Listening to politicians making campaign speeches is tough — especially for two hours straight. But THAT is what your fearless blogger did for you Thursday night in Pinehurst at the Moore County League of Women Voters candidate forum. While you folks did much more productive things with your time during that two hour period, Team Haymaker™ was on the scene to make sure you got the RAW details — the info you NEED TO KNOW.
Moore County Board of Education: First up were the two school board candidates on November’s ballot — challenger Ben Cameron and incumbent Lorna Clack. Cameron is an insurance broker and a parent of a county second-grader, while Clack is retired from decades of service within the local public school bureaucracy.
Clack read from prepared remarks which informed us that the school board has left “no turn un-stoned” during their four year quest to improve public education in the county. (She also told the audience she favored “the British and European method” of something — I guess — related to education. I always thought that the British were European.) Cameron said he thought the school board was full of good people, but some new blood is needed. He didn’t offer up any real departures or areas of disagreement from the agenda of the current board. Cameron did say he thought the biggest issue facing public education was the need to get iPads into the classrooms. Clack said shes’ disappointed with “education cuts” and said they’ve hampered the county’s ability to properly educate its children. Never mind that my county government mole tells me the schools have about $8 million sitting in the bank un-touched. Never mind that the new superintendent has created and filled three new, six-figure salaried assistant superintendent positions.
Both candidates supported the idea of allowing “at-risk” kids to graduate with fewer credits than what has been required. The need to boost the graduation rate was cited. I didn’t hear a whole lot about the importance of (1) getting more money out of the central office and into the classroom or (2) making sure those diplomas actually mean something when those kids are sent out into the world.
Yep, those are our two choices in November.
Moore County Board of Commissioners: We got a chance to hear from Republican incumbent Nick Picerno and his Democrat challenger Ellen Marcus. Picerno highlighted the board’s achievements during his single term in office: shrinking the size of the bureaucracy, paying off debt early, cutting taxes and spending, and long-range planning. Marcus told the audience her priorities are affordable housing, fighting poverty, promoting literacy, and increasing public transportation.
In response to those comments by Marcus, Picerno offered what many considered the line of the night:
“All of that stuff she mentioned is nice to be concerned about. But the board of commissioners has only certain things within its jurisdiction. I’m here tonight to talk to you about things that I — as a commissioner — can actually do something about.”
Picerno cited his experience as an entrepreneur as what made him decide to run for office. He talked about his firm’s unsuccessful effort to build a new office in a Moore County town:
“All of the zoning rules and regulations pushed the cost of the project so high that it became no longer feasible to pursue. Our problem is that we have too many rules and regulations out there stifling small business and economic growth.”
U.S. Congress: I’ve already told you that incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers was too busy that night, raising money out-of town for John Boehner and Eric Cantor, to visit with us here in Moore County. Her opponents, Libertarian Brian Irving and Democrat Steve Wilkins, showed up to make the case for their candidacies. At times, it sounded like Irving and Wilkins were locked in a battle to see who could offend the most members of Moore County’s conservative-leaning electorate.
Irving told the audience that the country’s “perpetual state of war” is killing the nation’s economy. Those 535 people and their flunkies on Capitol Hill — and the guy at 1600 Penn — have a little something to with the mess we’re in.
Wilkins told the crowd he is running to help put an end to “political gamesmanship” in DC. He attributed our current economic troubles mainly to “far-right elements” who he says have obstructed federal government efforts to stimulate the economy and put people back to work. The Democrat also praised ObamaCare — suggesting that Congress stop trying to repeal it and start looking at ways to make it more effective.
Wilkins cited research & development funding as a key to getting the economy jump-started. He spoke about working with Republicans, but spent most of his time championing components of the Democrat and Obama agenda.
Irving started making me feel a little better when he started talking about the economy:
“Raising taxes and increasing government spending will give you more stagnation and more unemployment. We need to stop the wars, cut back the regulation, and stop the spending. The federal government is totally out of control.”