Candidates take questions at Bear Creek
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 21, 2012 1:50 AM
A candidate forum held jointly by the Bear Creek Association and the Goldsboro-Wayne chapter of the NAACP attracted more than 20 candidates for election to the Bear Creek headquarters on South Slocumb Street Friday evening.
There Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy NC, posed questions to the candidates about their views and plans if elected, with many of the questions centering on education.
Candidates mostly danced around confrontation with their opponents, who were seated next to them in some cases, but that didn't stop some from directly questioning incumbent policies or getting personal.
In the race for state schools superintendent, one of the more hotly contested elections this cycle, Democrat incumbent June Atkinson touted her record over her term, which included raising the state's graduation rate to the highest in history at more than 80 percent, but during closing statements Republican challenger John Tedesco said that wasn't enough.
"It's time for a change," he said, flipping Mrs. Atkinson's statistics to show that one in five students aren't graduating.
While education emerged as the theme of the night, candidates also used memory tricks, chants and rhymes to help their names resonate with the few dozen voters in the audience.
Board of Education candidate Dwight Cannon drew the occupation of his opponent, Ven Faulk, into the fray during his closing statements, saying that while he, a minister, had a license to marry, Faulk, the owner of Shumate-Faulk Funeral Home, had a license to bury.
Faulk, who is competing with Cannon for the District 2 seat on the non-partisan board, said the schools' changes in monitoring progress are evidence the system is adapting, while Cannon advocated for more vocational courses in high schools.
"Last I heard it's still honorable to be a plumber," Cannon said. "And we that are educated will pay a lot for someone to come fix our commode."
District 3 Board of Education member Thelma Smith, who sat between Faulk and Cannon, said putting an emphasis on care from teachers and parent involvement was the answer to fixing the education system.
Her opponent, Charles Wright, said he wanted to ensure each child in Wayne County arrived to school with the same "toolbox," to ensure each receives the same quality education.
He said opening schools up on Saturdays for remedial, enrichment and behavior modification programs and technology equity among the system's schools would allow each child a fair shot at success.
Eddie Radford, who is aiming to keep his at-large seat on the Wayne County Board of Education faces a challenge from current District 2 board member Len Henderson.
Radford said to decrease dropouts that difficult classes like Algebra I should be redefined to allow for more students to have success. He said he wasn't advocating for the classes to be easier, but didn't elaborate on what he envisioned.
He said those students sometimes end up at Wayne Community College, where they are easier, and raised once more the issue of increasing vocational studies in high schools, pointing out that plumbers make more money than teachers do.
Henderson said he wants the system to begin working with children more earnestly toward success at a younger age, focusing on keeping students in school beginning in middle school.
The candidates for the N.C. House of Representatives were asked about racial equality and the right to vote, which led District 10 Democratic candidate Jim Hardison to say that the state need only to enforce the laws already in place to cut down on voter fraud.
District 4 Democratic candidate Rebecca Judge, however, was more pointed in her remarks, saying the gerrymandering of districts, which she claimed gave an advantage to her Republican challenger Jimmy Dixon, had attempted to fix a system that wasn't broken.
"Several steps have been taken to disenfranchise voters," she said. "We know it's a racial thing."
Mrs. Judge, who is black, said she would fight to ensure voter equity no matter who the voters are.
Democrat Sandra McCullen, who is running to keep her at-large seat on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, was pressed about education and tax increases.
She said that during her term, the school system funding has remained steady and said she hopes grant money will help to make investments into technology she said she felt were paramount.
She also said the only way she would advocate for tax increases is if there was a bond referendum.
Ericka James, who is running for the seat of District Court Judge Lonnie Carraway, and N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Cressie Thigpen, who is running for re-election, were asked about publicly funded elections for judicial seats.
Thigpen said it was a way to assure impartial judges, and James said the most important aspect of an elected judge was independence, which can be threatened by money interests.
Other candidates who appeared and spoke at the forum included:
* N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Democrat, running for re-election
* N.C. Treasurer Janet Cowell, Democrat, running for re-election
* N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, Democrat, running for re-election
* Walter Smith, Democrat, running for N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture
* George Graham, running for N.C. House of Representatives District 12, which does not include Wayne County.
* Lenoir County Commissioner At-large Linda Sutton, running for re-election (two open seats)
* Merwyn Smith, running for Lenoir County Commissioner At-large
* Patricia von Cannon running for Lenoir County Commissioner At-large.