The greatest threat to Wake County commissioners seeking re-election this year might be within their own political party.
Nineteen people are seeking seven spots on the board, which controls everything from the county’s property tax rate to local funding for the school system. The incumbents are all Democrats, and most face challenges from Democrats and Republicans.
Here are five things you should know about the election, which has a primary on May 8.
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The only commissioners who won’t face a Democratic challenger are Jessica Holmes and Greg Ford, who pushed this year for additional funding for schools.
Democrats gained control of the board in 2014, with many promising more support for the school system. Commissioners gave the schools less than half of the requested additional funding, a decision that has led to tensions with the school board.
Vickie Adamson, a Democratic member of education advocacy group Great Schools in Wake, is challenging incumbent John Burns.
A total of 12 Democrats are running. Rebecca Llewellyn, chairwoman of the Wake County Democratic Party, said she did not want to comment until after the primary.
Five incumbents are also facing Republican challengers.
Republicans probably won’t win a majority on the board, but the goal is to break the “liberal echo chamber,” said Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party.
He said the challengers must work hard to get Republicans to vote in the race, and to convince unaffiliated and Democratic voters to get them a chance. Wake County has 257,949 unaffiliated voters, 266,850 Democratic voters and 188,495 Republican voters.
“I am very excited,” Hellwig said. “We’ve got different kinds of Republicans running and I think they are going to bring out more voters than normal.”
TV meets politics
Ronnie Shirley, the former star of reality television show “Lizard Lick Towing,” wants to run as an unaffiliated candidate challenging Greg Ford.
Shirley recently changed from unaffiliated to Republican, but he will have to run as an unaffiliated candidate because he missed the cutoff to change his party before filing to run for office. He must collect the signatures of more than 28,000 registered Wake County voters by the primary to appear on the November ballot.
“I never felt like I could make a difference in the political realm,” Shirley said. “When you look (and ask) does one person’s voice matter, it sure doesn’t seem that way in the last 15 to 20 years.”
Who represents me?
Candidates must live within the district they they want to represent, but Wake County residents can vote for candidates in all seven districts.
The General Assembly tried to turn two Wake County school board districts into super districts, each covering about half of the county, in 2013. In 2015, state lawmakers changed the Wake commissioner lines to match the school board districts, but the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the new maps unconstitutional in 2016. A ruling in December means the county will continue to use the old maps with the seven districts until lawmakers create new maps or the 2020 U.S. Census is complete, whichever comes first.
Left-leaning groups filed suit, arguing that the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the maps in an attempt to improve Republicans’ influence in Wake.
Find your polling place online at www.ncsbe.gov.
Who are the candidates?
▪ Sig Hutchinson, Democrat, incumbent
▪ Jeremiah Pierce, Democrat
▪ Greg Jones, Republican
▪ Tom Jower, Libertarian
▪ Matt Calabria, Democrat, incumbent
▪ Lindy Brown, Democrat
▪ Frann Sarpolus, Republican
▪ Jessica Holmes, Democrat, incumbent
▪ Erv Portman, Democrat, incumbent
▪ Susan Evans, Democrat
▪ Kim Coley, Republican
▪ James West, Democrat
▪ Robert Finch Sr., Democrat
▪ Greg Ford, Democrat, incumbent
▪ David Blackwelder, Republican
▪ Ronnie Shirley, Republican (running as an unaffiliated candidate)
▪ John Burns, Democrat, incumbent
▪ Vickie Adamson, Democrat
▪ Alex Moore, Republican