October 20, 2014

The voter's guide to the Nov. 4 general election


Despite overarching court battles and unceasing political advertising that may have created some cynicism this election season, Dare County voters have an unusually full slate of contests to inspire a trip to the voting booth.

Nearly all local offices on the ballot have opponents, from the county commission to the clerk of Superior Court to the county Sheriff to the District Attorney. Only three local judge seats and two partisan offices are unopposed. 

In Hyde County, however, the only contested local race is for Sheriff in which Democrat Carl (Guire) Cahoon is being challenged by Larry D. Weston, who is unaffiliated.

Republicans in Dare County responded because there is a recognition that there needs to be change in the community as well as the state,  said  Dare County Republican Party Chairman Browny Douglas.

“If you’re going to do something good for your country,” he said, “you’ve got to do something on every level of government.”

Long-time local Democrat Bob Muller, the treasurer of the Dare County Democratic Party, said that the full slate is good for voters because it fosters discussions of the issues and policies of the parties, whether to make cuts or to invest in programs.

“I think it gives folks a clear signal, both at the county and the state level,” he said, “what direction they want to go.”
During their campaigns, commissioner candidates have emphasized their non-partisan leanings more than party loyalties. Indeed, both Republican and Democratic candidates stressed the importance of Oregon Inlet, the Bonner Bridge, Highway 12, and the economy, especially tourism.  Education and the environment were also widely supported on both sides of the aisle.

As of Oct. 10, a total of 28,044 Dare residents were registered to vote -- 9,673 Democratic, 8,298 Republican, 162 Libertarian and 9,911 unaffiliated. 

As is evident nationwide, the numbers of voters who are not identified with either party is growing. In the 2010 mid-term general election – sandwiched between bigger turnout presidential elections – there were 26,923 registered Dare voters: 10,363 Democratic, 7,956 Republican, 70 Libertarian and 8,536 unaffiliated. But in the straight party voting results, Republicans cast almost 56 percent of votes to the Democrats 43 percent. 


Statewide, the consistently tight U.S. Senate fight between incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican opponent, state House Speaker Rep. Thom Tillis, has kept North Carolina in the national spotlight for months.  Numerous political pundits have called the race critical to either party’s control of the Senate, which explains why it has also been one of the most expensive in the nation. 

Voters in Dare and other eastern counties, including Hyde, will also be choosing to send incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones back to Washington for his 11th term representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, or replace him with Democratic challenger Marshall Adame, a former Marine and State Department diplomat. 

Adame had lost the Democratic primary election for the seat in 2008 to opponent Craig Weber, who later lost to Jones in the general election.

Jones, elected in 1994, also easily won against challengers in 2010 and 2012,  although he did undergo a stiff primary challenge this year.


It is the state Senate District 1 race that has captured the most focus locally from supporters of both candidates, incumbent Republican Sen. Bill Cook, from Chocowinity, and his challenger,  Democrat Stan White from Nags Head.
White had been appointed to serve out the term of state Sen. Marc Basnight, who retired in 2010 for health reasons. In the 2012 election, Cook unseated White with just 21 votes.

In recent months, glossy, full-color flyers from both sides have been filling mailboxes in attempt to persuade voters of the undesirability of their opponent, or aligning themselves with positive positions.

The flyers for Cook – many of which mention taxes and Obama - have been paid for by the North Carolina Republican Party. White’s flyers have been paid for by environmental groups that associate Cook with fracking and landfills.

Incumbent Democratic state Rep. Paul Tine, an insurance agent from Kitty Hawk, has also been the subject of a lesser number of mailed flyers that have been paid for by his campaign or by the North Carolina Chamber. But Tine’s advertisements focus on his accomplishments as a House member and never mention his Republican opponent,  Mattie Lawson, a Kill Devil Hills business consultant and co-founder of the local Tea Party.


Four newcomers, two from each party, are challenging incumbent Board of Commissioners members this year.

For the At-Large seat, Democrat Bobby Culpepper, an Outer Banks native who works in retail, is running against incumbent Republican Jack Shea, a Southern Shores resident was first elected in 2006.

Both of the two seats in District 1, representing East Lake, Stumpy Point, Manns Harbor, Wanchese and Manteo, are on the ballot, due to the death last August of long-serving Commissioner Richard Johnson, a Republican, before his term was up in 2016. 

Incumbent Wally Overman, a retired textile industry manager from Manteo, was selected by the Dare County Republican Party to fill Johnson’s seat until the 2014 election. In a quest to finish the unexpired term, Overman is opposed by Democrat Sandy Semans Ross, the former editor of the Outer Banks Sentinel who lives in Stumpy Point. 

For the other District 1 seat,  incumbent Democrat Virginia Simmons Tillett, a retired educator from Manteo who was elected in 2002,  is running against Republican newcomer Margarette Midgett Umphlett, a Realtor and business owner also from Manteo. 

In District 2 – Kill Devil Hills, Colington and Nags Head - incumbent Democrat Max Dutton, a retail manager from Nags Head who was elected in 2006, is being challenged by newcomer Republican Beverly Gwyn Boswell, a Kill Devil Hills resident who works as a medical assistant. 


In Dare County races:

  • Incumbent Sheriff Doug Doughtie, a Republican, is facing off against Democrat Terry Ballance, a retired sheriff’s deputy.
  • Incumbent Dean Tolson, a Republican, is fighting to maintain his seat as county Clerk of Superior Court against Democratic opponent Chrissy DeGabrielle Simmons, a former assistant district attorney. Tolson, a former probation officer, was appointed to the seat last November when long-time clerk Merlee Austin retired. 
  • Incumbent Republican District Attorney Andrew Womble is opposed by Democrat Nancy Lamb, a 30-year veteran assistant district attorney. Womble had served for 10 years as the 1st Judicial District’s Public Defender until the sudden death last year of District Attorney Frank Parrish.  Shortly after Womble accepted the governor’s appointment to fill Parrish’s post, Lamb, who had worked under Parrish, resigned. The 1st District covers Dare, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties.  
Four judge seats –including three district judge elections – have no opposition. There are also no opponents for the county Soil and Water Conservation District  Supervisor and the Dare County Register of Deeds.


Along with candidates in six state judicial contests, voters will also be asked to choose whether they are for or against an amendment to the North Carolina constitution that allows a criminal defendant not facing a death sentence the option of waiving a jury trial. 

The amendment – the last item on the ballot --  would require defendants in Superior Court  who choose the option to state in writing or on the record in court that their right to a trial is waived. The action must also have the consent of the trial judge. 

Proponents of the amendment say it would foster efficiency in the courts, resulting in decreased costs and time for adjudication of cases.  So-called bench trials could also offer a fairer trial for some defendants. 

But others are concerned that defendants could be pressured by prosecutors to waive their right or that attorneys would waste time by continuing cases until a more sympathetic judge was available. Or, similarly, a defendant could be at risk of going before a judge who was biased against their case. 

Federal courts and 49 states already allow defendants to waive a jury trial. 

Election Day is Nov. 4., when the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Early voting will start on Oct. 23 and end on Nov. 1.


Election Day is Nov. 4., when the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Early voting will start on Oct. 23 and end on Nov. 1. (See early voting schedule below.)

Click here to see a sample ballot for Dare County.
Click here to see a sample ballot for Ocracoke in Hyde County.
Click here to watch the League of Women Voters' first forum for Dare County commissioner Candidates on Oct. 8.
Click here to watch the Outer Banks Voice forum for Dare County commissioner candidates on Sept. 22.

The League of Women Voters plans, two more voter forums:

  • A second forum for the Dare County Commissioners, which was cancelled last week, is rescheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 21, at the Cape Hatteras Secondary School cafeteria in Buxton from 7 to 9 p.m.
  • The forum for judicial and law enforcement officials has been set for Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Nags Head Commissioner’s Conference Room, from 7 to 9 p.m. 

In Dare County:

954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo.
Monday – Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 1, from 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

300 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills.
Monday - Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

46830 Highway 12 in Buxton.
Monday–Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

5377 North Virginia Dare Trail in Southern Shores.
Monday–Friday beginning Oct. 23 - Oct. 31 from 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m.

For information, contact the Dare County Board of Elections office at 252-475-5630.

In Hyde County:

Board of Elections Site, Teaching Kitchen, Swan Quarter.
Thursday, Oct. 23-Saturday, Nov. 1   8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Ocracoke Site, New Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department
Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

For more information, contact the Hyde County Board of Elections office at 252- 926-4194.

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