With three incumbents up for re-election and one empty seat to fill, the Craven County Board of Education race was a hot one, despite the chill in the air Tuesday night.
The unofficial results show two new faces will sit on the board, while two incumbents also won.
After 24 years on the board, Vice Chairwoman Linda Thomas chose not to run again, leaving Stefanie King and Eddie McKeel, both of Vanceboro, vying for the empty District 1 seat.
King was in good spirits on Election Day, planning to watch the results come in later with her family.
She received 21,069 votes, or 55.24 percent, for the District 1 seat Tuesday night, defeating her opponent, Back to Basics candidate Eddie McKeel, who received 16,976 votes or 44.51 percent of the vote.
“I am grateful and I’m humbled,” King said after hearing the results. “I’m appreciative of the Craven County community that has supported us throughout this process and I will do my absolute best to serve the people of the Craven County school system as well as the Craven County community. I thank everyone for their support.”
Board Chairman Carr Ipock was up for re-election against Ashley Smith in District 3. Ipock is a 24-year veteran of the board and has served as chairman 22 of those years.
Both candidates are originally from New Bern, but Smith moved back to the area five years ago after a 27-year career in education in Florida.
Ipock said he spent Election Day campaigning in Trent Woods and later headed to the Craven County Board of Elections office to watch the results to come in.
It was a close race between Ipock and Smith, with Ipock winning 20,685 votes or 51.17 percent of the vote, and Smith receiving 19,625 votes or 48.55 percent of the vote.
“It was an excellent race,” Ipock said. “I enjoyed being at the polls with Ashley, and we crossed paths many times, he worked really hard. I think we had a really complimentary campaign. I did appreciate running with him. He’s a highly qualified candidate, and we worked hard. It leaned a little bit more in our favor this time.”
Incumbent David Hale was elected to the school board in 2012 following a 35-year aviation career, seven years as a school counselor at Tucker Creek Middle School and as the military liaison counselor.
Hale’s former opponent, Kim Fink, was a candidate on the Back to Basics platform. She withdrew from the race in June, however, because of State Board of Elections regulations, Fink’s name remained on the ballot for the November election.
Hale won the seat with 22,770 votes, or 62.31 percent, to Fink’s 13,683 votes, or 37.44 percent.
In a surprise, newcomer Sarah Benischek unseated 14-year school board veteran Joseph Walton. Benischek won the District 7 seat with 59.67 percent of the vote or 22,051 votes, to Walton’s 40.03 percent or 14,792 votes.
Benischek, a Back to Basics candidate, homeschool mom and a Marine wife, said she looks forward to being a voice for parents on the school board.
“I am deeply humbled and thrilled,” Benischek said Tuesday night. “I thank the voters of Craven County for having the faith and confidence to vote for me. I want to bring a certain level of transparency and authenticity that people can put their trust in to make good decisions based on the platform that we’ve been talking about for the last year.”
Benischek said she hopes she can inspire more parents to get involved with the board and to have their voices heard.
Contact Jennifer Cannon at 252-635-5671. Follow her on Twitter at JCannonNBSJ.