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Our Opinion: Make your choices in North Carolina primary elections

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Will Bernie Sanders surge to victory in North Carolina, besting early favorite Joe Biden?

Which conservative candidate has the best chance of giving U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield a run for his money in November?

And will the glut of lieutenant governor hopefuls — six Democrats and nine Republicans — result in runoffs for both parties?

Those questions won’t be answered until the votes are counted on March 3. And Wilson County residents can help determine the outcomes.

In a high-stakes Super Tuesday, there are plenty of reasons for Democrats, Republicans and third-party voters to make their way to the ballot box on Election Day or during the ongoing early voting period. Independents have extra incentive — under our state’s open primary system, unaffiliated voters can choose to vote in any party’s nominating contest.

DEMOCRATS

Biden holds a razor-thin edge in North Carolina polling, but Sanders is gaining ground. As of Thursday, the former vice president led the Vermont senator by a margin of 21.8% to 20.3%, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of state polls. Michael Bloomberg rose to third with 18.2%, rocketing past Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg (9.5% each), Amy Klobuchar (4.1%), Tom Steyer (2.4%) and Tulsi Gabbard (1.5%).

Expect to see most Democratic presidential candidates touring the Tar Heel State in the next two weeks as they vie for Super Tuesday’s third-biggest prize. After California and Texas, North Carolina has the next-largest share of delegates in the 14-state primary. More than a third of all Democratic National Convention delegates will be awarded on March 3.

The biggest local contest pits nine-term incumbent state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield against John G. McNeil for the Democratic N.C. House District 24 nomination. The winner will face Republican candidate Mick Rankin of Stantonsburg in November.

Dems will also choose between five candidates vying to challenge U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. Cal Cunningham and Erica D. Smith are the front-runners. Atul Goel, Steve Swenson and Trevor M. Fuller are also in the running.

REPUBLICANS

While President Donald Trump is all but assured a sweeping victory, two protest candidates — former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former congressman and conservative radio host Joe Walsh — are also in the GOP presidential primary mix.

In Wilson County, the top local race is for the 1st Congressional District nomination. Michele Nix of Kinston, the N.C. Republican Party’s former vice chairwoman, faces Sandy Smith of Winterville, Ethan Baca of Pender County and Jim Glisson of Goldsboro. The winner will challenge Butterfield, who doesn’t have a primary opponent.

Republicans will also choose between Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and state Rep. Holly Grange in the gubernatorial primary. The crowded field in the lieutenant governor race makes a runoff likely — in order to avoid one, the winner needs at least 30% of the vote.

THIRD PARTIES

There are 15 Libertarians running for president. Notables include John McAfee, who founded the antivirus software company that bears his name, activist and author Adam Kokesh and Vermin Supreme, a performance artist known for wearing a boot on his head and promising free ponies.

The Constitution Party has two presidential hopefuls, Don Blankenship and Charles Kraut, while Howie Hawkins is the sole Green Party candidate on North Carolina ballots.

None of the state’s recognized third parties has a primary in the Senate, House, governor, lieutenant governor, General Assembly or Council of State races.

EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT

No matter which party primary you participate in and which candidates you favor, The Wilson Times encourages all eligible Wilson County voters to cast ballots.

Election Day voting is a time-honored tradition, but those without concrete plans to make their way to the polls on March 3 should consider taking advantage of one-stop early voting at the Wilson County Board of Elections office, 112 Douglas St.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays through Feb. 28, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on two Saturdays — Feb. 22 and Feb. 29 — and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 23.

ENDORSEMENT LETTERS

While the Times does not endorse candidates for public office, we welcome letters to the editor that express support for or opposition to any primary hopeful. Letters should be 350 words or fewer and must be signed with the writer’s name and hometown. We request phone numbers for verification, but numbers are not published.

The deadline to submit an endorsement letter is 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28. That ensures all letters can be published before Election Day. Endorsements will not be printed on March 3.

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