Filing starts in 2022 election. Here’s a look at the candidates for Orange County.

·11 min read
Robert Willett/

Orange County voters will fill a variety of local offices in 2022, from district attorney to sheriff and county commissioners, and send new representatives to Raleigh and Washington, D.C.

The primary is March 8, and the general election is Nov. 8.

The Carrboro Town Council also could vote Tuesday for a special March 8 election to fill the council seat formerly held by Damon Seils, who was elected mayor in November. The winner would fill the seat through 2023.

Local politicians at all levels got a rare chance to seek higher office this year after two longtime Orange County Democrats, U.S. House Rep. David Price and state Rep. Verla Insko, announced they were retiring. Democratic State Sen. Valerie Foushee is among those running for Price’s 6th District Congressional seat, and Democratic state House Rep. Graig Meyer is running for Foushee’s Senate seat.

That gives local officials a shot at the General Assembly, including former Chapel Hill Town Council member Allen Buansi, Hillsborough Town Board member Matt Hughes and Orange County Commissioners Chair Renee Price.

In the local election, voters also will fill four Orange County commissioner seats: two in District 1, one in District 2 and one at large. Orange County races usually are decided in the primary, since few Republicans seek office in the heavily Democratic county.

This year, District 1 voters will choose one commissioner for a full, four-year term and another for a special, one-year term to fill the seat that Commissioner Mark Dorosin resigned from when he took a job in Florida. In September, the board chose Anna Richards, a former Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP president, to serve until an elected commissioner takes office next year. Richards is campaigning to keep the seat.

Voters also will elect a new Orange-Chatham district attorney, replacing Jim Woodall, who announced his retirement in March after more than 15 years as district attorney. Other countywide races will elect a sheriff, register of deeds, clerk of Superior Court, and two Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors.

In the Orange County Schools district, the nonpartisan school board race will elect four members. Board member Hillary MacKenzie, who said she was stepping down as the board’s chair in a recent Facebook post, is not seeking re-election.

The filing period for the 2022 primary is open until noon Dec. 17. Carrboro’s special election will have a separate filing period from noon Dec. 8 to noon Dec. 21.

Voter registration deadline: The last day to register to vote in the March primary is Feb. 11, however, most one-stop early voting locations also offer same-day registration. Early primary voting runs Feb. 17 to March 5. Absentee voting begins Jan. 14, and the last day to request a mail-in ballot is March 1.

Orange County Board of Commissioners

District 1 (one seat, full term)

Name: Jamezetta Bedford (incumbent)

Age: 63

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Vice chair, Orange County Commissioners, 2018-present; Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board member, chair and vice chair, 2003-2015; Democratic Women of Orange County, 2016-present; Orange County ABC Board, 2016-18; Orange County Communities in Schools board


Career: Certified Public Accountant with Coleman Huntoon & Brown, PLLC

District 1 (one seat, unexpired term)

Name: Anna Richards

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Orange County commissioner, 2021-present; former president, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP; 2019 North Carolina NAACP branch president of the year; 2020 Citizen of the Year, The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro; member, Campaign for Racial Equity in Our Schools; Black Business Alliance Leadership Council


Career: Retired Boeing finance operations executive

Quote: “Because county commissioner terms normally span four years … serving 16 months would limit my opportunity to have the type of influence and impact I intended when I offered to serve. My initial observations since being sworn in are that my finance, planning and strategic business experience gleaned from my professional corporate background are needed as the county plans for the future. I look forward to learning more about the concerns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents and giving Chapel Hill and Carrboro voters the opportunity to affirm my service.”

District 2 (one seat)

Name: Earl McKee (incumbent)

Age: 69

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Orange County commissioners, 2010-present; Little River Presbyterian Church deacon and elder;

Career: Farmer; Summit Engineering

At-large District (one seat)

Name: Sally Greene (incumbent)

Age: 66

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Commissioner since 2018. Chapel Hill Town Council, 2003-11, 2013-17; co-chair, Orange County Broadband Task Force; Board of Directors, Community Home Trust; founding member, WE Power; 2021 Commissioner of the Year, N.C. Association of County of Commissioners; Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness


Career: Associate attorney, research and writing specialist, independent scholar

Quote: “During my first term, I have followed through on promises to support our public schools, increase our commitment to affordable housing and helping the homeless, promote economic development opportunities, humanize the criminal justice system, advocate for climate change mitigation and more.”


Name: Charles Blackwood

Age: 61

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Sheriff since 2014. First vice president and Executive Board member, N.C. Sheriffs’ Association; vice chair, N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission; vice chair, N.C. Criminal Justice Information Network; board member, N.C. Justice Academy Joint In-Service Training Committee; Sheriff’s Leadership Institute Curriculum Committee; SBI Center for the Analysis of Police Use of Force; Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice; North Carolina Fully Autonomous Vehicle Committee; and Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services Board.

Also, Orange County Jail/Mental Health Workgroup; Orange County Behavioral Health Task Force; Orange County Racial Justice Task Force; Orange County Justice Advisory Council; The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor, in 2012; Dogwood Award for work combating the opioid epidemic in 2021.


Career: 40 years with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Quote: “I’m proud of our accomplishments during my two terms as Sheriff. I look forward to continuing to serve you. I believe you deserve a professional, responsive and accountable Sheriff’s Office that can provide you with a safe place to live, work, raise your family, and age in place with dignity. I am very proud to serve as your Sheriff and appreciate your continued support.”

Orange-Chatham District Attorney

Name: Jeff Nieman

Age: 45

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: None

Relevant experience: Created Outreach Court in 2012, North Carolina’s first therapeutic court for people experiencing homelessness; co-founder, N.C. Driver’s License Restoration Project; Teen Court judge, Volunteers for Youth diversion court program; member, Orange County NAACP Criminal Justice Committee; chair, Orange County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; vice chair, Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness; active in the local fitness and civic group F3; Sunday School teacher, United Church of Chapel Hill; YMCA youth basketball coach


Career: Assistant district attorney for 16 years; adjunct profession, N.C. Central University School of Law

Quote: “I’m running for District Attorney because I want to create positive change in the criminal justice system. I will make this office a model of community-oriented justice.”

Clerk of Superior Court

Name: Mark Kleinschmidt (incumbent)

Age: 51

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: Clerk of Superior Court, 2017-present; Chapel Hill mayor, 2009-15; Chapel Hill Town Council, 2001-09; board member, Kidzu Children’s Museum; board member, Carolina Pride Alum Network; board member, Eyes Ears Nose and Paws; board member, NC Guardianship Association


Career: Clerk of Superior Court; attorney; adjunct law professor, UNC School of Law

Register of Deeds

One seat

Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor

Two seats


Orange County Schools Board of Education

Four seats

Name: Will Atherton

Age: 49

Address: Cavell Court, Hillsborough

Relevant experience: Orange County Schools board member, 2010-present


Name: Penny Carter King

Career: Senior Regional Clinical Research Associate, AbbVie Pharmaceuticals

Quote: “In the last few years, the board majority’s attention has been focused on furthering political agendas rather than on the business of running a successful school system. Currently, our students’ achievement scores are below average at every grade level; teacher and staff morale are at an all-time low; we have critical teacher vacancies at multiple schools; and our parents feel that they aren’t being heard or respected. We need to … get back to the business of making certain that our students have the best education possible.”

Name: Sarah Smylie

Relevant experience: Orange County School Board, 2018-present


Career: Former teacher

Quote: “We are in a critical moment. Orange County Schools has embarked on a journey to become a school system where every single student graduates prepared to thrive in college, career, and life. Despite the challenges our students and staff continue to face, momentum towards that promise of excellence is finally starting to build. In moments like these, sustained, steady leadership matters.”

Name: Anne Purcell

NC House District 50

Name: Matt Hughes

Age: 30

Address: Hillsborough

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Hillsborough Board of Commissioners, 2018-present; second vice chair, N.C. Democratic Party; former chair, Orange County Democratic Party; member, Democratic National Committee; 2016 Orange County Commissioner candidate

Relevant experience: Board member, Orange County Partnership for Young Children, Hillsborough Historic Commission and the N.C. Human Relations Commission; Orange County Jury Commission


Career: Nonprofit professional

Quote: “We need a new generation of leadership that’s not afraid to lead boldly and think big. This new generation must not only fight against radical Republicans and their attacks on our way of life, including our precious democracy, but push for solutions that will benefit all who call North Carolina home. I’m running because I believe in a North Carolina that lives up to its ideals and is a state where its people are healthier, safer, better educated, and has more money in their pockets.”

Name: Renee Price

Age: 68

Address: Riverside Drive Hillsborough

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Chair, member of Orange County Commissioners since 2012

Relevant experience: Orange County Commission for the Environment, Orange Unified Transportation Board, Orange County Historic Preservation Commission, Orange County Planning Board, and the Orange County Human Rights Commission


Career: Co-founder and project director of Free Spirit Freedom; Hillsborough Arts Council; professional experience in sustainable agriculture, forestry and development, city and regional planning, and environmental planning and design

Quote: “I humbly ask for support so that I may bring the voices of the people of Orange and Caswell Counties to the North Carolina Senate in our pursuit of: quality education for all students, affordable housing, health care for all, climate change mitigation, universal broadband, criminal justice reforms and post-pandemic economic development.”

NC House District 56

Name: Allen Buansi

Age: 34

Address: Avalon Court, Chapel Hill

Party affiliation: Democrat

Political experience: Chapel Hill Town Council, 2017-21

Relevant experience: Former Legal Redress chair, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP; former deputy director, UNC Center for Civil Rights; N.C. Department of Justice attorney; member, Local Government Retirement System Board of Trustees; State Advisory Board of Common Cause


Career: Assistant city attorney, Greensboro; civil rights attorney

Quote: “As a lifelong Chapel Hill resident, I have dedicated my life to serving and empowering our community. I have advocated for the same schools and teachers that educated me and for the same town services I used growing up. The people of our district have given me so much, and I am committed to continuing as a champion for them in every way I can.”

NC Senate District 23

Name: Graig Meyer

Age: 47

Party affiliation: Democrat

Relevant experience: State House Representative, 2013-present; member, Southern Regional Education Board; Equality NC Legislator of the Year; Green Tie Rising Star award, League of Conservation Voters; Legislator of the Year award, Young Democrats of North Carolina


Career: Partner, chief operating officer, The Equity Collaborative LLC; former coordinator, Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program

US House District 6

Name: Nida Allam

Party affiliation: Democrat


Name: Nathan Click

Party affiliation: Democrat

Name: Valerie Foushee

Party affiliation: Democrat


Name: Mahesh Ganorkar

Party affiliation: Republican


Name: Courtney Geels

Party affiliation: Republican


Name: Wiley Nickel

Party affiliation: Democrat


Name: Robert Thomas

Party affiliation: Republican


Name: Ashley Chandler Ward

Party affiliation: Democrat


Name: Richard Watkins

Party affiliation: Democrat


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