Our Opinion: State’s voters will have more choices on ballot this year

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Voting in state legislative contests won’t be conducted by the “shrug and select” method this November. Most races will have at least two names on the ballot.

When the dust settled on the final day of candidate filing last week, both the Democratic and Republican parties had fielded a slate of 170 hopefuls throughout North Carolina’s 120 House and 50 Senate districts. And the N.C. Libertarian Party, the only third party with state ballot access, has 21 state House hopefuls and 15 Senate candidates.

“The North Carolina Republican Party has filed more candidates and will compete in more legislative contests than ever before,” state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes announced.

“This is a historic day,” Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said. “Democrats entered this midterm with one goal: Recruit a candidate in every single district to break the Republican supermajority this fall.”

“The people of North Carolina deserve real choices in the voting booth, and we have an amazing group of people who have made the commitment to serve,” Libertarian Party state Chairwoman Susan Hogarth said.

We congratulate all three state parties on their impressive recruitment performance. More candidates from more parties means more choices for North Carolina voters, and that’s a good thing no matter where you fall along the ideological spectrum.

Not every N.C. General Assembly seat will be contested in November — while the number of registered candidates for the two major parties matches the number of districts, some Republicans and Democrats are set to face off in primaries. Even Libertarians are getting in on the act — the party fielded enough candidates to require May 8 primaries for state Senate District 8, the 4th Congressional District and sheriff races in Buncombe and Randolph counties.

Last year’s court-ordered redistricting process wasn’t kind to Wilson County, as the 2018 legislative maps whittled down our legislative delegation from four members to two. But there are still important decisions for Wilsonians to make.

Republican Rep. Susan Martin announced last November she would not seek a fourth term after the redrawn maps double-bunked her with Democratic Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield in the consolidated House District 24.

Farmer-Butterfield has filed to run for a ninth two-year term. While she won’t officially face a Republican challenger, unaffiliated candidate Kenneth J. Fontenot of Wilson is seeking her seat and has the GOP’s blessing. Dallas Woodhouse, the state Republican Party’s executive director, tweeted Feb. 28 that the party “anticipates a candidate to support in all 170 #ncga races, with one being an unaffiliated candidate in H24.”

Republican Sen. Rick Horner moved from Wilson back to his family home in Bailey and will seek re-election in Senate District 11. Wilson County was removed from Horner’s district, which now consists of the entirety of Nash County and a northwestern swath of Johnston County. He faces a rematch with Democrat Albert Pacer, who he defeated in 2016 to win his first term.

Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant opted not to seek a third term after her Nash County home was drawn out of District 4, which she currently represents, and is now a part of District 11.

The newly drawn Senate District 4 encompasses all of Wilson, Edgecombe and Halifax counties and voter registration favors Democrats.

Retired Superior Court Judge Milton F. “Toby” Fitch Jr. of Wilson, a Democrat, will face Republican Richard Scott of Scotland Neck and Libertarian Jesse Shearin for the Senate seat.

Weldon pastor O.D. Sykes had filed in District 4 and would have forced a Democratic primary with Fitch, but he withdrew from that race and announced he would run for Halifax County commissioner instead, according to The Daily Herald newspaper of Ronaoke Rapids.

The Wilson Times does not endorse candidates for public office, but we take seriously our commitment to educate local voters on all candidates and their positions. We’ll be writing more about each of these contests in the coming weeks and months.

Whoever you support, we urge you to get involved in the process, register and vote in both the primary and general elections. With competition for every local legislative seat, a lack of choices on the ballot won’t be an excuse this time around.