Three towns have contested races in Tuesday’s 2017 Municipal Election, but one of them has separated itself as perhaps the most intriguing, receiving the bulk of early votes cast in recent weeks — 82 percent of them in fact.
There were 100 one-stop voters, residents of Sampson’s eight towns who chose to cast their votes at the Sampson County Board of Elections Office over the past few weeks. Of those voters, 82 were Garland residents casting ballots in that town’s election, according to Sampson Board of Elections director Ashley Tew.
It is a hotly-contested race, with Mayor Winifred Murphy facing off against Commissioners Haywood Johnson, who currently serves as mayor pro tem, and Ralph Smith, who resigned from the board earlier this year and returned upon appointment. It is the lone contested mayoral race in the county.
The Garland commissioners race is similarly contested, including newcomers Austin Brown, Richard Smith and Eddie Bronson Jr. and incumbent S.J. Smith, with three seats available. Carolyn Melvin is not seeking another term.
Of the remaining early ballots cast, there were 12 for Clinton, three for Newton Grove and one apiece for Roseboro, Salemburg and Turkey. Absentee by mail ballots returned as of 9 a.m. Monday included three for Garland and one in Autryville. No early votes were cast for Harrells.
Along with Garland, Salemburg and Newton Grove are the only other towns with contested races Tuesday. Along with its contested races for mayor and commissioners, Garland will also have an ABC referendum on the ballot.
In Salemburg, incumbents Arnold Page, Richard “Dickie” Walters Jr. and Thomas “Tommy” Jackson are all seeking reelection, while challengers Donald R. Comer and Johnnie C. Parker are attempting to unseat them.
In Newton Grove, there will also be at least one new commissioner as Commissioner Steve Jackson did not file to seek another term. Incumbents Gary Mac Herring and Teresa Wilson are joining challengers Jessica Barefoot and William “Chris” Raynor in the chase for three seats.
All of the municipal board seats have four-year terms, while the mayoral posts in each town are for two years.
Town board races in Roseboro, Turkey, Harrells, Clinton and Autryville are not contested. Three sitting mayors are poised to retain their seats with no opposition against them, including Lew Starling in Clinton, Gerald Darden in Newton Grove and the Rev. Larry Autry in Autryville. However, write-ins are allowed for all races.
Election Day voting will be held from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in each of the eight towns.
Those locations will be at Autryville Town Hall, 215 S. Gray St.; Clinton City Hall Auditorium, 221 Lisbon St.; Garland Town Hall, 190 S. Church St.; Harrells Fire Department Training Center, 924 Ward Road; Newton Grove Fire Station, 313 W. Weeksdale St.; Roseboro Municipal Building, 101 W. Pleasant St.; Salemburg Town Hall, 100 Methodist Drive; and Turkey Town Hall, 51 Market St.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.