Two incumbents, two newcomers win seats on Salisbury City Council

Published 12:27 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Incumbents Tamara Sheffield and David Post will be joined by McLaughlin’s Grocery owner Harry McLaughlin Jr. and Rev. Anthony Smith as the newly elected Salisbury City Council.

Following 17 days of early voting and Election Day on Tuesday, Sheffield, who has served on council for two terms, finished first among all candidates. Sheffield received 2,904 votes, 18.01%. While there were endorsements from Republicans and Democrats, Sheffield said Tuesday’s results showed the City Council is still a nonpartisan race and that candidates have to work for every community in Salisbury.

Sheffield said she’s proud of everyone who ran in the mayoral and council race and knew this would be a different election.

“I had fun,” she said. “Today was a great day even before the results came in. I’m looking forward to serving with a new council.”

Sheffield added that she hopes candidates who weren’t successful still continue to serve the city.

McLaughlin followed Sheffield’s lead in election results, receiving 2,604 votes, or 16.15%. McLaughlin said he was humbled that so many citizens supported him, and he promised to serve all residents. McLaughlin added that he didn’t run as a Republican or a Democrat. Instead, he ran “as a candidate for all people” because his campaign was about bringing people together. McLaughlin said he looks forward to working with the new council to “make this city the best it can be.”

Post, who’s served three terms, received 2,531 votes, or 15.69% of total votes. Post said he experienced health problems in August and September, which prevented him from campaigning in person. So, Post said his victory is due to the benefit of incumbency and luck. He credited Sheffield and McLaughlin with running “fabulous campaigns” and said McLaughlin did so well because he built coalitions across the political spectrum.

Post said it’s good the council will include two Black members for the first time.

He added precinct turnout shows the race became “party against party,” which he regrets as the issues aren’t “Republican or Democrat issues.”

Smith snagged the last seat after receiving 2,304 votes, or 14.29%. Smith called the election “a nail-biter” and said he could feel the weight of history in the making Tuesday night. Smith said the fact that the council will include two people of color for the first time reflects the shift in demographics and culture.

Smith added he’s excited to serve and glad Sheffield and Post will provide continuity, experience and wisdom to the new council.

“I thank the voters for believing in the vision,” Smith said.

Closely behind Smith was Guardian ad Litem District Administrator Nalini Joseph, who received 13.89% of the vote. Joseph thanked all of her local supporters who provided her with advice, encouragement, financial support and prayers.

“I am encouraged by the overwhelming response to the quality and strength of my campaign,” Joseph said. “My platform is solid and I will continue to give to my community through my time and talents.  Best wishes to the winners and may God continue to shine on our beautiful city!”

Local real estate broker Jessica Cloward received 1,975 votes, or 12.25%. She was followed by Jonathan Barbee, with 1,469 votes, or 9.11%.

Cloward has not responded to a request for comment.

Though Joseph received just 64 fewer votes than Smith, Rowan County Board of Elections Executive Director Brenda McCubbins said the numbers don’t fall within the acceptable range to request a recount.

The Board of Elections still has around 14 provisional ballots to resolve and tabulate, and the election has not yet been formally canvassed. For recounts, the difference in votes between candidates must not exceed 1% of the total votes cast for that particular race. A total of 16,127 votes were cast for council candidates, including 100 write-in votes.

Barbee congratulated all candidates on a good race and wished them luck for moving forward as they “begin a new chapter for the city.” Barbee added that he wanted to build a better relationship between the city and county and noted that most of his support came from Rowan Countians who can’t vote in the council race but have a stake in Salisbury.

“I will continue to serve in my capacity on the current boards and commissions I serve on, and work on bringing some economic development policies that can benefit both Salisbury and Rowan County,” Barbee said.

The Rowan County Board of Elections reported a total of 7,293 votes cast across the county, which represented almost 18% of the eligible voter population. Of those votes, 104 come from absentee by mail ballots and 2,609 were cast during the 17-day early voting period. 

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from candidate Nalini Joseph.