KINSTON, Lenoir County - Early voting begins Thursday and the race to be Kinston's mayor is one that is being watched closely.
Incumbent BJ Murphy is set to face off with two rookies in politics. Don Hardy and Ranard Teach will be on the ballot with Murphy, who has been mayor since 2009, becoming the first Republican selected for the post and the youngest in Kinston history.
"Downtown has experienced a renaissance, so nows a good time not to change but to put the gas pedal down and let's move forward together," Murphy said.
While Murphy isn't ready for a total change, his opponents are. Hardy, who works in law enforcement, feels compelled to bring the city together after what he saw during Hurricane Matthew last year.
"We have to keep the unity inside community so that we can move forward together in prosperity as our city still says," Hardy said.
Teach is a pastor and substitute teacher in Kinston. Working with children, he sees them grow up and leave town. He wants to change that.
"It's time to make some more implements, some changes so that our youth will be able to come back and make a good impact in our city," Teach said.
Early voting in Lenoir County and other locations where municipal elections are held starts Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and runs through Nov. 4.
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