Kinston, Greenville mayor's races in focus as candidate filings begin

Don Hardy, right, is set to challenge two-term incumbent B.J. Murphy, left, in the Kinston mayor's race this fall. (Nate Belt/NewsChannel 12)

KINSTON, Lenoir County - Candidate filing for local elections across North Carolina began at noon Friday and runs through noon Friday, July 21, according to the North Carolina Board of Elections.

Local elections are held between September and November, depending on the rules governing particular types of election contests. This year, more than 1,000 contests will be held across the state.

"We hope that many candidates sign up to run for local office over the next two weeks and that voters across the state make sure they are registered to cast ballots in their hometown elections," said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement.

In Kinston, incumbent mayor B.J. Murphy filed to run for his third four-year term, but will be getting a challenge this fall from first-time candidate Don Hardy.

Hardy, a former Kinston Police officer who serves currently as a sergeant with the UNC Lenoir Health Care Public Safety Department, said it was the tragedy of Hurricane Matthew last fall that opened his eyes to seeking public office.

"I noticed that there a few things that we need to take care of in our city," Hardy said. "We need balance and we need unity and growth. With no balance, theres no unity. With no unity, theres no growth."

Murphy said he believes Kinston has made progress under his leadership, but adds that the city still has a long way to go.

"Small businesses are coming back - those kind of things need to continue," Murphy said. "Our quality of life is very important to this community and we just need to continue building on that, because I really believe that the best is yet to come for our community."

In Greenville, councilmen Calvin Mercer and P.J. Connelly have both announced they will seek the mayor's seat following the resignation of Allen Thomas last month. Pitt County native Curtis Pulley also filed on Friday to run for the seat. Kandice Smith was selected on Thursday to complete Thomas' term as mayor, but said she will not run for her own term as mayor.

And in New Bern, after six candidates filed to run for mayor in 2013, that year's winner, Dana Outlaw, appears unchallenged to win a second term.

Candidates for local office must file notices of candidacy with the proper county board of elections to be listed on ballots in the primary or general elections. Candidates must be at least 21 years old. They also must live and be registered to vote in the electoral district for the office being sought.

Voters must be registered 25 days before an election to vote on Election Day. The regular voter registration deadline for September elections is Aug. 18. For October elections, the deadline is Sept. 15. For November elections, the registration deadline is Oct. 13. Voters may also register and vote during the early voting period using "same-day registration" in places where absentee voting is authorized.

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