BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Belville Elementary School was the hot spot Tuesday in Brunswick County for voters and candidates. Most of the major players in the big political races either stopped by the polling place or set up camp there for the day. While the rain poured down for about three hours during the early afternoon, candidates and their supporters put up umbrellas and tents and stood their ground.
According to a polling official at Belville Elementary, more than 850 people had voted by 6 p.m. Turnout was steady throughout the day, but not what most candidates were hoping for, considering Belville is the largest precinct in Brunswick County with about 8,000 registered voters.
Races to watch in Brunswick County include the Republican primary for the office of sheriff as well as the Republican primary for the North Carolina House seat currently held by the state's longest serving senator, R.C. Soles. Pender County resident and former newspaper journalist Bettie Fennell is up against Southport veterinarian Bill Rabon for the Republican nomination. Rabon is a political newcomer, while Fennell tried in 2008 to unseat Sen. Soles. She missed the win by a narrow margin and is ready to try again, this time with a primary race to conquer before hoping to head on to face democrat David Redwine.
Both Fennell and Rabon were spotted at the Belville polling location on Tuesday. Rabon spent most of the day there, while Fennell stopped by later in the evening. Fennell expressed disappointment over Rabon's refusal to debate her on the issues. When asked why he would not debate Fennell, Rabon cited a saying by President Ronald Reagan, who told Republicans never to speak evil of one another.
Both candidates will spend the night with supporters—Fennell in Leland and Rabon at Brunswick County Republican headquarters.
While many residents will keep a close watch on the state senate race, all eyes will be on the race for sheriff. Current Sheriff John Ingram is facing Timothy "Salt" Daniels, a sergeant with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Daniels has drummed up a good deal of support in several pockets of the county, while Ingram appears to have widespread support, including a strong backing from the deputies and officers with the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office. Both candidates spent several hours at the Belville Elementary polling place on Tuesday, working for last-minute votes. Sheriff Ingram said he was confident in the community support he has received. Daniels said he felt good but did not express quite as much confidence in the outcome of the race.
The winning Republican candidate for sheriff will face either Democrat Elizabeth (Rendy) Lewis or her opponent, Louie Louis. The two Supply residents are not related.
Another race to watch is the one for the District 17 seat in the state house. Republicans Frank Iler and Mac Tyson are vying for the nomination. Iler currently holds the seat after being appointed to replace Bonner Stiller in 2009. Mac Tyson is a former teacher and Cumberland County commissioner who set up shop outside Belville Elementary School on Tuesday working to drum up support. The winner of the Republican primary will face either Democrat James Knox or Leonard Jenkins.
Many eyes will also be on the race for district attorney. Democrat Rex Gore has held the position in District 13 for many years. He is facing off against Butch Pope for the nomination. The winner will then face Republican Jon David who is running uncontested in the primary. David is currently an assistant district attorney in New Hanover County.
Finally, several incumbent candidates are trying to hold onto their seats on the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners and the Brunswick County Board of Education. Republican John Martin "Marty" Cooke is hoping to keep his seat as he takes on Randy Sullivan of Shallotte.
Also, incumbent and Republican Phil Norris will try to keep his seat as a commissioner as he faces Connie McCray of Calabash.
On the school board, Charlie Miller, the chief deputy with Brunswick County Sheriff's Office, is hoping to keep his seat as he goes up against fellow Republican Harvey Rash. The winner will face Democrat Deanna Antonio who is running unopposed in the primary.
Stay with WECT news and wect.com for election numbers as well as reaction from the winning candidates.