Grantham Grange forum questions candidates for state, local fall races
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 17, 2008 1:41 PM
With the November election only about seven weeks away, more than 20 candidates for state and local races took time out of their Tuesday evening to present themselves before the nearly 40 to 50 voters at the Grantham Grange's political forum.
John Tart, a former Wayne County commissioner and state representative, served as moderator at a candidates' forum sponsored by the county Grange Tuesday at the Grantham Fire Station.
"I thought it was wonderful," said organizer and mediator Dr. John Tart. "This gives a last chance (for candidates) to get to know the voters, and a last chance (for voters) to get to know the candidates, and hopefully help them make the right decision."
Among the six candidates present from the school board and county commission races, each vowed to support a new high school for the Grantham community -- one of the questions asked by Tart -- although most also noted that it would have to come after the proposed middle school that is already on the county's to-do list.
* Democrat Kay Hagan, represented by her son Tilden Hagan
U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 3
* Democrat Craig Weber
N.C. SENATE DISTRICT 12
* Democrat Kay Carroll
* Republican David Rouzer
N.C. HOUSE DISTRICT 11
* Democrat Ronnie Griffin
* Republican Efton Sager
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS AT-LARGE
* Democrat Sandra McCullen
* Republican Hal Keck
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT 4
* Democrat Denny Tart
* Republican Steve Keen
SCHOOL BOARD AT-LARGE (NON-PARTISAN)
* Eddie Radford
* Ven Faulk
N.C. COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE
* Repulican John Odom
* Libertarian Mark McMains
DISTRICT 8 DISTRICT COURT JUDGE (NON-PARTISAN)
* Charlie Gaylor
* Chris Rogerson
DISTRICT 8B SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
* Jerry Braswell (incumbent)
* Arnold Jones
N.C. COURT OF APPEALS (NON-PARTISAN)
* John Arrowood (incumbent)
* Linda Stephens (incumbent)
* Douglas McCullough (incumbent)
* Kristin Ruth
N.C. SUPREME COURT
* Bob Edmunds (incumbent)
* Suzanne Reynolds
Swaying their position, each explained, is their support for the idea of community-based schools -- a sentiment shared by many in the audience.
"I think all the communities need one. We need to get back to the basics of small, rural schools," said Grange member Randy Coone, who listened intently to all the candidates' positions.
But while the candidates' support for a Grantham High School while speaking at the Grantham Grange might not have come as a surprise, one statement likely did.
Denny Tart, the Democratic candidate for the Board of Commissioners' open District 4 seat, announced that if he wins, he will retire from the school system.
He explained he was motivated to make the announcement after having been questioned several times about how he would balance his job as the director of career and technical education for the school system with his duties as commissioner, and whether doing both would be a conflict of interest -- although there's nothing to legally prohibit him from keeping his school job.
"I'm ready to retire," Tart said. "You vote for me, I'll retire and be your voice."
Beyond that, though, many of the candidates took similar stands -- to reduce spending or at least make it more efficient, to bring new jobs to North Carolina and Wayne County, to fight against unfunded mandates, to improve education, pay teachers more and better fund facility needs, to improve infrastructure and to protect the county's agricultural way of life.
The only time two candidates noticeably squared off against each other was when state House District 11 Democratic candidate Ronnie Griffin brought up statements made earlier this month by Republican candidate Efton Sager at a county commission meeting questioning the state's funding of early childhood education programs.
Griffin said that if elected, he would support the continuation of those programs, citing comments made by school Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor about their effectiveness.
But that didn't cause Sager to back down. He maintained his position that too much lottery money is going toward too many pre-kindergarten programs and not enough toward facility construction.
Perhaps the most impassioned speech -- and the one that created the biggest stir -- however, was given by Democrat Craig Weber, who is running to unseat Republican Walter Jones in the Third Congressional District.
Jones, Weber noted, was not in attendance.
"The lack of common sense the last eight years has severely strained the traditions of America," Weber said. "We are in deep trouble. Our economy has been abused. Our military has been abused.
"We need a bipartisan effort."
All in all, Coone said, it was an event worth attending.
"The candidates, they did really well," he said. "I learn something different every time I come to one of these."
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