COMMENTARY: Local Primary Election notes

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BAKERSVILLE – The 2020 Republican Primary Election in Mitchell County had 11 candidates vying for three seats on the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners. A large number of candidates created a considerable increase in voter turnout from the county's two previous primaries, and two of the three incumbent commissioners lost their bids for re-election.

Incumbent Jeff Harding was the top vote-getter in the election, garnering 1,947 total votes. Harding is currently serving a two-year term as commissioner after finishing third in a four-person race in the 2016 primary with 1,347 votes.

Challenger Brandon Dean Pittman finished in second place, just 73 votes behind Harding with 1,874.

Challenger and lone female candidate Harley Masters won the third and final seat with 1,640 votes, just 234 votes behind Pittman. A mere 184 votes separated masters and fourth-place finisher Raymond Cantrell Jr., but the difference was enough to eliminate the possibility of a runoff mathematically.

The first-place winner, Harding, and third-place winner, Masters, were separated by just 307 votes.

Incumbent commissioners Danny Burleson and Jacob Willis finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with Burleson garnering 1,141 votes and Willis had 757. Burleson won with 2,333 votes and Willis with 1,648 votes in the 2016 primary.

Voter turnout was higher this past Tuesday than in the previous two primaries with 5,154, or 49.51 percent, of the county’s 10,410 registered voters casting ballots. Voter turnout in the May 2018 primary was 21.5 percent (2,352 ballots cast), well below half of this year’s, and a nearly 7 percent increase from the March 2016 primary, which had a 42 percent turnout (4,660 votes cast). There are 530 fewer registered voters in Mitchell County now than there was in May 2018.

Harding received the most absentee one-stop (943) and absentee by mail (24) votes. Pittman received the most votes on Election Day at 1,057, followed by Masters with 1,018 and Harding with 980.

Harding won two precincts. His 1,205 votes at Grassy Creek was 330 votes more than Pittman’s 875, and he also won the Snow Creek precinct with 243 votes, 27 votes ahead of Pittman.

Pittman and Masters each received 269 votes in the Bakersville precinct, which was tied for the most, followed by Cantrell at 260 and Harding at 219.

Masters won the most precincts with five – tying in Bakersville and outright winning Bradshaw, Harrell, Little Rock Creek and Red Hill – and Cantrell carried two, Cane Creek and Poplar.

Challenger R.L. Hoilman finished in the seventh spot with 601 votes. He performed the best in the Grassy Creek (314 votes), Snow Creek (61) and Little Rock Creek (54) precincts.

Challenger Chad Greene finished in eighth place with 593 votes, receiving 367 votes on Election Day and 214 during absentee one-stop. Aside from Grassy Creek, where he received 359 of his total votes, Greene performed well in the Harrell precinct (57 votes) and Snow Creek precinct (52 votes).

Challenger Wesley Vaughn's 404 votes landed him in ninth place, Wayne Godfrey finished 10th with 196 votes and Aaron Hoilman 11th with 183 votes.