Candidates Sharpen Positions at Forum
Listen to Monday's candidates' forum. (Length: 58 mins.)
Undecided voter John Ruggles came to the state House candidates' forum Monday night in Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College looking for something specific.
"I was looking for somebody to tell me that they were going to represent me," he said.
Ruggles, a registered independent, said he thinks he found that candidate.
"Most (politicians) leave you feeling like they are representing a party," he said.
He's not totally decided yet, he said, but he did find the forum to be a "useful exercise," as moderator Steve Bouser said he hoped it would be at the beginning of the evening. The Pilot and Muirfield Broadcasting co-sponsored the event. Bouser is editor of The Pilot.
The forum featured all three candidates for the District 52 state House seat: Republican nominee Joe Boylan and his two unaffiliated opponents, Manila "Bud" Shaver and Gerald Galloway.
They answered questions from students in SCC President John Dempsey's political science class on issues ranging from the state budget crisis to involuntary annexation, schools and crime.
The candidates showed strong differences in opinion regarding involuntary annexation and social issues.
'A Bit Crowded'
Bouser began the evening by giving some background on how the evening came together. It started with Boylan's May 2 Republican primary defeat of Speaker Pro Tem Richard Morgan, who had been in the office since 1990.
"A relatively unknown ... took a notion that he could take on the most powerful Republican in Raleigh in his home territory and beat him," Bouser said. "And danged if he didn't in the primary -- with a little help from his friends."
Soon thereafter, Shaver, a retired U.S. Army general, decided to enter the race. He is a registered Republican. After Shaver entered, retired Southern Pines Police Chief Galloway decided to enter the fray. Galloway has spent most of his life as a Democrat, but he is currently a registered Independent.
None of the three has ever held public elective office.
The audience was made up of supporters of the candidates and undecided voters. It's estimated that between 250 and 300 people were in attendance. It will be televised 13 times before the election on Nov. 7. The first showing will be Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Channel 3.
The race reminded Bouser of a Princess Diana quote: "This marriage of ours has three people in it. It's a bit crowded."
"I'm not going to say which one is Camilla Parker Bowles," Bouser said.
Each candidate made a two-minute opening statement, had two minutes to answer each question and made a two-minute closing statement. The candidates had previously had a drawing to determine the order. By coincidence, Boylan drew first all three times.
Boylan said that he learned about the problems facing Moore County by knocking on thousands of doors. He said he also learned that Moore County needs a leader who will stand by his convictions.
"One of the ways I differ from my opponents," he said, "is I challenged the status quo. I worked hard and won a primary election."
The voters know where he stands, he said, and there will be no surprises when he takes office in Raleigh.
"I did not enter into this contest on a whim or spur of the moment," he said.
Galloway began by saying that he grew up in Lee County and has been in Moore County since the Southern Pines Police Department hired him in 1975 as a detective.
"I'm an unaffiliated candidate," he said, "and the main reason I am is because I choose to be that way. I come before you tonight because we deserve another option, another choice."
Galloway's campaign mantra has been "people before politics" and he continued to stress that in the forum.
Shaver said that his background in the military and working for 3M gave him the best of both worlds.
"I understand business and a few other things," he said.
He addressed the question as to why he didn't run in the primary.
"Basically," he said, "I was happy with the legislator that we had. I thought he was doing a good job for Moore County."
He was upset with outsider interference in the primary, he said.
Shaver pointed out that he has worked with the General Assembly in the past and actually helped state employees win a lawsuit against the state government.
State Budget Crisis
The first question of the evening had to do with the state budget problems.
Boylan said that state spending needs to get under control.
"The legislature has a crisis in spending discipline," he said.
He suggested something like a taxpayer bill of rights that would limit growth in spending. He also suggested cutting taxes.
"By decreasing taxes," Boylan said, "we can improve our overall structure."
He also mentioned pork barrel spending.
Galloway said that pork barrel spending was one of the problems. The state also needs to put more money aside for difficult economic times, he said.
"We need to develop some good old-fashioned responsibility and fiscal management," he said.
He said the state needs to close tax loopholes for large businesses.
Shaver said that the state tax structure is the same as it was in 1938.
"The state has a spending problem," he said.
The candidates were next asked their positions on involuntary annexation. This has been a controversial issue in Moore County, with Pinehurst attempting to annex Pinewild.
Galloway, who answered first, said he was not opposed to the state's annexation law, but that he would favor taking a closer look at the law and figuring out how to improve communication.
"It's a natural progression that we've been accustomed to for some years to annex and have those who are living on the peripherals to help pay for the infrastructure as it grows," he said. "And it's a common sense and practical approach."
Shaver said he thinks the statute should be looked at and improved. Cities should be able to grow in ways that agree with the population and avoid unorganized growth.
"There has got to be a solution to the problem," he said.
Boylan was the most vocally opposed to forced annexation. "I'm dead set against forced annexation," he said.
He likened it to the old Revolutionary War rallying cry, "Taxation without representation."
"It is more of a tax grab," Boylan said. "Municipalities who need more money, but don't have the courage to raise taxes on their own population. So they grab the tax base from people who have no voice. Absolutely wrong."
Paying for New Schools
The third question had to do with finding ways to pay for building new schools.
Shaver, who answered first, pointed out that a law was recently passed that allows private developers to construct buildings and lease them back to the schools. He said he would be for that in Moore County.
"There is another way (besides a bond) to do this, yes," he said.
Boylan said that he was familiar with the public/private partnership. He said he favors that because it allows schools to be built faster.
"A school that we could have built for $20 million back in 2000 is now going to cost $25 million to 26 million," Boylan said.
Waiting for lottery funds won't help, he said.
Galloway said he agreed that public/private partnerships were needed. He said the issue was how best to manage the cost.
"We cannot afford for education to fail," he said.
Candidates were then asked about what social issues are important to them.
Boylan made it clear that he would support an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
"The family unit is the cornerstone of America," he said, "and what makes this country so great."
Illegal immigration is a big problem as well, he said. He moved to North Carolina from southern California, he said, and saw firsthand how illegal immigration puts a burden on the system.
Galloway mentioned health care as the most important social issue.
"We need to work hard on the state level and not depend on the federal government to solve this problem for us," he said.
The economy is also a social issue, he said. Education leads to jobs, which feeds the economy.
"The best social program we can implement in this state is a job," he said.
Shaver said that the state is not living up to its responsibility to provide equal education for everyone.
"Thirteen percent of the people here in Moore County live below the government poverty level," he said. "The state, in my mind, has not addressed the problem."
The candidates were asked about what the state should do to address the acute shortage of qualified teachers.
Galloway said that the state needed a pay plan for teachers that provides for consistent raises every year.
"We need to strive to have the best pay in the nation," Galloway said. "Education is a critically important issue and we need to fund it appropriately."
Shaver expanded on the point by saying that the teachers are too far behind the national average.
"The problem is all the teachers just got an 8 percent increase, but they are still 9.3 percent behind the national average," Shaver said.
Retaining teachers under that pay scale is difficult, he said.
Boylan said the state needs to change its budgeting priorities. The state waits too long each year to adopt a budget and that causes schools to wait far too long to adopt their budget.
"Schools don't know how much money they will have in the budget," Boylan said.
Retaining employees isn't all about pay though, Boylan said. It's also about treating people with respect and dignity, he said. If you eliminate all the bureaucratic paperwork teachers have, they will be able to teach more and enjoy their jobs more, he added.
"(We need to let teachers) get to the job of teaching," he said. "Instead of filling out reports."
Safer Roads, Crime
The final question was about how the legislature could make North Carolina safer on the roads and from crime.
"They can stop the governor from taking $80 million out of the DOT trust fund," Shaver said. "The roads are deteriorated. It used to be the state with the best roads."
It goes back to the 1938 tax structure, he said. The government needs to reassign its priorities.
Boylan also said that too much money has been diverted from the Highway Trust Fund into the general fund.
"That's absolutely wrong," he said. "Taxes collected for roads and infrastructure should go to roads and infrastructure."
As far as crime goes, Boylan said that the legislature "tore the teeth" out of Jessica's Law by not requiring a minimum sentence.
Galloway said that educating the public and enforcing the law make the highways safer.
Police departments need to be funded, he said. The criminal justice system needs to be more effective to fight crime, he said.
"Any law we pass won't have much effectiveness to it unless there is effective criminal justice system," he said.
Boylan went first with his closing statement. He pledged to represent the county with honor and integrity. He listed the many endorsements he's received like those from Republicans at all levels of state politics, from state Sen. Harris Blake to U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr.
"My door will always be open," he said. "The phone will always be answered or your call will always be returned."
His relationships with other politicians will allow him to get things done, he said.
"On Nov. 7," he said, "if you want things to get done in Moore County, vote Joe Boylan for North Carolina House."
Shaver argued that experience matters. He's worked with the legislature for more than a decade.
"I'm the guy," he said. "I've done this before and now I'd like a chance to go as an elected official."
Galloway said that the contrast between he and the other candidates is that he is an independent.
"I come to you as something that Moore County has been striving for years," he said. "That's somebody who will listen to all people."
He said he is concerned with mainstream issues. He won't head too far to the left or right.
"I will listen," Galloway said. "I don't have all the answers, but you do. And we'll forge those relationships, a relationship of accountability and responsibility."
Bouser got the final word of the evening. He thanked the hosts, students, audience and candidates.
"We're blessed in my opinion," he said, "with having three civic-spirited, articulate guys. ... They've given us some choices."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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