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Candidate filing period ends with a bang

A flurry of last-minute sign-ups means that 2020 will likely be a lively election season in Western North Carolina and beyond.

In addition to a litany of statewide judicial and council of state races on the ballot this year — along with a Democratic Presidential Primary — some heavily contested primary elections will take place on Tuesday, March 3. 

In Jackson County, two county commission seats are on the ballot with no incumbents in the mix. 

Commissioner Ron Mau, a Republican, is leaving his seat for a run at the N.C. House District 119 seat currently held by Waynesville Democrat Joe Sam Queen. Mau will face former Rep. Mike Clampitt, of Swain County, for the right to oppose Queen.

Mickey Luker, a Jackson County commissioner whose absence at county meetings in recent months has sparked criticism, did not sign up to run for any office. 

Three Democrats will face off during the March 3 primary to run against Cullowhee Republican Tom Stribling for Mau’s District 3 seat. The Democratic candidates are Brad Stillwell, Susan Bogardus and T. Cody Lewis. In District 4, which covers the county’s southern end, Republican Mark Letson will run against Democrat Mark Jones. 

Jones occupied that commission seat from 2006 until 2016, when Luker defeated him with 53.3 percent of the vote. Upset by Luker’s scanty attendance record — the commissioner has not been to a meeting in person since July, though he has attended multiple subsequent meetings via speakerphone — the Jackson County Republican Party unsuccessfully lobbied county commissioners to relieve Luker of his seat and replace him with a nominee put forward by the party. Letson was that nominee, and he will now seek election to the seat. 

The Jackson County Board of Education also has two seats on the ballot in 2020. Incumbents Wesley Jamison and Elizabeth Cooper will seek re-election, with Jamison running unopposed and Cooper facing a challenge from Whittier resident Shane Danner. 

The office of Soil and Water Conservation District Officer will be on the 2020 ballot as well, but filing for that contest doesn’t start until June. 

Swain County’s board of commissioners has two seats up for re-election. Incumbents Roger Parsons, a Democrat, and Kenneth Parton, a Republican, have signed up for a second term. Phillip Carson, a Democrat, has also signed up to run for a seat on the board after losing his chairmanship on the board to Ben Bushyhead during the last election. 

Republican H. Robert Lowe and Democrat Mitchell Jenkins will also be challenging the incumbents for their seats. Swain commissioner seats are not divided by districts — candidates run at large and the top vote-getters are elected to four-year terms. 

In Macon County, a District 2 seat currently held by Republican Karl Gillespie and District 3 seat held by Republican Paul Higdon are up for election. Gillespie won’t be running for county office since he’s running for state representative. Higdon signed up for another term and will be running unopposed in the March primary. 

Three Republicans will be seeking the District 2 seat vacated by Gillespie — Terry Bradley, Bryan Rauers and Josh Young — and two female Democrats — Betty Cloer Wallace and Olga Lampkin. Wallace ran for commissioner in 2018 as well but was beat out by the incumbents. 

Regionally, the biggest news is that four-term incumbent Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, won’t seek re-election to his seat. 

Meadows already had a few Dems lined up to oppose him — 2018 candidate Steve Woodsmall, newcomer Michael O’Shea and retired Air Force attorney Moe Davis — but since Meadows announced his retirement on Dec. 19, the 2018 Democratic nominee Phillip Price and Buncombe County attorney Gina Collias have also entered the race. 

On the Republican side, 11 candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. Better-known names to WNC voters include Haywood County Realtor Lynda Bennett, current state Sen. Jim Davis of Franklin, and Meadows Senior Advisor Wayne King. A Libertarian and a Green Party candidate round out that field. 

In addition to Waynesville Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen’s race, the unexpected retirement of Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, spurred first-term Republican Haywood Commissioner Mark Pless to seek that seat. Pless has no primary opponent and will face Canton Democrat Alan Jones in November. 

Rep. Kevin Corbin is seeking the Senate seat currently held by fellow Franklin resident Jim Davis, and has a primary opponent in the person of Highlands physician Sarah Conway. Libertarian Clifton Ingram has also filed. Democrats are offering up Victoria Fox, of Canton. 

Two Republican Haywood County commissioners are also up for re-election, including Chairman Kevin Ensley and Vice Chairman Brandon Rogers. They’ll meet Clyde Republicans Jennifer Best and Terry Ramey in the primary, and then two of them will face off against Waynesville Democrats Leah Hampton and David Young in the Nov. 3 2020 General Election. 

There’s also a comeptitive race for a district court justice seat — Republicans Mitch Brewer, Rich Cassady, Jim Moore and Kaleb Wingate will all fight it out for the chance to take on Bryson City Democrat Justin Greene. 

For a complete listing of all North Carolina candidate who have signed up to run for office in 2020, as well as important voter registration information, visit

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