GOP Primary to Decide State Senate Race
A three-way Republican primary May 8 will determine who will be Moore County’s new state senator since no Democrat filed.
Under redistricting enacted last year, Moore County has been moved from the 22nd Senate District, represented by Sen. Harris Blake, to the 29th District. Blake, a Pinehurst Republican, is not seeking re-election.
The 29th District includes all of Moore County and most of Randolph County. The incumbent, Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman, of Archdale in Randolph County, is seeking re-election. He faces two opponents from Moore County — John Marcum, of Pinehurst, and Tommy Davis, of Aberdeen.
Blake has thrown his support to Tillman. Both were first elected to the state Senate in 2002 and were seat mates for about eight years.
“I think he will represent us well,” Blake said. “I am not campaigning against anyone. I don’t know Mr. Davis. John Marcum is well-known here. Jerry is a good man, and I am happy to support him.”
Tillman has been promoting his leadership role in the Senate as majority whip and his increased clout since Republicans took control of the General Assembly two years ago. He has said that he can be a more effective representative for Moore County than someone new.
“For the last 10 years, I have represented two counties (Randolph and Montgomery),” he said. “Montgomery County is about 2-to-1 Democrats to Republicans. I gained their confidence. They know I could get things done for them. I will do the same for Moore County.”
Marcum, who has made two unsuccessful runs for mayor of Pinehurst, has stressed that Moore County needs its own senator, something it has enjoyed for the last 10 years with Blake.
“I think it is important for Moore County to have direct access to what goes on in Raleigh and in the Senate because of its explosive growth, as well as back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2014,” Marcum said. “We need to keep our Senate seat to meet our future needs.”
Davis, who is making his first run at public office after failing to get on the ballot as a write-in candidate for county commissioner two years ago, has portrayed himself as a “nontypical” candidate.
“I am not a politician,” Davis said. “I am like most citizens out here who have issues with the way government is operating.”
The following are short biographical sketches about each of the candidates and issues that are priorities in their campaigns, in alphabetical order:
Davis cited the defeat of a puppy mill bill in the General Assembly as the tipping point in his decision to run and said it is a prime example of what is wrong with the way the system works.
“I am an animal lover,” he said. “That caused me a great deal of anger. I think that was a travesty. If the good old boys want it passed, it is passed. If they don’t, it isn’t. There is a lack of communication between the legislators and the public.”
Davis said controlling spending is one of his top priorities.
“If we have that kind of revenue being generated, where is it all going?” he said. “Why do we have the debt we have? The General Assembly needs to manage the money much better.”
Davis was critical of Tillman and others in the Senate for not taking up House-passed legislation during the last session to cap the state gas tax in the wake of rising prices that threaten the fragile economic recovery.
“The General Assembly chose not to stop that tax from going up,” he said. “Sen. Tillman has said it was a mistake to let that happen, but he didn’t stop it.”
Davis said he has seen the need for improving education firsthand through his volunteer work as a tutor with Project Promise at Sandhills Community College.
“I see some students are ill-prepared to go to college,” he said. “This state has two options, as I see it. We can educate people or we can send them to prison. One is preventive. Both have costs.”
He said the state could put more money in classrooms and for teacher pay raises by reducing the administrative “hierarchy.”
Davis said he opposes the exploration and extraction of natural gas in the state by means of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
“Once the genie is out of the box, when the aquifer is contaminated, there is no way to put him back,” he said. “We need to conduct five to 10 years of studies to determine whether the practice is safe.”
Davis also said he favors term limits, a maximum of four two-year terms for legislators.
“If I am elected, I will stay up there no more than eight years,” he said. “We don’t need another five-term senator.”
He added that he is taking no special-interest money and has $10 in his campaign account.
“That way, when I am up there, I am not voting for anyone,” he said. “I am voting for Tommy Davis.”
Davis, 63, and his wife, Ruby, have two grown sons. He is a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church and is a Shriner and Mason.
He worked for his father’s contracting company, Tom Davis Construction, until his father died in 1999. He previously worked for 10 years in law enforcement — seven years as a Moore County sheriff’s deputy and three years as a Pinehurst police officer. He then went to work as program director for Moore County Child Support Enforcement before going to work with his father.
Earlier this month, Davis received attention when his wife on April 4 called Moore County 911 saying her husband “has been drinking and threatening to commit suicide.”
Police tackled Davis to the ground because his wife reported he might be armed and because he did not comply with officers’ orders to show his hands.
He was taken to FirstHealth Moore Regional for three days for evaluation and released. Davis has since said the issue was a misunderstanding, that police did not act properly and attributed his behavior to blood sugar imbalances caused by diabetes.
Davis said he has a degree in human services and is now working on a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and hopes to complete a master’s degree in public adminstration.
“Other than that, I am retired,” he said.
Marcum said he would bring “a special brand of leadership” and background in state and federal government, having worked for both Democrats and Republicans, as well as in the private sector in the aerospace industry.
He cited his work in national security, defense and economic development and at the State Department under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. Reagan appointed him to serve as the director of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
“One thing I learned from Reagan and my experience in Europe is that job creation depends much more on the underlying environment of taxes, education and regulation,” he said. “Job creation is a bottom-up process and a lot can be done to improve the odds of success.”
Marcum said the business environment in North Carolina is not good.
“Compared with all other states, we are well below the mid-point in the major categories affecting economic growth and jobs,” he said. “Specifically, we have the fourth-worst unemployment in the U.S., the highest state tax on gasoline, one of the higher corporate taxes and 20th worst total taxes, 20th worst K-12 education performance and, according to Civitas, the ninth-worst business climate and a $100 billion debt.”
Marcum said the Republican majority in the General Assembly has done little so far “to reverse the disastrous policies” of the past.
“There has been some progress on social issues, but tax and spend still is the name of the game in Raleigh rather than the economic reforms that were demanded in the election of 2010,” he said. “Taxes have been increased, and funding for some programs has been increased without a means to pay for it.”
Marcum added that everyone needs “to work together to make real progress in cutting taxes, including taxes on gasoline, reducing bureaucratic over-reach and regulation, and cutting our budget and debt through eliminating wasteful programs.
Marcum has also been critical of Tillman.
“As a long-term senator, he has been a part of the culture in Raleigh, where people ‘go along to get along’ rather than insist on real reform,” he said. “He even voted recently to allow a 4-cent-a-gallon tax increase in January.
“Clearly, in the upcoming election, we need to continue the cleansing begun two years ago. We need to replace long-term holdovers of both parties with newcomers who will focus on real economic change and job creation.”
On the issue of fracking, Marcum said, “If we can develop a complete regulatory framework, we should definitely pursue it. We need to have a set of rules that will prevent groundwater contamination. We need to develop all of our energy resources, but with fracking, we need to be very careful.”
Marcum has been a resident of Pinehurst since the late 1950s and has been active in civic affairs. He married Pinehurst native Bettye McCaskill in 1964. They have three children and four grandchildren. He is a graduate of N.C. State University.
He has been involved in efforts to protect what he calls the village’s historical significance and its designation as a National Landmark District.
Tillman said he is campaigning on his track record of being an effective representative for his district.
“I know how to get things done,” he said. “I have done it. I am not just talking about it.”
Tillman said his 30-year career in education gives him unique qualifications. He worked as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent in Randolph County.
“I have a pretty good feel for what needs to be done to improve education,” he said. “I understand those issues well.”
Tillman said community colleges are also a big issue for him. He served for 29 years on the board of Randolph Community College — including seven as chairman — before stepping down to run for Senate in 2002.
“Community colleges are also important in economic development because they can train workers quickly,” he said. “They are probably one of the best things this state has to offer.”
Tillman said the GOP-controlled legislature wiped out a $2.5 billion budget shortfall and cut taxes by $1.3 billion.
“But there is still more work to do,” he said. “We have regulations that are killing businesses and hurting job creation. I will do my best to make education dollars go further. We need to cut spending on programs that don’t get results. We’ve got more reforming to do. We also need to revise the state’s tax code.”
Tillman took strong exception to Marcum’s claim that he supported a 4-cent increase in the state’s gas tax. He said the Senate never voted on a House-passed bill that would have capped the tax earlier this year.
“The House voted on it and sent to us in the last few days of the session,” Tillman said. “It needed some work. We did not get a chance to vote on it.”
Tillman said he spent several hundred dollars to pay for recorded calls to be made to Republican and unaffiliated voters explaining his position.
“I favor capping the gas tax, but not at its current high level,” Tillman said. “I favor lowering it. In May (short session), I will work to bring up the bill, lower the tax and cap it.”
Tillman said he supports fracking, “with the understanding that we use the best technology, and that we study Pennsylvania and other places that are doing it. We’ve got some success stories. You’ve got to be careful of the aquifer, the water tables. And in this area, there’s a pretty big basin there. But I’ve supported that effort.
“We’ve got legislation that would make fracking legal, but we’ve got to put the safeguards in there. ... I do have environmental concerns. But everything we do, there are risks. You’ve got to weigh the rewards — the jobs and opportunities. Plus, we’ve got to have every source of energy we can get our hands on.”
Tillman, 71, earned a bachelor’s degree from Elon and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is active in the Lions Club and Archdale Friends Meeting (Quaker church). He and his wife, Marion, have three children and seven grandchildren.
Contact David Sinclair at firstname.lastname@example.org
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