Rowan County Democrats host annual convention

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2018

By Jessica Coates

SALISBURY — 74 people gathered Saturday morning to take part in the 2018 Rowan County Democratic Party Convention.

The convention, which took place at the Rowan County Democratic headquarters on West Innes Street, gave party members a chance to hear both from Democratic candidates running in the November election and North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Marshall, who was a senator and an attorney before being elected secretary of state, was chosen as the 2018 Rowan County convention speaker.

“This is the end of a three-day runaround for me. I’ve been in Charlotte for a couple of days. And I always love coming to Rowan County,” Marshall said.

As part of her remarks, Marshall said she was “thrilled” with the three Democrats elected to the Salisbury City Council — David Post, Al Heggins and Tamara Sheffield.

“And the fact that two of the three of them are women does not bother me one bit,” Marshall said.

Marshall said she thought there has “never been a better time to be a Democrat in North Carolina.”

She said the “outrage” some people have been feeling since the 2016 election has given Democrats “momentum.”

“The enthusiasm is ours,” Marshall said.

That enthusiasm was apparent as Rowan County Democratic Party chairman Geoffrey Hoy introduced candidates for U.S. House, N.C. House, N.C. Senate and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Adam Coker, who is running for U.S. House District 13, spoke about his passion for affordable healthcare by telling his “favorite Salisbury story.”

“(My son) had a hole in his heart. We were waiting for his open heart surgery,” Coker said. “I was at the Starbucks down the road here and a young couple looked at me and they looked at my son and they took interest.”

Coker said he soon found out that the man and Coker’s son had the same heart problem.

“And I said, ‘Well, if you don’t mind me asking, are you a veteran here?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m a baseball player.’ And I said, ‘Where are you a baseball player?’ And I was imagining he was going to say some farm-league team,” Coker said. “And he said, ‘Well, I play in Seattle.'”

Coker soon learned he played as a third baseman for the Seattle Mariners.

Coker said the Mariners player gave him hope for the health of his son. He said the player also taught him something else, after the player and his wife came to help Coker and his wife during a time of need.

“We need to be a country where we take care of one another,” Coker said.

Coker said his son’s open heart surgery cost almost $1 million and that many of the families he and his wife met in the neonatal intensive care unit did not have health insurance.

“We need to be a country where medical expenses will not make your family go bankrupt and lose everything that they had to work for,” Coker said.

Other candidates that spoke included Joe Fowler, who is running for District 76; Bonnie Clark, who is running for District 77; and Veleria Levy, who is running for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Clark said she was running because of House Bill 2, which restricted the rights of transgender people in North Carolina. It was partially repealed last March, but Clark said the repeal did not go far enough.

“I will not rest until that has been repealed completely and we get full rights for every human being in North Carolina,” Clark said.

In addition to hearing candidates and Marshall speak, party members elected Kenneth Stutts and Michelle Reid to the State Senatorial Executive Committee and approved a resolution calling for a pathway to citizenship for recipients of Temporary Protected Status.

According to the Rowan Democrat county chair report, 15 to 20 people are now regularly attending the group’s monthly executive meetings and the group has 20 organized precincts.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.