by Joe Schwartz
Twenty-eight candidates are vying for 16 seats tied to Orange County this election season. This cycle, which centers on a May 4 primary and climaxes during the Nov. 2 election, features a crowded race for a spot on the Orange County Board of Education and experienced contenders competing both in the sheriff and county commissioner at-large races.
Lindy Pendergrass, who won his first term as Orange County sheriff back when Michael Jordan hit the shot to down Georgetown, is seeking his eight term and will square off against Hillsborough Police Chief Clarence Birkhead in the democratic primary. Republican Buddy Parker, who lost to Pendergrass in 2006 and earned just 19 percent of the vote, awaits the winner in the general election.
Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners race will see three-term incumbent Barry Jacobs face a challenge from former Hillsborough Mayor Joe Phelps and current Carrboro Alderman Joal Hall Broun in contest for the at-large seat. Long-time incumbent Alice Gordon doesn't face competition for the District 1 seat and three newcomers, Earl McKee and Renee Price on the Democratic side and Greg Andrews on the Republican end, are seeking the District 2 slot.
District 1 consists of Chapel Hill and Carrboro and two-thirds of the Chapel Hill Township, while District 2 makes up the northern parts of the county.
Candidates have a one-in-two shot to gain a seat on the Orange County Board of Education with eight hopefuls eyeing one of four seats. Two incumbents, Chairwoman Anne Medenblik and second-term hopeful Debbie Piscitelli, face Will Atherton, Brenda Stephens, Laura Nicholson, Donna Coffey, Keith Cook and Charles Williams.
Races for the General Assembly aren't quite as sexy, with established Democrats set to take on Republican newcomers. House Speaker Joe Hackney will take on Republican challenger Cathy Wright of Chapel Hill in the competition for the 54th District seat. Rep. Bill Faison will take on Rick Smith of Blanch in the 50th District, while Rep. Verla Insko isn't challenged in the 56th district.
State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird will campaign against the winner of Ryan Hilliard and Jon Bass, Republicans who will battle for Kinnaird's 23rd district Senate seat in the primary.
James Stanford is unopposed in his bid to retain his clerk of court gig. Deborah Brooks also is the only candidate in her race, register of deeds.
No one is running for either of the two slots for Soil and Conservation District Supervisor.