Wake County

Race for new at-large Wake commissioners seat features two primaries

No incumbent

District B is one of two new at-large district seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which will expand to nine seats after November’s election. The district, which encircles Raleigh, is meant to increase the influence of rural Wake residents.

The candidates

Political newcomer John Adcock of Fuquay-Varina and former Wake commissioner Phil Matthews of Garner are running for the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, former Wake commissioner Lindy Brown of Raleigh is squaring off against Morrisville town councilwoman Vicki Scroggins-Johnson.

About the office

The Wake County Board of Commissioners is in charge of funding county government services and setting county government policies. The board funds public school construction, the sheriff’s office and emergency services, among other things.

Why this race matters

Democrats occupy every seat on the board and are likely to keep control until the next election, in 2018. Five of the board’s nine seats are up for election, but Republicans filed to run for only four of them. With a Republican win, the party would be one step closer to regaining the control that it lost in 2014. Critics of state lawmakers’ move to add the district say it’s designed to benefit Republicans. A win by a Democrat would further secure the party’s control.

Where the candidates stand

Brown and Scroggins-Johnson support the commissioners’ plan to expand Wake’s transit system to include commuter trains by 2027 and ask voters through a referendum to fund the expansion with a half-cent sales tax increase. Adcock and Matthews oppose the transit plan, saying the county should focus mainly on improvements to roads and the bus system.

On the campaign trail, though, the race rhetoric is similar.

Brown and Matthews are both touting their experience, while Adcock and Scroggins-Johnson are saying the county needs fresh leadership. “I won’t have to go in with a learning curve,” said Brown, who served from 2006 to 2010.

“I have established longstanding relationships with the leadership of all 12 of the towns and community activists. I have the time to invest, whereas she’s working full-time and has small children,” Brown said.

Scroggins-Johnson, though, points out that her children are 15 and 18 years old and that one is in college. Scroggins-Johnson says that her parental obligations haven’t hamstrung her duties to Morrisville and she doesn’t think it will be a problem on the Wake board, either.

Scroggins-Johnson thinks she’s the better candidate because Morrisville, like much of the county, is growing rapidly and she has experience dealing with infill and transportation.

“Because I grew up in a small town and live in a small town, I feel like I’m the best choice,” she said.

Between Adcock and Matthews, meanwhile, the debate is not just whether political experience trumps real-world experience – Adcock has worked on land use issues for local governments and developers – but whether Wake’s Republicans want new representation.

Matthews was one of four Republican commissioners who lost his seat in the 2014 election. He says he and others lost because Democrats showed up en masse on Election Day to vote out Republican state lawmakers – not county leaders.

“Republicans didn’t vote us out, Democrats did,” Matthews said. “We were collateral damage.”

Matthews touts his record of keeping tax rates level and recruiting big businesses such as MetLife, which added 1,200 jobs in Cary.

Adcock thinks voters are ready for a fresh Republican face. Adcock casts himself as the more moderate choice, saying voters want someone who’s willing to work with Democrats.

“I like Mr. Matthews. He’s a good man, and I respect him greatly. But the reason I decided to run is because we need new conservative leadership, positive leadership that focuses on solutions,” Adcock said.

“I’m not saying I’d compromise my principles ... but as a parent with kids in Wake County, I know we have big issues and am eager to work together,” he said.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

John Adcock

Age: 47

Education: BS in community/regional planning and geography from Appalachian State University, MA in international affairs from The Catholic University of America, law degree from the University of Memphis.

Professional experience: Owns and operates Adcock Law Firm P.A. in Fuquay-Varina. Former analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, land use planner for the Harnett County government.

Political resume: Has never run for office.

Family: Wife, Cara, and two children.

Website: voteadcock.com

Phil Matthews

Age: 66

Education: Degree in business administration from Central Carolina Community College.

Professional experience: Former firefighter and first responder. Business owner of Matthews Sight and Sound. Retired Army officer (Vietnam veteran).

Political resume: Wake County commissioner from 2010 to 2014, when he served as chairman. Served two 4-year terms on the Garner Town Council.

Family: Wife, Rebecca, two children and two grandchildren.

Website: philmatthews4wakecommissioner.com

Lindy Brown

Age: 59

Education: BS in physical education/social work from N.C. Central University. Master’s in social work from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Professional experience: Retired clinical social worker of 31 years.

Political resume: Wake County commissioner in 2006-10, ran for Garner Town Council in 2003.

Family: Widow of Clifton Brown, who died in 2013. Two adult children and six grandchildren.

Website: Still under construction. For more information, email electlindy@aol.com.

Vicki Scroggins-Johnson

Age: 49

Education: BA and MBA in psychology from the University of Michigan.

Professional experience: Project manager at GlaxoSmithKline, where she’s worked since 2004.

Political resume: Elected to four-year term on the Morrisville Town Council in 2013.

Family: Husband, Greg, and two children.

Website: vicki4wake.com