Orange County

Kleinschmidt wins Orange County clerk's race; Greene, McKee win commissioner seats

Sally Greene, from left, Jamezetta Bedford and Earl McKee were leading in the race for Orange County Board of Commissioners in the Tuesday, May 8, 2018, primary.
Sally Greene, from left, Jamezetta Bedford and Earl McKee were leading in the race for Orange County Board of Commissioners in the Tuesday, May 8, 2018, primary.

Mark Kleinschmidt won the race for Orange County Clerk of Superior Court on Tuesday, while incumbent Earl McKee and former Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene coasted to victory in contested races for county commissioner.

With no Republicans running, the Democratic primary will fill the clerk's seat and three Orange County Board of Commissioner seats for the next four years.

The race to be Orange County's Clerk of Superior Court doesn't typically excite voters, but former Chapel Hill Mayor Kleinschmidt's challenge to incumbent Jamie Stanford got a lot of attention.

Kleinschmidt won 54.4 percent of the vote to Stanford's 45.6 percent, with all 44 precincts reporting, according to final but unofficial results.

It was interesting to watch the results come in, Kleinschmidt said, adding that he's "very grateful for the results."

"I think people really heard the message around reform in so many areas," he said. "I told people all the time, even if we didn't win this race, we're making a difference because it's been 40 years since there was a race for this office, and people's awareness was elevated."

In the at-large race for commissioner, Greene took 61.4 percent of the vote, following by Brian Crawford with 28.6 percent and Noah Oswald with 10 percent. The winner will replace longtime Commissioner Barry Jacobs, who is leaving the seven-member board in December.

Crawford, 54, and Oswald, 33, are attorneys and political newcomers. Both have served on government boards: Oswald is a member of the Orange County Affordable Housing Advisory Board, while Crawford has served on the Orange County Planning Board and the Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

Greene, 62, is a research and appellate attorney who served three terms on the Town Council. She left the council in 2017.

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Commissioner Mia Burroughs also will be stepping down in December. She will be replaced by District 1 candidate Jamezetta Bedford, who was unopposed. Like Burroughs, Bedford is a former Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member, who also served as that board's chair and vice chair.

Bedford, 59, also is the president of the Democratic Women of Orange County and a member of the Orange County ABC Board. She works as a certified public accountant with Coleman Huntoon & Brown, PLLC.

In District 2, McKee, 65, won 81.3 percent of the vote, besting challenger Tommy McNeill. The District 2 seat covers Hillsborough and rural parts of the county.

McNeill 55, is a business management consultant and three-time candidate, who ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for the Orange County Board of Commissioners and in 2012 for the Orange County Board of Education. He also sought appointment in 2013 to the House District 50 seat.

Clerk of Superior Court

The Clerk of Superior Court candidates spent much of their campaign time explaining what the job entails.

The clerk fills a number of judicial roles, including jurisdiction over the probate of wills and administering estates; adoptions; incompetency proceedings; condemnation of private lands for public use; and foreclosures. The clerk also is responsible for keeping records of the district and superior courts, and handling court fees and fines that are collected.

Stanford, 60, was appointed to the post in 2001 after working as licensed attorney for 11 years with Northen Blue Law Firm in Chapel Hill.

Kleinschmidt, 47, is currently a practicing attorney. He lost his seat as mayor in 2015 and went to work with the Chapel Hill law firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen before starting his private practice.

Kleinschmidt campaigned on bringing more technology to the clerk's office, working to address justice reform, and offering high-quality, welcoming service — in particular to same-sex couples who are adopting or having a child through in vitro fertilization.

Once he takes office, Kleinschmidt said, he will eliminate any hurdles beyond what's legally required. While he would like a court ruling that makes the adoption process unnecessary for same-sex parents, he said, that will "take a special family, a special plaintiff."

Over the next several months, he plans to meet with stakeholders, including court officials, clerks, lawyers and residents.

"I believe that there are many others that haven't been part of the larger discussion," Kleinschmidt said. "I want to draw that out and create a plan along with specific goals and targets for how we can address issues people have with how the courts work and run, and be public about that."

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb