Campaign events in Forsyth County last week highlighted why local politics is dramatic and riveting. You could witness dirty politicking, a jobs plan and a raw personal appeal. Have you heard? There’s a primary on May 8. Winston-Salem’s state Senate seat and at least three state House seats in Forsyth County are up for grabs. It matters to your future who gets elected, and believe it or not, it’s fun to see the candidates slug it out.
Great causes of equality?
Take Dr. Bruce Peller, a Pfafftown dentist who is locked in primary contest with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board member Elisabeth Motsinger for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx for the 5th Congressional District seat. In cadences that evoked Bobby Kennedy, Peller accused his Motsinger of a somewhat strange transgression at a candidate forum at Shiloh Baptist Church on March 31. “I stand before you today unexpectedly fighting for my own dignity because of my gender,” he said, reading from prepared remarks. “My opponent, Elisabeth Motsinger, has chosen to build a central thesis of her candidacy around her gender.”
A woman rose in the audience at a recreation center during a campaign event hosted by Democratic NC House District 72 candidate Ed Hanes Jr. to ask him to explain a forgery charge. Hanes was convicted of misdemeanor common law forgery as a student at UNC Chapel Hill in 1993, and completed 100 hours of community service and paid $60 restitution. Hanes seemed prepared for the question. “We make mistakes as children,” he said. “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.”
The Trayvon Martin shooting has cropped up in the primary campaign, with both Hanes and Democratic NC Senate District 32 candidate Earline Parmon drawing parallels between Florida’s “stand your ground law” and the “castle doctrine” law enacted by the NC General Assembly last year. “They picked up pieces of the Georgia and Florida law and simply placed it in legislation, and it became North Carolina law,” Parmon said at Shiloh Baptist Church. “I fought vigorously against that law. I spoke out against that law. And I will continue to do so.”
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Parmon’s primary opponent, James Taylor Jr. outline a four-point jobs plan. Boiled down to its essence, it calls for converting state vehicles to hybrids to save on fuel costs so that more money can be put in the highway trust fund for road construction, creating an internship program to help the chronically unemployed build resumes, establishing a “North Carolina made” program and investing in life sciences.
Fighting Big Oil
Wilbert Banks, who is also running for District 32, used much of his time to criticize subsidies to oil companies. Some in the audience appeared to wonder whether he realized he was running for state Senate rather than US Congress.
Speak up, stand up, act up
NC House District 71 candidate Everette Witherspoon highlighted a Democratic tradition of legacy politics and colorful rhetoric in Forsyth when he told the audience at Shiloh: “One person in particular invited me to the hospital and he told me that I better run. The person’s name was state Rep. Larry Womble. And he told me: ‘When you get to Raleigh, you better do three things. You better speak up. You better stand up. And, if necessary, you better act up.’ That’s what I plan to do.’”
Nuts in the donut
Democrat Gail McNeill doesn’t have to campaign right now because she doesn’t have a primary in her quest for one of three seats in Forsyth County District B seat. But she does have to convince a lot of people that she has a shot in the Republican-leaning district. “You’ll have to look at the crazy map to see what District B is, to see whether you’re in it or not,” she told the Shiloh audience. “It’s the donut. And speaking of nuts, that’s why I’m running. Not because I’m one, but because — although there may be some debate about that — I don’t think our positions are being well spoken to very clearly in the county commission.”
Hanes vs. Bonham
A community dialogue that included Hanes and Jimmie Lee Bonham highlighted the contrasting visions between the two District 72 candidates (a third candidate, Wayne Patterson, wasn’t present) on addressing east Winston-Salem’s historic poverty. Bonham proposed wage indexing, so that the minimum wage would increase with inflation. Hanes presented himself as a coalition candidate, and noted his ties to the Winston-Salem Foundation, which he said, “controls $300 million of wealth in this community and makes sure it gets implemented in key areas all over this town.”
Online voter guide
Yes, you need to research the candidates on your ballot. You need to know that early voting for the primary opens on April 19. You might want to learn where you can hear directly from the candidates. All this information and more is available at YES! Weekly’s online voter guide at triadpolitics.info. As they say about the right to vote, use it or lose it.