Hanes and Bonham present different visions for NC House District 72

Ed Hanes Jr. (left) and Jimmie Bonham are candidates for the NC House District 72 seat being vacated by Rep. Earline Parmon.

Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall said he had considered running for NC House District 72 to succeed Rep. Earline Parmon, who is running for NC Senate this year. He ultimately decided to stand down from the state legislative contest and continue to serve at the county level.

Three younger candidates, Ed Hanes Jr., Jimmie Bonham and Wayne Patterson, are contending for the seat in the Democratic primary. Hanes and Bonham appeared before voters at the Carl Russell Recreation Center in Winston-Salem yesterday evening for a community dialogue hosted by the Hanes campaign. Patterson did not attend the event.

“I have been around a longtime and I’m surveying the landscape down there in Raleigh,” Marshall said. “I know it’s going to be very difficult to get anything done.” Considering that the Republican leadership is likely to shut Democrats out from committee appointments and decision-making, how would Hanes and Bonham handle themselves, he asked.

“Compromise is a dirty word these days,” Hanes responded. “What I want to talk about is strategic negotiation and the ability to communicate. The best thing we have going for us right now is that we are in a time where there is turnover coming in the General Assembly. The General Assembly is getting younger overnight. And I believe because I went to school with many of these folks’ children. I believe you have to do it through developing relationships outside of Raleigh, outside of that assembly hall. You have to do it through coalition building — real and meaningful coalition building…. I understand that there’s a mighty big beast down there. It’s like eating a whole cow. You can eat it, but you have to do it one centimeter at a time.”

Bonham charged that the Republican leadership in Raleigh is “trying to turn back the hands of time.”

“You work with the Republicans like you work with anybody where you have conflict and difference,” Bonham said. “Conflict is real. Conflict is apparent. It’s only two ways you can deal with conflict; it’s through education and intervention.”

Hanes noted that last year’s redistricting process has changed District 72’s demographic makeup, and has highlighted divisions of wealth and poverty that have been there all along.

“You’re going to have a situation now where what was rough looking at first is going to be worse looking now because you have this Buena Vista corridor in the district now,” he said. “You have Reynolda Road, all that Wake Forest [University] area over there now. You now have a situation where probably 70 percent of this district’s wealth is going to reside within a one-and-a-half or two-mile radius of RJ Reynolds High School.”

Bonham said the district needs to attract new jobs, and he proposed a policy to ensure that wages remain healthy.

“There has to be wage indexing,” he said. “That means when the cost of living goes up, wages has to go up.”

Hanes said he has the connections to build effective coalitions to bridge the gap between the two Winston-Salems.

“I was awarded the Echo Award by the Winston-Salem Foundation for what I have done in building bridges across this community,” he said. “The Winton-Salem Foundation controls $300 million of wealth in this community and makes sure it gets implemented in key areas all over this town. We have to have people who have those connections. We have to have people who sit on those boards, who sit with the people who are not in our community and can help push these issues forward when we get to Raleigh.”

The candidates both spoke about social justice but highlighted different concerns.
Hanes talked about Trayvon Martin, the slain Florida teenager whose case has sent shockwaves through the black community, and to a lesser extent through society at large.

“We need to look at this ‘castle doctrine,’” Hanes said. “This [North Carolina] ‘castle amendment’ is the same amendment Florida is calling the ‘stand your ground amendment.’ That is the amendment that has cost us the life of Trayvon Martin right now. We need to look at that amendment. We need to have people who serve on those committees look at these laws and determine how it is we can protect Americans, protect North Carolinians in a way that we can all stand for and all be proud of.”

Hanes proposed a seven-day “cooling period” after a citizen uses lethal force in which an interrogation would take place and the gun would be taken into evidence.

Bonham spoke to the past.

“This state has some wrongs that need to be corrected,” he said. “This state took men and women and children and they sterilized them. Do you know that? And now we have those victims who need to be somewhat repaired. So there’s a bill that’s legislation that’s in place right now as I speak to help repair. Now, we know $20,000 is not enough to repair someone’s life when they’ve been sterilized. But it has to start somewhere.”

Both candidates told voters they are committed to funding education.

“One of the problems in North Carolina [is that] a lot of money comes in for us — that is, African-American children — for us and because of us,” Bonham said. “But as the end user, we’re not getting the dollars. We’re not getting the services. So therefore we have a chasm as it relates to graduation rates. There is a chasm. There is a disparity as it relates to dropout rates. I understand how we can get North Carolina back on target as it relates to education.”

“I would focus on education because I understand the way out of our condition is education,” he added.

Hanes said, “When I go to Raleigh we have to look at opportunities to put that spending back where the Republicans took it. We’re talking about nearly $800 million that they’re planning to take away from education currently and going forward. And when people say that does not make a difference, they are absolutely wrong when you’re looking in the classroom and you’re looking at the reduction in teachers. When you’re looking at programs that are being reduced every single day for our students — students who are living at 20 percent of the federal poverty range. We have to put an end to that.”

Hanes said the legislature should look first to lottery funds to pay for education. He added that he supports charter schools, an initiative that is not popular with many longstanding Democratic lawmakers.

“That’s an ugly word in a lot of communities,” Hanes said. “I look at it as charter schools in our community might be what saves a bunch of our kids…. Our parents have to take control. We have to tell our children the truth. And then what we have to do is give our families the choice if the school system is not going to do it we have to give our parents the choice to go and find someone who will do it.”

Hanes said he is the only candidate in the race who is willing to talk about the marriage amendment on the primary ballot, adding that many in black community are afraid to engage with it.

“What we have to understand about Amendment One is that this is not a gay rights issue,” he said. “This is a families issue. This is a discrimination issue.”

Hanes charged that Republicans are using the issue of marriage as a wedge to split the black vote.

“We have to move as a community to be strong, to stand up and to not let the Republican Party use this issue as a wedge in our community and try to turn this into Ohio 2004,” he said. “Does everybody know what I’m talking about when I say, ‘Ohio 2004’? The Republican Party inserted the issue of gay rights into Ohio as a wedge in the black community because they know this is an issue in our community, something we don’t want to talk about.

“It’s something we try to deny,” he continued. “It’s something we try to say doesn’t exist. And they knew that if they put it in the churches that it would split our churches straight down the middle. They did it because they knew that the president at that time might win by the slimmest of margins if they could divide that black community and that black evangelical vote. And that is what happened. George W. Bush got a second term because we as African-American people in this country allowed that issue to divide us.”

Some rough politicking cropped up during the forum when a woman in the audience asked Hanes if he could explain a forgery charge. The campaign had already taken on a nasty tone when Bonham filed residency challenges against Hanes and Patterson. The Forsyth County Board of Elections ruled that they are both qualified to run for the seat.

Hanes remained composed and appeared to be prepared for the question.

“She’s talking about a charge in 1993 when I was a freshman at the University of North Carolina,” Hanes said. “This was a common law forgery charge. We make mistakes as children. I was a child. I humiliated myself. I humiliated my family. But I made my father a promise that day when I was arrested over at Duke University. I said, ‘If you will come to my defense one time, just one time, I will never embarrass you again, never embarrass this family again.’”

During the forum fliers with the criminal case information appeared on windshields outside of the recreation center inscribed with the word ‘thief.’

Hanes confirmed today that he was charged with felony forgery of instrument but convicted of misdemeanor common law forgery. He completed 100 hours of community service and paid a $200 fine and $60 in restitution.

Hanes drew applause when he said, “I went from Saul to Paul.”

“I was on my horse, there’s no question about it; I was doing everything I wanted to do,” he said. “I wasn’t paying any attention at all. And no question about it, the good Lord knocked me off my horse and told me to get my life together. And that’s what I did…. I would ask the folks to look at my record since I was 19 years old, look at my record of achievement. It is unmatched in this city among people my age. Let me talk about it for just a second since you asked the question. Since I was 19 years old since that arrest I graduated from the University of North Carolina with a 3.8 in my major. I rededicated myself academically. I received a full scholarship to Harvard University. They don’t give those away. I earned that scholarship.”

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