Baldwin drops try to become commissioner

Published 8:13 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Staff Writer

There is one less Republican candidate in the race for Beaufort County commissioner.
Cindy Baldwin of Bath has officially withdrawn from the contest.
The three-member Beaufort County Board of Elections voted unanimously Tuesday to accept Baldwin’s voluntary withdrawal of candidacy.
As a result of the vote, Baldwin’s name will not appear on the ballot for the Nov. 2 general election.
Baldwin couldn’t be reached for comment immediately. An e-mail statement from the former candidate wasn’t immediately forthcoming.
Her husband, John Baldwin, declined to comment on the candidate’s reasons for exiting the race.
“In this case, I think you’ll have to talk with her,” he said.
Cindy Baldwin has been the subject of criticism from voters upset that she and her husband have been involved with development projects that had been late on property taxes and had incurred thousands of dollars in environmental fines from the state.
Still pending before a Superior Court judge is a legal action filed by residents hoping to stop improvements to Bath’s Quarterdeck Marina, which is owned and operated by the Baldwins.
Few of the sources contacted by the Daily News were surprised Baldwin had departed from the field.
“She’s been talking about doing it and said she was going to do it, so I don’t know of anything that I could add to it,” said Jerry Evans, one of three Democrats seeking election to three available seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
“She’s told me several times that she was going to withdraw because she had several issues that needed to be resolved before she moved forward,” Evans commented.
Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Ed Booth said he is sorry Baldwin dropped out, but he added this development didn’t change his plans.
“We would love to pick up that extra seat,” Booth said. “There’s one I have a whole lot of interest in. That’s mine.”
The other Democratic hopeful, Sonya Shamseldin, said, “First, I think we need to offer her our thanks for the willingness to run when few have endeavored to do so.”
She added, “I wish her well, and I hope she stays involved. It’s always good to have choices.”
Like other observers, the county’s Democratic leader saw this one coming.
“We had anticipated it. They’re going to try to play the numbers game like they did before, so I guess she’s being a team player for the party,” said Alice Mills Sadler, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
Later, Sadler revised her statements, acknowledging that Baldwin’s move might have been based more on personal matters than on an attempt to concentrate voters around two GOP incumbents.
“I guess if she’s got a lot to deal with, it’s good to take something off of your plate,” she said.
Sadler said Baldwin’s exit wouldn’t alter the Democrats’ election strategy.
“We’re going to try to run on the merit of what each candidate stands for and try not to play the numbers game,” she said. “Hope it works.”
Stan Deatherage, an incumbent GOP commissioner seeking re-election, said Baldwin had approached him to relate she was leaning toward withdrawal. Deatherage said he encouraged her to stay in the race.
“Cindy Baldwin would have made a fine addition to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners,” he said. “Possibly, she may have an opportunity to run in the future and make a difference in the way we govern here in Beaufort County.”
Asked whether her departure helps his candidacy, Deatherage replied in the affirmative, saying, “I think it affects me greatly because of all the Republicans running for commissioner, Cindy’s platform was closest to mine. She would’ve probably done very well taking away people who have voted for me in the past, thinking that I would get elected anyway since I am the incumbent with our strange and unusual voting system, limited voting.”
Al Klemm, also a GOP incumbent commissioner, said it’s not unusual for local Republicans to drop a commissioner candidate in an election year.
“It normally helps, at least I think it helps the Republicans against the Democrats because in preceding years, the last couple of elections, I think we’ve been able to elect two Republicans and hold our majority because of it,” Klemm said.
Klemm’s statements seemed to reach back to 2002, when the Republicans followed through on a strategy of dropping the bottom-ranking candidate after the primary election. That strategy was widely credited with giving the party a majority on the county board — a majority they’ve held ever since.
There was no indication Baldwin’s decision was hatched by the party, and for months reports have indicated she might withdraw, despite strategic advantages.
“I know she was contemplating it,” said Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party. “Last time I talked with her, she had not (withdrawn). Like I say, that would not surprise me.”