Election snapshot: A primer on who’s running for state seats
Voters in Western North Carolina have barely taken down the Christmas tree but will soon find themself in the throes of the primary election countdown.
The primary election has been moved up from its traditional calendar spot in May to Tuesday, March 15 — barely two months away.
While the presidential primary will likely be the major drawing card at the polls, the ballot will include everything from local county commissioner races to seats in the N.C. General Assembly.
With the candidate sign-up period now over, we put together a rundown of who’s running for state House and Senate seats in The Smoky Mountain News’s coverage area.
If you aren’t registered to vote, the last day to do so before the primary is Feb. 19.
N.C. House of Representatives: 118th seat
This voting district includes Madison and Yancey counties and parts of Haywood, a horseshoe shape that takes in Maggie Valley, Jonathan Creek, Crabtree, Beaverdam, Canton, Clyde, Bethel and Cruso.
• N.C. Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, is running for re-election for a third term. A staunch conservative, she has been part and parcel to the new Republican policies carried out over the past four years. She faces no competition in the primary.
• Rhonda Cole Schandevel from Canton is a dental hygienist and serves on the Haywood County School Board. She wants to reverse cuts made to public education, expand Medicaid and undo Republican policies that have benefited special interests. “I am troubled by the decisions being made in Raleigh and feel that an authentic brand of leadership is needed to put our state back on the path of success.”
• Reese Steen is a dentist in Mars Hill. He was a Madison County commissioner for three terms. He is running on a classic Democratic platform of restoring education funding and undoing tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of the working middle class.
N.C. House of Representatives: 119th seat
This voting district includes Jackson and Swain counties and part of Haywood including Waynesville and Lake Junaluska.
• N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, is running for re-election to a third term in the House, and has previously served three terms in the Senate.
Queen, an architect and businessman, has a populist Democratic platform. He’s pro-environment, pro-education, pro-middle class, and pro-health care for all.
• Mike Clampitt from Bryson City has run against Queen twice and lost, but is determined to try again. He has a classic conservative platform and has labeled Queen as a tax-and-spend career politician.
“I want to see taxes lowered, state expenses cut, illegals and refugees prohibited, gun laws protected, business regulations reduced ... religious freedoms protected and private property rights respected,” he said.
Clampitt was a career fireman with the Charlotte Fire Department before returning to his hometown.
• Aaron Littlefield made an unsuccessful run against Clampitt in the Republican primary for this seat two years ago but maintains his political savvy gives him a better chance of beating Queen come November than Clampitt. While conservative, Littlefield said he won’t blindly go along with the party, citing wasteful spending and corruption by the state highway department as one example.
“Raleigh insiders and career politicians on both sides of the aisle are out of touch with the desires and needs of this state. I will fight to ensure that the hardworking people of this state, especially the people of Western North Carolina, are not left footing the bill for Raleigh’s overpriced backdoor deals.”
Littlefield is a political science graduate from WCU and part-time high school teacher in Sylva.
N.C. House of Representatives: 120th House seat
The district includes Macon, Clay, Graham and Cherokee counties. Long-serving N.C. Rep. Roger West, R-Murphy, is stepping down after this year, leaving the seat up for grabs.
• Kevin Corbin of Franklin is the owner Corbin Insurance Agency, a current Macon County commissioner and long-time former school board member.
Corbin said it is critical the far western corner of the state has a strong, proven leader to represent the region in Raleigh given the loss of West’s seniority and experience. Corbin, who is chair of the county commissioner board and was chairman of the school board for 16 years, said he is that person.
“I can hit the ground running and have the experience to be effective. I have spent my entire adult life involved in things that have prepared me to effectively serve.
• Elliot Southworth is the owner of a marketing and advertising firm in Murphy.
• Randy Hogsed is a real estate agent in Andrews.
N.C. Senate: 50th seat
This district includes all seven western counties of Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Clay and Cherokee.
There is no contested primary for this seat. The race in November will feature a rematch between N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, and Democratic challenger Jane Hipps of Waynesville.
Davis wants to continue the overhaul of state government and spending cuts the Republican leadership has been carrying out over the past few years.
“I am very proudly running on my record,” Davis said.
“We are getting our fiscal house in order. We have accomplished a significant amount in doing that and our work is not complete.”
Hipps says Republican policies have been bad for the people of Western North Carolina by putting the wealthy ahead of the middle class.
“People across this district agree that times have never been tougher,” Hipps said. “They are worried about putting food on the table, paying for health care, trying to assist their children and grandchildren with homework without textbooks, and all the while working several jobs trying to make ends meet.”