2020 Democratic Candidates

In the 2020 election in North Carolina, registered Dare County voters will cast ballots for the offices listed below. 

NC Senate District 1


Born and bred in Northeastern North Carolina, D. Cole Phelps is an attorney in Plymouth, NC, where he founded and now leads The Law Office of D. Cole Phelps, PLLC. In 2012, at age 24, Cole was elected to the Washington County Board of Commissioners, becoming the youngest county commissioner in North Carolina at the time. He was reelected in 2016.

Being a native of our region, Cole is personally familiar with the needs and characteristics of our communities. “Too often,” he says, “North Carolina taxpayers east of I-95 are forgotten by the General Assembly. They deserve a representative who will fight for their interests and be a strong advocate for building a vital rural economy.”

Cole believes the General Assembly has eroded the economy and infrastructure of Northeastern North Carolina. He wants to focus his legal expertise on fighting for economic development, agriculture, tourism, commercial fishing, small business, infrastructure, and education.

“Our current state legislature has abandoned its rural residents,” says Cole. “I understand how to champion our industries, small businesses, and families. I’ve seen how hard it is for our taxpayers to get adequate health care, affordable housing, and steady, gainful employment. At the same time, as the owner of a business, I know the challenges of meeting a payroll, paying business taxes, and building a successful business in a shrinking economy.”

During his public service, Cole has established a reputation as a champion for education. As the first member of his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, he is personally acquainted with the obstacles to higher education and the imperative to help first-generation college-bound students. He started the D. Cole Phelps Scholarship Foundation, Inc., which has awarded numerous annual scholarships to high-school students in eastern North Carolina since 2014. The scholarships are for both community colleges and four-year universities.

“We’re letting down our students and teachers by undercutting our traditional public schools and public universities.” Cole continued. “The General Assembly is systematically slashing funding to the UNC system, which dramatically increased my class size. Meanwhile, dedicated public school teachers across the state are spending money out of their own pockets to supply their classrooms. We can’t continue asking our educators to do more with less and expect the best and the brightest to stay in North Carolina. We cannot continue to sustain a world-class university system when the General Assembly continues to target the budgets of the UNC system, the community college system, and our traditional public school systems. This sends a destructive ripple effect throughout every rural community in North Carolina.”

Cole earned his bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2009. He received his Juris Doctor degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law, where he was honored with the position of managing editor of the Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Law Review. The university also awarded him the Floyd B. McKissick Award, which recognizes community service, leadership, and scholarship.

After college, Cole returned to Northeastern North Carolina to establish his business, create good local jobs, and contribute to his community. His expertise is in criminal law, small-business startups, family law, estate planning, and real estate.

Cole is eager to focus the General Assembly’s attention on the important issues that affect District One and all North Carolinians. “I also look forward to spurring the General Assembly to remedy the long-standing problems that hold back the potential of Northeastern North Carolina,” he says. “For too long, northeastern North Carolina has stagnated economically while urban areas have prospered.”

NC House District 6

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Tess Judge is a local businesswoman whose long career in hospitality management is matched only by her history of public service and charitable work within our community. Her decision to run comes from believing not only that “our people are our greatest resource” but also that they “deserve a tireless representative who will listen, be responsive to their concerns, and provide timely constituent services.”

Tess has the experience and passion to be an effective voice in Raleigh. She will advocate for what the people of Northeastern North Carolina deserve—more educational opportunities, more access to health care, and more money in their pockets.

Investing in education and job training will be important themes for Tess’s campaign. “For years,” she says, “we have asked our great teachers to do more with less and underfunded our schools and community colleges.” She continues, “I’m running to ensure that our investments in public education result in more opportunities for our students and a workforce trained for the jobs of the future.”

As someone who has operated small businesses in the community for years—through good times and bad—Tess knows how to manage a budget while also creating jobs. She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. With that combination of experience, she intends to “work with businesses, local governments, and community organizations to bring economic development and good-paying jobs to the area.”

Tess understands that fishing, farming, and tourism are vital to our district, and she will champion the protection of our land and water resources to ensure those industries remain viable and continue to sustain our economy.

In 2011, Tess and her late husband, Warren, were named Co-Citizens of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. She is involved in many volunteer and community organizations supporting children and older adults. She also currently serves on the Board of the Outer Banks Hospital and is Chair of the Outer Banks Hospital Development Council, among many more.

Born and raised in Charlottesville, VA, Tess moved here with Warren from Jamestown, NC, in 1989. She has four children and ten grandchildren.

Tess has taken on prominent leadership roles within her church and diocese. She now serves on the Executive Council of the National Episcopal Church and the Diocese of East Carolina.

Board of Commissioners, District 1

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Rosemarie Doshier has been a resident of Dare County for more than 42 years and have seen the changes that have taken place. I was approached years ago about running for commissioner but with me, family comes first and I did not feel the timing was right. With the children and grandchildren all grown, I felt that if I was ever going to run, now would be the time. With encouragement from my husband, a number of community leaders and year round residents, I felt this was the year.  I want to represent our communities and be open and available to the people who work and live in Dare County.

The experience I’ve had over the years in my employment, as an NC State Employee, and for the past 27+ years as a realtor on the Outer Banks has prepared me for this position. During my time in both of these positions, I have always been active and taken part in the legislative process and issues affecting our work force, residents, and way of life. For the past 27 years, many trips have been made to Raleigh and Washington, DC, to get support for our national, state and local issues. Meeting with our legislators on both sides has accomplished a lot of the goals we set. You have to have support from both sides and be able to explain why a particular issue is important to the people, not the party. This is an experience I feel I can bring to our local board of commissioners.

I have always been active in our community as a volunteer and fundraiser. Dare County is one of the most giving communities anyone will ever experience. Our children and our causes are very important to us.

Education of our youth is important to me. We need to be competitive with salaries for our teachers and see that they have the tools necessary to run their classrooms. We need to consider technical classes for the high school students so if they do not choose to go to college, they will have a trade when they graduate and will be ready to go out and work in the community.

Water quality is very important to our county. We need to find a way to clean our canals, cut the road sides, so the water will not stand and can flow freely. Standing water causes a lot of problems, and, as everyone knows, our water tables are very low. The majority of homes are on septic systems, and we need to be sure these systems are working correctly.

Offshore drilling would be a disaster to our area without any rewards. It’s not just failing oil rigs. It’s the noise and the old rusty rigs left abandoned. And there won’t be job opportunities for our residents: the offshore drilling companies fly their employees in and out of the areas they service.

Beach renourishment and open inlets are very important to me. Our tourism and fishing industries, both commercial and recreational, are what make us “The Outer Banks.” It is why people and businesses come and invest in our area. Along with this comes our national parks, which we must ensure stay open. We have some of the most beautiful parks in the country, not just on the beaches, but also on the mainland.

Redistribution of the sales tax is a very important issue we will face again. It is important that our county leaders educate other state leaders throughout the state on the importance of this tax to our area.

Board of Commissioners, At Large Seat


Ervin Bateman is distinctively qualified to represent both the business and the human interests of Dare County. Not only does he own and operate two well-known Dare businesses, he also has a long history of service—to the Town of Kitty Hawk and to people throughout the county who need special support.

Ervin strongly believes Dare’s greatest asset is the people who live and work within its communities. As the owner of the Sugar Creek Restaurant and the Sugar Shack Seafood Market and Restaurant, he annually employs more than 100 people in jobs that pay above the minimum wage. He also is an advocate of expanding the College of the Albemarle to include training for jobs and trades.

Ervin is a staunch proponent of Dare’s one-billion-dollar tourism industry and the commercial fishing that fuels so much of it. As both a licensed fish dealer and a concerned citizen, he well knows the threats posed by offshore drilling and fiercely opposes it.

In addition to being in tune with the business community, Ervin knows what it takes to be a public servant and a good steward of taxpayer money. He’s devoted 25 years to serving the Town of Kitty Hawk—as a mayor pro-tem, a town councilman, and a member of the Planning Board and the Recreation Committee. His public service also includes the Outer Banks Visitor Bureau.

Ervin’s allegiance to the people and prospects of Dare County stems from his family roots that go back six generations. He even lives in the same Kitty Hawk neighborhood his great-grandfather did.

His loyalty to the Outer Banks factored heavily into Ervin’s co-founding of the Outer Banks Relief Foundation. The charitable institution, which aids people facing debilitating disease or crisis, has contributed $1.6 million to people throughout Dare County. A reliable source of revenue for the foundation—and for the Dare Education Foundation—is the annual Outer Banks Marathon. Ervin is part of the marathon’s original organizing committee and a co-founder of Outer Banks Sporting Events. Both the marathon and other sporting events bring significant revenue to our local economy.

Ervin is also a fundraiser for Room in the Inn, a nonprofit, church-based program that helps the homeless in Dare County. As a grateful member of the recovery community, he is especially concerned about the lives being lost to the opioid epidemic. He supports Dare Challenge, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and is a member of the Saving Lives Task Force. As commissioner, Ervin will favor establishing a Drug Rehabilitation Court in Dare County.

“I want to be engaged in initiatives to make Dare County the best it can be,” says Ervin. He supports open roads and inlets (particularly Oregon and Hatteras inlets), beach nourishment, and open, responsive government. He also supports an Early College Program that allows high-school students to earn college credits.

Ervin intends to “work tirelessly for all the people of Dare County—for those who own businesses and those who make them run day after day.”

Ervin and his wife, Teresa, have been married for 44 years. They have one son, Jonathan, and attend Liberty Christian Church. For fun, Ervin enjoys water sports and boxing. He is also a runner and cyclist.

Board of Education, District 2

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Jen Alexander has long been an energetic and committed advocate for children. A licensed clinical social worker, she has worked with Dare schools as both a mental health consultant and a graduate teaching assistant. For the past four years, she has also served on the Executive Committee for the Parent Teacher Organizations at her two daughters’ schools.

Jen advocates for the “whole child.” Her goals are to foster resiliency and well-being in our communities’ children and work to ensure they can learn within a safe school environment.

Along with advocacy, Jen is committed to listening and transparency. She is eager to hear and consider what Dare teachers, students, and parents have to say. For her, maintaining open channels of communication is crucial to making the true stakeholders in our children’s education aware of—and able to influence—Board policies and decisions.

Along with her husband, Gary, Jen has resided in Colington for 15 years. Their daughters, ages eight and ten, attend Dare County Schools. Jen, herself, attended public schools throughout her life. She earned her Bachelors’ degree at Virginia Tech, where she double majored in Political Science and International Studies. She then gained her Master of Social Work from Radford University.

Jen is an involved parent, deeply invested in our schools. As part of the PTOs at her girls’ schools, she has raised funds for needed supplies, technological applications, and other resources. She has shown her commitment to advocating for children and the community, constantly striving to live by her alma mater’s motto, Ut Protism—“That I may serve.”

During her free time, Jen is active with her family and the two dogs and two cats they adopted. She can often be found cheering on her children, who dance, do gymnastics, and play softball, basketball, and soccer.

Register of Deeds

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Vanzolla McMurran has a remarkable history in the Office of the Register of Deeds—one that says volumes about her character, experience, and work ethic. She won her current seat as Dare County’s Register of Deeds in 2009, after spending 28 years working her way up through the ranks of the office.

Today, Vanzolla has 37 years of experience with the Register of Deeds office. She has mastered all the responsibilities required by the General Statutes of North Carolina. Specifically, Vanzolla ensures the integrity, completeness, accuracy, and safekeeping of all public records pertaining to Dare County. These include birth and death records, marriage licenses, powers of attorney, real-estate deeds, deeds of trusts, subdivision and survey plats, and partnership and assumed names. Her office also maintains Dare County Board of Commissioners’ meeting files, Dare County Airport Authority minutes, and military discharge records. And, she administers oaths to Notaries of Public.

During the past nine years, Vanzolla has kept customer service at the forefront of her priorities. She and her staff are dedicated to maintaining the office’s integrity and providing visitors—both regulars and first-timers—with prompt, accurate, and friendly service.

At the same time, and often with constrained budgets, Vanzolla has introduced and upgraded technologies that have kept Dare County at the forefront of registers’ offices across North Carolina. The marriage-license kiosk she introduced lets couples enter their personal information online and send it directly to her office. With weddings being big business on the Outer Banks, the kiosk goes a long way to ensuring couples have a simple, stress-free experience here. Vanzolla has also introduced new technology for scanning plats as soon as they’re recorded. In addition, she’s made it easier for people to review and scan vital records in the “vault” and see indexing information online.

Vanzolla is has been certified as Register of Deeds by the University of North Carolina Institute of Government. She is a member of the North Carolina Association of Register of Deeds, and her peers have appointed her to sit on the Vital Records Committee for the Register of Deeds, District 8.