Picks and Pans for Election Day

by Jim Longworth

Election Day is just around the corner, so it’s time for me to sound off on a few races.

First of all, I can’t support anyone running for judge who brags about his or her endorsements by notable politicians from either party. Judicial elections are supposed to be non-partisan, at least that’s what the ballot intends. This time you will be asked to vote for four NC Supreme Court justices, two appellate judges, and a myriad of local robe wearers. Let’s keep politics out of the courtroom. Vote for the character of the candidate and not for their endorsements.

I would have supported the re-election of Rep. Jim Harrell III in NC House District 90, but young Harrell was just too closely aligned with Jim Black, and never wavered in his support for the beleaguered speaker. I don’t think Harrell’s opponent, Jack Conaway would be so enamored of Black.

I am proud to support Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes for re-election. Barnes has proven himself a great coalition builder, while remaining true to his core beliefs. The county can’t do better than BJ.

In Forsyth County, Sheriff Bill Schatzman deserves another term, if for no other reason than his handling of a recent teacher sex scandal. Schatzman stepped up to the plate, took responsibility for mistakes that were made in the investigation and showed leadership in bringing closure to the matter.

And speaking of Forsyth, I stand behind my friend Dave Plyer for a job well done. Plyer has been the voice of moderation on the Board of Commissioners, and we can ill afford to lose him.

There’s no other way to say this. US Rep. Howard Coble will trounce challenger Rory Blake. I am, however, impressed with Blake’s depth and demeanor. If Coble ever steps down, Blake would be a strong contender. I also applaud both men for running a clean campaign. Coble is a wonderful representative of the people who is not afraid to go against the Republican grain, and I think he should stay on the job.

Meanwhile, Mel Watt deserves our vote in his bid for re-election to the House. While I do not agree with all of his positions, Watt had the courage to oppose the War in Iraq from the get-go, and that makes him a leader in my book.

Next, I find myself in a precarious position in the 5th district. That’s because this column will be published on Wednesday morning, Nov. 1, prior to my hosting a debate between Rep. Virginia Foxx and Roger Sharpe later in the day.

The full debate will be shown this Sunday night (Nov. 5) at 10:30 p.m. on MY48 (Time Warner cable channel 15). And so, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this race in this column on this date. I will, however, state the obvious.

Foxx has the power of incumbency on her side, both in terms of name recognition and money raised. In that regard, Roger Sharpe faces an almost insurmountable challenge. Foxx has also worked hard for her constituents and proven that a freshman congressperson can get things done. I strongly oppose her unbending position on the war, but support her move to break with Bush on amnesty for illegals. I urge voters in the 5th District to watch the broadcast this Sunday.

On the other hand, I am not barred from commenting on the 13th District race between Brad “Bad Boy” Miller and Vernon “Grandstander” Robinson. Theirs has been the most contentious campaign in North Carolina, and voters are sick of it. But the fact is, if each of us could spend a quiet moment with Vernon, we would find ourselves agreeing with many of his positions (on illegal immigration for example) and enjoying his company. He is a pleasant, congenial person who isn’t afraid to defend his beliefs. Miller, on the other hand, has proven his propensity for coming unhinged when challenged by the media. His record in Congress is barely mediocre, and while Robinson is given to attacking political positions, Miller has a track record of engaging in defamation to get what he wants. Brad is the Democrat incumbent in a heavily Democratic district which he personally designed while serving in the state legislature. If anyone ever had an advantage, it’s Miller. But I can’t help but pull for Vernon, who is, at his core, a nice guy.

Congress may likely change hands this year, and that isn’t such a bad idea, given George Bush’s unchecked power to push his radical agenda. The question is, if that happens, who will keep check on people like Brad Miller?

To paraphrase the late actor Michael Conrad’s admonition to his “Hill Street Blues” cops, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Mainly, let’s be careful not to pull a straight party lever. Let’s be careful to think about each race and each candidate individually. And let’s be careful to make our selections based on the character of people, rather than the rhetoric of politics.

Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY48 (cable channel 15).