Voters, elected officials share thoughts on candidates, primary races during first Saturday of early voting

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 1, 2022

SALISBURY — While local elections officials haven’t yet seen a massive turnout of early voters like they did for the 2020 elections, a steady flow of voters have cast a ballot in the 2022 primary across three locations since early voting began Thursday.

On Saturday, several candidates who are on the ballot were passing along information for voters in hopes of their support at the Rowan County Board of Elections office at 1935 Jake Alexander Boulevard West, where music played as the sun beamed down on a sunny afternoon. Elections officials said the early voting site saw a steady flow of voters throughout the day who came in to cast their ballot.

At the China Grove site, fewer voters were trickling in, but all three candidates for the new N.C. House District 83 worked together to share information with voters who entered the polling location.

The primary election date is May 17. Voters can cast a ballot during the early voting period until May 14, which is a Saturday.

Early one-stop voting sites in Rowan County include the Rowan County Board of Elections office in Salisbury, the Rockwell American Legion building at 8580 U.S. Highway 52 in Rockwell and the south branch of the Rowan County Public Library at 920 Kimball Road in China Grove.

As of Friday, a total of 1,304 voters have cast a ballot using the one-stop early voting method, which represents 1.4% of the county’s 96,496 eligible voters. Of those, 653 have been cast at the Board of Elections’ office on Jake Alexander Boulevard, 313 have been cast at the south branch of the library in China Grove and 338 have been cast at the Rockwell site. One-stop turnout totals for Saturday were not updated on the Board of Elections’ website by time of publication.

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten visited the Salisbury site to cast his ballot Saturday afternoon, joking that it was the first time he wasn’t going in to vote for himself. Auten told the Post he’s always encouraged voters to vote in local elections, which can be even more important than national elections in some cases. Since announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election, Auten said he’s remained neutral in the sheriff’s race, especially since three of the candidates are current employees.

“It’s not my battle,” he said.

Auten said there has been some heightened anxiousness within the department about the race, which has even caused some potential new staff or lateral transfers to hesitate before joining due to the unknown of who will be their boss. But Auten sees his retirement, lack of primary endorsement and the retirement of Chief Deputy David Ramsey as “a good situation” for the next sheriff, who can start fresh without Auten’s influence.

Auten was more vocal to the Post about his support of other candidates, citing the radio ads he was featured on to support Rowan County Commissioner incumbents Greg Edds, Jim Greene and Judy Klusman, along with District Attorney Brandy Cook.

Woodleaf resident Kimberly Dalton told the Post she was against the election of Angie Spillman to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, stating that she would “tear our county apart.” As an example, she cited Spillman’s remarks during a forum hosted by the local Republican party when Spillman called for the separation of homeless individuals into groups for relocation into group homes, retirement homes, jails or out of the county. Dalton also criticized Spillman’s targeting of seasonal workers as part of the workforce at the soon-to-be Macy’s distribution center in China Grove.

“That’s Christmas for families,” Dalton said. “We need our county to grow.”

As for the sheriff’s race, Dalton said all candidates have “changed their tune” throughout their campaigns except for two. Dalton voted in support of Travis Allen, an investigator with the sheriff’s office who also sits on the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education. Dalton said Allen is “family-oriented,” involved in the community and works to make things better.

Also at the Salisbury site to cast a vote on Saturday was City Council member David Post. Post is a former Democrat who’s now registered unaffiliated, and he chose the Republican ballot for the 2022 primary. Post said all of the races on the ballot are important, but especially the sheriff’s race. He added that the number of candidates for the race makes it hard for voters to get all the necessary information for an informed choice, meaning the race could be driven by name recognition. It’s “unfortunate,” he said, because the sheriff needs to be someone who’s connected in the community while understanding it’s an administrative job.

For seat 3 in the District Court, Post said it was good that there will be another woman on the bench regardless of who wins. Those candidates include Cynthia Dry and Lauren Hoben. Additionally, Post said there are “two really good candidates” for Clerk of Superior Court and will make for a hard decision. Those candidates include Rebecca Saleeby and Todd Wyrick.

Post said he strongly supports the three incumbents for the commissioners race because “they’ve done a good job.”

Salisbury resident Kyiessha Wall said it’s especially important for people of color to turn out for local elections and get involved due to the need for more diversity in office. Doing so would allow for the election of candidates who can relate to what the various issues are in minority communities, she added.

Wall said the sheriff’s race is important as law enforcement deals with issues “firsthand” and is able to enact changes. Wall also said multiple days of early voting “makes a big difference” for those with busy schedules. It can change an election outcome, she said.

China Grove resident Dayle Beaver threw her support in the N.C. House District 83 race behind Kevin Crutchfield from Midland, whom she’s known for 30+ years. Beaver said this election is “very important,” adding that she has six grandchildren and the future that will impact them means a lot to her.

China Grove resident Candace Brown also said this election and the local races are important, noting the seat of Rowan County sheriff is “unbelievably powerful.” Other big races are the district court seats and the District Attorney’s position, Brown said.

Brown said she’s done her homework and knows some of the candidates personally and professionally. She supports Greg Hannold in his bid for sheriff because he’s someone she’s known for more than 20 years and believes has the leadership experience needed for the job.

Brown also supported Tim Gould for election to the North Carolina Superior Court. Though he was appointed to the term he’s currently finishing, Brown said she’s worked with him, believes he’s fair and appreciates his desire to be a judge rather than using the seat for a higher political endeavor.

China Grove Stephen Litke emphasized the importance of national races like the U.S. Senate election and the need for conservative candidates. Litke supported former Gov. Pat McCrory in the Senate race, crediting him with a conservative record and knowing “where he wanted to take the state” both as governor and mayor of Charlotte.

Hours for one-stop early voting include:

• Monday through Friday — 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday, April 30 and Saturday, May 14 — 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Sunday, May 1 — 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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