Candidates Waste No Time Filing for ‘22 Election

Ronnie Fields files for re-election
Sheriff Ronnie Fields completes paperwork to file for re-election in 2022. He was joined Monday by a crowd of supporters and members of the Moore County Sheriff’s Office. Laura Douglass/The Pilot

The political filing period for the 2022 election cycle opened at noon Monday, and 12 candidates had submitted their paperwork within the first hour at the Moore County Board of Elections office in Carthage.

Sheriff Ronnie Fields was first in line, joined by a large contingent of supporters, including a number of senior staff members with the Moore County Sheriff’s Office. A Republican and longtime law officer, Fields is currently serving his first term after handily defeating opponents Steve Adams, a local businessman, and former sheriff Neil Godfrey in the 2018 election and 2018 primary, respectively.

Two candidates for the Board of County Commissioners also filed paperwork in the first 60 minutes of the open filing period, which runs through Dec. 17 at noon.

Jim Von Canon is seeking the District 1 seat that will be vacated by Commissioner Catherine Graham, who is not seeking re-election. A Moore County native, Von Canon retired from a 28-year military career in 2018.

“What a great place this is to live. I want to keep it that way,” Von Canon said, noting that his teachers at Vass-Lakeview Elementary had set him on the path for success. “I want to keep us going in the right direction. To keep Moore County growing and for it to be just as great for future generations. If I can do half of what Catherine Graham has accomplished, that would be an impressive feat.”

John Ritter is running his first local campaign for the District 3 seat that will be vacated by Commissioner Otis Ritter. The two men are distant relatives.

A practicing attorney in Seven Lakes, primarily focused on real estate, wills, corporate and civil matters, Ritter lives in the Westmoore community. He previously ran in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor in March 2020, finishing fourth out of a slate of nine candidates.

He said that Otis Ritter had reached out and encouraged him to seek the District 3 seat, which represents the interests of northern Moore County. “That meant a lot to me.”

“I want good government and that is one thing that we have blessed with in Moore County. I would like to see that continue,” Ritter said.

State Sen. Tom McInnis was also at the Moore County Board of Elections office on Monday; however, he was unable to file his intent to run for the newly drawn Senate District 21 seat.

A court order issued Monday from the N.C. Court of Appeals temporarily blocked state legislative and federal candidates from filing based on a lawsuit that claims the political districts, drawn and approved by the Republican-led General Assembly, are unconstitutional.

McInnis told The Pilot the legal maneuvering will likely take up the entire two-week open filing period and may lead to the need for two primaries to be scheduled in the spring.

In other local races, six candidates filed for one of three open seats on the Moore County Board of Education shortly after noon on Monday. This is a non-partisan race but is expected to be hotly contested after a year of local school board infighting amidst the backdrop of a nationwide politicization of public school governance.

Helen Garner Maness, a retired educator who taught business education at North Moore High School for 20 years, is running in her first political campaign for the District 3 seat, currently held by Pam Thompson. Maness, a Moore County native, is a graduate of North Moore and held national board certification in business education. She was honored as the school’s Teacher of the Year twice, and recognized as the Future Business Leaders of America State Advisor of the Year and also the N.C. Business Teacher of the Year.

“I have always felt the school system should be a family that supports the students, parents, faculty, support staff and leadership in order to be a successful component of any community. The Board of Education is the head of that family and should be willing to stand up for everything that is needed to make our schools successful in all ways.”

Shannon Davis is also running for the school board District 3 seat. A resident of Carthage and a Moore County native, Davis attended Calvary Christian School and has chosen to homeschool her three children.

“I am running because, as Americans, we have a right and duty to protect education. Children are our future and our education system is failing,” Davis said.

Four candidates also filed Monday seeking one of two at-large seats on the school board: Ken Benway, Pauline Bruno, Robin Calcutt and Rollie Sampson.

Ken Benway retired from active duty in 1993 and settled in Whispering Pines in 2004. He described himself as a “dyed in the wool patriot,” and that he has some skills he feels will be helpful to the school board process.

One priority concern Benway identified is Critical Race Theory. “I think we need to keep the curriculum even-handed. I am not a fan of CRT, but I also oppose it going too far the other way. I want a fact-based curriculum.”

Bruno is a Pinehurst resident who recently stepped down as chair of Moore Republican Women. Bruno is a former special education teacher with 21 years experience. She, too, has publicly stated her opposition to CRT being taught in school.

The national political furor over CRT seeped into much of the Moore County Board of Education’s discussions this year. Most board members maintain that Moore County Schools teachers are neither embracing nor structuring lessons based on the controversial legal and academic movement. This spring, the sitting board narrowly voted down a policy banning the use of critical race theory as a basis for school curriculum. That vote reflected disagreements among board members’ definitions of CRT, and some who didn’t think board policy should deal with specific academic theories.

Robin Calcutt, a Moore County native and Pinecrest High School grad, is the current chair and professor in the education department at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg. She retired from Moore County Schools with 34 years experience as a teacher, assistant principal of Union Pines High School, principal of New Century Middle and West Pine Middle schools, and MCS’s director of planning, accountability and research. She was recognized as Union Pines’ Teacher of the Year twice and MCS Principal of the Year in 2013.

“In Moore County, our schools are a critical part of the foundation of our community. When we work to serve all children by providing a transparent and accountable education environment that engages, supports, and empowers our students, they thrive and are prepared for their future,” Calcutt said. “When we recruit and support well-prepared professional educators and staff, they provide a superior education. When we collaborate and connect with local, state, and federal organizations, we meet the needs of our students.”

Rollie Sampson is also seeking one of two open at-large school board seats. She currently works for the district as its military liaison. An army veteran and military spouse, Sampson has lived in Moore County since 2005.

In her position as military liaison, she has worked to increase federal funding to MCS by standardizing enrollment processes, establishing transition programs for new students and ensuring district compliance with federal regulations. Sampson is also a licensed mental health counselor and also works closely with school counselors, social workers and school psychologists to support the needs of the district’s 3,600 military-connected students.

“I have a long history of advocating for education in Moore County and believe that the heart of education starts in the classroom with our teachers,” Sampson said. “While I appreciate the work of the current Board of Education members, I believe that change can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.”

Other candidates filing for office Monday included William Britton, who is seeking the Registrar of Deeds seat. Chris Morgan and Todd Maness are running for Clerk of Superior Court for Moore County. Longtime Register of Deeds Judy Martin and Clerk of Court Susan Hicks announced in October they would not seek re-election after holding their posts for several terms.

Britton, a Union Pines graduate, has worked for Moore County EMS and is also involved in agri-business ventures and teaches hunter safety courses for NC Wildlife. Morgan currently serves as an assistant clerk and has 21 years experience in the field. A law enforcement officer, Maness is employed by the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, where he holds the rank of sergeant.