07/25/08 — Sager, Griffin ready for fall battle

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Sager, Griffin ready for fall battle

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 25, 2008 1:58 PM

With primary season over and neither man having faced an opponent, both candidates for the state House District 11 seat have begun gradually laying the groundwork for a campaign they expect will hit its stride by Labor Day.

"Our Web site is up, and we have all our signs, but we believe that it's not time to put them up, that it's still a little early," Democratic candidate Ronnie Griffin said. "There has been something of a tradition in eastern North Carolina to start putting signs up around Labor Day, and we're going to do that."

Sager, Griffin

That's also the plan for his opponent, county commissioner and Republican candidate Efton Sager. Although with three big signs already in the ground and magnets on his vehicles and those of his campaign manager, John Bell, he has already begun spreading his name around.

In the meantime, both men are working to build a strong base of supporters.

"We've been sitting down and talking to different individuals," Sager said. "We're trying to find out what people feel on the issues. We're especially making a point to talk individually to different business and community leaders.

"Every person is important. If you don't listen to what the people have to say, how are you going to represent them? We're going to be doing a lot of door-to-door and individual phone calls -- a little extra effort -- so people know they can trust me."

On the Democratic side, Griffin explained that he has spent the last few months setting up campaign committees in various communities throughout Wayne County, including in Goldsboro, Fremont, Rosewood, Grantham, New Hope and Mount Olive.

"Having run before, I learned so much," he said. "I found out you have to get the grassroots public involved."

But such efforts take money, and both candidates also have large fundraisers planned.

Griffin will hold his on Aug. 12 with guests including state House Speaker Joe Hackney and House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman. Sager will hold his on July 31 with guests including former Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Fred Smith.

"This campaign, to be quite honest, will be expensive," Griffin said, adding that he expects it to be a highly competitive race -- one reason so many high-profile legislators are already getting involved.

Griffin, 62, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who spent 38 years in the Marine Corps and in the N.C. National Guard reaching the position of deputy adjutant general, is running for the District 11 seat for the second time.

The Wayne County businessman first ran in 2006 against state Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne.

This time, however, Pate is not running for re-election, deciding instead to chase after retiring Democrat John Kerr's state Senate seat.

Running on the Republican side instead, will be Sager, 74, a retired U.S. Air Force first sergeant who served for 21 years and is currently in his fourth two-year term on the county commission.

But despite the district having been held by a Republican for the last eight years, Griffin believes he can win.

"I believe that they (Hackney and Holliman) believe there are some seats that can be picked up this year and that this is one of those seats. It also could be the only seat representing Wayne County," he said. "They know my background and my record. We're going to do a very grassroots campaign, and I predict that when the votes are counted, I'll be in the General Assembly."

However, because of the makeup of the district and the fact that he has held public office in the county for the past eight years, Sager is just as confident.

"I'm going to run the type of campaign I need to run, and hopefully the people will support me. I feel comfortable," he said.