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November election taking shape in Haywood County

election timeAlthough the upcoming general election has much of the nation’s attention focused on just two candidates — a controversial populist and a former Secretary of State under investigation for mishandling classified material — local races offer considerably more palatable choices that will have a direct impact on the lives of area residents. 

Of course Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have dominated headlines for months now, but on Nov. 8, Haywood County voters will have to choose between incumbent Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, and Bryson City Alderman Rick Bryson, D-Bryson City, for U.S. House of Representatives, as well as between incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr and former Democratic state legislator Deborah K. Ross for U.S. Senate. 

Haywood County voters will also help decide if Republican Gov. Pat McCrory gets a second term or transitions back to the private sector in favor of current North Carolina Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper. 

Bob Edmonds, a North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice, hopes to retain his seat on the bench. He’s being challenged by Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan. Despite the non-partisan nature of this race, Morgan is backed by state Democrats and Edmonds is backed by state Republicans.

Also backed by state Republicans is North Carolina State Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, who represents just about all of Western North Carolina in the General Assembly and is seeking a fourth term. He is opposed by Jane Hipps, a Haywood County nurse practitioner and Democrat he defeated in 2014. 

Swain County Republican and retired Fire Chief Mike Clampitt was likewise defeated at the polls in 2014 and 2012 by his 2016 opponent, but won’t let that stop him from again trying to unseat N.C. Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville. Queen’s district includes all of Swain and Jackson counties, but only a portion of Haywood County centering on Waynesville.

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The rest of Haywood County is represented in the General Assembly by Burnsville Republican Rep. Michele Presnell, who is opposed by Haywood County School Board member and Democrat Rhonda Schandevel. 


School board candidates

Several Haywood County School Board seats are also up for re-election. School board members in Haywood County must reside in a particular district but are voted on by the entire county, ensuring the board has representation from throughout the county. The board is non-partisan.

Schandevel represents the Beaverdam district. In North Carolina, candidates may not run for two different offices at the same time, and Schandevel chose to run against Presnell for her General Assembly seat instead of seeking to retain her school board seat.  

“When I ran for the school board in 2012, I never imagined serving outside of local office,” Schandevel said. “I've spent my entire life in our community and have always wanted what's best for it. That's why after seeing our education system attacked, our beautiful mountains jeopardized and our state employees mistreated it made my decision to run for the state house seem like something I should do.”

Also in the Beaverdam District, Walter Leatherwood’s seat is up for re-election; Leatherwood did not respond to phone messages left for him regarding his intentions. Nor did Lynn Milner, whose Waynesville district seat is also up for re-election. 

The second Waynesville district board member, Jim Francis, did respond; Francis plans on running for re-election, citing a “strong passion” for schools and kids in Haywood County. 

School Board Chairman Chuck Francis has similar plans to run for re-election. 

“This will be my sixteenth year on the board, and my twelfth year as chairman,” Francis said. “We’ve made a lot of good progress. We were ranked fortieth in the state, and now we’re fifteenth out of 115. I’d like to continue that progress.” 


County commissioners

A good bit of progress has also been made during Haywood County Board Chairman Mark Swanger’s 14-year tenure — especially in regard to transparency — but last fall he announced that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 2016. The chairman is chosen by the board from among its members after the election.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley, a 12-year veteran of the county board, is up for re-election, meaning two seats on the board will be sought by four candidates. Two Republicans — Ensley and Canton businessman Brandon Rogers — survived the March 15 primary election, as did two Democrats — nonprofit director Steve Brown and CPA Robin Black. 

The races for federal and state offices as well for the county board are already set; however, anyone interested in running for one of the school board seats must sign up at the Haywood County Board of Elections between noon July 5 and noon July 15 in order to appear on the ballot. Candidates must be residents of the school district in which they wish to run, and also must be qualified voters in that district. The cost is $10. 

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