10/23/06 — Albertson will battle Arnett to keep his long-held seat

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Albertson will battle Arnett to keep his long-held seat

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 23, 2006 1:47 PM

Running for his eighth term in the North Carolina state Senate, Charles Albertson, D-District 10, is facing opposition from Pink Hill resident Adrain Arnett.

Arnett, a Republican who has never held public office before, said he is running for one reason.

"I don't know if I can break their hold, but nobody should run for office uncontested," he said. "That's what I want to do -- hold him accountable for his votes and make him stand on his record. Of course, I do think I can win."

Specifically, Arnett said, he wants to hold Albertson responsible for his stand against the marriage amendment during this summer's legislative session. Albertson was one of several senators who blocked the amendment from coming to a vote.

"Over 70 percent of the people in North Carolina are for it. More than 70 percent of the Senate was for it. It was a no-brainer. I think it should have passed," Arnett said. "I would stand for a marriage amendment to be put in the constitution, and I would do everything I could to make that happen."

But, Albertson said, he's not apologizing for opposing the measure, and any attempt to paint him as supporting gay marriage is wrong.

"My record is very clear on the marriage amendment. In the '95-'96 session we passed legislation that clearly says marriage is between a man and a woman and that we don't accept same-sex marriages from other states," he said. "We don't have a need (for a constitutional amendment). We already have a solid law on the books. We have a conservative Supreme Court and they're not going to challenge that law."

He also is not afraid to stand by the rest of his record, including his support for education, economic development and opposition to illegal immigration.

"We've made a lot of strides in the education of our people," Albertson said. "And we're going to continue to fund education."

But he doesn't support funding schools through the lottery, which he voted against.

Arnett shares Albertson's opposition to the lottery, but also believes that schools need to focus more on the basics.

One example, he said, is that children in first and second grade should not be using computers to perform everyday skills such as reading and arithmetic.

"They need to use their brains," he said.

He also opposed the emphasis schools have begun putting on Spanish language classes.

"Migrants are legal. Aliens are illegal. Because of them we make our children learn Spanish when they need to be learning English. (English) should be mandatory," he said.

Albertson, who also opposes illegal immigration, took more of a law enforcement focused view of the matter.

"We gave local law enforcement the authority to investigate, arrest and detain illegal immigrants," he said, referring, in part, to a bill passed this term requiring a person to have a valid Social Security number to obtain a driver's license.

"We did some good things to tighten things up, but a lot of the responsibility falls on the federal government," he said.

But that's not all he's proud of from his time in Raleigh.

He also cited the state's good business climate, good credit rating and strong fiscal integrity.

"When one considers all of our taxes, we're below the national average," Albertson said. "I think we're doing some good things for our people."

In terms of economic development, one of his keystones is the creation of an agrarian zone in Eastern North Carolina to help promote job creation in the more rural and less densely populated parts of the state. Such a zone would have helped Duplin County compete for more state incentives when Dole Foods was looking at a possible eastern site for a new freezer operation.

He continued, explaining that his renewable energy initiatives to develop biofuel within the state also would benefit Eastern North Carolina's agricultural economy.

"We can make a lot of ethanol here," he said.

For Arnett, however, the economic focus is on small businesses.

As owner and operator of Arnett Auto Center and Arnett Autosports, that is his background.

"I have a head for small business. I believe the worker has been forgotten. We have got to have somebody who understands the small businessman," he said. "We should not be liberal in our spending. We should never spend more than we take in."

But, the 56-year-old Duplin County native said, all of this starts with changing the culture of Raleigh.

"I'm sure I'm the much more conservative candidate. I think there should be less government in our lives, not more," said Arnett, pastor of the Faith Pentecostal Assembly. "I feel we still stand for the moral high ground. I really feel like we have to be in tune with the Judeo-Christian ideals."

It's that sense of change, he said, that makes him the best candidate to represent the 10th District.

"I'm not afraid to make decisions that are in the best interest of those whom I will represent." Arnett said. "My dream is people to realize their dreams unhindered by the old suits who have sat in Raleigh too long."

But, Albertson countered, it's precisely his experience that gives him the edge over Arnett.

In addition to his seven terms in the state Senate, the 74-year-old Duplin native also spent two in the state House.

From his home in Beulaville, Albertson began his stint in Raleigh in 1989 after retiring from his job as a U.S. Department of Agriculture plant health inspector and after 26 years of touring with the Charlie Albertson Band.

"I feel like I've gained a lot experience, and I have some influence to do some things to help move our state forward," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt that experience is very valuable.

"I think I have a great awareness of where our state is, what our needs are and how need to meet the challenges of the future."