05/02/14 — GOP set to fill Keen's seat

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GOP set to fill Keen's seat

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 2, 2014 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Republican Party Executive Committee will meet Monday night to name its choice to replace, at least for the next seven months, Steve Keen as the Wayne County Board of Commissioners District 4 representative.

As of Tuesday afternoon, two potential candidates for the office -- Mark Hood of Grantham and Joe Hackett of Goldsboro -- had been identified by Bob Jackson, the county party chairman.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the GOP's headquarters in downtown Goldsboro, but the discussion -- and vote -- will be closed to the public.

The committee's recommendation is expected to be announced that evening and be presented to commissioners when they meet Tuesday morning. The board is required by law to follow the recommendation.

To be eligible for appointment, the person must be a resident of the district, in this case District 4 -- an area that covers much of western Wayne County -- and a member of the same political party as Keen, in this case a Republican.

Any discussion by commissioners about filling the vacancy, and the vote, must be done in open session.

Keen, who was first elected in 2008, resigned Friday to begin his post as the new director of Gov. Pat McCrory's Eastern Office.

Hood's name was mentioned by Keen when commissioners asked him if he had given any thought to a possible replacement.

"I was totally surprised, but it made me feel very humbled and honored to be recommended," Hood said.

Hood ran for a seat on the board unsuccessfully as a Democrat 11 years ago against Republican Efton Sager.

Hackett has previously mounted two unsuccessful campaigns for the Wayne County Board of Education.

Keen, who ran unopposed and was re-elected in November 2012, had served just under a year-and-a-half of his latest term.

Since the vacancy occurred within the first two years of a four-year term, the appointment will run only until the Nov. 4 general election. At that time, an election will be held to fill the office for the remainder of Keen's term.

Wayne County Board of Elections officials said that the Republican, Democratic and, possibly, Libertarian parties would each nominate a candidate to run for the seat.

"I think that whoever we appoint (Monday) will be that person," Jackson said. "We have been telling people who have shown interest that the intent is (for them) to run in November.

"We have let them know that before we vote so that they would not waste any time. Otherwise, I think that you lose that incumbent advantage. You have got to take advantage of that as best as we can."

Wayne County Democratic Party Chairman Gene Britt said the party had not yet discussed any potential candidates.

Currently, the party is trying to first get through the May 6 primary, he said. However, any Democrat interested in running should contact party officials, he said.

"We expect to finalize the ballots for the November election in early to mid-August," said Rosemary Blizzard, Wayne County elections director. "That's the time frame for getting the nominees for November."

Jackson said he expects there will be three to five candidates for the executive committee to discuss Monday, but added that he could not release other names since he was waiting on them to confirm their intentions.

He said the party's plan is to do something similar to what it did following the death of Sheriff Carey Winders.

"We have tried, as best we can, to do like we did with the sheriff -- to just get the word out to anyone who is interested.

"We want everybody who is interested to let us know. The more the better, but we expect three to five who have given us their name to put in the hat."