New Hanover County Commission turns blue for the first time in decades following midterms


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) – Tuesday’s election results shaking up the make up of several key positions around our area. The most change being seen in New Hanover County when it comes to governing bodies.

When the numbers all break down, New Hanover County stayed divided on nearly every candidate in the county commission and school board races. Razor thin margins that went the way of Democrats.

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If you take a look at the closely won races, Harper Peterson edged out Michael Lee by fewer than 40 votes. In the New Hanover County Commission’s race, no candidate garnered higher than 26%. The two winners, Rob Zapple and Julia Olson-Boseman, had a thin .08% difference. Zapple gathered the most votes, but it was just 1,900 more votes than unseated Republican Skip Watkins and only 4% more than the lowest vote gatherer in Eric Lytle.

In the winner circle, it appears a blue wave was enough to break up the split electorate in favor of Democratic candidates.

Now the impacts of that wave. The county commissions shifts from 3-2 GOP to 3-2 Democrat.

“With all of the rhetoric that’s going on that people were ready for a change for our community to go in,” said longtime commissioner Jonathan Barfield who at times has sat as the lone Democrat on the commission.

The results are historical for New Hanover County and for Barfield. It now returns the commission to a blue majority for the first time in nearly 30 years dating back to when his father was on the governing body.

With the potential for a Democrat majority and Democratic chairman, Barfield says a lot of what the commission has set into motion will continue, but he expects to return to old practices in some areas.

“First is having budget work sessions,” said Barfield. “Where the public can actually be a part of those conversations and weigh in.”

The budget work session process was closed during Woody White’s term as chairman. The commission developed a budget committee. One that commissioner Barfield says did not take into account enough community input and left funding out of the hands of several youth-mentoring programs for New Hanover County children and minorities.

GOP incumbents also unseated in the state Senate and county school board.

Commissioners on both sides, hopeful the board will focus on people and not party.

“The success of that board lies on the shoulders of the five people that comprise it,” said Republican commissioner Pat Kusek.

Barfield wants the board to heighten focus on affordable housing in the county. Commissioner Kusek hopes tax cuts and increased funding for schools stays in place.

“And I said two years ago when I ran and it’s true that there is a difference between campaigning and governing,” said Kusek. “Once you pass from the campaigning part to the governing part. You should not have an R or a D by your name you should have an N for New Hanover County.”