Republicans, who lost control of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in 2014, plan to win seats back next year by taking a page from the Democrats’ playbook.
Former Wake County Commissioner Phil Matthews, former Raleigh City Councilman John Odom and recent Raleigh council candidate Craig Ralph filed to run for the Wake board on Monday while promising to bring a renewed focus to county teachers – much like Democrats did during the campaign last year.
“I found out in the last election that that’s an important issue,” said Matthews of Garner, who lost his seat in District 2 last year to Matt Calabria.
Wake residents were likely more upset with state lawmakers than commissioners when they went to the polls last year, Matthews said, and the four ousted Republican commissioners were “collateral damage.”
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Without disclosing details, Matthews said Republicans would boost teacher supplement pay without costing taxpayers as much as Democrats have.
County commissioners earlier this year raised property taxes 3.65 cents per $100 of assessed value, or about $97 on a house worth the county average of $265,000. They increased the schools budget by $10 million above the county manager’s recommendation.
“It’s time we start running the county like a business again,” said Ralph, vice president of Ralph Urban Development.
The trio walked into the Wake County Board of Elections together Monday morning hoping to take advantage of new voting districts that the state legislature enacted earlier this year.
Two of the five seats up for election – A and B – represent new, regional voting bases that overlay existing local districts. Other changes are scheduled to take effect in 2018 but could be derailed by an ongoing lawsuit.
Ralph filed to run in District A, the more urban, liberal-leaning of the two new districts that’s concentrated in Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville. He’ll face commissioner Caroline Sullivan. Sullivan currently represents District 4 but filed to run in A to allow Erv Portman, a Cary Democrat and former commissioner, to run for her seat. No other candidates have filed yet to run in District 4.
Matthews filed to run in District B, which encircles District A and encompasses most of rural Wake, where he is now the only candidate.
Odom filed to run in county District 6, which is centered in North Raleigh and currently held by commissioner Betty Lou Ward, a Democrat who’s not seeking re-election. Odom, considered a moderate on the Raleigh City Council, is the only candidate so far in an area where he’s already popular. He served eight terms on the City Council before losing in October by 261 votes in a low-turnout election.
On Monday, Republicans gave Odom credit for their plan to boost teacher pay.
“I think I have the ability to bring people together and make things happen,” Odom said, noting his relationships with Democrats and local mayors.
Wake County commissioners chairman James West on Friday filed to run for re-election in District 5, where he is now the only candidate.
Republicans plan to field candidates in Districts 4 and 5, said Charles Hellwig, spokesman for the Wake County Republican Party.
The filing period ends at noon on Dec. 21.