By Chris Berendt Staff Writer
March 1, 2014
As election filing came to a close Friday, one final person announced his candidacy for the District 1 Sampson County commissioner seat, a race that along with the county sheriff’s ticket, will be the most heavily contested.
Brent Baggett threw his hat in the ring with about two hours to spare Friday, the lone filing before the period officially concluded at noon. A Democrat, Baggett will not face a challenger in May’s primary, but will have his work cut out for him regardless of his opponent — Republicans Danny Jackson and Clark Wooten are facing off in the May primary — in the county’s Republican-leaning 1st district.
“It is a predominantly Republican district. I think it’s time a Democrat ran. We haven’t had a Democrat run in that district for several (elections) and I just think it’s time to try to get a Democrat in that area,” Baggett said after filing.
He pointed to county salaries and recreation as key topics on his radar, and said he wanted to work toward improving both.
“I think you have some good, loyal, dedicated employees that deserve a raise,” said Baggett, a training manager for the N.C. Department of Corrections, now the N.C. Department of Public Safety. “I’m a state employee and I’ve been with the state going on 28 years. I know what it’s like to go year after year after year without getting a raise. I think you have people who take pride in their job and they need to be recognized for it.”
In his job, Baggett has a team of four instructors working for him and the five of them together deliver all the basic probation and parole officer training for the entire state.
“If you get a job as a probation officer, you come to us for your training,” said Baggett, who started his career at Sampson Correctional Institution. “We train from the mountains to the coast. The majority of the training is over at the Justice Academy in Salemburg, but we do schools on the road. I’m getting ready to start one in April at Fort Fisher.”
Baggett has two children, Ashley, 25, an employee with Cape Fear Farm Credit in Fayetteville, and son Nick, 19, a sophomore at Methodist University. Baggett’s ex-wife Kim Baggett, who served as Sheriff Jimmy Thornton’s secretary, died in an automobile accident in December.
Baggett grew up in Sampson County and recalled his childhood in the Clement area when he would spend a great deal of time in recreation programs. Even through his adult life, Baggett has volunteered his time to coach and coordinate rec programs. He wants to see them continue, and get better.
“I’m interested in recreation for our children,” he stated, pointing to the Clement program in particular. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of upgrades to that since I was a kid. I coached youth sports for years and years, and I think it’s good to have the children involved in stuff like that to keep them out of trouble.”
Baggett was part of the last class that graduated from the eighth grade at Mingo School before it closed and consolidated with Midway Elementary. He graduated from Midway High School and then went to Sampson Technical College, where he earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice before going into the workforce.
“I was born and raised right here in Sampson County,” he said proudly. “I live right there at Jackson’s Corner and been there for 48 years.”
He knows stiff competition awaits him in November, and he doesn’t shy away from the test.
“I think it will be a tough fight, but you can’t call it until it’s over,” Baggett attested. “You have to go out and fight for it. If you don’t put your best foot forward, you’ll never know what’s gonna happen. If you give up, there’s no way you’re gonna win.”
In addition to the county’s District 1 seat, the sheriff’s race is loaded, with two longtime officers — one a former sheriff’s son, the other netting more than 40 percent of the county vote in 2010 — facing off to see who will go against the three-term sheriff. Freddie Butler and David Kidd are vying for the Democratic nomination, with the winner to meet Republican Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, who is seeking his fourth term. Thornton defeated Kidd in 2010.
A third contested race will see the county’s District 5 commissioner Albert Kirby face off against fellow Democrat Eugene Pearsall. Kirby is seeking his second term.
Republican Sue Lee, the lone filing for the District 3 county commissioner seat set to be vacated by Jefferson Strickland, is poised to be the first female on the board. Signatures can still be compiled leading up to November’s election for a Democrat to get on the ballot for November, but Lee will not face a primary opponent in May and, barring write-ins, will coast toward November.
The same is true for Clerk of Court Norman Wayne Naylor. The longtime Republican has no opposition in his push toward a fourth term as clerk.
Two state leaders will have names across from theirs on the ballot in November.
Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), seeking his third term for the N.C. Senate District 10 seat, was one of many who filed on the first possible day to do so, Feb. 10. The senator from Autryville no opposition the entire filing period until Democrat Donald B. Rains announced his candidacy Friday.
Rep. William Brisson (D-Bladen) will also not face a primary opponent in his search for a fifth term as the N.C. House of Representatives 22nd District, but local Republican challenger Ken Smith will attempt to unseat the four-term representative come November.
Rep. Larry Bell (D-Sampson), the longtime representative of the N.C. House of Representative’s District 21, is running unopposed for his eighth term.
The local school boards look to remain the same, as all incumbents filed for reelection and no challengers presented themselves. That means Randy Barefoot, Carol Worley and Georgina Zeng will return to the Clinton City Board of Education, while Mary Brown, Telfair Simpson, Dewain Sinclair and G.H. Wilson will likewise retain their places on the Sampson County Board of Education.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.