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Election filing period to open Dec. 2

ASHE — After the 2019 municipal elections, all eyes have turned to the first Monday following Thanksgiving as the filing period for the 2020 elections begins in North Carolina on Dec. 2.

Filing begins at 12 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, and ends at 12 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, giving candidates in more than two dozen races from federal to county level a total of 15 work days to file.

As 2020 is a presidential election year, the primaries will take place on Tuesday, March 3, moved up two weeks from the 2016 primaries. North Carolina’s Republican and Democratic primaries will take place alongside a dozen other states in a day that is coined “Super Tuesday” due to the high number of states participating on the same day.

But North Carolina candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives might not be able to file on Dec. 2. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled in early November that the maps, last approved in 2016, violated the state constitution and encouraged the N.C. General Assembly to draw new maps, which it has since done.

On Nov. 20, the same three-judge panel ruled that it would hear the arguments for and against the new maps at 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2, just three hours before filing is set to begin. The court also ruled that filing cannot take place before it rules on the matter.

The proposed maps passed by the NCGA in an effort to comply with the ruling would reshape the Fifth District, which Avery, Watauga and Ashe have been in for years. If approved, the new maps would put Avery into the 11th District with most of Western North Carolina and shift the Fifth District southward, but keep Watauga and Ashe counties in the Fifth.

If the courts do not accept the proposed U.S. Congressional maps for North Carolina, the filing period for the U.S. House of Representatives would be delayed, according to the court ruling, and likely delay the primaries for those races.

In North Carolina, several federal and state offices will be contested in 2020. U.S. president, U.S. senator, N.C. governor, N.C. lieutenant governor, N.C. attorney general, N.C. auditor, N.C. commissioner of agriculture, N.C. commissioner of insurance, N.C. commissioner of labor, N.C. secretary of state. N.C. superintendent of public instruction and N.C. treasurer will be contested in partisan elections.

For Ashe County, the seats of Commissioners Paula Perry and Larry Rhodes will be up for grabs. At the November meeting of the Ashe County Republican Party, Perry announced she will be running to retain her position.

A number of N.C. Supreme Court, N.C. Court of Appeals, and N.C. District Court judges will also be up for election on partisan ballots.

Ashe County is located in N.C. Judicial District 23, which also serves Alleghany, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.

Currently, the N.C. General Assembly primaries are not listed on state election notices generated by each county. However, both N.C. Senate and N.C. House seats will be up for re-election in 2020.

The High Country was not affected by the court-mandated redistricting of the NCGA’s 50 state Senate and 120 state House districts. Ashe and Watauga remain N.C. House District 93 and Avery remains in N.C. House District 85 along with Mitchell and McDowell counties. In the N.C. Senate, Avery remains in N.C. Senate District 46 with Burke and Caldwell counties while Ashe and Watauga remain in N.C. Senate District 45 with Alleghany, Wilkes and the western half of Surry counties.

Ian Taylor contributed reporting to this story.

Energy assistance programs available through Ashe County DSS office

ASHE COUNTY — As temperatures continue to drop, energy bills steadily increase each month as residents of Ashe County seek refuge indoors from the frigid weather. A number of programs are available through the Ashe County Department of Social Services to assist with those costs.

The Crisis Intervention Program, which DSS began approving applications for on Nov. 19, provides financial help to households who are in a heating or cooling related emergency. Eligibility requirements are based on household composition and income. According to DSS, the income limit is 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The household must be in a heating or cooling related emergency and contain a U.S. citizen or other eligible member in order to qualify for assistance, Ashe County DSS said in a statement.

Applicants must provide verification of all household income and should bring the four most recent check stubs for all employed household members when they come into the office to apply. Due to changes in state energy policy, applications cannot be approved without this information, according to Ashe County DSS.

The federally-funded Low Income Energy Assistance Program assists families with a one-time vendor payment to help pay their heating bills. With an income limit of 130 percent of the federal poverty level, applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements based on household composition and income to qualify for assistance.

According to DSS, households must also be responsible for their own heating bills and cannot have resources totaling more than $2,250. The household must also include a U.S. citizen or other eligible member.

To apply for the LIEAP program, applicants can visit the Ashe County DSS office or have a representative apply on their behalf. When applying, applicants will need to know identifying information for all household members including name, date of birth and social security numbers.

Applicants will also need to bring verification of income for all household members for the month prior to the month of application and any information about savings accounts, checking accounts, property, stocks, bonds and other assets that anyone in the household may have, according to DSS.

During the month of December, priority will be given to households containing a person age 60 or older or disabled persons receiving a service through the Division of Aging and Adult Services. Applications will only be taken for those meeting the specified criteria during the month of December, according to DSS.

The LIEAP program begins Dec. 2 and will open to all applicants on Jan. 2. Applications will be taken through March or until funds are exhausted, according to DSS.

In their statement, DSS said that applicants must provide the vendor name and account number for their heating source, as well as their electric account number, adding that applications cannot be processed without that information.

Applications will be taken at the Ashe County Courthouse, 150 Government Circle in Jefferson. For more information regarding these programs, contact the Department of Social Services at (336) 846-5644.

WJPD: Pedestrian killed, driver charged after U.S. 221 wreck

WEST JEFFERSON — A woman from Jefferson who was struck by a vehicle on U.S. 221 at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, has died, according to the West Jefferson Police Department.

Kelly McNeil, 48, of Jefferson, was jogging along U.S. 221 on the shoulder of the northbound lane toward the intersection of U.S. 221 and N.C. 163. Velma Sparks, 56, of Piney Creek, driving a 2007 Toyota, was traveling northbound on U.S. 221 toward Lowe’s Drive. The vehicle failed to maintain lane control and struck McNeil, according to Captain Josh Hodges of West Jefferson Police Department.

McNeil was initially taken to Ashe Memorial Hospital by Ashe Medics before being transported to Johnson City Medical Center, according to Candace Barker of Ashe Medics. McNeil died Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Johnson City Medical Center.

Sparks was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle Friday, Nov. 22, according to WJPD.

McNeil’s family will receive friends from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, at Badger Funeral Home. The burial will take place in the Claude Mash Cemetery.

Baldwin honored before he leaves office

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25, a gathering at the Mount Jefferson Presbyterian Church in West Jefferson took the time to celebrate a man who has given his heart to West Jefferson, and his time to public service. They honored Mayor Dale Baldwin, whose 32 total years as mayor or alderman has coincided with the town’s growth and development into what it is today.

Baldwin’s time as elected official began in 1967, serving as a town alderman until 1977, and again from 1985-1989. Eight years later, he became mayor, serving until 2007, and again since 2011. However, there will not be another run for Baldwin, with him announcing he would not seek another term in July.

The celebration Nov. 25 was attended by many of the people who have worked with Baldwin during his time in office. Town aldermen, state Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Blowing Rock), state Rep. Ray Russell (D-Boone), Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell, former Sheriff Jim Hartley and Ashe County commissioners were just some of those who shared in the celebration.

West Jefferson Alderman John Reeves served as the emcee for the event, welcoming everyone before handing the microphone to Baldwin for him to specifically point out his family.

Reeves pointed out notable figures in the crowd before inviting Russell on stage to say a few words. Russell gave him a certificate honoring his time as a public servant. An intermission was then held, giving guests a chance to grab some hors d’oeuvres and mingle.

When everyone returned to their seats, West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price read two letters to Baldwin, both thanking him for his long period of service and his role in the town’s development. Ballard then stepped to the podium, thanking Baldwin for the warmth he showed her.

Baldwin’s good friend David Vanhoy, funeral director for Badger Funeral Home, spoke about the long time he and Baldwin have been friends. He joked about the pair’s opposing political ideologies and the times they have spent together.

Finally, Baldwin stepped back up to the podium.

“It’s hard to say how many friends you have when something like this comes up,” Baldwin said. “I really appreciate everyone for coming. All of this stuff they’ve said about me, it doesn’t happen on account of one man. It happens because of a group.”

He added that he has always had an interest in the town and the county, taking every chance he had to join or do something to help. He then thanked everyone for coming out again, and the event ended with 30 seconds of a standing ovation.