10/09/08 — Democrats canvass eastern North Carolina

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Democrats canvass eastern North Carolina

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 9, 2008 1:57 PM


Emmett Perdue, left, speaks on behalf of his mother, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, during a Democratic "meet 'n greet" at Wilber's Barbecue Wednesday morning. Several candidates for Council of State were part of the group touring eastern North Carolina.

Looking to sweep into office as a team, the Democratic candidates for the Council of State, joined by several state judicial candidates, began their Wednesday swing through eastern North Carolina at Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro.

And though they were primarily the only ones in the room, few could contain their excitement about this year's election.

"We are the team that's going to be running North Carolina for the next four years," said incumbent secretary of state candidate Elaine Marshall.

Kicking off the morning, making her case for election then was Beth Wood, who is running for state auditor against incumbent Republican Les Merritt.

Pointing to her background as a certified public accountant, she explained that despite Merritt's time in office, she is more qualified.

"He is a financial planner, which in no way qualifies him to be auditor," she said.

By contrast, she continued, she has "15 years of experience in government auditing and accounting," including 10 in the state office, though she resigned in August to focus on her campaign.

But the real problem for the last four years, she said, has been the lack of focus on the real issues facing the state, such as the millions of dollars spent by the Department of Transportation on crumbling roads, and the millions lost by the state's health plan.

"I won't be running partisan audits. I'll be going where the risks are, not making a political name for myself," Ms. Wood said.

Following Ms. Wood was Ronnie Ansley, running for commissioner of agriculture against incumbent Republican Steve Troxler.

"I believe I'm forward-thinking, looking at what we need to do to move North Carolina economically and agriculturally forward," said Ansley, an attorney by trade and National Future Farmers of America Alumni president.

His focus, he explained, will be on growing North Carolina's bio-fuel industry and on improving the state's food safety by pushing for better product labels, including their farms of origin.

Most importantly, he added, he won't just sit in Raleigh.

"I believe the agriculture commissioner needs to get his boots dirty in every county, and I believe we need an agriculture commissioner who can bring everybody (agriculture and economic development officials) to the table," Ansley said.

Next up was Secretary of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who is running against Republican Richard Morgan.

"My opponent doesn't have any education experience. He is one who has driven by schools," Ms. Atkinson, a former teacher, said. "Public education needs a person who has been an education leader who knows what it's like to be in the classroom."

If re-elected, she explained that her No. 1 goal will be to increase the graduation rate by continuing to promote alternative high schools like the early college program and the STEM schools like Goldsboro's School of Engineering.

Beyond that, she wants to continue to work to promote literacy and the use of technology in the schools.

Finally, Ms. Marshall made her case for re-election, rebutting much of what her opponent, Republican Jack Sawyer, said during a recent Wayne County GOP Club meeting.

"I tell the truth," she said, when asked about the primary difference between her and Sawyer. "We run a very effective and efficient operation, and we manage our money very well."

Responding to his accusations that she had mishandled the 2006 incident in which the names, Social Security numbers and other private information of thousands of residents were posted online, she explained it was not a problem that they had created, but one they solved under budget.

She also explained that the reason they couldn't immediately redact the information was because state law did not allow them to alter public records until the General Assembly acted.

"We had to have the law changed," she said.

She also plans to continue to fight against counterfeit goods, and more importantly, to continue to make North Carolina "the easiest state in the nation to start a business."

Also speaking Wednesday morning were the judicial candidates.

Running in statewide, non-partisan elections, the candidates for the N.C. Court of Appeals and the N.C. Supreme Court are first urging people to remember to turn over their ballots and keep voting -- that casting a straight-ticket ballot will not mean anything in judicial races.

Acting, in part, as a spokesman for the group, incumbent Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn explained that the most important qualification for any judicial candidate is that they're fair and impartial.

"Polls in every state show that most citizens perceive or believe that justice is for sale," Wynn said. "That is something we have to dispel. We have to be fair and impartial. We can't come to this court with any agenda."

More specifically to his own case, he also said that he's running for re-election based on his years on the court. His opponent is Jewel Ann Farlow.

"I think experience is important," Wynn said, noting that the 15-member appeals court is one of the busiest judicial institutions in the state, issuing nearly 1,800 opinions last year on some very complex matters. "If you hear somebody say they're going to appeal, it's coming to this court."

Also running for re-election is John Arrowood, who, like Wynn, touted his experience on the bench as his highest qualification.

Running for an open seat on the appellate court, both Sam Ervin IV and Kristin Ruth held up their experience as their highest qualification, too -- Ervin, his time as an appellate lawyer and member of the N.C. Utilities Commission, and Ruth, her 10 years as a Wake County District Court judge.

Also challenging for a seat is Cheri Beasley, who is running against incumbent Doug McCullough.

Ms. Beasley, a District Court judge in Cumberland County, also explained that it's her time on the bench dealing with "the very cases that come before the Court of Appeals" that makes her the most qualified.

And finally, running for the state Supreme Court was Suzanne Reynolds, challenging incumbent Bob Edmunds Jr.

"I'm running because the Supreme Court in the business of clarifying the law, and as a professor (at Wake Forest University School of Law), that's what I've done," she said, adding that the court often cites her family law treatise anyway during its decisions. "I might not be a judge, but I'm not an entry-level candidate."

Also attending the breakfast session were local candidates John Bell, county Commissioners District 3; Bud Gray, county Commissioners District 5; Sandra McCullen, county Commissioners At-large; Eddie Radford, county School Board At-large; Ronnie Griffin, state House District 11; Van Braxton, state House District 10; and Don Davis, state Senate District 5.

Appearing on behalf of their candidates were Emmett Perdue, for his mother gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, and former commissioner of agriculture Britt Cobb for presidential candidate Barack Obama.