GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — The ex-chairman of a local hospital board who resigned his position last year when his social media postings early during the COVID-19 pandemic got public attention will serve out the term of a North Carolina legislator who died. Gaston County Republican activists chose Donnie Loftis over two other candidates Wednesday to succeed the late GOP Rep. Dana Bumgardner. He was in his fifth term when he died almost three weeks ago. Loftis was chairman of the CaroMont Health board when he resigned after questions about some Facebook posts, including one that called coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders “tyranny.” Loftis is a former county commissioner and Army veteran.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The leader of the North Carolina House says the latest budget offer that Republicans sent to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper wouldn’t expand Medicaid broadly as Cooper wants. But Speaker Tim Moore says it does sweeten a previous proposal on worker pay raises. The legislative and executive branches are trying to hammer out a budget that Cooper would be willing to sign. The alternative would be for lawmakers to approve their own plan and try to override what would likely be a Cooper veto. Cooper is a longtime advocate of expanding Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of more people, but Republicans are divided on the idea.


HICKORY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina sheriff’s office wants the public’s help in finding a man who they accuse of impersonating a law enforcement officer. The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a teenage girl had been stopped on Wednesday by a man claiming to be an officer. According to a news release, the teenager asked what department the man was with and if she could see his badge. The man let her go. The Hickory Daily Record reports police in Hickory say a man roughly matching the description of the suspected fake officer stopped a motorist on U.S. Highway 321 in Hickory early Thursday.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack has granted North Carolina’s request for a primary county disaster designation for 12 counties after excessive rain and flooding from Tropical Storm Fred. A news release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office also says six additional counties were named as contiguous disaster counties. The designation makes farmers eligible for certain assistance, including emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, provided they meet eligibility requirements. The remnants of Tropical Storm Fred dumped several inches of rain across western North Carolina, resulting in flooding and landslides. It also damaged crops and farming infrastructure during harvest time.


BUNN, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina town finds itself under siege by buzzards, and nothing local leaders do to scare them off seems to be working. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the buzzards have chosen the town of Bunn as their meeting place. In December, the local high school fired a propane cannon day and night. The high school also hung effigies around its rooftop to keep the birds from swooping down to congregate. That didn’t work, either. One resident says she counted 58 buzzards in her yard, on her roof and on a fence.


STATESVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina sheriff’s office says a man has been charged with murder and arson in connection with the discovery of three bodies after a house fire. The Statesville Record & Landmark reports 21-year-old Corey Alexander Cook was arrested by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office and charged with murder and first-degree arson. A magistrate ordered Cook held without bond. The three people killed in the fire were identified as his parents and a brother, Cook is also charged with 17 counts of felony identity theft after an investigation revealed he used the victims’ financial cards to get money.


ANDREWS, N.C. (AP) — The National Transportation Safety Board says a private pilot and a passenger were killed earlier this month when the small plane they were in collided with pine trees in North Carolina. The preliminary report issued Wednesday says the single-engine Beech S35 was flying from Liberty, Texas, to Franklin, North Carolina, on Oct. 3 when the unidentified pilot diverted to Western Carolina Regional Airport in Andrews due to weather conditions. It later left for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and soon hit tall pine trees. The plane hit the terrain steeply with its nose low and came to a rest upside down. 

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