Education Spending, Affordable Housing Decide Wake Commissioners Battle

May 9, 2018

Breakdown of affiliation among Wake County registered voters.
Credit N.C. State Board of Elections

Education spending and affordable housing played major roles in the primary election for seats on the Wake County board of commissioners.

Challengers Susan Evans and Vickie Adamson defeated incumbents Erv Portman and John Burns, respectively. They ran campaigns heavy on funding for education and affordable housing in the county.

Adamson said teacher funding is important, but wants the board to really focus on providing schools with more counselors and social workers. "Teachers are absolutely underpaid," she said. "But it's not just about money, it's also about working environment."

Some school counselors have caseloads of 500 students, dealing with students who are suicidal, or have drug and alcohol problems. For social workers, it's a similar story. The system has 100 social workers to cover 185 schools, according to Adamson.

"The average caseload for a social worker is 1,600 students," she said. "There is no way they can be effective with that case load."

Evans, who served on the Wake County School Board, also emphasized affordable housing in the county. She highlighted the portion of her career spent in the residential construction industry and that she co-owned a small general contracting firm.

"I know that there are plenty of builders and developers out there who more than welcome the opportunity to build affordable housing, if they can do so on a level playing field," she said. "They're not going to do it at a loss."

The two candidates must still face Republican challengers in the general election, and say they aren't taking anything for granted. But, the makeup of Wake County's registered voters gives them an edge. Democrats outnumber Republicans 267,000 to 188,000. There are another 260,000 unaffiliated voters as well as close to 5,000 registered to the Libertarian Party and six registered to the Green Party, which just gained status this year.

Wake County board incumbents Sig Hutchinson, Matt Calabria and James West survived primary challengers.