By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Candidate Lonnie Baldwin won the Democratic primary election in the race for Hoke County commissioner over incumbent Commissioner Bobby Wright by a margin of 33 votes, a recount confirmed last week.
The race was initially too close to call on election night with elections officials needing to include late absentee ballots and provisional ballots in the count. Then Wright requested a recount, as the difference in votes was less than one-half of one percent of the total number of ballots.
The recount took place Wednesday, March 18 at the Pratt Building, and was live-streamed to the public as the room itself was closed due to coronavirus concerns. The number of votes and the outcome of the election did not change, Hoke Elections Director Towanna Jackson said.
“I’m glad it’s finally over,” Baldwin said of his win. “I want to thank all the citizens of Hoke County who voted for me, and I look forward to November.”
Baldwin and incumbent commission Chairman James Leach will go on to the General Election in November to face Republican candidates David Frump and Christopher Holland.
Baldwin said he’s staying focused on the issues that affect Hoke County and its citizens, and that he’s excited about the prospect of getting to “get going working” for the people of Hoke County.
First and foremost, trying to address the local job market is a priority, Baldwin said.
“I think it’s very important that we seek out ways to improve our job market. One in eight are retail. Those jobs are good, but we want good paying jobs for our citizens,” he said. “On that same note I think we need to address poverty in Hoke County. It’s fitting to say that our poverty level is way too high and it affects women and children.”
Enriching the schools and increasing funding for the local school district is another priority, the candidate said.
“Our schools could use more funding in a lot of areas,” he said.
Helping special needs children, and dealing with the overcrowding at Hoke High’s aging campus are among the things he would like to work with the school board to address, Baldwin said.
Additionally, the candidate said he hopes to have a “more cohesive community” when it comes to serving the citizens of Hoke.
“I think that’s something we need to pay more attention to in our county,” Baldwin said.
The General Election is set for November 3, 2020.
Wright’s current term in office as commissioner expires in December. Asked about the election outcome, he said he hoped his years in office had helped others.
“I think hopefully over the 30 years that I served that I made a difference in Hoke County and hopefully I did some things that will help the citizens of Hoke County, and I wish them all well,” Wright said.
Wright served on the Hoke County Board of Education for more than 10 years, and served as a county commissioner for 20 years. Wright has served as the county’s representative to the Board of Health. The county’s new Robert A. Wright Hoke County Agricultural Building, under construction on Palmer Street and nearing completion, is named in his honor.
Baldwin, left and Wright