Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 vote in Chatham

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Election Day is less than eight weeks away and ballots in Chatham County — which will include, of course, the 2020 presidential candidates — will be lengthy.

In addition to the presidential and N.C. gubernatorial and congressional seats, voters across Chatham County will cast ballots in three contested Chatham Commissioner races and two contested Chatham Board of Education races, as well as in the N.C. House Dist. 54 and N.C. Senate Dist. 23 races.

Here’s an overview about voting and a bird’s-eye view of the local, state and national races on this year’s ballot. The News + Record’s formal coverage of the elections will begin in next week’s edition with a deeper look at the candidates vying for the three contested Chatham County Board of Commissioners seats.

Voting

Election Day is Nov. 3, and early voting begins Oct. 15 and runs through Oct. 31. Elections officials are expecting a strong surge in the request for absentee voting — already about 8,000 ballots have been requested, according to the Chatham County Board of Elections office.

Any registered voter can request an absentee ballot in North Carolina by submitting a request by mail, email or fax to the Chatham County BOE using a downloadable form available at both the state and county websites. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27, but those already requested will begin being mailed out as soon at Sept. 4 in N.C. Ballots must be received to be counted by 5 p.m. on election day, Nov. 3.

The registration deadline in North Carolina is Oct. 9, but voters can register before voting — a process known as “same-day registration” — during the early voting period, Oct. 15-31.

Chatham County Board of Commissioners

Three of the board’s five seats will be contested this election, with all three incumbents — Democrats Karen Howard (Dist. 1) and Mike Dasher (Dist. 2) and Republican Andy Wilkie (Dist. 5) — facing opposition. Commissioners Diana Hales (Dist. 3) and Jim Crawford (Dist. 4) aren’t on the ballot this year.

In the District 1 race, Howard, 55, who currently serves as the board’s chairperson, has served on the commission board since 2014. She’s a retired attorney and former member of the Chatham County Board of Education. Her primary goals for another term would be to work on county-wide access to affordable, reliable broadband service and increased options for affordable housing.

She faces Republican Jay Stobbs, who didn’t provide his age in response to a News + Record election questionnaire. Stobbs is an engineer and financial advisor who’s managed large-scale projects as an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. His objectives as a commissioner would be to reduce county spending and create a tax structure that would meet the county’s needs and incentivize business growth.

In District 2, Dasher, 43, has served as a commissioner since 2016 and works in construction and building. If re-elected, he hopes to continue to build on work he’s done as a board member, with primary goals being to adopt a unified development ordinance and ensure broadband access in the county.

Running against Dasher is Republican Jimmy Pharr, 71, who has lived in Chatham County for 45 years and works as a college Bible professor. He has not held any previous elected offices. If elected, Pharr’s main goals would be to “respect citizens’ personal liberty and property rights” through “common sense” zoning and taxes, and creating jobs with a competitive tax structure and reasonable regulations.

In the final contested commissioner race, Republican incumbent Andy Wilkie will face Franklin Gomez Flores. He has served on the board since being appointed to fill a vacancy in May 2019, is seeking a full four-year term. Wilkie is a Chatham County native, served six years as a paratrooper in the Army Reserves and operated a business and non-profit in Sanford.

Gomez Flores is a registered Democrat who is seeking office as an unaffiliated candidate. A Siler City resident, Gomez Flores serves on the Chatham County Planning Board. He hopes to represent Latin Americans in Siler City, prevent overcrowded and underfunded schools and keep water quality within its range. According to his campaign biography on the Chatham County Democratic Party’s website, his main goals include increasing affordable housing, protecting immigrants’ rights and supporting quality education for all.

Even though all three races are considered “district” seats, the candidates serve at-large.

Chatham County Board of Education

Two of the Board of Education’s five non-partisan seats will be up for re-election this year, with incumbents Melissa Hlavac (Dist. 1) and David Hamm (Dist. 2) facing opposition.

In District 1, Hlavac, who has served on the board since 2016, works as an associate dean of MBA programs at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Two of her main objectives if re-elected would be to reduce the student achievement gap to address equity and raise the school state rankings, as well as improving the quality and safety in county school buildings and facilities.

She faces Timothy Winters, who works as an engineer and has two children in Chatham County Schools. If elected, Winters’ main objectives are to work with county leaders to obtain a larger share of incremental county revenue for education, implement maximum class sizes of 18 students in K-5 classes, and in math, science and English classes for students in 6th through 8th grade.

Also on the ballot in Dist. 1 is Ryan Armstrong, who works as an operation manager at Intrepid-Bid. His primary goals if elected include developing a “better road map” for growth and expansion in the district and bringing more middle school sports and (Career and Technical Education) CTE programs to the county.

In District 2, David Hamm, a retired educator in Chatham, has served on the board since 2008. He’s not faced opposition his last two terms. If re-elected, his two primary goals are to lower the county’s teacher attrition rate and continue to increase the local pay supplement by 1% annually. He also will prioritize making high speed broadband accessible to all county residents, a need he said has been highlighted by COVID-19 and remote learning.

He faces Dennis Lewis, who currently works as the director at the North Carolina Defense Technology Transition Office and as a defense industry consultant for the Economic Development Partnership of N.C. If elected, he hopes to “be the voice of the parents” by re-assessing the Seaforth attendance zone decision and put strategies in place to plan ahead for the “next contingency.”

N.C. Governor

Democrat incumbent Roy Cooper is on the ballot with three opponents: Republican Dan Forest (who’s currently N.C.’s Lieutenant Governor), Libertarian Steven DiFiore and Constitution Party candidate Al Pisano. Cooper has served has the governor since 2017 after beating then-incumbent Pat McCrory in a tight gubernatiorial election. Before becoming governor, Cooper served in the N.C. House and Senate and was N.C.’s Attorney General. Since being elected, he has worked to expand Medicaid to increase health care access, increase teacher pay and public school equity and added jobs in the state. He has also responded to hurricane and disaster recovery in N.C. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic has included mandates for mask-wearing, closure of non-essential businesses and a phased-in approach to returning to school.

Forest, elected Lieutenant Governor in 2012, worked as an architect and businessman before seeking office. He has been a vocal critic of Cooper’s policies, particularly when it comes the handling of the the coronavirus pandemic. His website lists defending the 2nd Amendment, pro-life legislation and combating illegal immigration as three of the main issues his campaign addresses.

Libertarian candidate DiFiore hopes to “improve efficiency, remove barriers for teachers, and give parents more choice” in K-12 public education if elected. He also wants to improve access to healthcare, reform N.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and decrease housing costs in the state. Consitution candidate Pisano worked in the Charlotte Police Department for 28 years before retiring in April 2018; his platform emphasizes parent choice in public education, elimination of personal income taxes and less government involvement in healthcare.

N.C. Lieutenant Governor

Republican Mark Robinson and Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley are running for N.C. Lieutenant Governor.

Robinson does not have a long career in politics, but has served on the NRA National Outreach Board and been a frequent guest on political talk shows since a speech he gave in 2018 at the Greensboro City Council went viral. If elected, he plans to defend the 2nd Amendment, “honor the sanctity of life,” support school choice and increase jobs within the state.

Holley currently serves as the representative for the 38th district of the N.C. House. As a legislator, Holley has worked to relieve food deserts across the state, and if elected at lieutenant governor, she plans to reform the state’s criminal justice system, work to ban assault weapons, support women’s access to abortions and advocate for living wages.

N.C. House Dist. 54 and N.C. Senate Dist. 23 races

In District 54 — which serves constituents in portions of Durham and all of Chatham County — Democrat incumbent Robert Reives II faces Republican George Gilson Jr. for the N.C. House of Representatives seat. Reives, who has served in the state legislature since 2014, also serves as freshman caucus co-chairperson and treasure of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus. Currently the deputy democratic leader of the House, he has sponsored legislation to strengthen public schools and protect children, the disabled, the environment and property rights.

He faces Gilson, who moved from Iowa to Chatham County in 2016 and works in the waterworks and infrastructure industry. If elected, his core goals are smaller government policies, lower taxes and “excessive spending,” support of the 2nd Amendment and a “sensible” voter ID law.

In the N.C. State Senate, Democratic incumbent Valerie Foushee faces Republican Tom Glendinning. She first joined the Senate in 2013, following Senator Ellie Kinnaird’s retirement from District 23. A life-long resident of Orange County, Foushee worked in the Chapel Hill Police Department for 21 years and served on the board of education for Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. Foushee’s primary goals include investing in quality education, strengthening the economy, protecting the environment and ensuring equality.

Challenger Glendinning is a Pittsboro resident who has worked in business and as an environmental consultant. His website lists serving the community and being connected as his primary platform items. He did not complete the News + Record’s candidate questionnaire.

Other races on the ballot

• U.S. Senate: Republican incumbent Thom Tillis faces Libertarian Shannon Bray, Democrat Cal Cunningham and Constitution party candidate Kevin Hayes

• U.S. House of Representatives: Republican incumbent Ted Budd faces Scott Huffman

• N.C. Attorney General: Democrat incumbent Josh Stein faces Republican Jim O’Neill

• N.C. Auditor: Democrat incumbent Beth Wood faces Republican Anthony Wayne Street

• N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture: Republican incumbent Steve Troxler faces Democrat Jenna Wadsworth

• N.C. Commissioner of Insurance: Republican incumbent Mike Causey faces Democrat Wayne Goodwin

• N.C. Commissioner of Labor: Republican Josh Dobson faces Democrat Jessica Holmes. Incumbent Cherie Berry is not on the ballot.

• N.C. Secretary of State: Democrat incumbent Elaine Marshall faces Republican E.C. Sykes

• N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction: Republican Catherine Truitt faces Democrat Jen Mangrum. Incumbent Mark Johnson is not on the ballot after a failed gubernatorial effort.

• N.C. Treasurer: Republican incumbent Dale Folwell faces Democrat Ronnie Chatterji

In addition, voters will cast ballots on three N.C. Supreme Court races and five N.C. Court of Appeals races, as well as N.C. Court Judge seats (District 15B Seats 2, 3, 4 and 5). In Chatham County, both Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor J. Lynn Mann and Register of Deeds Lunday Riggsbee are running uncontested.

Other information

For more election information, contact the Chatham County Board of Elections.

State Board of Elections information:

Dates to know:

  • Sept. 4: Absentee ballots start getting mailed out in N.C.
  • Oct. 9: Voter registration deadline
  • Oct. 15: Early Voting begins, same day registration available
  • Oct. 31: Last day of early voting
  • Nov. 3: Election day; absentee ballot deadline at 5 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly  stated that absentee ballots start being mailed in Chatham on Sept. 19. This has been updated to the correct date, which is Sept. 4. The Chatham Board of Elections is telling people to contact their office if you do not receive your ballot by Sept. 21. The News + Record apologizes for this error.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.

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