Moore County: An evening with the candidates

I spent my Monday evening — roughly 2.5 hours of it — taking in a candidate’s forum at Little River Golf Club.  (*Oh, the things I do for you people* ….)

We got treated to speeches and Q&A with most of the candidates who will be on the May 8th ballot.  Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Sheriff:  Embattled incumbent Neil Godfrey and challenger Ronnie Fields jabbed at each other.  Fields claimed morale at the department is so low that 100 employees have left since Godfrey took office. 

    Godfrey countered by saying that the actual number of employee departures during his tenure is only 85, which includes: 18 retirees, 2 deaths, 9 due to spouses getting new jobs that required moving, and 20 dismissed for disciplinary reasons.  

    “If morale was really that bad at the sheriff’s office, you’d think we’d have a lot of job openings,” said the sheriff. “We don’t. Right now, we’ve got a waiting list of people stacked up waiting to work for us.”

    Godfrey has been sheriff for five years.  So, if Godfrey’s numbers are right, that’s an average of 17 positions turning over each year he has been in office.   According to the FY 2017-2018 county budget, the sheriff’s department has funding for 152 positions.  According to the FY 2012-2013 budget — which included Godfrey’s first year as sheriff — the department was funded for 127 positions.  Since that time, funding has been increased for personnel in the jail and at animal operations. 

    During the forum, Godfrey was confronted with a question about “employing family members.”   The question was clearly alluding to the high-profile scandal involving Godfrey’s son allegedly consuming alcohol while on duty as a deputy.

    The sheriff confronted the issue head-on.  Godfrey insisted he did nothing wrong — pointing out that he got the OK to hire his son from the county commissioners.  He explained that his son was investigated by the SBI and charged.

    “He pleaded to a charge with a maximum penalty, set by the General Statutes, of a $100 fine,” said Godfrey,” He paid that fine, and has moved on.”

    Fields and unaffiliated candidate Steve Adams have made the issue of Godfrey’s son a major point in their campaigns.

  • NC Senate:  The evening also included  a few fireworks from candidates in another rough-and-tumble race: Republicans Michelle Lexo and Tom McInnis.

    “I’ve got an A-rating from the National Rifle Association,” said McInnis during his opening remarks. “I am sure my opponent is looking forward to sharing hers with you.”

    Later, McInnis revealed to the audience that the NRA had given Lexo a ‘D’ rating.  “If that’s true, and I don’t know that it is,” said Lexo. “It will be the first D I have ever received in anything.”

    I checked after the event.  And, YES, they have given her a D rating. I am not sure how they arrived at that conclusion.  I am willing to bet not too much gun-related stuff comes up before The Whispering Pines Village Council.

    The NRA website offers this explanation for a ‘D’ rating: “An anti-gun candidate who usually supports restrictive gun control legislation and opposes pro-gun reforms. Regardless of public statements, can usually be counted on to vote wrong on key issues.”

    Lexo is an NRA member AND a concealed carry permit holder.  I’ve heard her repeatedly say she is not in favor of any further restrictions on the Second Amendment.

    I am willing to bet this all stems from some shady GOPe operative in Raleigh sending a copy of that even-shadier mailer from the North Carolina Republican Senatorial Committee that hit our mailboxes last week up to the NRA offices.  

    “If someone is going to rate me as a candidate,” said Lexo during Monday’s event. “I sure wish they’d take time to actually talk to me.”

    The NRA has earned a reputation as an incumbent / establishment protection operation over the years. I’ll never forget them endorsing US Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) during a general election against a conservative Republican a few years back.  As Senate Democrat leader, Reid puked out a  whole lot of anti-gun rhetoric and advocated all kinds of gun restrictions.

    Perhaps this Senate race, like the Nevada race, is more about the NRA doing a solid for legislative leaders than standing on principle.

    The discussion shifted to other issues, with McInnis boasting about his influence as a chairman on some transportation-related committees.

    “With all that influence and power, I guess that is why Pinehurst has their railroad spur and Anson County has those billboards they need for economic development,” quipped Lexo.  (Neither of those localities have those things.  Both are bottled up in Raleigh somewhere.)

    And, speaking of The NC Republican Senatorial Committee — we got a question from the audience about that group.

    “I am a member of the party’s state executive committee,” said Lexo. “I donated to the senatorial committee.  And here they are using the money I gave against me.”

    McInnis defended his support from the senatorial committee. “I pay dues to the Republican caucus,” he said. “That money is for helping Republicans in a campaign. […] You take money and help from whoever offers it to you.  If you pick and choose, that gets to be pay-to-play. You either take all the money you get offered, or none of it.”

  • Bonds:  Oh, we do have bond issues on the ballot.  (Just in case you haven’t been beaten over the head yet by the aggressive PR campaign.) One issue is for some new schools at the K-12 issue.  Another is for a new nursing building at Sandhills Community College.

    A number of local officials were on hand to discuss the bond questions.  In response to a  question  from the audience, county commissioner Frank Quis admitted that there is no sunset date on the tax increase to be implemented to pay off the bonds.  County Commissioner Otis Ritter told the crowd the bond issue for the K-12 schools is the best option for the taxpayers.

    “These schools will be built,” said Ritter. “The bond is the cheapest way to go.  If the bond fails, it will hit the taxpayers a lot harder.  And no one wants that.”