixonton have been assigned to the K.E. White center.

To look up your polling place, visit www.ncsbe.gov.