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2008 Voter Panel: Interest is high in Tuesday primaries

Earlier this year, the Salisbury Post invited readers to serve on a Voters Panel to provide commentary on the 2008 elections. We wanted reactions from a cross-section of ordinary people to include in election coverage ó to put issues in perspective, stir debate and promote the voting process.
We wound up with a group of 25 people ó nine Democrats, 10 Republicans and six unaffiliated voters.
Their jobs range from working at a nuclear power plant to homemaker. The retired are also represented. Political experience ranges from a seasoned former candidate to a young person who frankly admits that it’s hard to plug into local issues.
This is an absolutely unscientific process. Different panel members may respond each time. We hope their insights and observations might help you think through your own voting decisions this year.
Post reporters will use some of these comments in political stories. We will strive to post the full comments on www.salisburypost.com.
Here’s the first installment of comments from some members of the panel. Feel free to add your own comments at the end. The panelists are responding to three questions:
What effect do you think the presidential race will have on the vote Tuesday? Which local races do you think voters are especially interested in, if any? What issue do you think is foremost on voters’ minds?
ó Elizabeth Cook
Editor
Mac Butner, Republican: The presidential primary will affect the Democratic primary and is the driving force with an increased turnout, with the Democratic governor’s race not far behind.
Bev Perdue should win in Rowan. This will help Raymond Coltrain in his quest as one of two Democrat county commission nominees.
Since I think the Democratic turnout will be more liberal and female than normal, I would not be surprised if Laura Lyerly would surprise everyone with a strong showing and possible win. She is the only new and refreshing face in either party, and that seems to be the theme of this election.
Ralph Walton is a well-respected name in Democratic circles who has certainly paid his dues in the political trenches and should not be underestimated.
In the lieutenant governor race, Walter Dalton probably will win but Hampton Dellinger appeals to the young Obama liberals.
On the GOP side, the commissioners’ race is the driving force, but overall it has been pretty quiet ó not much action on any front. Some yard signs out and one mailing from Patty Overcash, and that is about it. Some party folks have received mailings from Mike Miller and Carl Ford, but not I.
I think the question is, will Jim Sides fall or will his group make sure he stays in by single-shotting him? Will Carl Ford have any Jim Sides coattails to ride on to the second nomination spot? Will folks hold Ken Deal accountable as a past Tim Russell lap dog and for Deal’s yellow-dog Democrat past? Will Republicans go with a woman like Donna Peeler who has rubbed the Executive Committee conservatives the wrong way many times but has served the party faithfully and well? Can Mike Miller achieve victory with the Jon Barber folks (and Chamber of Commerce’s unofficial help) as in 2006?
In the GOP governor’s race, it’s Fred Smith, Pat McCrory and, in Rowan, Bill Graham.
The most Graham is hoping for is that local voters will not embarrass him by giving a Rowan victory to McCrory.
The lieutenant governor’s race is barely on the screen. Between Robert Pittenger and Jim Snyder, it could go either way in Rowan, but probably for Pittenger statewide. Both are conservative. Snyder is well-liked and Pittenger is not but has the bucks and the backing of the GOP General Assembly members.
Rep. Fred Steen easily over Robert Campbell.
Eric Smith is the conservative choice in the superintendent of public instruction race, but former House speaker Richard Morgan has the name identification, the bucks and “adultery”/Jim Black baggage against the GOP.
The key issue for the general voter is “money in my pocket.” As James Carville said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Folks are better off than they were, due to the Bush tax cuts, but that is not the perception with high gas prices and rising food costs. as we all know, perception in politics is often more real than reality.
There is also a restlessness of just changing the players for a fresh start. I would not bet on any race ó too many mood swings.
Bottom line: The Democrats are looking for folks who can beat the GOP, and the GOP is just trying to hold on ó no gains, just hold on.
Carrie Grubbs, Republican: I think Democrats will vote in significant numbers, but not Republicans. Because there is basically an uncontested presidential race for Republicans, there is not a lot of motivation for them to get out and vote.
It seems that Republicans are having a difficult time getting excited about the candidate they do have. I will vote for Huckabee instead of McCain just to make a point that I think he is the better candidate.
The issue foremost on voters’ minds is rising prices. Voters are looking for someone who has a solution to rising fuel and food prices. I think that most voters feel that the rising prices have to stop soon.
There does not seem to be much interest in local races. I think in the future anyone who takes a strong stand against forced annexation will be a popular candidate. There does seem to be significant interest in the governor’s race. Obviously, Republicans would like to have a governor that does not hand an endorsement to Hillary Clinton.
I think the presidential race will have a major impact on several races, especially the statewide races. As candidates endorse the various candidates for president, they will either endear or alienate supporters. I don’t think that basing your vote for state offices upon who they support for president is in the best interests for North Carolinians however. Voters need to be independent thinkers on the issues that impact the constituents for which the candidate is running.
To the question, “Which local races do you think voters are especially interested in, if any?” Grubbs responded:
Without question, the county commissioner races. These are the most contested races locally. They also have the most interest at the moment, especially in light of the annexation issue.
As an independent, I am concerned about the choices for the county commission. I am not at all happy with the group that is on that board at the moment. There is too much of the good old boy network at play there. I am looking at candidates that won’t go with the flow, and vote in lockstep with other members of their party. I want a commission to do what is right for the community as a whole, not just select groups. Unfortunately, I do not see many choices that would satisfy that need.
Scott Wilson, unaffiliated: For the presidential and gubernatorial race, the economy is at the forefront. One common thread that I see in most candidates from either party for either race is too many generalities and not enough specifics. Whether you want to talk about change, or bettering the economic outlook, without a concrete plan it is just fluff and campaign rhetoric. As a concerned citizen and voter, I want specifics.
What effect do you think the presidential race will have on the vote Tuesday? Which local races do you think voters are especially interested in, if any? What issue do you think is foremost on voters’ minds?
Feel free to add your own comments at the end and/or send the Post a letter to the editor.
Locally, the hot button issue is forced annexation. I think that too much money and effort has been put toward this issue when there are several more items that could be addressed. Job creation and business incentives are essential for the future of Rowan County. Education improvement is also an item that has become an issue that voters have only heard cookie-cutter responses to.
In the governor’s race, taxes and waste are things that need to be addressed as well.
For me, one of the most important issues facing every level of government is illegal immigration. This impacts each and every American citizen in so many ways. It appears to me that North Carolina has become a sanctuary state. The ease of gaining a driver’s license, license plates, social services, education, health care, and not being detained and deported when arrested for crimes is an absolute outrage. Federal, state, and local officials have turned a blind eye to these serious problems with illegal immigrants, and it is time for them to take action and protect the interests of those that have put them in office legally.
Abby Young, unaffiliated: I am honestly not sure what effect the presidential race will have on the vote Tuesday. The race is so close right now that, despite what my personal feelings are, there is really no way of knowing which way it is going to go.
From the little bit that I’ve had the time to follow (full time work and full time college will do it to you!), I believe Hillary Clinton may have a little bit of an advantage over Barack Obama in North Carolina. I say this because I believe it may have hurt him just a little that he turned down the N.C. debate that Hillary proposed. No matter what type of debate it may be, it made me sort of feel, as a native North Carolinian, a smidge offended. And I don’t get offended easily! I thought to myself, “Well, then. Is North Carolina not good enough or important enough to come spend some of your time and debate in?”
The other reason I think Hillary might have an advantage in North Carolina is due to simple publicity. I don’t have as much time to follow the race as closely as I had begun to, but I know that Hillary and former President Bill Clinton have both been campaigning on her behalf in several different North Carolina locations, including here in Salisbury.
To be completely honest, I have the hardest time ever following the local races. I only know it’s election time when I see the ridiculous amount of signs that go up in every green and grassy area that exists in the county!
I think the reason I have a hard time following the races is a publicity issue. I see a bunch of signs going up, but I’ve never heard of these people! I don’t know who they are or what they stand for. Half the time I never knew there is/was an election until it’s over.
If there isn’t one already, I do feel like there needs to be a special section in the newspaper, giving photos and profiles of the local candidates ó who they are, what the issues they stand for are, what experience they have, etc. I don’t want to know what sport they’re interested in, what their dog’s name is or what barbecue restaurant owners they hob-knob with. I want to know who they are and how they can benefit me to gain my vote.
Only one recent issue came to mind: ANNEXATION. If you’re living in Rowan County and know nothing about the recent annexation uproar, then you’re living under a rock. Granted, the issue seems to be resolved now, but voters are CERTAINLY not going to forget it and it is going to be very fresh on their minds when they go into the polls to vote for the local offices. Point blank is, I think that anyone running that was for the annexation might as well forfeit now and I think that anyone running that was against the annexation might as well be planning their victory parties. I do not live in the areas that were threatened by the possible annexation, but that is how I feel the local races are going to turn out. They will all be based on the recent annexation issue.
Nancy Patterson, unaffiliated: I believe that the Democratic race has substantially increased interest in the election. As usual, local issues are not as paramount a concern for most voters in a presidential election year. To me the primary concern of most people is the economy at this moment, particularly rising gas and food prices.
Michael S. Young, Democrat: Someone said good government does not make headlines. I sense after four years of bad news, people are fatigued, angry and disgusted. No longer apathetic, folks want to vote and will vote for change.
On the local level, driven primarily by the antics of the current County Commission, we have a refreshing slate of smart, willing Democrats and Republicans running. Being a big election year, I think we will see new faces on our County Commission in the fall and an influx of new voters. It is too bad that all of the seats are not up for re-election.
Kirkley Russell, unaffiliated: I think the presidential race will have a large impact on the primary vote. I could see this primary producing record turnout throughout the state. This is true because the Democrats and Republicans have down-the-line primaries as well.
I think the County Commissioners races are first and foremost on the local voters’ minds. The recent annexation attempts by the city of Salisbury have allowed everyone in the county to take notice of the county commissioners and how important they can be.
The economy would have to be the primary issue on people’s minds this year.
Prices are skyrocketing for everyday goods, not just gasoline, and people are starting to feel the pinch. Job losses and cutbacks at places like Freightliner, Philip Morris and Food Lion will continue to have a serious impact on our local economy and workforce.

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