Eight candidates are running for three seats on the Iredell County Board of Commissioners in Tuesday's Republican primary.
The field includes incumbents Steve Johnson and Marvin Norman and former commissioner Alice Stewart, who served from 1984 to 2000.
Candidates Renee' Griffith, Dennis Moody and Jay White are seeking office for the first time, while Gene Houpe and Fred Coggins previously ran unsuccessfully for the board.
Only one Democrat, Theodore Geary of Statesville, filed in the race. He is automatically his party's nominee in the Nov. 2 general election.
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Besides Johnson's and Norman's seats, the seat held by Commissioner Scott Keadle of Mooresville is also up for election. Keadle is among four candidates in Tuesday's GOP primary for the 10th District U.S. House seat held by Patrick McHenry of Hickory.
The Republican primary for commissioner usually determines who wins in November; Democrats haven't won a seat since the early 1990s.
The Republican party claims the largest number of registered Iredell County voters, at 41,981, according to the Iredell County Board of Elections. Democrats have 34,190, followed by 25,119 unaffiliated and 123 Libertarians.
Iredell commissioners are elected countywide, not by districts, and they serve staggered terms. The third-place vote getter in November will serve a two-year term, and the top two finishers four-year terms.
Johnson, 56, of Statesville is in his 16th year on the board. "I know the budget," Johnson told the audience at an April 21 candidates' forum at Little Joe's Chapel in Barium Springs. "I know what we can afford and what we can't afford."
Norman, 57, of Statesville was the first African American elected to the board. He has served for 71/2 years. Norman said he is a lifelong Iredell County resident who has always been a community supporter, including as a Scout leader, a member of the county recreation advisory board for eight years and of the Mitchell Community College Board of Trustees for 20 years.
Stewart, 72, of Stony Point cited her own long involvement in the county, including 12 years on the Mitchell Community College board and 18 years on the county's social services board.
Stewart told the audience it's important for the county to maintain strong ties with the state, especially in a slow economy. She served two terms on the N.C. Association of County Commissioners and has been president of the N.C. Association of County Boards of Social Services.
Coggins, 63, of Mooresville said he's driven trucks for 25 years and been in the music business for 30 years.
"I'm running because your taxes are too high, and your county commissioners are screwing you right and left," the 30-year county resident told the audience. Salaries of government officials are too high, he said, and money can be saved by using existing vacant buildings for government offices instead of building new ones.
Griffith, 38, of eastern Iredell County, is principal at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Statesville, which she and her husband, Robert, founded in 1994. She has owned and operated four businesses, including a downtown Statesville clothing store, and is a coordinator of the Yadkin Valley Tea Party. "We need creative leaders who are forward-thinking and won't pander to partisan politics," Griffith said at the forum. "Power does not live in the government but the people the government serves."
Houpe, 42, of Statesville cited his 17 years as a local businessman - he runs a carpet cleaning service - and his former 21-year law enforcement career. Houpe lost a runoff for Statesville City Council in 2009 and several previous bids for commissioner.
Moody, 46, of Mooresville, a data security consultant, said he is a lifelong social and fiscal conservative. He is former treasurer of the county Republican Party and the successful N.C. House District 95 campaign of Grey Mills. He was president of his College Republicans organization and worked in campaigns of the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, he said.
White, 43, of Statesville, owns Broad Street Gallery, a coffee shop and art and framing gallery in downtown Statesville, with his wife, Diana McLaughlin.
"It is possible to be financially conservative and continue to make Iredell County THE place to live," White says on his campaign's Facebook page. "I'm interested in how we can best position Iredell County to capitalize on the growth opportunities we will be facing in the coming years."