By Jessie Burchette
The Rowan County Republican Men’s Club offered up a litmus test to candidates for county commissioner to see who are the real Republicans.
No grades were given in the forum at the Tadlock South Rowan Regional Library Tuesday evening, but the answers showed the local party has diverse views.
Mike Caskey, president of the GOP Men’s Club, asked questions prepared by club members.
The eight candidates got 30 seconds each to establish their Republican credentials on a series of questions.
In one 30-second answer, they were asked to give their views on gay marriage, abortion and the 2nd Amendment, which protects the right to bear arms.
It was unclear if most of the candidates understood what the Second Amendment is ó or they chose not to answer that portion of the question.
Four of the eight candidates said they support a woman’s right to choose, pointing out that abortion is legal. Those candidates included Ken Deal, Donna Peeler, Von Coolidge Poston and Harry Rivera.
“I hope this doesn’t become a county issue,” Deal said, drawing a round of laughter.
Four other candidates, Jim Sides, Mike Miller, Carl Ford and Patty Overcash said they oppose abortion. Miller cited an exception for rape.
Ford decried all abortions, wondering why there isn’t an outcry against the killing of babies like the outcry against Michael Vick for killing dogs. “Babies are being killed every day. I don’t see people screaming,” he said.
Six of the candidates opposed gay marriage. Two others, Rivera and Poston, said it’s an individual choice.
Overcash said she has gay friends and added that gays are not bad people, but said she is totally against gay marriage.
Peeler said she is working to get legislation passed to prevent gay marriages.
Only three of the candidates touched on the Second Amendment.
Ford, Deal and Sides said they support the right to bear arms.
Deal said he owns guns and hunts.
Sides left no doubt where he stands on a question about whether the candidates consider themselves conservative, moderate or liberal Republicans.
“I’m a true conservative. I’ve got it on my van,” Sides said, in part joking about the white van he drives that resembles a moving election billboard. “I don’t like moderates. I don’t like liberals.”
Rivera and Overcash labeled themselves moderates.
Miller described himself as a moderate conservative, saying he is tight on spending but agreeable to try different things.
Ford also labeled himself a true conservative, a believer in small government.
Deal weighed in as a a progressive conservative.
“A Barry Goldwater conservative,” Peeler said.
“All three ó it depends on the situation,” said Poston.
Candidates were also asked to choose who they would like to have as president today ó Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln or Jesse Helms.
All chose Reagan except Ford, who opted for Helms. Peeler answered, “Reagan-Dole,” but didn’t specify whether she meant Bob or Elizabeth Dole.
Candidates had a few minutes to make introductory remarks.
Sides said it’s time to quit labeling people and work together on the local, state and national level. “Not all Republicans are good, not all Democrats are bad,” he said. “We need to work together.”
Among the 20 or so spectators at the event was Commissioner Tina Hall, a Democrat and Sides’ closest ally on the current board.
“If the Republican isn’t the best one on the ticket, he won’t get my vote,” said Sides, who noted later in the session that “if Rowan County has ever had a rebel, I’m that rebel.”
Candidates for other offices spoke briefly.
Ty Cobb of Rockwell, a candidate for the 12th U.S. House District blasted Congress for having a terrible record.
He said that without new blood, Congress is “headed for a terrible train wreck.”
Cobb said the country must deal with runaway spending and pay off the national debt, now at $9.2 trillion. He promised he would vote to raise taxes only to pay off the national debt, saying it’s not fair to pass the debt on to our grandchildren.
Cobb talked about growing up poor in Oklahoma, depending on good people to feed his family after his father broke his back in a workplace accident.
Cobb went on to graduate from West Point and served in Korea and Vietnam.
He called the 12th district “the most screwed up, gerry-mandered district in the United States.”
Ada Fisher, Democratic candidate for the 77th N.C. House District, said she supports immigration reform, affordable health care, and improved academics.
Sen. Andrew Brock, incumbent in the 34th N.C. Senate District, cited Winston Churchill’s advice about great speeches marked by brevity, keeping his comments very brief. “I appreciate your support,” Brock said.
Rep. Fred Steen, incumbent in the N.C. 76th House District, cited the ongoing effort to change annexation laws, saying he will need support and everyone working together.
By Jessie Burchette