We’ve got an interesting dilemma here in Moore County. Our local paper is owned and operated by veteran Democrat Party fundraisers and strategists. This ownership group perfected its, ahem, craft for decades at The Raleigh News & Observer. After selling out for an extremely inflated price, they decided to bring their snake oil south to Moore County, one of the Tar Heel State’s most conservative counties. So, the citizens of a county — whose politics are thoroughly dominated by the GOP — are being subjected to a local newspaper with editorial content heavily influenced by lefty gadfly Chris “The Mad Blinker” Fitzsimon, BluePrintNC, and an all-star lineup of the, ahem, best-and-brightest of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro granola-and-patchouli caucus.
On Sunday, our thrice weekly local paper put out a vicious hit on state Senator Jerry Tillman (R), the majority whip, who is in his first term representing Moore County in Raleigh. The “assassin” — using verbiage very similar to that employed by The Mad Blinker and his henchpersons — did not even have the guts to sign his name to the hit piece. We, of course, were on the case to call BS.
It’s interesting that they ran that editorial on Sunday — given that Tillman was scheduled to be in Moore County on Monday to speak to the Republican Women’s Club.
Well, the senator DID stop by on Mondayt0 visit with Steve & Aaron on WEEB 990’s morning show in Southern Pines. Steve & Aaron hang out on the same side of the political spectrum as we do here. But they tend to be balanced out, somewhat, by news director Al Mangum — a recovering Democrat. WEEB’s morning show has quite a respectable audience here in this area. Steve, Aaron, and Al do manage to get together and generate some lively discussions and moderate some enlightening interviews every once in a while. Monday’s visit from the senator turned out to be quite informative. (You can listen to a recording of the interview HERE, or you can simply peruse my ensuing analysis.)
Relations with The Pilot. Tillman would not take the bait to go after The Pilot staff for their Sunday morning attack. Co-host Steve Leader offered up his two cents on Moore County’s thrice-weekly journalistic masterpiece:
“As far as The Pilot goes, I look at who they endorse and then go the opposite way. They’ve been helping me pick candidates for YEARS.”
Tillman did admit that he was rather perplexed by the harsh attack from the Southern Pines paper:
“I don’t get it. Last election, I was very experienced. I was the guy they wanted. They endorsed me, and now they don’t like me. And they don’t like my ball cap. I’m hurt. … The Pilot may not like me, but I love Moore County.”
The senator — a veteran of the political game — said he didn’t mind the rough-and-tumble nature of the business, but said he prefers substantial discussions versus attacks on people’s competence or ball caps:
“I don’t mind being attacked on an issue, if you’ve read the bill and are not just relying on innuendo. People are free to disagree and debate on the issues.”
Pay Day Lending legislation. Tillman said The Pilot and the other Democrats attacking his bill have got things all wrong. He told the hosts that the old policy of roll-overs that trapped people into long-term debt was wrong, and should have been abolished. Tillman said that the legislature, in its haste to end the payday lending business, left some issues unaddressed:
“Options were taken away from people who were seriously in need. Last year, 40 thousand people went onto the Internet or out of state to seek these types of high-interest loans that just kill people with a cycle of debt. The black market was out there as an option, too. Though they might break your legs if you borrow from them. Why not bring something back to help these people, and address their needs, that has some teeth and is tightly regulated?”
Tillman said that his legislation only allows for a charge of $15 per every $100 borrowed. One can only borrow a maximum of $500 in a 30 day period. A borrower MUST pay off an entire outstanding loan amount before taking on a new loan. (This policy will be enforced via a state-run database of borrowers — paid for by the lenders themselves.) At the end of a 35-day period, if a borrower cannot pay back his loan, he or she can seek a payment plan stretched out over a 3 to 4 week period, with no extra fees. Tillman said:
“This is a poor man’s bill, a working man’s bill … These [lenders] were not breaking the law before. They were merely following the poorly-crafted laws put into place by the legislature at that time.”
Tillman noted that the old lending rules — which allowed for the rollovers and the high interest rates — were put into place in 1997 by a Democrat-controlled Senate that included current Senate Democrat leader Martin Nesbitt and current Attorney General Roy Cooper, both of whom are currently taking to the media to bash Tillman’s legislation. Both men voted FOR those old rules. Cooper was a major source for The Pilot’s Sunday hit piece.
“This legislation will bring reputable jobs to North Carolina, and it will give some extra options to people who are having a tough time in this economy. We should not be about taking away choices for people. We should be about opening up choices for people so they can find solutions that suit their needs.”
Fracking. Tillman said he is on board with allowing the procedure in our state — with the inclusion of plenty of protections:
“It’s a very sensitive issue for Moore County and Harnett County and some other areas in the state. A good bill with some good safeguards built in will go a long way toward boosting our economy and creating some much needed jobs. We are far too dependent right now on some folks overseas who don’t like us too much.”
Tillman said he is not worried about new rules that strengthen DENR’s hand in state regulation of energy exploration. He said he believes the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, under the guidance of secretary (and Pinehurst resident) John Skvarla, is “in good hands.”
Other legislative priorities. Tillman said he thinks voter ID needs to happen YESTERDAY:
“I am not just for voter ID. I am for a PHOTO voter ID. Some people have talked about allowing some other things to be used as ID. I am not for that … We’re going to pass something here soon.”
Tillman told his interviewers that he will continue to push his legislation that (1) ends public financing of judicial races and (2) brings back partisan judicial elections.
I am glad that I had options for getting my news about the North Carolina legislature. If I had to rely ONLY on The Pilot’s op-ed page, I would have been convinced that Senator Tillman was some kind of backwoods ogre out to ruin the lives of young soldiers and the working poor.
I learned a whole lot more listening to this interview than I did from reading that slimy editorial in Sunday’s paper. I guess from now on, if I want what Paul Harvey called ‘the rest of the story’, I’ll have to flip my AM radio dial over to 990.