"A Closer Look" - GOP candidates running for office in New Hanov - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

"A Closer Look" - GOP candidates running for office in New Hanover County

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Candidates for County Commissioner, School Board and Sheriff met at a GOP forum in New Hanover County Candidates for County Commissioner, School Board and Sheriff met at a GOP forum in New Hanover County

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – School safety and education spending were two of the most talked about issues at three forums of Republican candidates running for office in New Hanover County. The Lower Cape Fear Women's Club organized the forum at the Northeast Public Library in Wilmington.

Four of the five GOP candidates running for seats on the Board of Education attended the forum. Incumbents Janice Cavenaugh and Ed Higgins addressed the crowd along with challengers Jim Brumit and Bruce Shell. Another incumbent, current school board Chairman Don Hayes could not attend because of an engagement out of town. Along with giving a brief introduction of their backgrounds, each candidate spoke on the issue of Resource Officers in New Hanover County Schools, Common Core, and the future needs of the school system.  Four seats are open on the school board in this election year.

Both of the Republican candidates for Sheriff, Marcus Benson and Jason Vaughn, touted their previous experience as part of the New Hanover County Sheriff's office. Benson, who is a private investigator and radio talk show host, told the crowd about his background working in the department's gang unit. Vaughn, who is an attorney, also spoke about the gang issue and touted his background of working as a DARE officer and seeing the impact of violence in the criminal justice system.

The largest field of the evening included nine of the ten Republicans who filed to run for New Hanover County Commissioner. Candidate Dave Conklin told organizers he is rethinking his candidacy and did not attend. None of the current candidates are incumbents, as they are trying to replace seated board members Thomas Wolfe and Brian Berger.  The field includes first-time candidates John Dismukes, Campbell Dodd, Chuck Kays, Charles Kuebler, Frank Roberts and Hank Thomas. Skip Watkins, who ran unsuccessfully for Wilmington City Council in 2013, is seeking the nomination along with Derrick Hickey, a current member of the school board who came up short in a run for the county commissioner seat in 2012. Ricky Meeks, who has run for several local county and city offices, is also making another campaign for commissioner.  The candidates discussed paying off the recent $164 million bond passed in 2008 for building projects at Cape Fear Community College, using incentives for economic development, and industrial zoning requiring special use permits.

The candidates will gather again in April at another forum hosted by WECT and the League of Women Voters.

VIDEO NOTE: Because of technical difficulties, the final question of the County Commissioner candidates' forum is not included in the raw video for this story.

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