03/25/07 — Wayne GOP picks slate of delegates

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Wayne GOP picks slate of delegates

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 25, 2007 2:14 AM

A sparse crowd gathered for Saturday's Republican Convention at the Wayne Center, where two gubernatorial candidates were among the featured speakers.

No resolutions were introduced during the three-hour session. A slate of officers for the Wayne County party was approved.

Local attorney Billy Strickland, who had been recently named to assume duties as the Republican chairman when Ed Wharton announced he was stepping down, will continue in the role. Mark Corbett was named first vice president, with Carroll Turner of Mount Olive as second vice president, Dave Meador as secretary and Bob Jackson as treasurer.

Voted in as at-large members of the executive committee were Pat Graham, Roger Bedford, Sanford Korschon, Mike Kornegay, Phil Crouthamel, Woody Anderson, Ed Wharton, Willie Ray Starling, Gene Baker, Linda Brock, Don Clark and Iris Kilpatrick.

Thirty-six voting delegates attended the convention, according to Crouthamel. Thirty will attend the state convention in Charlotte June 1-3. Eight will attend the 1st District convention, scheduled for April 2 in Edgecombe County; 22 will go to the 3rd District convention in Greenville on April 14.

Sen. Fred Smith of Johnston County, who formally announced his candidacy for governor earlier last week, made it official in Wayne County on Saturday morning.

Calling himself a business man as well as a social and fiscal conservative, Smith said he had "reached a crossroads in my life and my political career. The state needs a leader who has the tenacity and courage to make decisions and get results."

He said it is important to make sure conservative values and visions are heard for the future and feels he understands the challenges ahead in the race for governor.

"I believe that my experience as a county commissioner, as a state senator and my public experience has prepared me to lead this state because we need a leader who understands that tough decisions have to be made if we're going to have an effective and efficient government," he said.

Among his concerns are safety -- in streets, homes and schools -- as well as improvements in the health care system.

"They're always going to have health care in the big cities, but it's in the rural areas like Pikeville, Fremont and Grantham that those people have to have their health care needs met," he said. "We have to make sure the decisions are made by the patient and the doctor, not the insurance company and the government."

Illegal immigration is another problem he would like to address.

"We have got to protect the traditions and the culture that have made this state great," he said, one being traditional marriage, which he defined as being "between one man and one woman."

Smith said he had introduced a bill to that end, but it needs to have the support of the public.

"If the leaders in Raleigh don't want to give the people a chance to vote on that, then we need new leaders," he said.

Bill Graham of Salisbury, also running for governor, touched on similar issues, particularly illegal immigration. He said the situation affects everyone, from the schools to the hospital emergency rooms to the county tax dollars.

The state also needs tougher driver's license laws to get illegal citizens off the roadways, Graham said, which drew supportive applause from the gathering.

Mostly, Graham noted, it is time for Republicans to band together and vote.

"This election coming up is going to be a watershed for us. If you don't win this time, the gate will be closed on you for another 10 years," he said. "It's not just about the next four years. It's about the next decade. It's about the party you're going to pass on to your children."

Rep. Louis Pate agreed.

"It's time for us to start winning these elections instead of losing them," he said. "This is a Republican county, and we need to get busy and bring these people into their party and let them know that there's a place for them in this party ... to get North Carolina in the Republican ranks."

Third District Congressman Walter Jones also spoke at the convention.

"This party is still the only hope and the best hope for the next generation but only if we go back to the principals of less government, which means less spending," he said. "The economy of this county needs a Ronald Reagan.

"We have got to go back to being the party who believes in America first and let the rest of the world take care of itself until we can get fixed ourselves," he said.

Where illegal immigrants are concerned, he said, that translates to "no amnesty to anyone." The comment evoked applause from the audience.

Not everyone heartily supported Jones, however. When Joe McLoughlin, a county commissioner from Onslow County, spoke, he presented a different view.

Referencing Jones being one of two Republicans last week who approved a bill that would soon stop funding the Iraq war and bring troops home in 2008, McLoughlin expressed a "growing dissatisfaction" with the congressman.

He agreed that Jones has done much for eastern North Carolina, except for what he called the No. 1 issue of the day, the war against terrorism.

"We feel our congressman has failed us," he said. "It's not enough to be known for renaming the french fry in the congressional galley, to sponsor bills that change different things ... If you don't support the fight, you're just creating more disabled veterans.

"This country never won a war by leaving the field to the enemy."