Forum Attracts 22 Candidates
Twenty-two candidates vying to represent Moore County at the local, state and federal level introduced themselves to voters at a forum Saturday at Sandhills Community College.
The three-hour forum, sponsored by Moore TEA Citizens, featured candidates running for U.S. Senate all the way down to the Moore County Board of Education.
They were divided into five groups, mainly by office, and were given five minutes to make their pitch to voters. Audience members asked a variety of questions during 10-minute question-and-answer periods that followed each group.
The races for the U.S. House of Representatives and state Senate have generated the most attention this election cycle.
Five Republican challengers are taking aim at incumbent Rep. Howard Coble in a May 4 GOP primary for the U.S. House. They all attended the forum. A lone Democrat, Sam Turner, of Salisbury, attended as well. He will face the GOP primary winner in November.
Coble, who has represented North Carolina’s 6th District since 1984, got many of the questions from the audience, which focused on his voting record and his effectiveness. Coble said he has been a stalwart of low taxes and touted the fact he turned down his congressional pension.
He said he recognized the anti-incumbent sentiment growing across the country.
“We live in a republic where voters have the right to make that choice. Even though you may not agree with a guy, you can still vote against him and still be friends,” he said.
One audience member questioned Coble on why he and Republicans “did nothing” with the majority given to them by voters during President George W. Bush’s first term, and why voters should give him and his colleagues another shot now.
“The gentleman’s right. We didn’t do as good of a job as we should have,” Coble said, referring actually to the 1994 mid-term elections. “We’ll try to do better this time. That’s about as good an answer as I can give you.”
Coble’s GOP Challengers
Coble’s Republican challengers at the forum included Pinehurst physician Dr. James Taylor; Guilford County Commissioner Billy Yow, of Greensboro; Cathy Hinson, of High Point; Jon Mangin, of Stokesdale; and Jeff Phillips, of Greensboro.
Taylor, the hometown favorite among members of the audience, received loud applause after his speech. Taylor has signed a bonded term limit pledge to serve only three terms if elected and is running on a “constitutional conservative” platform. He told the audience that he wasn’t “for sale,” unlike many elected officials.
“It is not too late to reclaim what I believe is our God-given right to live in a country by the people and for the people,” he said. “We still have the ability to turn our country around and have a system that serves us, rather than we serving it.”
Hinson, a teacher from High Point, said she began to become concerned about what was going on in Washington a couple of years ago. She said she began doing online research and determined that lawmakers were wasting time on certain legislation.
“[The Constitution], that’s the main thing that made me decide I wanted to run for this seat, because of the freedoms [that began to be challenged],” she said, adding that the Bill of Rights is currently under attack. Yow, who owns and operates his own small business and has served on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for 10 years, said his experiences in politics, making a payroll and working in the trenches with his employees have qualified him to run for Congress.
He questioned if his fellow candidates could actually “walk the walk” if elected, and considers reckless spending to be of paramount importance.
“In Congress, it is no time to play games today,” he said. “In case you have noticed, America is failing, and it’s failing fast, because of the Democratic Party and their poor leadership.”
Mangin, an information technology trainer, said he is in the race for several reasons, but his top priority is jobs and trade. He said he also wants to ensure that TARP funds are used appropriately, and said he’s committed to the pro-life cause.
“We can have all of the great economic policies, enterprising people,” he said, “but if we don’t have that (the pro-life cause) down pat, we don’t respect life and I see us going into another problem.”
Phillips, a financial adviser from Greensboro, said a lot of work still must be done in Washington and there is a short amount of time to get there. He said the direction of the country has shifted in a radically different direction at breakneck speed.
“The time is now,” he said. “We just can’t wait any longer. We can’t take the chance of staying on this course of spiraling unemployment, weakening economy, health-care takeover and the impending Social Security concerns that need critical and aggressive attention for the sake of our seniors and our future generations.”
Turner, the lone Democrat on the stage, is an Air Force veteran and a pilot for United Airlines. He said he was a conservative Republican until the George W. Bush administration, when he began to question his beliefs. He asked the audience not to give up on the Democratic Party just yet. He pointed to trade and losing jobs overseas as key issues.
“We do need to work hard to reform our free trade,” he said.
Blake/Morgan Face Off
The Republican primary for state Senate pits incumbent Sen. Harris Blake against former state House co-speaker Richard Morgan, two old allies turned adversaries. Morgan has challenged Blake to debates, and while the forum wasn’t a debate, it put them on stage together.
Blake said he wants to be part of a new Republican majority in the Senate. He said Republicans have a legitimate chance to take control of the Senate for the first time in over a century.
“I’m committed to this election because I want to move from [my] seat up closer to the front,” he said. “I want to be front row, or closer to the front row, so that I can be a part of what we’re going to have be dealing with next year when we start putting the budget together.”
A recent study ranked Blake 48th out of 50 senators for effectiveness.
He added that the state has obligated to its people more than they can pay for. He said that he believes he has served his district with honor during his nearly eight years in the Senate.
Morgan, who served Moore County for 16 years in the state House, said there’s “a lot of mess” to clean up in state government. Morgan filed an ethics complaint against Lanier Cansler, state secretary of health and human services, last week, contending there was a conflict of interest regarding the department’s awarding of two no-bid contracts to a client of Cansler’s former lobbying firm. He said Gov. Bev Perdue is responsible and that he wants to end “pay-to-play” in Raleigh. He said the only campaign promise he can make is to stand up to corruption.
“No government will ever be perfect,” he said, “but you should have a government that works for you. I’ve got the experience to do that.”
He said he would like Blake to say if he agrees with him or not on the Cansler issue. Blake did not address it at the forum.
Straw Poll Winners
The event’s organizers estimated between 150 and 170 people attended the forum. WEEB 990 AM radio broadcast the event live, and Dee Park, Moore TEA’s coordinator, said she’s received a lot of input from listeners as well.
“We were just delighted that so many people came, and we knew they were lots more listening on the radio,” Park said Monday.
About 100 of the attendees participated in an informal straw poll of the candidates in attendance. Because the poll only included candidates that attended the event, many of the races were unopposed on the ballot.
Of the U.S. House candidates, Taylor was the runaway favorite, garnering 56 percent of the vote. Coble finished second with 19 percent, followed by Yow with 16 percent. Phillips (6 percent), Hinson (2 percent) and Turner (1 percent) rounded out the group. Mangin did not receive any votes.
For the U.S. Senate, Asheboro City Councilman Eddie Burks (38 percent) edged out former state Rep. Larry Linney (35 percent). Incumbent Sen. Richard Burr, represented by Samatha Smith, his campaign communications director, finished third with 18 percent. Brad Jones, of Lake Toxaway, finished fourth with 9 percent.
Some audience members expressed their concerns about Burr’s lack of visibility to Smith. No Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate attended.
For state Senate, Blake was the clear preference among voters, getting 61 percent of the vote. Morgan received 39 percent.
Two candidates for the school board’s three at-large seats, Ed Dennison and Tom Jones, attended, but voters will get to choose three of seven candidates in the May 4 primary.
Other candidates present included:
n Johnnie McNeill, who opposes incumbent Charles Lambert for District III on the Moore County Board of Education.
n Incumbent Moore County Commissioners Cindy Morgan and Jimmy Melton, both Republicans.
n Moore County Clerk of Superior Court Susan Hicks.
n Steven Walker, a conservative who opposes incumbent Judge Rick Elmore on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
n Cathy Wright, a Chapel Hill Republican opposing Democratic Speaker Joe Hackney for District 54 of N.C. House, which includes a small portion of Moore County.
State Rep. Jamie Boles, who is running unopposed, was not present at the forum. His mother, Linda Parke, spoke on his behalf.
Contact John Krahnert III by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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