Election Watch 2015: Race for Belhaven mayor heating up

BELHAVEN, N.C. (WNCT) – With election day just a few weeks away, candidates across the East are gearing up for races.

The race for mayor in Belhaven is heating up. There is a lot of uncertainty still surrounding the town as some fight to re-open the hospital.

Ricky Radcliffe, running as part of the Belhaven United ticket, is challenging current Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal, who has brought the town into the national spotlight with the hospital fight.

WNCT asked both candidates how they would describe themselves.

“I like to help people, I like to bring jobs into Belhaven, and I just like to treat people fairly,” Radcliffe said.

“Passionate, and someone who is going to do his best. And that’s what I’ve been doing,” O’Neal said.

One of the biggest issues in the town surrounds the fight to re-open Pungo Hospital. Both candidates said the hospital was important in the town, but Radcliffe said times have changed and rural hospitals have to adapt.

“I don’t agree with using the Belhaven taxpayer’s money to be involved in the hospital,” Radcliffe said.

However, O’Neal said without the hospital, the town will continue to struggle economically and in health.

“If we don’t have the hospital, we have people continuing to die with no emergency room, and we also have a situation of economic devastation here,” O’Neal said.

Both candidates said growing the economy is crucial in the town. Radcliffe said by making utility rates more competitive, it would attract businesses to the area. However, O’Neal said by reducing utility rates with nothing to make up the loss, it would only cause more problems. He called some of Radcliffe’s ideas impossible.

Both candidates also talked about the importance of tourism in town. They both called for more of a push to attract visitors, citing the town’s history, waterways and restaurants as possible draws.

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