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Gaston County Politicians Start Campaigns For Upcoming Election Season

March 7, 2022

Gaston Business Association

Kevin Ellis

The Gaston Gazette

Gaston County politicians — start your campaigns.

The filing period ended at noon Friday, March 4, meaning the matchups are set for May 17 primary elections and in some cases Election Day on Nov. 8.

Gaston County Republicans have far more primary elections to determine party nominations — and in some cases those nominees will not face a Democrat in November, making the May primary the de facto election.

Key primary elections for Gaston County Republicans — sheriff, 109th House, Clerk of Court, Superior Court judge and representing the Dallas Township on the Gaston County Board of Commissioners.

In the Dallas Township commission race, both Cathy Cloninger and Steve Hall are Republicans. The wrong party affiliation was listed in a previous story.

Gaston County Democrats just have primary elections in congressional races, no local races. In fact, Gaston County Democrats failed to field a candidate in the following local elections:

  • Sheriff
  • 43rd N.C. Senate
  • 44th N.C. Senate
  • 108th N.C. House
  • 110th N.C. House
  • Clerk of Court
  • District Attorney
  • District Court judge (2 seats)
  • County Commission (3 seats)

Here are the main Republican primary elections to watch:

Gaston County sheriff

Mount Holly Police Chief Don Roper and Belmont Police Chief Chad Hawkins will run for the GOP nomination, with the May winner not having an opponent in November.

A Democrat has held this office in Gaston County for decades, but that ended when Alan Cloninger changed his party affiliation from Democrat to unaffiliated in August. Cloninger, a former police officer and attorney, became sheriff in 2005 when the late Leroy Russell retired. Cloninger had won five full terms and had announced plans to seek a sixth when he had a sudden change of heart.

Both Roper and Hawkins actively started campaigning months ago, so much that many voters in the 2021 municipal elections asked why they were not on the ballot in the city elections, according to poll workers.

109th House race

This race features four Republicans trying to replace the late Dana Bumgardner, who died in October.

The Gaston County Executive Committee selected former county commissioner Donnie Loftis to fill out Bumgardner's last year in office, and he will run for a full term. He faces challenges from current Gaston County Commissioner Ronnie Worley of Cramerton and Bumgardner's daughter, Lauren Bumgardner Current. Republican John Gouch of Belmont filed on Friday.

Worley's current term on the county board does not expire until 2024.

The winner will face Democrat Eric Hughes, who lists a Charlotte address, in November.

Clerk of Court

Clerk of Court Roxann Rankin, a Republican, took over the top job in 2020 after the retirement of Larry Brown. She has worked in the clerk's office for more than three decades.

Current Cherryville Township County Commissioner Allen Fraley will run against her. The winner will not face an opponent in November.

Fraley has served as a county commissioner since 2004, and his current term on the county board does not expire until 2024.

Superior Court judge

Three Republicans seek their party's nomination to take the job of one of the few Democrat officeholders in Gaston County.

Gaston County school board member Justin Davis of Belmont, assistant prosecutor Beth Stockwell of Gastonia and Eddie Meeks of Gastonia will compete in a three-way race for the party nomination. The winner will face Democrat Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell IV in November.

Gaston County has gone several years without a contested Superior Court judge's race, but Gaston County Republican have been eyeing the seat since even before the retirement of Jesse Caldwell III in May 2021 after he hit the mandatory retirement age of 72. The elder Caldwell had been a judge for 28 years.

Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Caldwell's son, Jesse Caldwell IV, to fill out the remainder of his dad's term.

District Court judge

Two Gaston County District Court judge seats are up for election, but only one has a primary.

Republican District Court Judge Craig Collins took his seat on the bench when former Gov. Pat McCrory appointed him in 2016 after the death of Judge Ralph Gingles. Collins of Gastonia won a full term in 2018.

Collins faces a Republican challenge from Ashley Hyman of Belmont. Hyman works as an attorney for Gaston County social services.

District Court Judge Michael Lands plans to retire at the end of his term. He will be replaced by Republican Gus Anthony who does not face either a primary challenger or a November opponent.

Dallas Township Commissioner

Cloninger and Hall will face off to replace Philbeck, who announced in October he would not run for the seat again.

Cloninger, the wife of current Gaston County sheriff, has not sought political office before. Hall represents the Dallas Township on the Gaston County school board. Both are Republicans.

Candidates with no opposition

  • Republican attorney Brad Overcash in the 43rd Senate District to replace the retiring Sen. Kathy Harrington, R-Gaston. Overcash had a primary opponent until Dallas Township County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck dropped out of the race March 2 citing health and business concerns.
  • Republican District Attorney Travis Page. Democratic Gov. Cooper appointed Page to the office in July after the retirement of Republican Locke Bell. He is running for his first, full term.
  • 110th House Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston, does not face opposition for a seventh term. His district includes parts of Gaston and Cleveland counties.
  • 108th House Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, does not face opposition for a seventh term. His district include northwestern Gaston County.
  • 44th District Sen. Ted Alexander does not face an opponent for his third term. His district includes a small part of Gaston County, all of Cleveland and Lincoln counties.
  • Republican County Commissioners Tom Keigher, Gastonia Township, and Chad Brown, Riverbend Township, do not face opposition.

10th U.S. House

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Gaston County native who now lists a Statesville address, has represented the area before. He seeks a ninth term and would be considered a huge favorite in the Republican-leaning district.

In the primary, McHenry will face challengers Richard Speer of Lincolnton, Jeff Gregory of Shelby, Gary Robinson of Statesville and Michael Magnotta of Morganton.

For the Democrats, Pam Genant of Valdese and Michael Felder of Arden will vie for the party nomination.

The district includes about one-third of western Gaston County. The district also includes all of Cleveland, Lincoln, Catawba, Iredell and Alexander counties and part of Rutherford County.

14th U.S. House District

Gastonia and the eastern part of the county could find themselves represented by a Democrat in Congress for the first time in decades. The district leans about 56% Democratic based on voting trends in presidential and statewide elections. The district also includes a large part of Charlotte.

None of the candidates live in Gaston County.

Democrats would have a primary between N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte and Ram Mammadov of Pineville.

On the Republican side, Jonathan Simpson of Charlotte will face Pat Harrigan of Catawba.

Jackson worked as an assistant prosecutor in Gaston County under Bell from 2011 to 2014, and he went to law school with District Attorney Page at UNC Chapel Hill.

You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-201-7016 or email him at




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