Former Republican candidate defects

Published 3:07 pm Friday, January 8, 2010

Staff Writer

A former Republican candidate for Beaufort County commissioner has shed party affiliation, re-emerging as an unaffiliated office-seeker.
Bertie Arnhols of Aurora recently announced she’s gathering signatures in order to place her name on the ballot for this year’s general election.
Arnhols said she didn’t have to exit the GOP to run as an unaffiliated commissioner candidate, indicating she chose to do so for personal reasons.
“The reasons for doing both is a total commitment that says basically I am fed up with politics,” she said. “I am fed up with Democrats and Republicans spending most of their time figuring out how they can blame one another for whatever’s wrong, and not enough time trying to fix what’s wrong.”
Though Arnhols said she eschews labels, she asserted that she is more conservative than liberal.
Asked if she fears losing the moral and financial support political parties can provide, she replied, “I didn’t have that before, so I didn’t lose anything. … The Republicans are so busy fighting each other, and I don’t know who the Democrats are busy fighting.”
Arnhols said she didn’t want to create the impression that she abandoned the GOP because of sour grapes.
“I changed because I truly believe the unity of the Republican Party in Beaufort County is not there,” Arnhols said.
Arnhols ran for commissioner in 2008 as a Republican, when eight candidates were seeking four available seats on the county board.
When the final tallies were in, the four incumbents in the race had triumphed handily.
A majority of voters returned to office Commissioners Jerry Langley and Robert Cayton, both Democrats; and Jay McRoy and Hood Richardson, both Republicans.
Richardson was the top vote-getter in the race with 4,973 votes.
Arnhols finished next to last, with 1,163 votes.
In order to be added to the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, Arnhols must collect the signatures of 4 percent of all registered county voters, or around 1,251 people at last count, said Kellie Harris Hopkins, county elections director.
Arnhols said she has gathered approximately 200 signatures so far, partly because she decided to wait until after the holidays to start her signature drive in earnest.
Arnhols will not have to file during the filing period, which begins at noon on Feb. 8, Hopkins said.
A petition to run as an unaffiliated candidate must be filed with a local board of elections on or before noon on the last Friday in June, she related.
Elections officials will verify that all of the people who sign the petition are registered voters, Hopkins said.
Once the list is verified, Arnhols will pay a standard filing fee equal to 1 percent of a commissioner’s annual salary. Given 2008 figures, that fee will be about $43, Hopkins said.
Hopkins said no other commissioner candidate has run under unaffiliated status during her 11-year tenure with the Board of Elections.
Since three commissioner seats are up this year, the two major parties will present three candidates each; Arnhols will make candidate No. 7, provided her petition drive succeeds.
Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, said he doesn’t know Arnhols that well and hasn’t talked with her about her candidacy.
“She has not been doing anything as far as the Republican Party is concerned since she lost,” Britt said.
People in GOP circles have discussed the possible effects of having a seventh candidate in the field, he said.
“I think it’s going to come down to what Bertie stands for,” Britt commented. “Another person in the elections, I don’t think hurts anything, particularly in the local election.”
A call to Alice Mills Sadler, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, was not returned.