On Tuesday, voters in parts of New Hanover and Pender counties will select a permanent representative for the 18th House District Seat formerly held by Thomas Wright. When Thomas Wright was ousted from the state legislature and convicted on fraud charges earlier this year, Democrats in New Hanover and Pender County appointed former Wilmington City Council member Sandra Spaulding Hughes to fill Wright's 18th District Seat. A seat Hughes wants to keep. "I felt that I could bring integrity to the table, experience, as well as stability," said Hughes. Two months after Hughes won May's Democratic primary, Republican George Swart signed on to challenge her. He said he is running to change the climate in Raleigh. "We should be governing the state and representing the people and not political parties and special interests," he said. Swart and Hughes agree there are unique challenges representing the 18th District, which snakes its way from downtown Wilmington up around Burgaw, covering a very economically diverse constituency. "It's very important that I collaborate with my delegation to make sure that we set priorities in our district," said Hughes. But this summer, Hughes strayed from the rest of the local delegation by voting against a proposed moratorium on forced annexation. "If we don't have annexation, then our city cannot grow. And we must grow, and if we grow, we must have planned growth," she said. Swart opposes annexation. He said, "I believe in most cases, and especially in New Hanover County, it's a revenue source and not a service source, which is what's it's supposed to be." Both candidates say Pender County has a need for improved infrastructure and more industry and jobs; a need that extends south to Wilmington. "We need to get industries together, do a forum or a community summit with both counties, which are inclusive of District 18, to come together and see what's available," mentioned Hughes. Swart added, "Those people that are not able to get a good-paying job because they're not well-trained need to be able to get some training to take those jobs." Swart also said he will protect the taxpayer's money. Hughes said increasing teacher pay will help reduce the dropout rate, gangs and crime. You can find out more about all of the candidates in this election by visiting our Vote 08 Election page.
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