ONLINE UPDATE: Primary results whittle Republican claims on county offices

by Miriah Hamrick
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

New Hanover County Board of Commission

A pool of ten Republican candidates vying for two open seats on the county commission was pared down to two after the primary election.

Commissioners Thomas Wolfe and Brian Berger did not pursue reelection for their seats.

Skip Watkins and Dr. Derrick Hickey established leads early in the night.

Watkins attributed his lead to name recognition from a nearly successful campaign for Wilmington City Council in 2013.

“That’s why I was asked by several people to run,” Watkins said. “When Commissioner [Thomas] Wolfe said he wasn’t going to run, he approached me…because we did so well in our race against incumbents.”

Watkins noted that Hickey also enjoys name recognition from serving on the school board.

Preceding his 2010 election to the school board, Hickey held a seat on the New Hanover County Parks and Recreation Board from 2006 to 2012.

Hickey tried unsuccessfully to snatch an open seat on the board of commission in 2012. He came in only 1,208 votes short.

Early numbers placed Dr. Chuck Kays, plastic surgeon at Wilmington Plastic Surgery, in a close third place with 23 percent of the vote compared to Hickey’s 24 percent.

Kays served on the New Hanover County Airport Authority Board for eight years, with two years as chairman. In 2012, he acted as president of the 65th annual N.C. Azalea Festival.

His 2014 campaign for county commission was his first run for public office.

Kays recognized Watkins and Hickey have more name recognition from previous runs, which he said was a benefit to them but not responsible for their lead.

Kays doubted he would run for office again.

“I’ll have to sit down and think about it a little bit,” Kays said.

Democrats Rob Zapple and Patricia Spear automatically advanced to the general election. 

New Hanover County Board of Education

Longtime board members Don Hayes, Ed Higgins and Janice Cavenaugh will proceed to the general election, flanked by retired county manager Bruce Shell.

Hayes said Shell could be a good fit for the board.

“Over the years when he was county manager, of course he worked very closely with us on previous budgets. I think Bruce would make a nice addition,” Hayes said. 

Hayes pledged continued focus on his duties as school board chair coming into the general election, notably the upcoming bond referendum slated for the Nov. ballot.

“I’m a firm believer in you do what you think is right. That’s it. If that doesn’t please the majority then you shouldn’t be [in office],” Hayes said.

Jim Brumit, retired plant manager and Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Board member, did not advance to the general election.

The Republican winners will face Democrats Emma Saunders, Chris Meek and Tom Gale for four open seats in November.

Stay tuned for the full story in the May 8 issue of Lumina News. 


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