Democrats show enthusiasm for Obama
By Mark Wineka
Buoyed by recent polls that show her closing the gap and even ahead of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., Democrat challenger Kay Hagan says she has a new name for the incumbent.
Hagan reminded Rowan County Democrats gathered for their annual picnic Thursday night that the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms used to be called “Senator No.”
Hagan’s new name for Dole: “Senator Nowhere.”
Continuing to go after Dole as ineffective, a rubber stamp for President Bush and a pawn to special interests, Hagan repeated a favorite charge that Dole was nowhere in North Carolina and a Washington insider until Helms announced he would not seek re-election.
Two days later, Hagan said, Dole registered to vote in North Carolina so she could run for the U.S. Senate, after having voted for 20-plus years in Kansas, her husband Bob’s home state.
Hagan told the enthusiastic Democratic crowd Thursday they were celebrating the seventh anniversary of Dole’s registering to vote in North Carolina, and she charged that the Republican incumbent’s 40 years of experience in Washington has done nothing to lower their gas prices, stop the flow of illegal immigrants, help veterans, make college more affordable or provide health insurance for businesses and individuals.
There was another anniversary the local Democrats mentioned several times Thursday night at Jim Shoaf’s Barn Dance off U.S. 601.
The night that Barack Obama accepted the party’s nomination for president in Denver coincided with the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dan Stroud, who is serving as a Rowan-Davie County field director for Obama’s campaign, said Obama volunteers are hoping to build on the bounce he receives from the Denver national convention with a door-to-door “National Weekend of Action” Saturday and Sunday.
Democrat activist Donna Monroe rallied the local troops in Obama’s name Thursday night and, if there wasn’t enough President Bush and Republican-bashing at the national convention, the Rowan Democrats tried to fill the gap.
“Another hurricane is coming and hopefully it will get to Crawford, Texas, and bypass New Orleans,” Monroe said.
Under the Bush presidency, the United States has become a debtor nation, Monroe complained. She said it was important for all Democrats to get behind Obama so he can lead the country out of the misery created in the past eight years.
“We’re in bad trouble, deep trouble,” Monroe said of the state of the country. “Our standing in the world is the lowest, and our hope is Obama.”
There were no signs of any lingering splits between Obama and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton supporters after the hard-fought primary. In fact, one of Clinton’s biggest Rowan County supporters, Elizabeth Smith, left an American flag with the words “United We Stand” printed under it, and it was presented to Stroud and the Obama campaign.
Hagan, a state senator from Greensboro, is joined by Libertarian Christopher Cole of Huntersville in opposing Dole in November.
Virtually every poll this summer has shown Dole leading Hagan ó some as much as 15 points ó except the most recent survey done by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh. In that poll, Hagan led 42-39 over Dole, with Cole having 5 percent of the support among 904 people questioned.
The Hagan campaign has painted Dole as having a low effectiveness ranking in the Senate and supporting Bush policies 92 percent of the time.
Asked whether she wouldn’t expect to vote with Obama roughly 90 percent of the time if he is elected president and she were senator, Hagan characterized herself as being more independent and answerable to what North Carolinians wanted.
In her remarks to the Rowan Democrats, Hagan said effectiveness comes with independence. She promised to work with Democrats and Republicans as a senator to move the state and country forward.
Hagan said she would strongly support Obama and campaign for him. His presence on the ticket has energized a sleeping electorate and led to 240,000 new voter registrations in the state, according to Hagan.
Hagan has called for a safe, responsible end to the war in Iraq. She wants troop levels to be drawn down there with a redeployment of forces into Afghanistan and a renewed focus to capture Osama bin Laden.
Other Democratic candidates in attendance Thursday night included Dr. Teresa Sue Bratton, who is challenging Republican Howard Coble for the 6th District congressional seat; June Atkinson, seeking re-election as state superintendent for public instruction; N.C. Rep. Lorene Coates, seeking re-election to the 77th House District seat; Bill Burnette, running for the state Senate seat that covers Rowan and Davie counties; and Raymond Coltrain, running for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
Atkinson also served as the evening’s keynote speaker.
Laura Lyerly, a Democratic nominee for county commissioner, did not attend. U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., was attending the national convention in Denver.
Rowan County Clerk of Court Jeff Barger said he would seek re-election in 2010, and Register of Deeds Bobbie Earnhardt and Rowan County Commissioner Tina Hall, both up for re-election two years from now, also gave brief hellos to the crowd.
Some other notes from the picnic:
– Atkinson told the Post that the state’s 70 percent graduation rate in high school is unacceptable, and she has focused on the dropout rate in North Carolina during her second statewide campaign.
Fixing the problem goes beyond the schoolhouse door, Atkinson said, describing it as a community problem needing community solutions.
– Bratton, a pediatrician from Greensboro, is trying to stress health-care reform, jobs creation, environmental improvements and coming up with a new energy policy. She wants to provide affordable health care for everyone and eliminate the mercury from power company smokestacks.
– Burnette reminded the Democrats that his opponent, incumbent state Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, has held the lowest effectiveness ranking in the Senate. He said he wants to displace “the worst leader we have in Raleigh.”
“Rowan and Davie deserve better, and I’m going to give it to you,” Burnette said.
– Coltrain said he hoped a year from now members of the audience would be as involved in government as they are during the election. Part of a public servant’s responsibility is to keep the electorate informed, Coltrain said, and he promised he would do that.
Coltrain said Rowan County has “a blessed location in North Carolina” that, with the completion of U.S. 70’s widening from Statesville to Salisbury, will give it easy access to a third of the country’s population. The county must attract industries that will want to take advantage of that access, he said.