10/19/04 — Democrats try to rally their supporters

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Democrats try to rally their supporters

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on October 19, 2004 2:02 PM

With two weeks to go before Election Day, Wayne County Democrats were in high spirits Monday night.

About 200 people turned out to the party's rally at the Wayne Center to eat barbecue, hear from state and local candidates, and say that President Bush's supporters should not rest easily.

"North Carolina is in play," said Courtney Crowder, political director for the John Kerry-John Edwards campaign.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

News-Argus/Matt Shaw

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper

But for the Democratic ticket to have a chance, Democrats need to ensure that registered voters get to the polls and understand their ballots, he said. "Voter education is just as important as voter mobilization."

People who want to vote a straight-party ticket need to know that they should vote separately for their presidential choice, Crouder said. Also, judicial, school board and other races are nonpartisan and also need to be marked separately.

He urged the Democrats to "roll up your sleeves for the next 14 days and take it to the Republicans."

N.C. Sen. John Kerr was even more succinct. "The hour is getting near. We'll either hang together or we'll hang separately," he said.

Banded together Monday were six Democrats running for county commissioner.

Commissioner Atlas Price reminded the audience that every county voter can vote for two commissioners: a district representative and the at-large, or countywide, seat. "That's where you'll see my name," Price said, adding with a laugh, "Don't pay any attention to the other name you see there, no mind at all."

The commissioners continue to work on protecting Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, he said. Price has served as chairman of a statewide committee of local government officials working on encroachment issues.

Mark Hood, running in District 4, said that he is a lifelong resident of the Grantham community who recently retired from Progress Energy. "I want to be a servant of the people and help my county," he said.

Roland "Bud" Gray, running in District 5, said that he has 48 years of experience as a firefighter and 45 years as a farmer, which has given him insight and business experience. He hopes that voters will remember "This Bud's for you," he joked.

Commissioner Jack Best, District 6, said that he hopes to fix some of the county's problems by being willing to speak out about them. "I'm trying to stand up and represent the voters of Wayne County," he said.

Commissioners J.D. Evans, District 2, and John Bell, District 1, attended but didn't speak because they're unopposed. The Democrats don't have a candidate in District 1.

One race that is being contested is for the register of deeds. Lois Mooring, the Democratic nominee, said that she is well-experienced and ready for the job.

"My life's work has brought me to this time and place," she said.

Working in the clerk of court's office has taught her the importance of careful, proper record processing and maintenance, she said. She also already knows most of the county's lawyers and their staff members, many of whom also frequent the deeds office.

If elected, she would try to ensure courteous, professional service for everyone who uses the deeds office, she said.

The rally featured two Democrats who are running against each other. Joe Hackett and Pete Gurley are the candidates for the school board's at-large seat, a nonpartisan race.

If elected, Hackett would be an advocate for teachers, he said. The school system continues to lose teachers to neighboring systems, not only for higher pay but because of a lack of support, he added.

He also would support a building program that's more modest than the $83 million package approved by the school board earlier this year, he said. "That would have raised your taxes 20 percent or more," he said.

Gurley said that the county commissioners have already declined to approve that package. "That's off the table," he said.

The school board and commissioners have worked together to raise teacher supplements, he said. And the school system is continuing to improve its end-of-grade test scores, he added.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said that he hopes to expand a DNA database as both a tool to convict violent criminals but also one to exonerate the innocent.