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Primary May 8: Decides sheriff, D.A. races

Sheriff Charlie McDonald

The Republican primary on May 8 decides the next Henderson County sheriff and local district attorney. In addition, the  Edneyville-area Commissioner is set, plus the setup candidates for November in other races.

Sheriff Charlie McDonald is getting a spirited challenge from Lowell Griffin. District Attorney Greg Newman is contested by magistrate Mary Ann J. Hollocker, in the tri-county District 42.On Tuesday, May 8, all 35 polling sites in the county and rest of the state will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Early voting concludes this Saturday, in various precincts. One stop registration and voting is at election HQ at 75 E. Central St., or in Fletcher Town Hall.

Charlie McDonald is running for reelection as sheriff, vs. Lowell Griffin. pictured. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Only those registered as Republican or unaffiliated can vote in the GOP primary. There is one contested commissioner race for each party’s primary, with county-wide voting. The GOP ballot has two vying in District 4 to succeed Tommy Thompson, who is stepping down. The candidates are Rebecca McCall and Don Ward.

Ward was a commissioner, in 1994-2002. He owns a tractor business. He wants to resume closer cost-analysis cooperation of the county, City of Hendersonville and school board for major school projects. He opposes any version of a new law enforcement outdoor training facility.

McCall has 40 years of experience in corporate management, accounting and engineering. She is production manager for Norafin (Americas), overseeing “functional details” in its new factory in Mills River. She utilizes statistical analysis. She wants to apply to county decisions her skills in saving money, negotiations and solving problems.

Democrats Michelle Antalec and Patricia Oiler Sheley are competing, with the winner challenging Mike Edney as commissioner in District 1 for Flat Rock. Edney has no primary challenge.

Antalec is a financial “risk manager for a large corporation,” which can help the county decide on which projects to undertake. She calls for the county to help Fletcher fund a new library, and greater public water rights. She is shown on Facebook at a gay pride event.

Pat Sheley also questions county spending priorities. She said as a retiree, she has more time for the board than Antalec. Sheley was a registered nurse, certified in psychiatric mental health. She lives in Flat Rock, and has lived in this state for about a half-century.

In District 3, commissioner Bill Lapsley is guaranteed reelection barring a massive write-in campaign in the primary (where he is unopposed) or general election. No other party’s candidate has filed for the seat.

Also unopposed now and Nov. 6 are Register of Deeds Lee King, and Clerk of Superior Court Kim Gasperson-Justice.

In contrast, showdowns are set for Nov. 6 for all three state legislative races for Henderson County. Incumbents are Republicans. Contests are: State Sen. Chuck Edwards vs. Norm Bossert, House District 117 Rep. Chuck McGrady vs. Gayle Kemp, and D-113 Rep. Cody Henson vs. Sam Edney.

School board races are non-partisan. The seven going after three seats will not be on the ballot until Nov. 6.

The D.A. race is decided by the victor of the GOP primary. That campaign heated up at a debate last week. D.A. Newman responded to Hollocker’s ongoing complaint that the D.A. office is too inaccessible to the public. It is run by appointment-only, via phone.

Newman explained he closed the office, after its access was abused. He said it can endanger a case’s victims and witnesses if the defendant pops in while they are there. He said too often, criminal defendants stormed in to complain about decisions against them. He said the last straw was when an irate male assaulted the D.A. office’s front-desk worker.

Sheriff’s race

The sheriff’s race is gaining traction. Challenger Lowell Griffin is a Polk County sheriff’s operations captain, supervising narcotics investigations. Sheriff McDonald rose from ranks and was an undercover drug agent in this county.

Griffin was a Henderson County deputy then supervisor in various divisions for 20 total years, in 1992-2012. He was a specialized instructor, inaugural county bomb squad member, and incident commander who coordinated with rescue units. His brother Robert Griffin is fire chief in their native Edneyville.

New sheriffs can terminate at will (without proving cause), and tend to clean house to varying extents after election. That can prompt those let go to run against the sheriff, or back one who will. McDonald was appointed in 2012, reelected in ’14, then days later fired Lowell Griffin and five others.

Griffin brings up sheriff’s staff turnover, such as in their recent debate. He alleges political allegiances are main reasons for many departures. He calls for greater job security, which can boost morale and performance.

McDonald counters that many dismissals or pressured retirements were related largely to insufficient job performance. As for politics, he said in some cases political disagreements can lead to insubordination to an extent it compromises job duty.

On another issue, Griffin said officers should be required to wear body cameras for any public interaction. That can secure up-close evidence such as a view of illegal guns and substances in a car, and offset visual evidence of a passenger filming what is happening using a smart phone.

McDonald notes squad car cameras capture much evidence, such as resisting arrest. He cautioned an officer might get too cautious, if too self-conscious about wearing an up-close camera. The officer might thus play it too safely, hesitate, and let a criminal take too much initiative in attacking or escaping.

The sheriff added that body-cam footage might lead to overly-acute and unrealistic standards for officer actions and actions. He reasoned that the filming devise shows much more in detail and all around than an officer can reasonably detect during a stressful confrontation.

Those Democrats who switch affiliation to vote for the sheriff, D.A. and D4 commissioner races cannot also vote Democratic. They miss out on a major race. The Democrat ballot has a trio contesting to take on U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Dist. 11). They are David “Scott” Donaldson, Phillip G. Price, and Steve Woodsmall.

Dr. Donaldson is a urologist and surgeon, based in Hendersonville. His earned his medical degree from East Carolina.

He is running as a more moderate Democrat. He lists health care reform and better use of its funding and protecting the environment as major issues. “Health promotes wealth,” he stated on his candidate website. “As a surgeon, I find solutions to emergency problems. And as a leader, I help my colleagues work towards a common goal.”

He fell decisively to attorney Mike Edney in a “sawbones” vs. “jawbones” commissioner contest eight years ago. Yet, Donaldson got enough write-in support to get on the ballot as unaffiliated. He has been active in the community, such as helping judge Flat Rock Playhouse’s pro-am talent contest Theatre with the Stars.

Dr. Woodsmall is reportedly running on more of a liberal/progressive platform. Brevard College lists him as an assistant professor and a program coordinator, of business and organizational leadership. His doctorate is from Capella U. He is an Air Force vet. He is endorsed by the state AFL-CIO union, and gay rights group Equality North Carolina.

Price works recycling wood of old barns and houses, and as a folk-pop singer and guitarist. He is in Marion, and notes he has lived in six of WNC’s 16 counties over 30 years.

On the GOP side, Asheville developer Chuck Archerd joined Meadows on the primary ballot. But Archerd clarified he is there as next in line, if Meadows before November became presidential chief of staff as was once rumored. Meadows has firmly said he is not going for that post. There is one Libertarian, Clifton Ingram Jr., in the U.S. House race.

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