The 2015 Municipal Election will see hotly-contested races for four mayoral posts and a number of other town posts across Sampson County, highlighted by a three-way race for Roseboro mayor, a former Newton Grove mayor’s campaign for a return to office and a six-way race to fill half as many seats on Salemburg’s board.
The early voting period begins on Thursday, Oct, 22, and will extend to Saturday, Oct. 31. Early voting will only be offered during regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours Monday through Friday at the Sampson County Board of Elections, with the exception of Saturday voting on Halloween. That Saturday voting opportunity will be offered from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., again at the Board of Elections in the County Complex, the sole location for early voting.
The Elections office is now located at its previous location, Building F within the County Complex, located at 120 County Complex Road, Clinton. The offices made a move back across the county campus at the end of last month.
Seven mayoral seats and 19 other town board seats are set to expire in Sampson. The filing period for the election was held in July, during which 38 people filed for the available 26 positions.
There will be at least three new mayors, as Bobby Strickland and David Alexander chose not to seek re-election in Salemburg and Roseboro, respectively, and Barbara Burch is not seeking another term in Newton Grove. Autryville, Roseboro and Turkey will join Newton Grove as having mayoral races on Nov. 3, while Salemburg seems poised to have current commissioner Joe Warren succeed longtime mayor Strickland.
The Clinton City Council and Harrells Board of Aldermen will stay intact, as all incumbents have filed for re-election and no challengers have come forward. That is where the status quo ends, as Sampson’s six other municipalities will have 32 people seeking to fill 20 available seats.
Faces in the races
In Autryville, there will be races for mayor and commissioner, as longtime mayor Patricia Williams and current commissioner Larry Autry face off for the lead post, and four people contend for three open commissioner’s seats. Current board members Jakie Faircloth and Carolyn L. Cashwell are attempting to retain their spots on the board, and challengers Dana T. Hairr and Richard (Ricky) Spell are joining them on the ballot.
In Garland, four people are vying for two open town board seats.
Current commissioners Denise Toler and Ralph Smith will be on the ballot, as will hopefuls Larry Lee Anderson and Judy C. Smith. Smith resigned from the town board in June only to re-join it the next month, just in time to file for re-election two days later.
In Newton Grove, former mayor Gerald Darden will be pitted against current commissioner Stephen Jackson for the mayoral office being vacated by Burch, who succeeded Darden’s long tenure as the town’s leader. Darden served as the town’s mayor for 12 years before stepping down in 2013. The terms of Burch and commissioners Laura Wheeler and Alan G. Herring are coming to a close and only Herring is seeking another. Herring joined Darden as a late filing and is poised to return to the board as one of only two vying for as many seats, challenger Cody Smith being the other.
In Roseboro, there is a three-way race to the mayor’s office, with town commissioner Anthony Bennett and mayor pro tem Alice Butler joined by pastor Gilbert Owens in the race. There are three commissioner seats open and Richard Barefoot, Ray Clark Fisher and Cary T. Holland have all filed to retain their spots on the board — Fisher and Holland were previously appointed to fill the unexpired terms of Roland Hall and James McLean — while challenger Cynthia (Cyndi) Templin joins them.
While the race for Strickland’s successor in Salemburg has essentially been conceded to Warren — he currently serves as mayor pro tem, filed for the office on the first day possible and watched as no challengers stepped forward — the make up of the board is far from a done deal.
The ballot for Salemburg commissioner is packed, with six people vying for three open seats, including Shirley Cooper, Donald Comer, Thomas (Tommy) Jackson, Don (Mack) Honeycutt, Johnnie C. Parker and Bobby Tew. Current commissioners Cooper and Tew are seeking re-election to the board. Donald Nance chose not to file for another term. Warren would leave an additional commissioner seat open once he takes the helm as mayor, requiring an appointment be made to Warren’s unexpired commissioner term, which extends until 2017.
The race for Turkey mayor includes incumbent Leon (Tim) Clifton and challenger Donald (Donnie) Myers while Max Pope and current commissioner Mike Smith, the only two candidates for the two vacant seats on the board, are poised for election.
In Clinton, Mayor Lew Starling will gain an eighth term, and City Councilman Neal Strickland (District 2) and Councilwoman Jean Turlington (District 4) will extend their long tenures on the Council. Strickland and Turlington filed on the first day and no challengers followed, and Starling will likewise be unopposed yet again in November.
It will be business as usual in Harrells, with current aldermen Mayor James Moore, Ray Powell and Katie Greer all filing for re-election and no one challenging. The mayor is not elected in Harrells. Aldermen are elected and are then responsible for choosing who among them will be mayor. Moore has held that post for more than a decade.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.