Boot Wade, keep Barnes, Budd, Walker
By: Jim Longworth
The last midterm election we had was in 2014, and in that year, only 46 percent of registered North Carolinians turned out to vote, as compared to the 2016 election, when 67 percent of voters showed up at the polls. This year, Democratic candidates running in heavily Republican districts are hoping that normally apathetic voters will be energized by the #MeToo movement; by a Congress that is controlled largely by white, misogynistic men; by right-wing lawmakers in Raleigh; or by Trump’s own disturbing behavior, and they will show up at the polls in record numbers on Nov. 6.
Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping to hold onto power at the local, state, and federal levels. Given the space constraints of a newspaper column, I’m going to limit my focus to three congressional races, two state senate races, and two sheriff’s races. I’ll begin with the candidates for sheriff in Guilford and Forsyth counties.
I’ve never met Danny Rogers and know very little about him, except that he has 10 years of law enforcement experience, and has allegedly been embroiled in some financial and legal problems. What I do know is that BJ Barnes has been an outstanding sheriff in Guilford County for the past 24 years, and beyond that, I just like the man. I disagree with 80 percent of his conservative Republican politics, but I am 100 percent a fan of his ethics and honesty. A former Marine, Barnes is both tough and amiable, and he deserves another term as sheriff.
I have similar feelings about the sheriff’s race in Forsyth where Democrat Bobby Kimbrough is challenging Republican incumbent Bill Schatzman. Kimbrough appears to be a serious man who, as he told the Kernersville News, believes that “leadership saves lives.” Schatzman, a former FBI agent, has served as sheriff for 16 years, and during that time he’s been accessible to citizens and has tackled the county’s drug problem head-on. As with my pick in Guilford, I support Schatzman because I respect the job he has done.
All 50 of our state senate seats are up for grabs on Tuesday, and Democrats must pick up an additional six of those seats to break the GOP stranglehold over Governor Cooper’s veto power. I’m hoping that two of those net gains will come in the 27th and 30th districts. Republican incumbent Phil Berger of Rockingham’s 30th district is the big dog in Raleigh. Since becoming Senate President Pro-Tem, Berger’s handprint has been on every major piece of legislation, and on every major issue, from voter suppression to transgender rights. Who but Berger could stall and frustrate the courts by continuing to offer re-drawn districts that are gerrymandered for either race or party? Who but Berger could pull an end run around the Supremes by crafting Voter ID into a Constitutional Amendment after the court had rejected it as a bill? Berger has to go, and perhaps Jen Mangrum is the person to show him the door. Mangrum is a college professor at UNCG (full disclosure, I am a UNCG graduate and member of the alumni board), so education and workforce development are important issues to her, as is accessible, affordable healthcare. Berger is a solid favorite thanks to gerrymandering, but if Mangrum can inspire large numbers of women and young people to turn out, then she might upset the incumbent.
While Berger is drunk on power, those who do his bidding can be just as dangerous. One prominent politician described 27th district Republican Trudy Wade as someone who, “carries water for Berger.” In return, Berger gives Wade the latitude to introduce some really wacky, partisan legislation. Her attempt to re-align the structure of Greensboro City Council was described by former Governor Pat McCrory as “legislative overreach.” After all, state lawmakers aren’t supposed to meddle in local politics, but Wade didn’t get that memo. Fortunately, her ploy to stack the city council with Republicans and muzzle the Mayor, fell short. But that didn’t stop her from using her office to get revenge on the Greensboro News & Record, Carolina Peacemaker, and Jamestown News. Though she has denied any vengeful motive in introducing legislation that could cost local papers to lose tons of money, the fact remains that Wade’s so-called pilot program to allow counties to bypass the print media and post all legal notices on county websites targets only Guilford county newspapers who have never endorsed her. Voters may not care about the plight of local print media, but they should care about abuse of power, and cast their vote for Wade’s Democrat opponent Michael Garrett.
Last week on my Triad Today television program, I moderated discussions with candidates from three congressional districts. The 30-minute “Voter Education Special,” included a solo interview with 5th district Democrat DD Adams (incumbent Republican Virginia Foxx declined to participate) and debates between 6th district Rep. Mark Walker and his Democratic challenger Ryan Watts, and between 13th district GOP incumbent Rep. Ted Budd and his challenger, Kathy Manning.
Adams is a member of Winston-Salem City Council and a dedicated public servant who advocates for affordable healthcare, and who believes that term limits are needed for Congress. Foxx is a hard-worker, but she has been in lock-step with every hair-brained policy put forth first by George W. Bush, and now by Donald Trump. Foxx also misled voters into thinking that passage of Obamacare would create death panels for seniors. That was not only a false narrative; it was a cruel joke to play on the most vulnerable among us. Foxx has served seven terms, and it’s time for her to let someone else give it a try.
Ryan Watts is a business consultant from Burlington who favors more gun controls including a ban on assault weapons. He also favors a less restrictive immigration policy, and he supports a public option for healthcare. While I agree with most of his positions, and Lord knows I think we need more Democrats in the house, I’m not sure he’s got the gravitas to survive in D.C. just yet. On the other hand, two-term incumbent Mark Walker, a former minister and missionary, entered Congress with highly developed people skills, which served him well in building coalitions with members of both parties. Walker is also a great listener who has acted on constituent input to re-work legislation. Walker is a true, compassionate servant of the people, and he deserves a third term in Washington.
That brings me to the contentious 13th district race between first-term Republican Congressman Ted Budd and challenger Kathy Manning, an attorney from Greensboro. In past columns and on Triad Today, I have made it known that we need more women in Congress, and while I agree with Manning on almost every issue, she might not be the right woman at the time for this district. Two years ago, Budd wrested the GOP nomination away from a host of more seasoned candidates mainly because he had a half million dollars in D.C. PAC money at his disposal. Those funds allowed him to purchase lots of T.V. ads and build his name recognition in a way that his underfunded opponents couldn’t. Spilled milk. Budd, the owner of a gun shop and shooting range, is against a ban on assault-style weapons, and he is against Medicare for All. Yet, like Walker, Budd is a personable, humble man, almost devoid of ego, who is willing to listen to opposing views. He also handles criticisms with a smile instead of a snarl. When it comes to policy, Budd and I are polar opposites on most issues, and yet I think it’s OK to support someone you disagree with, so long as he isn’t disagreeable. That’s why I’m endorsing Budd for another term in Congress.
In the end, my opinions might not count for much, but your vote does, so please show up and be counted next Tuesday.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).