Filing closes; Horton lone candidate for mayor

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Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

Residents in both the Franklin and Highlands municipalities will be determining new leadership this November as several candidates filed for the upcoming municipal election just before Friday’s deadline. 

During odd-numbered years (so as to alternate with statewide general elections) most municipal elections are held to elect the governing officials (mayor, city council, town council, etc.) of cities, villages and towns across North Carolina. Although municipal Eelections are conducted by county boards of election, only residents of the municipality are qualified to vote in the election. These voters must have resided in the municipality for at least 30 days prior to the date of the election. Therefore, only residents inside the Franklin and Highlands city limits are eligible to vote for the respective offices.

In Franklin, the seats up for election include the mayor seat — currently held by Mayor Bob Scott; and town council seats held by David Culpepper, Dinah Mashburn, and the seat left vacant after the untimely death of Barbara McRae. 

Neither Scott nor Mashburn are seeking re-election. 

Incumbent David Culpepper filed for a second term and will face challengers JimBo Ledford, Rita Salain, Frances Seay, and Stacy Guffey. With three seats on the Franklin town council up for re-election, the top three vote getters will claim a seat this November. 

Current town council vice-mayor and former Macon County Manager Jack Horton filed for mayor and without any challengers, has all but secured his seat as the next mayor of Franklin. Because Horton will be leaving his town council seat prior to the end of his term to take over as mayor, it will be up to the Town Council to appoint someone to fill his seat.

Voter turnout in Franklin was less than ideal during the last municipal election which occurred in 2017. There were 3,993 residents in the town of Franklin, 2,655 of which were registered to vote. In early voting, only 183 cast ballots. In Election Day voting another 194 people voted, meaning only 377 of the town’s 2,655 voters showed up at the polls.

The seats up for election in Highlands this November are the Mayor’s seat currently held by Pat Taylor, and two    Commissioner seats held by Amy Patterson and Donnie Calloway.

Town Commissioner Donnie Calloway will not be seeking re-election. 

Taylor will see a challenger in Marc Hehn who officially filed for the mayoral seat just before deadline. Hehn currently serves on the town board and if elected as mayor, his seat would then be filled by appointment. Taylor has served three, four-year terms in his official capacity in Highlands since first being elected in 2013. If re-elected this year, Taylor will begin his 4th term as mayor. 

Incumbent Commissioner Amy Patterson filed for re-election and will face challengers. Patterson and Calloway both ran unopposed in the 2017 election. 

Challengers this election include Eric Pierson, who has previously served on the town board, Thomas Craig, Pat Allen, Nicolaus McCall, and Mary Alice Bynum. With two open seats on the Highlands board up for election, the top two vote getters will be elected. 

With the mayor and the town board seats unopposed during the last election, voter turnout was miniscule. Only 79 votes were cast in the mayor’s race — 75 for Taylor and four write-ins; and 78 for commissioner  which included all votes for the incumbents with the exception of six write-ins. In 2013 when both the mayor’s seat and the town board saw multiple candidates, the election was decided by less than 500 people. Taylor was elected with 60% of the vote in 2013 — which only amounted to 264 votes.

Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 2 and only voters who live within the town city limits will be allowed to vote. Voters will be able to vote at the Highlands Civic Center from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Voters wanting to cast their ballots early will be able to do so Oct. 14 through Oct. 30 at the Highlands Civic Center.

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