By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 23, 2014 1:46 PM
State Sen. Don Davis, left, and challenger Tony Moore joke prior to the start of Tuesday's Democratic Candidate's Forum.
For a while Tuesday night, Goldsboro's $18.9 million recreation bond referendum threatened to turn a forum to showcase Democratic candidates into a debate on the bond's merits.
Questions about the bond, and a brief exchange between District 5 state Sen. Don Davis and challenger Tony Moore, provided about the only debates during the event.
Candidates said that Democrats are going to have to work hard to overcome Republican gerrymandered districts that have diluted their party's voter base.
"We have to get out and vote," said Virginia Conlon of Raleigh, a candidate for U.S. House District 13. "Every one of you represents someone that you know -- 10 people. You know 10 people. Ten people who maybe need to register to vote. Ten people who need a ride maybe to get to the polls.
"Ten people and there are 38 people here tonight that I counted. That is almost 400 more votes. So if you could just simply take someone to the polls with you, or call someone to come to the polls with you, or get someone to come to the polls with you, that would be the best thing in the whole world."
For the most part, audience questions tended to be long and rambling. Not unexpectedly, those questions mostly centered on the candidates' positions on Obamacare, an increase in the minimum wage, salary increases for state employees, voting, and leadership.
And not unexpectedly the candidates indicated support for those issues and sought to convince the audience they possess the leadership needed to get the job done.
Only 38 people, including eight candidates, showed up for the forum held at the Paramount Theatre and sponsored by the Wayne County Democratic Party and its Democratic Men and Democratic Women groups.
Davis and Moore were joined by Henry Williams II of Greenville, who is also seeking the nomination for the District 5 seat.
Theirs is the only local race on the May 6 primary ballot.
Also at the forum were Terry Light, candidate for district attorney, and Glenn Barnes, candidate for sheriff. Neither faces opposition in the primary
Ron Samyal of Raleigh, who like Mrs. Conlon is a candidate for the U.S. House District 13 seat now held by Republican George Holding, attended the forum as well. Also on hand was Erik Anderson of Winterville, who is unopposed in the primary. Anderson is challenging District 7 state Sen. Louis Pate, a Republican, in the November general election.
On several occasions moderator Agnes Batts had to reel in candidates when their answers to the questions grew long or personal.
She also stopped Davis as he attempted to rebuff comments Moore had repeatedly made during the forum.
Davis said that Moore was wrong when he said he was the only candidate with experience as an educator. Davis said he had many years of experience as well. He said Moore was wrong again when he said seniority does not exist in the Senate -- something Davis has pointed to as one of his assets.
But when Davis started to dispute Moore's accusations that his service as mayor of Snow Hill had left that town broke, Ms. Batts intervened to halt the exchange.
The evening began with a presentation on the Goldsboro bond vote that is on the May 6 ballot.
Felicia Brown, of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, gave a presentation that city officials have been making to government, civic and other group across the county.
Ms. Brown was questioned as to why city residents have to pay for the projects when non-city residents will be able to enjoy them without having to pay. Questions also were raised about plans for the W.A. Foster building. That building will be done whether the bond passes or not, she said. However, if the bond fails, the building's size would be scaled back. That prompted one man to question why the old building would be demolished and a new one built if it wasn't going to be any larger.
That is when Ms. Batts stepped in and suggested that questions about the bond would best be discussed at a separate meeting.
Ms. Brown was only at the meeting to make the presentation and had not been prepared to answer such questions, Ms. Batts said.