Belhaven write-in candidate beats councilmember by 34 votes. Who is she?
Published 2:30 pm Friday, November 17, 2023
With no prior experience running a campaign, and just eight weeks left before Election Day, Carrie Anderson Bonnie was unsure she would be elected as a write-in candidate. She decided to leave it in “God’s hands.”
Bonnie won with 27.79% of votes (or 112 votes). She received 34 more votes than incumbent council member Veronica Ward. Bonnie and current town council member Nathan Van Nortwick will serve as Aldermen East End. Bonnie received the second highest number of votes behind Van Nortwick who received 33.50% of votes (or 135 votes).
This was the first time Bonnie ran for an elected seat, and she decided to run eight weeks before Election Day.
Blame it on naivety, but she did not know how to file for candidacy for an election until after the July 21 deadline.
“I think it was being naive that ended me up in this position,” Bonnie said, “I had no idea. I’ve never been politically involved. I had no clue that I would have needed to register for this way back in the middle of summer…I was kind of naive. I really didn’t realize it was going to be that big of a deal,” she said laughing.
Bonnie is not the first write-in candidate to win in a Beaufort County municipal election. In 2021, Bath and Aurora had write-in candidates who won. Omar Bahhur won a seat for Town Commissioner in Aurora. Jim Caton and Scotty Mason won both seats for Town of Bath Commissioner, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Outside of Beaufort County, the Town of Everetts in Martin County had no candidates for mayor in this year’s election. As a result, Everett’s current mayor, Ray Deans, ran as a write-in candidate who won with just 12 votes.
Because Bonnie missed the deadline, she was automatically a write-in candidate. In North Carolina, municipal elections see more write-in candidates than general elections, Beaufort County Board of Elections Director Kellie Hopkins shared. In municipal elections, space to write a person’s name – not already on the ballot – is added.
Conversely, in general elections, a write-in candidate must create a petition and obtain 250 signatures from registered North Carolina voters 90 days before the general election, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Because Bonnie didn’t have to create a petition first, she could focus on her campaign which was entirely a grassroots effort. Several people who have campaign experience offered their help to her, she said.
She encouraged her friends to share her platform with five of their friends, then those friends were encouraged to share with five of their friends and so on.
“It was just word of mouth and good people doing a lot of work for me,” Bonnie said.
Bonnie describes herself as an introvert who finds self-promotion a challenge; therefore, instead of telling Belhaven residents about herself, she asked them to share their concerns. Their concerns became her platforms which included; preserving small town charm, fixing potholes, developing the waterfront, addressing flooding issues and improving communication between the Town of Belhaven, town council and residents.
Bonnie elaborated on her plan to improve communication between the town and its residents. She believes “community ambassadors” could be trusted sources throughout town who could share accurate information about decisions made and discussion had by town council members during meetings. Ambassadors would communicate with Town Manager, Lynn Davis, to provide residents with updates on on-going projects. Residents would volunteer to be ambassadors, if her plan is implemented. Bonnie would like to see about ten residents volunteer to be ambassadors.
Town ambassadors would help dispel rumors, alleviate fears and prevent overreactions generated by false information.
“When you’re not getting accurate information out to people, then you get inaccurate stuff and it just snowballs. Rumors start and everybody adds their thought to it as they tell the next person. Before you know it, it’s really blown out of shape,” Bonnie said.
Though she was active in the Belhaven community, she did not believe she “had a say in anything or any influence.” That belief motivated her to start campaigning for town council.
Bonnie said she saw a lot of good things being done in Belhaven, but “stagnant attitudes” also motivated her to campaign. Being that she recently moved to town, she felt she could see possible improvements better than neighbors who have lived in town much longer.
“I think when you’ve been somewhere your whole life, you kind of stop seeing some of the needs,” Bonnie said.
Five years ago, Bonnie, her husband Bo and Bonnie’s 34-year-old son, Corey Anderson, moved to Belhaven from northern West Virginia in search of warmer weather. Also, the flat land in Eastern North Carolina has been easier for Anderson to navigate as a young man with muscular dystrophy.
Bonnie is a high school graduate and retired business owner who had three businesses – a dental lab that made dentures and partial dentures for area dentist offices, a mobile photobooth and a formalwear consignment shop.