Just the Facts

Early voting begins; primary is March 5; meet the county commissioner candidates

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Deena Bouknight

The March 5 primary is quickly approaching with early voting beginning Feb. 15 and running through March 2 at 3 p.m. And even though every election is an important election and the ability to vote is a constitutional right for every American, voting changes require citizens to stay informed.

“Since this a primary, it can be a bit confusing concerning the ballots available and which ones voters are eligible for,” commented Judy Fritts, deputy director of Macon County Board of Elections.

The Primary Election determines and nominates candidates to the ballot for the General Election which is Nov. 5, 2024. Primary elections are held in even-numbered years prior to the general election.

“The March Primary Election is important because it allows voters to choose who will be on the General Election ballot in November,” explained Fritts. “In North Carolina, we have a semi-closed primary, which means if you are registered with a party, you must vote a ballot for that political party. But, if you are Unaffiliated, previously called Independent, you can choose which ballot you would like from the parties available in North Carolina. For this election, the choices are Democratic, Libertarian, or Republican. If you are voting by mail, you must submit an official request that can be picked up at our office, sent electronically through the N.C. Elections State Board portal on their website, or mailed to you. The form has a nonpartisan option on it as well; however, if you choose this type of ballot, you will receive a ballot with no party candidates on it so the [choices] … are very limited. Also, when completing the absentee request form, please add your contact information so we can assist you if there is a question or concern with your ballot request.”

Fritts pointed out that voters can check their voter registration information through the North Carolina Election State Board website: https://www.ncsbe.gov/registering/checking-your-registration. The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Feb. 27 by 5 p.m.

The deadline for changing party, address, or name for voting in the Primary Election 2024 was Feb. 9, but for future elections, Fritts advises voters to make certain to keep voter information updated.

“This makes sure you are voting in the right precinct and reflects your choices …,” she said. In Macon County, voters may cast their ballots at the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building or the Highlands Civic Center weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 17, 24 and March 2.

For the state of North Carolina, incumbent Governor Roy Cooper (D) has served two terms and cannot run again. Running for governor on the Republican ticket are Dale Folwell, Bill Graham, and Mark Robinson, while Chrelle Booker, Gary Foxx, Michael R. Morgan, Josh Stein, and Marcus Williams are running in the Democratic primary for N.C. governor.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards (R-11) is up for reelection with Christian Reagan of Hayesville running against him in the primary on the Republican ticket.

Candidates for Macon County Board of Commissioners

Four local candidates are vying for two spots on the Macon County Board of Commissioners – Josh Young and Chris Browning for District 02; and Paul Higdon and Barry Breeden for District 03.

Candidates provided Macon Sense readers with thoughts and background information to convey their eligibility for leadership in the Macon County community.

Josh Young

“I’m 34 years old, married almost 15 years, and have five children. I want to see this community thrive. I have a strong work ethic, strong community relations skills, and know how to network. I’m a small business owner with deep family roots – a fifth generation Maconian. At the end of the day, part of the reason I am running is because of the issues I see with society. Any more, our generation needs a strong work ethic; they need to be taught how to work with their hands – to learn trades. We have a major housing issue regionally, not just in Macon County. And I don’t like to look to the government for housing needs. I like to look to the private sector, free enterprise, and capitalism. I’m also a strong advocate and believer of capital planning. I don’t like taxes and I understand planning, and I understand you have to pay to have nice things. So, let’s make firm decisions for the betterment of Macon County.”

Chris Browning

“As a business owner for the past 20 years, I think I have the necessary skills and experience from my years as CEO of my own companies to contribute to the management of Macon County government. As a conservative running for county commissioner, I have lived in Macon County my entire life. I am a 1993 graduate of Victory Christian Academy. I am a father, a business owner, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a former Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputy. In my opinion, America needs to revert to the conservative values that built our communities and our country’s strength and freedom. I will protect your right to private property and keep the local government responsible and advocate for low taxes. Every Maconian is entitled to the services they desire and are willing to pay for. I promise to answer directly to the voters and prioritize the needs of taxpayers. I think we, as a county, need to look at every avenue to make more affordable housing available.”

Paul Higdon

“I’m seeking another term on the board of commissioners to continue bringing a strong conservative voice from District 3 to the full board. I have an experienced understanding of local government functions and strong concern for all our communities. My core principle is that all levels of government have enough money and control to perform their functions so we absolutely do not need to extract more from the citizens through increased taxes or regulations. I will continue analyzing and questioning proposed spending to ensure transparency and wise use of county funds. I absolutely love Macon County and I am fortunate to live on the same land as my great-grandfather did. I have a deep and abiding love for our citizens and our conservative values and will fight to protect and preserve them. I consider it a high honor to represent the citizens of our county and respectfully request the opportunity to continue serving as a commissioner.”

Barry Breeden

“I am a 1999 graduate of Franklin High School (FHS). My wife, Diedre, and I have proudly raised our three children here in Macon County. We attend Cowee Baptist Church as a family and work to serve the community in a variety of ways. I currently serve as the FHS Booster Club president and as a member of the Macon County planning board. 

Over the last few years, I have felt led to serve in a larger capacity, which is what motivated me to run for county commissioner. My work experience gives me a unique skillset that will equip me to fulfill this leadership position. I managed a secondary financial institution for seven years before enrolling in Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) at SCC. After completion of BLET in 2010, I was employed at Swain County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy and was quickly promoted to patrol sergeant.

In 2015, I purchased the first of three local businesses I now own and operate. My priorities as county commissioner, if elected, will be to focus on our future: my children, your children, and our community as a whole. 

To continue moving Macon County forward, we must prioritize investing in and strengthening what we have; our school system, our county employees, emergency services, parks and recreation, senior services, etc., while still exploring creative ways to drive economic growth. I want to help set Macon County on a path to success for years to come. I want to be your voice – someone who will listen with an open mind and be welcoming to all community members. I appreciate your support in this upcoming primary election.”