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Candidates finalized for local races

Union County races for the Nov. 4 general election are set after filing closed Thursday for the Union County school board.

Five candidates seek two at-large school board seats. Three district candidates are unopposed.

Another race recently set is N.C. House District 68. The county's Democratic Party recently named its new candidate, Mike Cognac of Marvin, to replace another candidate who dropped out. Cognac will face incumbent Curtis Blackwood of Weddington, a Republican and two-term House member.

Presidential elections traditionally bring out large numbers of voters. County Elections Director John Whitley said he expects Union turnout to at least equal the 2004 presidential election. He said he expects 120,000 county residents will be registered to vote, with at least 67 percent casting ballots.

“There's just a lot of interest in here,” Whitley said.

Besides national and state races, Union County's ballot includes local contests from District Court judges to soil and water supervisor.

Eight candidates filed for five seats on the Union County Board of Education, fewer than the record 18 candidates of 2006.

Three incumbents are unchallenged in their districts, unless a strong write-in appears:

John Collins of District 5, which includes Weddington, Indian Trail and Stallings.

John Crowder of District 1, which includes, Monroe, Wingate and Marshville.

Carolyn Lowder of District 2, which covers rural eastern Union County.

None of the five candidates for at-large seats have served on the board before.

Two, Laura Minsk of Marvin and David Scholl of Stallings, ran unsuccessfully for at-large seats in 2006.

The other three candidates are running their first political campaigns: Scott Heslink of the Marvin area, Dennis Rape of the Monroe area and Solomon Williamson of Indian Trail.

Candidates agreed that despite lower-than-expected student enrollment recently, growth will continue to be a major issue for the public school system. But the candidates described other issues they intend to address if elected.

Minsk, a former agricultural extension agent and substitute teacher, said the school system must do more to assimilate the burgeoning number of Hispanic students.

Scholl, a business technology consultant, said some schools in the east lack advanced coursework that schools in the high-growth western part of the county have.

Heslink, a Wachovia branch network director, said he was concerned about Union County's math curriculum.

Rape and Williamson talked about providing students and teachers with adequate equipment and resources. Rape teaches in Cabarrus County and formerly taught at Union County's Central Academy of Technology and Arts. Williamson runs day-care and catering businesses.

N.C. House 68

The Democratic Party recently nominated former Marvin Mayor Mike Cognac to challenge Curtis Blackwood in the State House. Dan Zeller, a Marvin-area business consultant, withdrew his candidacy last month to attend to an illness in his family.

Cognac, who did not seek re-election in 2007 as mayor of Marvin, said he hadn't intended to run for public office this year. But he said running for the state legislature is “certainly worth taking a swing at.”

“There's a lot of work we need to do, there's no question. But I think we'll be able to get a compelling message out,” Cognac said.

Blackwood defeated Republican challenger Sidney Sandy in the May 6 primary. Zeller was unopposed in the primary.

Soil and Water Conservation District

The race for this low-profile environmental post is competitive. The incumbent, James Johnson, faces Robert Stowe Brooks of northern Union County. The district is a division of the state. Each district has a board of supervisors and is charged with carrying out natural-resource conservation programs.