BY MARK JURKOWITZ
The Outer Banks Sentinel
The conventional wisdom is that no one really pays attention to fall elections until Labor Day arrives and the tourists leave. And with the Nov. 6 balloting only two months away, the local campaigns are certain to heat up.
The last time there was a similar even-year election without a presidential race (2014), voter turnout was 47% in Dare County, although there was a U.S. Senate race at the top of that ballot that may have driven some of that turnout.
So, as the Sentinel begins to ramp up its election coverage, here’s an overview of the key local general election races. Whoever wins, Dare County will have a new legislator representing it in both the N.C. House and N.C. Senate. There are contested battles for two seats on the seven-member Dare County Board of Commissioners. And voters will choose the winner in the first partisan campaign for the Dare County Board of Education.
By the way, the deadline for registering to vote in this election is Oct. 12 at 5 p.m.
N C. District 1 State Senate seat – Bob Steinburg (R) versus D. Cole Phelps (D).
This race for an open seat is in a newly drawn 11-county district, and it follows the announced retirement of incumbent Republican Bill Cook. Steinburg, the incumbent District 1 State Representative from Chowan County, emerged victorious from a May primary contest against Dare County realtor Clark Twiddy — winning by a solid 58-42 percent margin. Steinburg’s Democratic opponent in the campaign is D. Cole Phelps, a Plymouth attorney and Washington County Commissioner. A potential Democratic opponent for Phelps, Richard James, was ruled ineligible fo
r the May primary because of issues with his claims of residency.
N.C. District 6 State Representative seat – Bobby Hanig (R) versus Tess Judge (D)
Republican candidate Hanig captured what some saw as an upset victory in the GOP primary against incumbent State Rep. Beverly Boswell, winning by about six percentage points. The chairman of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners is facing off against Democratic candidate Tess Judge in November. Judge, a Dare County resident and businesswoman who did not have a primary opponent, is the wife of Warren Judge, a longtime Dare County Commissioner who ran against Boswell in 2016 and died only days before the general election. Boswell won a narrow victory in that race, and had Judge prevailed, Tess Judge had agreed to fill his seat. This newly drawn district includes Hyde, Pamlico, Dare and Currituck Counties.
District 1 seat on the Dare County Board of Commissioners – Jim Tobin (R) versus Rosemarie Doshier (D)
Tobin, the incumbent, will be facing voters for the first time since the county GOP nominated him to fill the board seat vacated by the retiring Margarette Umphlett last year. Tobin, the owner of the Pirate’s Cover Marina and chair of the Oregon Inlet Task Force, is among the more conservative members of the Republican-dominated Dare Board of Commissioners. Doshier, the Democrat, is an East Lake Realtor who made a bid for a seat on the board in 2016. In that race, she was beaten by a 58-42 percent margin by Republican incumbent and Board Vice Chair Wally Overman.
District 2 seat on the Dare County Board of Education – Joe Tauber (R) versus Jen Alexander (D)
This is the only general election contest for a Dare Board of Education seat. It also marks the first such race to be conducted as a partisan election that will be decided in November, after the GOP-dominated General Assembly passed legislation to that effect. The incumbent here is Republican Tauber, a retired U.S Army lieutenant colonel and also serves as a collegiate wrestling official. In 2014, Tauber took about 40 percent of the vote to win a three-way race. Alexander, the Democrat in the race, is a licensed clinical social worker has worked with schools both in mental health consultation and as a graduate teaching assistant.
Dare County Register of Deeds – Cheryl House (R) versus Vanzolla McMurran
McMurran, the Democrat and incumbent, has held the Register of Deeds post since 2009 after working her way up through the ranks in that office for nearly three decades. Republican Cheryl House owns a restoration and carpet cleaning company, with her husband Steve House, who is on the Dare County Board of Commissioners.