Below is a snapshot of the regional and county races on the docket this year and some of those who have declared their intentions to run as of press time Tuesday.
• U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, who has been serving in Congress for two years, has announced he will run for reelection, serving 17 mountain counties.
N.C. General Assembly
• N.C. Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, will face competition for the 118th state House seat representing Madison and Yancey counties and part of Haywood (Maggie Valley, Canton, Crabtree areas).
Dean Hicks, a Democrat from Yancey County, will go up against Presnell. Hicks, a Yancey native and a retired teacher and coach, served three terms as a Yancey County commissioner. Hicks said education will be one of his primary areas of interest.
“Like many others I saw what happened to public education and educators in last year’s legislative session,” said Hicks.
Presnell, also from Yancey County, is just finishing her first term after defeating long-time legislator Democrat Ray Rapp in 2012. She is a small business owner.
• N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, will once again face competition from Republican Mike Clampitt from Swain County for the 119th House seat representing Jackson and Swain counties and parts of Haywood (Waynesville and Lake Junaluska.)
Queen, an architect, is serving his first term in the N.C. House but has previously served three terms in the N.C. Senate over the past decade. Queen is a long-time civic leader in Haywood County and has served on many community organizations. He is the founder and long-time organizer of the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival.
Clampitt, a Republican from Bryson City, ran against Queen for the House seat two years ago — which was left up for grabs following the retirement of long-time legislator Phil Haire, D-Sylva.
Clampitt retired in 2004 after serving 28 years as fire captain with the Charlotte Fire Department and returned to his hometown of Bryson City. “I believe that the upcoming mid-term election will probably be one of the most important elections we will be facing,” said Clampitt.
• N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, is an orthodontist and two-term legislator whose district includes the seven westernmost counties. Davis unseated incumbent Democrat Sen. John Snow in 2010 and then beat him again in 2012.
Two Democrats have announced their intention to challenge Davis, setting up a primary race to see who will get that opportunity.
Jane Hipps of Waynesville is a retired educator with several master’s degrees. She has promised to make education one of her main areas of concern if elected.
Ron Robinson of Cullowhee is a management consultant who says the current GOP leadership in Raleigh does not represent the working people of the district.
• Haywood County commissioners have three seats up for election this year. All three commissioners who currently hold the seats are running for reelection: Kirk Kirkpatrick, Mike Sorrells and Bill Upton, all Democrats. No challengers signed up to run on the first day of filing.
• Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher is running for reelection. No challengers have announced so far. One contender for sheriff in the last election, Bill Wilke, had previously announced he would run once again come 2014, but he recently announced he would not do so after all.
• Jackson County sheriff promises to be one of the most hotly contested elections in the region this year. Current Sheriff Jimmy Ashe is not running and that has thrown the floodgates wide open for contenders. Two candidates have formally signed up to run this week, but another five signaled their intention to run by filing campaign finance paperwork.
A May primary will narrow the field of candidates to one Democrat and one Republican, who will square off in the final election in November. So far, candidates on the Democratic ticket include Steven Lillard, assistant police chief at Western Carolina University; Chip Hall, chief deputy in the sheriff’s department; Glen Biller, a Haywood sheriff’s deputy; Robin Gunnells, who has a custom truck cover business and has worked in a variety of law enforcement positions; and Doug Farmer, a Sylva police officer. Republicans Curtis Lambert, a Sylva police office, and Jimmy Hodgins, a retired logger, have also announced plans to run.
• Three county commissioner seats are up for election. All three sitting commissioners in those seats are going to run for re-election: Chairman Jack Debnam and Commissioners Charles Elders and Doug Cody, both Republicans. As an unaffiliated candidate, Debnam must gather 1,200 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. No challengers have registered so far.
• There are three commissioner seats up for election in Macon County.
The seat representing the Highlands area is on the ballot this year. The sitting commissioner, Jim Tate, a Republican, is running for reelection. As of press time, Michael Rogers, a Democrat, had filed as a challenger.
There are two seats up for election in the district representing the Franklin area. Both of the sitting commissioners, Ronnie Beale, Democrat, and Ron Haven, Republican, are both running for reelection. Gary Shields, R, had filed to run.
• Sheriff Robby Holland, R, is running for reelection, but no challengers had filed as of press time.
• All five seats on the Swain County board of commissioners are up for election. Current commissioner Donnie Dixon, Democrat, had filed for reelection as of press-time, along with two challengers: Correna Elders Barker and Ben Bushyhead, both Democrats as well. Commissioner Chairman Phil Carson has filed for reelection. The other current commissioners include Robert White, David Monteith and Steve Moon.
• Sheriff Curtis Cochran, Republican, is running for reelection, with eight years under his belt so far. So far, three Democratic challengers have filed to run: Rocky Sampson, Chuck McMahan, and George Powell. The Democrats would have to run in a May primary, with the winner to advancing to the November election.