Write-in injecting partisanship in nonpartisan race
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 15, 2012 1:50 AM
Goldsboro's municipal elections have always been spared the divisive political climate associated with partisan races, but those non-partisan races based on local issues could soon be a thing of the past as the Wayne County Republican Party has thrown its voice and financial support behind a write-in candidate in the city's general election.
Bob Jackson, chairman of the county's Republican party, said he was well aware of an effort on behalf of Jerome Tew, a write-in candidate vying for Chuck Allen's District 5 seat, which featured mailed postcards paid for by the Wayne County Republican Party.
Jackson said he had no reservations concerning the practice and, in fact, said he wished all of the races were partisan.
"Then we'd know why people do what they do," he said.
He said the county's GOP is disappointed with the decisions the city has recently made concerning the Center Street Streetscape project, the Air Force Museum and city parks.
"People are hurting now and hurting bad," he said. "We need jobs like you don't know and they sit on the council and pretend things are hunky-dory and they're not. It's gotten to the point that they're not listening to the people of the city of Goldsboro."
In the District 5 race, Allen is registered as a Democrat while Tew is registered as a Republican, but Jackson claimed the GOP would not hesitate to financially back a candidate looking to unseat a Republican if its leadership felt the incumbent was not looking out for the needs and wants of the citizens.
"If there was a Republican that made the same decisions I would be doing the same thing," he said. "In the long run, party does not matter -- what you do matters, decisions you make matter, how much money you spend matters that belongs to others."
And if it sounds like those words foreshadow an increased partisan presence in non-partisan elections, it's because they do.
"We will continue to be involved," Jackson said, adding that this endeavor was a new one for the county GOP.
Gary Bartlett, executive director of the state's board of elections, said that not only is there nothing illegal about the partisan backing, it has become a growing trend, especially in larger cities.
"The purpose in the beginning was to try to have community involvement and less control by the parties," he said, but declining involvement by the community has led to parties filling the gaps. "I would say if you look at most of our major cities that have non-partisan races, you will see partisan activity like is happening here (in Goldsboro)," he said. "The biggest concern I hear is instead of trying to bring people together it kind of divides them."
Stephanie Kornegay, director of the Wayne County Democratic Party, said while her party has encouraged Democrats to run for certain offices in the past, her party didn't currently have intentions of getting more involved in the non-partisan races.
If the GOP continued to financially back candidates in those races, however, she said that position could change.
"We would revisit it at that time if they decided to go further with it," she said.
But as far as the District 5 race is concerned, Allen said last week he thinks the Republican Party has mislabeled him.
"They labeled me a liberal," he said. "I'm a lot of things, but not a liberal."
Allen noted that he has given money to Republican candidates in the past, adding that his party affiliation has no place in city politics.
"We're here and it doesn't matter if we're Republican or Democrat," he said. "It depends on what you're doing for the city of Goldsboro. We work together for the better of Goldsboro.
"I hope the people in my district who vote realize how hard I've worked for the district and will get out and vote. Hopefully they'll see (this partisan write-in campaign) for what it is."