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Originally published: 2014-03-04 09:48:00
Last modified: 2014-03-04 09:48:45

Election filing sets up busy primary

by Anna Oakes

Dozens of candidates filed last month in hopes of being elected as Watauga County's local, state and federal representatives in November, but to get there, many will have to make it past the May 6 primary.

"I think we've had a lot of great candidates to file, and I think it will be a great election season," said Jane Hodges, Watauga County elections director.

As in 2012, the race for three open seats on the Watauga County Board of Education will make a first stop on the primary ballot, as the field of eight candidates must be narrowed down to six for the general election, Hodges said.

Ron Henries is the lone incumbent, as current board members Lee Warren and Delora Hodges did not file for re-election. And school board member Barbara Kinsey has filed as a candidate for the Watauga County Board of Commissioners. If Kinsey is elected as commissioner, she will leave a vacant seat on the school board with two years remaining in the term.

Republicans in particular exhibited interest in the 2014 races, including the Watauga County Board of Commissioners. A Republican primary will be held for commissioners District 3, for which Karen Greene Lerch and Matt Klutz have filed to face Democratic incumbent Billy Kennedy. District 5 will also require a Republican primary, as former commissioners Jimmy Hodges and Allen Trivette have both filed for the seat. The winner will face Kinsey, a Democrat, in November.

The race to replace retiring District Attorney Jerry Wilson will be fought and won during the primary, as only three Republicans have filed for the office -- Nathan Miller and Britt Springer of Boone and Seth Banks of Burnsville. The primary winner's name will appear on the general election ballot in November, however.

In an interesting move, Josh Brannon of Vilas on Tuesday withdrew his candidacy for Dan Soucek's N.C. Senate seat and filed Friday as one of four Democratic candidates for the Fifth District seat in the U.S. House held by Republican Virginia Foxx.

That leaves Jim Sponenberg, a Democrat from Lenoir, as the lone challenger to Soucek.

Two-term state Rep. Jonathan Jordan won't face Republican challengers, either, but will face Democrat Sue Counts in November.

The most popular contest by far is for Kay Hagan's open U.S. Senate seat, with three Democrats (including Hagan), eight Republicans and two Libertarians vying for the office.

Mail-out absentee voting for the primary election begins March 17, and the voter registration deadline is Friday, April 11, at 5 p.m. As a result of voting law changes enacted last year, same-day voter registration during the early voting period is no longer an option.

Early voting for the primary begins Thursday, April 24, with locations to be determined by the Watauga County Board of Elections later this week.

The Watauga County Democratic Party opened the year with a considerable financial advantage over the Watauga Republican Party, according to year-end finance reports due Jan. 31. The Dems reported $41,042.26 cash on hand at the end of 2013, while the Republican report, filed Feb. 24, showed $6,867.60 on hand.

For more information about elections, call the Watauga County Elections Office at (828) 265-8061.