03/07/04 — Wayne GOP delegates vote against same-sex marriage

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Wayne GOP delegates vote against same-sex marriage

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 7, 2004 2:03 AM

Wayne County Republicans took aim Saturday at N.C. Sen. John Kerr, County Commissioner Atlas Price and Gov. Mike Easley in this fall's elections.

But speakers at the annual GOP convention reserved their harshest words for the issue of gay marriage.

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. called gay marriage "the biggest threat we've ever faced to morality. It's bigger than Roe vs. Wade, bigger than taking prayer out of school."

The congressman continued, "It's putting us on the road to Sodom and Gomorrah."

Delegates at the convention voted unanimously to support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriages. They also called for the state of North Carolina not to recognize such marriages performed in other states.

Another resolution, also passed unanimously, was in support of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

By a 27-21 margin in a straw vote, the delegates chose former state party chairman Bill Cobey as their preferred gubernatorial candidate over Davie County Commissioner Dan Barrett. None of the other five GOP candidates received more than three votes.

The Republican Party registered 68 delegates at the convention, held at the Wayne Center Saturday morning. Around 80 people attended, slightly less than recent years, which party officials partially attributed to the filing period being delayed.

This year's elections will determine which party controls both the state House and courthouse, speakers said. Democrats hold slim margins on both the Wayne County Board of Commissioners and the N.C. Senate, while the N.C. House of Representatives is evenly split.

The state government has suffered a series of embarrassments, said N.C. Rep. Louis Pate. He cited recent news stories about prosecutors withholding information from defense lawyers and about the surplus sale of computers with personal information still on their hard drives.

Pate, of Mount Olive, blamed the absentee leadership of Gov. Easley.

"Can you imagine what we could do with a Republican Senate, House and governor? We'd bring good government to North Carolina," Pate said.

Several people suggested that Goldsboro's Sen. Kerr will be vulnerable this year, particularly if legislative maps are confirmed and he's left in the same district as Sen. Tony Moore, a Republican from Pitt County.

Moore made his first appearance at a Wayne County convention and spoke about his frustrations of working within the N.C. Senate controlled by President Pro Tem Marc Basnight of Dare County.

"A handful" of senators make decisions for the whole body, Moore said. He cited the addition of a $180 million cancer center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill to last year's budget, despite the absense of new money to pay for it.

Democrats hold a 27-23 margin in the Senate, so only three seats have to change hands to end Basnight's control, he said.

County party chairman Ed Wharton has been impressed by Moore's eagerness to take on Kerr, he said. "We're going to win this race and have two senators from Wayne County."

N.C. Sen. Fred Smith said Basnight has already garnered a large campaign fund to help Democrats win or keep Senate seats.

"We may not be able to match them dollar for dollar, but we have the issues and good candidates on our side," said Smith, of Johnston County.

Local offices

The convention also heard from Wayne County commissioners Andy Anderson and Efton Sager, the two Republicans on the county board seeking re-election.

The commissioners continue to face a number of issues, Sager said.

The board is concerned about the upcoming Base Realignment and Closure Commission's review and is planning new steps to protect the base from encroachment, he said.

The county faces mounting Medicaid costs, he said. The school system is requesting new buildings and renovations. And the state is mandating changes in the mental health system and seems to be planning some for the health departments.

"Lots of times, we have issues and I grit my teeth because I don't want to vote for either side," Sager said.

If people vote for Republicans they can be sure that their representatives will keep watch on their tax dollars, he said. "Andy, Arnold (Flowers) and I are fighting quite a battle for the proper use of your tax dollars."

Anderson said the county's most important job is to protect the base. "We'd be in a world of hurt without it. I don't know where we'd get the tax money without it," he said.

The commissioners have worked for the last few years to improve county services, he said. He urged the crowd to elect a Republican majority this fall.

Hal Keck, a Goldsboro real estate agent, would like to be part of that majority as the new at-large commissioner. Atlas Price, who now holds that seat, "hasn't done a lot wrong, but he hasn't done a lot right either," Keck said. "He's a spender and a taxer."

Chris West is making his first bid for office this year, running for register of deeds. He noted the controversy that sprung up last fall when the Democratic Party chose John Chance, a newcomer to the office, to replace Debbie Lane, who retired with 30 years-plus of experience.

"I want to get the register of deeds office out of the newspaper and bring back dignity to the office," West said.

West, a manager at Wilber's Restaurant, said his job experience would help him out.

"If I can manage all those women at the restaurent, I can manage all those women at the deeds office," he said.

The convention also heard from Greg Dority of Washington, who hasn't decided yet whether to run for the U.S. House's 1st District seat, now held by Frank Ballance, and from N.C. Rep. Billy Creech of Johnston County, who formerly represented Wayne County in the N.C. House.

Sheriff Carey Winders is not up for re-election this year, but he encouraged everyone to get out and vote anyway.

"We need to elect conservative Christian leaders who stand up for what's right," the sheriff said. "We need people who are upfront and honest, who will tell you what they're going to do and then do it."

Winders called President Bush "a leader with a backbone. ... We need to re-elect him, keep what help he's got and then send him some more."