04/20/08 — Wayne Democrats gather to firm election battle plan

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Wayne Democrats gather to firm election battle plan

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on April 20, 2008 2:01 AM

The Wayne County Democratic Party's annual convention Saturday turned into a candidates' forum, with 18 candidates running for everything from state Senate to county register of deeds taking the podium.

Five of the six Democrats seeking the seat held by state Sen. John Kerr were present, along with a representative for the sixth. They all paid homage to the veteran lawmaker, then told the crowd of about 50 people why they would be the best person to succeed him in the 5th District.

Former Wayne Community College President Ed Wilson, former state Rep. Charles Johnson of Greenville, Director of North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care Chuck Stone, state Board of Education member Kathy Taft of Greenville, Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis and a representative for former state Sen. Tony Moore of Winterville all spoke about making the district, which includes parts of Wayne and Pitt counties and all of Greene County, a better place in which to live.

Wilson, who has Kerr's endorsement, said his 39 years in education would make him the best choice.

"We need to improve the quality of life so our children and grandchildren will want to stay in our district. ... We need a well-educated workforce. We need to pay our teachers... We need to do a better job with the dropout rate," he said.

Stone said he grew up in Kinston but came to Wayne County in 1973 where he worked for O'Berry Center for 31 years.

"We need affordable health care," he said, saying that the state is required to give prison inmates insurance. "And people who are hitting their alarm clocks and going to work every day, doing the right thing, don't have health care. I think we need to look at that."

He also said that if elected, he would address taxes, too much paperwork in the education system and help to bring good-paying jobs to the area.

Taft said, a Wayne Community College graduate, said she believes the Senate needs "new leadership and fresh ideas."

She added that her "experience, ability and passion to turn your ideas into action" make her the best choice for the seat.

Davis, the mayor of Snow Hill for the past six years, said his experience as a teacher also is a plus.

"I am still in the classroom today, Monday through Friday. I stayed in the classroom even though we are running a campaign. You need to understand what happens in the classroom because that's where it happens."

What the district needs, he said, is "leadership -- leadership that you can trust, leadership that you can believe in."

A representative for Moore said the candidate is focusing on two issues in particular -- affordable housing and good paying jobs.

District Court Judge candidates Will Bland, Charlie Gaylor and Chris Rogerson spoke to the audience about their experience.

A defense attorney, Bland said he spent six years working in the district attorney's office.

"I've had a lot of dealings with people in court. I will make sure people get a fair shake in court," Bland said.

Gaylor said he believes his 30 years working with "every type of law there is" would make him the best candidate for the job.

Rogerson said he has 11 years experience with "every type of case."

Chris Gurley and Sandra MCullen, who are running for the at-large seat on the county Board of Commissioners cited their knowledge of the county and its residents. Gurley said his business experience and work as a volunteer firefighter would help him serve. McCullen said she would work especially hard at improving education in the county. She is the current associate superintendent of the county school system.

Also speaking were county commissioner District 4 candidate Denny Tart and District 3 candidate John Bell, along with Superior Court judge candidate Arnold Jones, register of deeds candidates Constance Coram and Lois Mooring, Senate District 12 candidate Patricia Oliver and state House candidates Ronnie Griffin and Van Braxton.