Newcomers could oust incumbents in Brunswick County Board of Education race

Updated: Mar. 4, 2020 at 4:34 PM EST
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BRUNSWICK, N.C. (WECT) - The Brunswick County Board of Education could have two newcomers on the board come November.

Primary results show two newcomers, David Robinson and Steven Barger, ousting incumbent members Catherine Cooke and Ellen Milligan.

The District 2 race between newcomer Robinson and Cooke, who has served on the board since 2008, is extremely close.

Robinson leads by just 114 votes, a 0.8 percent margin. There are still absentee ballots to be counted and in North Carolina, a candidate can request a recount if the difference between the winning candidate is less than 1 percent.

Votes will not be final until the Brunswick County Board of Elections canvass on March 13.

WECT spoke with Cooke on the phone Wednesday. She said she will wait until the final results are in before considering a recount.

In the District 4 race, the results were far more definitive.

Barger beat current Chairwoman Ellen Milligan and former board member Shirley Babson.

Barger received 45.47 percent of the votes. Babson, who hasn’t served on the board since 2016, placed second with 28.32 percent. Milligan finished last with 26.21 percent of the votes.

Redistricting has been a divisive and complicated process for the Brunswick County Board of Education. The district is currently in Phase 1 of its redistricting process.

“I believe re-districting did play a role in the process. I don’t think parents had as much involvement as they should have had. I think there should have been more involvement, the public should have had a bigger role in the process and I don’t think the school board had done their due diligence in making sure that occurred,” said Robinson.

While Robinson may not end up winning the primary, he said what they accomplished what he had hoped to either way.

“I think we’re all winners either way. I think everybody had their heart in the right place. It was just an issue that my opponent hadn’t addressed and I think even if something did occur where she comes back out as the winner, she would go back into this, rethinking what she needs to do to do things better,” he said.

Barger also talked about how re-districting may have played a role in the election results

“In one of the fastest-growing counties in the state of North Carolina redistricting is just a necessary evil we have to have. I think the dilemma we had was we didn’t communicate properly through that. A lot of the parents felt they were left out of the process, or they were limited to online forums so they wanted to be heard more. And kind of their concerns of this is really affecting our lives, our children’s lives and so before we’re making these decisions, let’s communicate, let’s be more transparent,” he said.

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