Candidates turn out early for first day of filing for elections
Both seasoned elected officials and political newcomers of different stripes and government levels converged on the Rowan County Board of Elections office Monday for the first day of filing.
Many gathered there before the noon opening.
Of the eleven candidates who filed locally, 10 of them are Republican.
Rowan County Commissioner Chad Mitchell filed to challenge N.C. Rep. Harry Warren and threaten to take away his third term as representative of District 77.
While Mitchell could not be reached by press time, Warren said he wants to continue to build on the tax and regulatory reform the legislature has put in place in order to “make (the) state very conducive for business, growth and development.”
“Our tax revision took us from 44th in the nation for tax environment to 17th. That is one component of it, but we also have to make sure we have the whole picture — not just the technical part of the business environment,” Warren said. “The educational piece has to be there. You have to have excellent schools to create an educated work force.”
Warren also advocated bolstering what he called “the cultural piece.”
“Tourism returns about 17 dollars for every one dollar that we invest in it,” Warren said. “I’d like to see us get more dollars from (tourists coming from outside the state). We need to get people to get North Carolina a little bit better and see all the attributes of the state and spend their money here.”
The candidates methodically filed through the office Monday to enter their names, pay their fees and thus enter into an election process that will consume the better part of this year.
N.C. Rep. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, said, if elected to a second term, he wants to finish what the legislature started in regard to the budget.
“We have more work to do on tax reform. There has been big talk about going back and talking about partisan judgeships,” Ford said. “That didn’t happen in the last election law change, but it came mighty close. Most of everyone I talked to is agreeable with that.”
The announcement made Monday by the state government’s brass that wages for starting teachers will be increased is only the beginning phase, Ford said.
Ford said he believes the changes in education spending will put the state in first or second place in the Southeast for starting pay for teachers.
Lawmakers also will be revisiting the elimination of the master’s degree stipend for teachers, Ford said, including grandfathering in teachers who already were in the process of getting their degrees as well as tailoring the program so teachers only receive stipends for obtaining master’s degrees relevant to the subjects they teach students.
At the local level, Rowan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides said the current board has accomplished much in the last several years and there are a few projects already underway he wants to see come to fruition.
Among the priorities Sides underlined were the sale of land in the county’s Summit Corporate Center off Interstate 85 for retail development which could result in millions of dollars in new revenue for Rowan County and the extension of the airport’s runway — ultimately allowing larger jets to use the airport and potentially attracting a major tenant to fill the new hangar.
Another goal is the long-term development of West End Plaza.
“There has been a lot of negative publicity about us not being prepared for the cost at all. (People) have to understand (that) it came up for sale by surprise at an auction,” Sides said. “We didn’t have six months to prepare. We had to make a decision. We could have allowed the mall to deteriorate if (nobody) had purchased it.”
Commissioners identified some long-range capital needs for the county, and Sides said they felt the mall would fit the bill for those long-range needs.
“We did not buy it as a short-term project. It’s a long-term project, and it’s going to take years for us to fully develop it,” Sides said.
Commissioners are looking at moving the Rowan County Board of Elections office — which has been identified as severely cramped for space — to West End Plaza as well as building a warehouse there for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to use.
Although Sides said the West End Plaza purchase will benefit Rowan County in the long run, commissioners were not in total agreement on the price and further negotiations could have saved money.
“I fully believe that we overpaid for the mall. We could have bought it cheaper. The other commissioners would not allow me to negotiate, and I wanted to negotiate,” Sides said. “I think we probably could have gotten the mall for $2.75 million. So we overpaid, but we didn’t overpay from the standpoint we’ll meet the long-term capital needs of the county at a much less cost than building new buildings.”
Another pressing issue Sides identified as needing attention is the relationship between the commissioners and the school board.
“My goal, if re-elected, is to work with the legislature on changing the law so no board of education will ever be able to sue a board of county commissioners,” Sides said. “That is the most ridiculous, absurd provision in the (N.C.) General Assembly and needs to be done away with.”
Sides said he would like to see the school system have a central office, but there are other ways to resolve problems.
Commissioners continuously have allocated money for the school system and have been met with inefficient results in reading and math proficiency levels compared to state averages, Sides said.
“Everything we have done in the past — we have come in under budget,” Sides said. “Everything schools have done — (they) have come in over budget.”
Rowan County is not getting its “bang for the bucks” being shelled out to the school district, Sides said.
Judy Klusman, a Wisconsin state legislator for more than a decade, filed for a commissioner seat at noon and voiced her disapproval of the commissioners’ decision to buy the mall.
“I thought it was extremely irresponsible and the taxpayers paid way too much. There is going to be millions more spent upfitting (the mall),” Klusman said. “The commissioners have learned there is probably going to be a 3-cent tax increase, so I think it is fiscally irresponsible.”
Klusman said her goal is to serve all the people of Rowan County.
“We really need to be a commission that collaborates, cooperates and communicates — not just between each other, but across the whole county,” Klusman said.
Also filing Monday were:
• Gregory Edds, Brandon Cupp and David Roueche filed to run for seats on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
• Jeff Barger — the only Democrat to file in Rowan — did so for clerk of superior court.
• Harry Welch Jr. filed to run for register of deeds as did John Brindle.
• In Raleigh, James Randolph filed for the District Court Judge of District 19C seat.
• Malcolm Graham and Alma Adams — both Democrats — filed for the U.S. House of Representatives District 12 seat.
• Mark Harris and Ted Alexander — both Republicans — filed for the U.S. Senate seat.