Goldsboro City Council seats are becoming a hot commodity in the run-up to the November election.
When the books opened at the Wayne County Board of Elections on Friday, four challenges for City Council became only a candidate away from triggering an October primary.
Incumbent Councilman Bill Broadaway, District 2, is being challenged by Kelvin Maurice Stallings. Incumbent Councilman David Ham, District 5, is challenged by Jermaine Dawson. And incumbent Councilman Gene Aycock, District 6, is being challenged by David L. Craig.
On Monday, the council’s District 4, currently represented by Councilman Bevan Foster, gained a second challenger, pushing the race close to an October primary, as well. The November municipal election is nonpartisan.
Brandi N. Matthews filed for the District 4 seat and challenges newcomer Sadie Baldwin Simmons, who filed for the seat on Friday. Foster has not filed for re-election.
The only other incumbent to file is Mayor Chuck Allen, who remains unchallenged in the November race.
In the remaining districts, newcomers Zachary E. Lilly filed for District 1 and Taj J. Polack filed for District 3. Councilman Antonio Williams, District 1, and Councilman Mark Stevens, District 3, have not filed for re-election to office.
Tonya Davis Barber, chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party, said she expects a big race for City Council seats.
“I think we’ll see a lot of new faces this year,” Barber said. “There’s going to be a few people running for each seat. I know of one (councilman seat) that five people are planning to run for. A few seats will have several people running.”
Barber, who has been the county Democrat chairman for about three months, also plans to file by the end of the week for the council District 3 seat, she said.
“I expect it to be quite a race,” she said.
The reason for the interest, Barber believes, is City Council has seemed busier and more visible during the last few years, she said.
“There are probably more people paying more attention,” Barber said.
Some of that attention may be attributed to negative or controversial issues associated with the board, Barber said.
“But that brought attention to the seats and the districts and the fact that we need people there for the right reasons,” she said.
Barber said she believes the newcomers in the race to City Council decided to run in hopes of making a difference in Goldsboro.
“I know that sounds kind of cliché but we need a new voice,” she said. “I currently don’t think there is a focus on the people. I’m not blaming anyone, but it’s going to take change to bring that back. It gives citizens a choice and that is what we need.”
Dane Beavers, director of Wayne County Board of Elections, said he expects more candidates will file for City Council seats before the noon, July 19 deadline, and he hopes the interest in the races brings voters to the polls.
“We certainly hope we have a good turnout,” Beavers. “If we had our way, we would have 100 percent turnout for every election.”
A typical turnout of voters during a Goldsboro municipal election is 5 to 10 percent of the 73,493 registered voters in the county, Beavers said.
Only 9.29 percent of registered voters turned out during the 2015 November Goldsboro general election. The low turnout resulted in only 283 people casting a vote in District 1.
A primary was held during the last Goldsboro City Council race that was citywide because the mayor’s race had four candidates. District 4 also had three candidates and only 7.8 percent of voters cast votes during the primary, Beavers said.
An October primary is called in Goldsboro if the mayor or any district has more than two candidates running for the same seat.
So far, that is not the case, but Beavers expects that will change as the filing period continues.
“Those candidates may wait until that last hour,” he said. “That way people can weigh the options when they see who’s filed. A lot of people make that decision on that last day at that last hour.”
A primary in the City Council race will be Oct. 8 if it is needed. If there is more than one candidate in any one district, only the people of that district will be allowed to vote in the primary. A three-candidate, or more, mayor’s race allows all registered voters in Goldsboro to vote, Beavers said.
It cost Goldsboro roughly $30,000 to hold the 2015 primary for the mayor’s race and the District 4 race. A general election can cost $70,000 to $80,000, Beavers estimates.
The biggest cost to hold an election for the board of elections is salaries. About 400 people work for the Board of Elections on Election Day. It costs about $20,000 a day to run every early voting site from Oct. 16 to Nov. 1, Beavers said.
Beavers encourages people to get out and vote in the election.
“The numbers (of voters in 2015), shows about 200 voters decided who would represent District 1,” he said. “That’s kind of typical for all the districts. You can’t complain that you don’t like a representative if you don’t vote.”
Beavers said low numbers of voters at the polls can also encourage candidates with extremist ideas to run for public office.