Wayne Democrats choose Edwards
By Matt Shaw
Published in News on April 18, 2004 2:02 AM
Wayne County's three Democratic commissioners urged party members Saturday to rally support for their candidates this year.
"We need Democrats to get out to the polls, but that's not enough -- we need them to vote for Democrats," Commissioner Atlas Price said. "We've had way too many people crossing over, and we can't have that this year."
Commissioner John Bell called it "one of the most important elections of my lifetime," with local, state and national races all on the line. Turnout will determine the makeup of the county board, currently with three Democrats, three Republicans and one vacancy.
"If you want to keep Wayne County on the upswing, vote Democratic," Bell said.
More than 100 people attended some portion of Saturday's convention, held in the Wayne County Courthouse.
U.S. Sen. John Edwards won the local caucus of presidential candidates. Even though Edwards suspended his campaign weeks ago, he still drew votes from 72 voters, or just over half of the total.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee, received 56 votes, followed by the Rev. Al Sharpton with four, and Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich with two apiece. Three votes were uncommitted and another three could not be counted because of errors.
Democratic officeholders and candidates were invited to speak at the annual convention. The Republicans had their say at their convention last month.
J.D. Evans, the acting commissioners chairman, said that the county would make great strides if people could put aside their own interests and pride.
"We have the intelligence here in Wayne County, here in this room, if we could ever get away from our selfishness ... to develop a Wayne County that we could all be proud of," Evans said.
He added that he wasn't going to ask people to vote for him. "Vote for me if you want to," he said. "But if you want a better Wayne County, you keep us Democrats in office."
Bell thanked the convention delegates for their past support and kiddingly invited all attendees to move to the 3rd District before the elections.
The county commissioners have a lot of plans in place for the next year, he added. It's important to keep the Democratic incumbents in place.
After county party chairman Larry Jones make a joking reference to Price's long tenure on the board, Price quipped, "I may be old in body, but I'm young in heart and mind."
Price detailed his work with the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, a group representing all 100 N.C. counties. Price has been on the NCACC board and is now on its tax and finance committee. He also chairs the association's insurance board.
Those connections give the county access to the expertise of the association's staff, Price said.
Price also talked about the county's transportation committee, which has a growing influence on N.C. Department of Transportation's funding decisions, he said. "The state is paying more attention to our needs."
The commissioners have worked to help Seymour Johnson Air Force Base through its 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission review, he said. "We need to continue that support."
The crowd also had a chance to hear briefly from two other candidates for the county board. Both Mark Hood, who will challenge Efton Sager in District 4, and Roland "Bud" Gray, who's after the District 5 seat held now by Arnold Flowers, stood and introduced themselves. Both are making their first runs for office.
Register of Deeds John Chance detailed advances his office has made or is planning. By this fall, information about deeds from 1969 to the present should be available online, allowing most people with Internet access to do research without having to come to the courthouse. he said.
Chance is also planning to form a citizens advisory committee to monitor the office's work and suggest improvements or ways to improve efficiency, he said.
Former state legislator Phil Baddour Jr. spoke on behalf of Erskine Bowles, candidate for U.S. Senate.
"He's one of the best candidates I've seen in a long, long time," Baddour said. "He has a lot of knowledge about eastern North Carolina and Seymour Johnson. I encourage everyone to talk him up."
State Auditor Ralph Campbell and N.C. Sen. John Kerr also spoke.
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