08/03/08 — Sager, friends host fundraiser

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Sager, friends host fundraiser

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 3, 2008 11:02 AM

Efton Sager and his campaign for the state House District 11 seat might have been the main focus of the evening, but to House Minority Leader Paul Stam, there is much more at stake than just that one seat.

To him and other members of the Republican leadership, the District 11 contest is a vital part of their quest to wrestle control of the North Carolina Legislature away from the Democrats for the first time in years.

"You've got to keep what you already have," said former House Minority Leader Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston, after the fundraiser at Goldsboro Country Club. "We can't afford to have our base eroded. We're looking for a seamless transition between Louis (Pate, R-Wayne) to Efton.

"We think we have a good chance here and we want to be sure we have everything in place."

Sager is running to replace Louis Pate, a four-term Republican representative who is running for the state Senate District 12 seat.

And, Stam, R-Wake, explained that based on what he saw Thursday in terms of turnout, dollars raised and campaign organization - emblematic of Republican efforts across the state - he's confident they will be successful.

"We're expecting. It's not wishing or hoping," he said. "The money is a little slow, but there is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of volunteers. They're much farther along right now than at this point two years ago.

The key, though, for the Republicans, Stam explained, is twofold - work together as a group and run the best candidates available.

Unfortunately, he continued, both of those were things not done well in 2004 and 2006.

Before, the state House Republican Caucus was split over leadership and legislative issues.

"In 2007 there was a lot more working together, voting together and helping each other," Stam said. "If you look at it district by district, the districts we're targeting are districts we should have won two years or four years ago, but because of particular circumstances, we blew it.

"This year it's a whole different attitude."

Because, if they can break the Democrats' 68 to 52 majority, then they get the chance to elect the speaker of the House and set the legislative agenda.

Calling the choosing of the speaker the most important vote of each two-year legislative period, Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, explained that it is from where "all other legislation flows."

"Efton Sager will vote for a conservative," he said. "If Ronnie Griffin is elected, he will vote for Speaker (Joe) Hackney (D-Orange), who is probably one of the most liberal representatives in the House."

And that, Sen. Fred Smith, R-Johnston, the evening's keynote speaker, would prolong the current situation where issues such as property rights, a defense of marriage constitutional amendment, vocational education opportunities, expansion of charter school programs, anti-abortion laws, the need to build infrastructure, the need to provide safe streets and lower taxes are all ignored by what he described as the "lazy," "entitlement-minded" policies of the liberal leadership.

Dollar also noted that even though Hackney is well-respected by both sides of the aisle, keeping the Democrats in power would do little to change a culture that has created the mental health crisis, this year's budget shortfall, a dysfunctional state Department of Transporation and the governor's mini travel scandals.

"In Raleigh it's like the red shirts are playing the blue shirts," Smith said. "The two teams line up ... and if you don't have enough people on you team ... you don't get your bills heard and you don't to be on the agenda."

Fortunately, he continued, Efton Sager, who has served four terms as a Wayne County commissioner, does not buy into the liberal agenda.

"Efton has the values," he said. "Efton's values are in alignment with the values of this district."

And those values are why many of those attending Thursday's fundraiser support him, using words and phrases like "honesty" and "a hard worker" to describe him.

"I know Efton, and when he speaks, people can believe what he says, and he will vote his promises," Dr. Tom Knutson of Goldsboro said.

And it's because of those opinions that Smith does not believe the national and state elections at the top of the ballot will have too much of a trickle-down effect - as long as conservative Democrats are not voting straight-ticket.

"I think we have to make sure people understand the local differences," Dollar said.

After all, Smith added, "at the end of the day, all politics are local" - they just need to make sure people make it out to vote.

"It all comes down to turnout. That's the biggest issue - who gets to the polls. This election is probably the most unsettled one I've seen since I've been involved in politics, and there's no doubt the Democrats will make a huge push. But if we get the vote out, Efton will be in the House.

"I think with what Efton has done for Wayne County, and the friends he has, and the quality of his service.... Elections depend on the quality of the candidates. The quality of the candidates is everything."