There is a lot of passion in the Guilford County Republican Party this year behind the idea of repealing the national healthcare reform legislation signed by President Obama, behind a sense that government has outgrown and needs to return to its constitutional bounds, and behind the perennial GOP drive to cut taxes and spending. Although most of the candidates were running for state office, grievances against the Democratic administration of Gov. Beverly Perdue were much less pronounced than expressions of anger towards the President and the Democratic Congress.
Loyalties to particular candidates, as always, depends in large part on geography and personal history. It’s difficult for me to get a read on which candidates are gaining traction.
First, a roll call of candidates and proxies in attendance, noting the absence of their opponents:
US House District 6: Challenger Cathy Brewer Hinson was present with a giant trailer parked outside bearing her likeness. Incumbent Howard Coble and challengers Jeff Phillips and Dr. James Taylor were represented by campaign staffers and supporters. Challengers Jon Mangin and Billy Yow were absent.
NC Senate District 28: Trudy Wade was present but left before the formal part of the program. Jeffrey Brommer was present. Robert Brafford Jr. was not.
NC House District 57: Jon Hardister, present (opponent Wendell Sawyer not).
NC House District 61: John Faircloth, Georgia Nixon-Roney and Paul Norcross present (Gerald T. Grubb not).
NC House District 62: Incumbent John Blust was present (challenger Michael Garrett not).
Sheriff: Incumbent BJ Barnes present (challenger Scott A. Jones not).
Guilford County Commission District 2: Myrene Stanley present (opponent Bill Bencini not).
John Blust, a conservative who has served in the NC House since 2001, has assumed the role of dean or ideological exemplar of the Guilford County Republican candidates in Guilford County. Sheriff BJ Barnes is also a revered figure in the party, but the uniqueness of his job description makes him less of a role model for candidates who are largely vying for legislative seats.
As he did at the Guilford County Republican Party Convention a week ago, Blust referenced movies in his stump speech. And as he did at the convention, the candidate characterized himself as a lonely fighter, equally committed to the struggle in difficult and favorable times. Two House candidates, Jon Hardister and Paul Norcross, mentioned Blust by name during their speeches and pledged to join forces with him.
First, some movie references:
I guess I take a certain approach to being in office. If you’ve ever seen the movie The American President — anyone seen that? — with Martin Sheen is chief of staff. Michael Douglas is the president. The poll-driven president, whose foundering and towards the end of the movie as he’s foundering watching the polls, his chief of staff, Martin Sheen, tells him: ‘Here’s an issue we ought to take on. We ought to ride on it. And it needs to be taken on.’ And the President says, ‘You don’t win elections by telling 69 percent of the people they’re wrong. You fight the fights that you can win.’
And I take the approach that Martin Sheen, the chief of staff, immediately says after that. He says, ‘You fight the fights that need fighting.’ And that’s what we have to do. That’s what we have to elect to office is people willing to take on a fight for what’s right, not just when the wind’s blowing our way, but when it isn’t popular.
And to use the movie analysis, I’ve been sent to the cooler a lot like Steve McQueen was in The Great Escape. And I’m willing to go to the cooler. I had my secretary fired, I was given an office a little bigger than a broom closet, I was removed from every committee because I got up and said something and wrote articles about what was going on in the House when I got there. It’s a simple as this approach to governing as Republicans ought to be: Do what needs doing.
Blust made the case that the first step towards achieving goals conservatives hold dear is reforming the legislative process itself.
And the first thing that needs doing — if you watched the healthcare debate — we have to fix our very institutions that are being taken from us by powerful politicians, and it’s the same way in Raleigh like Speaker Pelosi. The House didn’t want to pass that bill. The will of the elected representatives was reflected in their people and would have voted down that bill, except Nancy Pelosi has too much power and can get them in the backroom, make promises, cajole, threat and get your representative government to do what you don’t want it to do.
And we have to fix that first of all. We have to disperse that power in Raleigh. That’s where the corruption has come in — right there. And we’re not going to get the Taxpayer Protection Act, which I authored; we’re not going to get zero-based budgeting; we’re not going to get annexation reform; we’re not going to get a whole lot of these things until we break the power that’s in charge. And it’s amazing to me: They tell us we’re obstructionists. I file bills, other members of the House Republicans file bills — good ideas that would pass even a Democratic House if they could come up for a vote. The speaker blocks it. One man sticks it in a committee, tells the committee chairman not to hear it, and then turns around and calls us obstructionists.
And I’ll tell you: We have got to break that power. I have literature here. Read bills before you pass them? 1997. An editorial. What? Read the budget before you pass it? ‘Blust’s ideas for reform in vogue.’ Some of my legislation has been adopted with other legislators’ names on it. Just this morning, an article in the News & Record — Medicaid fraud detection software. The governor’s finally implementing it. I filed a bill in 2003 over a billion wasted dollars, and over seven years ago, and they finally got around to it. And if you keep me in office, we’re going to get around to a whole lot of things that need to be done to clean up this state and save you money.
Tonight was my first opportunity to hear House District 61 candidate Georgia Nixon-Roney. Her speech focused heavily on biography, qualifications and geographical ties.
My parents moved here in 1959 from Greece, and I was born in High Point, North Carolina. I’ve lived in Jamestown ever since they moved there when I was two. Being Greek, my parents owned a restaurant. I’m sure that’s no surprise to anybody. And another no surprise is that they had four kids just so we could run the restaurant for them. I began at age eight, and that’s the truth. I started washing vegetables and prepping work, and I haven’t stopped working since.
Currently, I’m mayor pro tem in Jamestown. It’s my second term on the Jamestown Town Council. I’ve always been interested in politics; as an attorney, I think that comes with the ground. But my children were at Millis Road [Elementary], which is where I went to school, and when it came time for them to approach middle school, I found that I could not put them in that particular school or any school that we were in the district for. So my kids now attend Wesleyan Christian Academy, which is a great school. But I don’t think it’s fair that my kids get to attend a great school, and many others may not be able to afford to do that.
I did run for the Jamestown Town Council, and won my first time. And as I said, I’m mayor pro tem. I graduated from law school in 1990, and I went to the district attorney’s office, where I worked there for three years, and then I started my law practice in High Point. A property owner. I’m a business owner, a mother, and I generally want to improve the quality of life for people in District 61, the area that’s so dear to me. My business is in High Point. I live in Jamestown. I have property in Sedgefield. My sister lives in Adams Farm. This is the area that I’m concentrating on.
And I’m keenly aware of all the issues that we face. And we all have the same values here. We all want the same improvements. But as an attorney, I understand the legal jargon. I understand how to close loopholes, how to introduce laws and bills that affect us. And we can do it more succinctly. I think that that gives me a little advantage. I think I can get up there and jump in with both feet, whereas it might takes someone else a little bit of time to get used to. I think I can do it efficiently.
It was also my first opportunity to hear Cathy Brewer Hinson, who is challenging Howard Coble for the US House District 6 seat:
There are three main points of my platform.
One is to stop the money flow to the executive branch.
The second point is the FairTax. I am strongly in favor of getting rid of every tax that the federal government gives us, which will bring businesses back to the United States. And the foreign companies will come once the businesses start coming back in because they’ll have no income taxes, no consumption, no compliance costs.
The other thing is that I would like to limit terms. I don’t think anyone should have a longer term than the president serves.
I would like to see bills written that so that you can understand them. They should post it online so that [inaudible] no junkets, no earmarks. I do not believe that the president should be able to have the right to have his executive orders stated without the approval of Congress. He’s written more of his executive orders than any other president, to date.
I would like to see that the people who are elected are not under orders of either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but they are answerable to we the people.
I would like to see everyone who is elected subject to recall votes every two years, so if you’re not doing a good job, the people can recall you and have you replaced. North Carolina right now does not have a recall vote. Some of our Democratic elected officials do not do the job they have promised. And we’re kind of stuck with them until they are reelected or their time is up.
I think that the people are stepping forward now, and wanting more of a voice. We’ve had our constitutional rights — First Amendment, Second Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment — are being compromised. We need to have less big government and more state government.
Sheriff BJ Barnes is probably looking past the primary to the general election. His Republican opponent, Scott Jones, faces pending misdemeanor charges related to an altercation with a deputy, but has mounted enough of a campaign to have signs dotted around Greensboro. Among the four Democrats on the ballot, retired US Marshal Harlon Costner might be the most viable thanks to his federal law enforcement experience and the fact that he has been campaigning since last fall. But in a year in which Republican turnout is expected to be high, it will be tough to beat Barnes, who already enjoys the advantage of name recognition and general popularity among the electorate.
As your sheriff — I’ve been your sheriff for about 16 years — I have responsibility for about 652 square miles, about 465,000 citizens. And we operate two jails and one prison farm. We have about 900 prisoners in jail we’re responsible for on a daily basis.
And we are the premier sheriff’s office in this state. Not only do I say that, but the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission said that twice. The National Association for County Organizations has said it numerous times. We have a sheriff’s office that you can be proud of. The men and women do a fantastic job. We have about 135,000 papers each year…. We’re responsible for making sure that you and your families are safe, and the people who need to go to jail have a place to go.
With that in mind, we try to make sure that we keep them there once they get there. We’ve had no escapes, which was unlike it was when I first came into office….
We’ve got a new jail that we’re building. What started out a $115 million jail, we’ve got it down to a $100 million jail at this particular time. And it is going to be a state-of-the-art situation. It’s the biggest project that Guilford County’s ever done. I want to make sure that it’s done right. Already, as I say, we’ve saved about $15 million off the cost of that jail. We’re going to hopefully save even more. But we’re going to have a great jail there that’s going to keep these folks off the streets who would normally be in your house because they are criminals and that’s what they do. I want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
Now, what can I do as your sheriff? Basically, I can set the standards. And we have very, very high standards as a sheriff’s office. Those standards that we’ve set there, those men and women that are working for you have had not even a hint of impropriety. While other departments around may have issues or problems that come up we don’t do that; we haven’t done that. And it’s only because we know who we work for. And who we work for is you.
I’m going to quote the other candidates more sparingly or not at all in the interest of time and space, and avoiding redundancy from previous reporting.
Jeffrey Brommer, NC Senate District 28 candidate:
I needed some help a few years back from the state government and the federal government, and there was no one there to step up and help me. I want to be your guy in government if you need anything…. So that’s something you can count on.
“Secondly, I’m a big proponent of the Tea Party movement that’s happening. It hearkens back to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the times back when personal liberties were top priority, lower taxes were the issue of the day, low spending and a balanced budget. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten away from those ideals. I’m in favor of getting back to those ideals. I think that’s something we should do.
Lastly, our state’s in bad condition. That’s probably the top reason why I’m running. Taxes, as you know, are way up. Our unemployment is up. We pay some of the worst taxes in the Southeast, which effects small business. Eighty percent of all jobs are created by small business. That needs to change. The Democrats have had their way in government in Raleigh, and by God it’s time to change something about that.
Jon Hardister, NC House District 57 candidate:
I decided to run for public office because we’re clearly on the wrong track. We have too much government. Taxes are too high. We’re spending too much money. Property rights are not being protected. And I’m against forced annexation as well. We’ve got a lot of work to do.
But I’ll tell you specifically about what I would like to see done in Raleigh. We need to lower taxes and lower spending. And we particularly need a Taxpayer Protection Act that will peg spending with changes in population and inflation. We need to put something like that into effect. And John Blust over here has actually introduced that before. That’s something we need to make happen.
Paul Norcross, NC House District 61 candidate:
Somebody has to bring jobs back into this area. Government does not create jobs; private sector people create jobs. And how you support the businesses that are already here and bring new businesses in is by decreasing the burden on taxpayers…. We’ve got businesses that are going into the tank because of a number of situations, but a lot of it has to do with our tax base. We have tax refunds that our citizens can’t receive because we’re broke. That’s the government using our money, and they can’t give it back to us because they spent it. We’ve got a billion-dollar deficit right now, and John [Blust]’s up there fighting the fight right now. We need more people to help him.
John Faircloth, NC House District 61 candidate:
In 1972, I left the Greensboro Police Department and went to the state of North Carolina and worked for the Department of Justice, and put together the first employment and training standards North Carolina had ever had for criminal justice personnel — that’s law enforcement officers or correctional officers. As the sheriff said, he’s got one of the finest if not the finest sheriff’s departments in many states. I saw them back in 1972. Sheriff, you wouldn’t believe some of the things I saw back then. We’ve come a long way.
I had a chance, in doing that, to take a statute that was adopted in 1971 and put together all of the amendments to that statute and all of the regulations flowing from that statute and worked it through the General Assembly and worked it through the administrative process in Raleigh. I have experience in that building down there, and I have experience in the process.
Triad Elections ’10