Candidate-to-be for N.C. Senate meets with Rowan County Democrats
By Andie Foley
On his way to file for candidacy in North Carolina’s Senate District 33, Arin Wilhelm of Granite Quarry was injured in a car accident.
Geoffrey Hoy, chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party, said he was waiting for Wilhelm at the Board of Elections when he received the call.
So Hoy made a decision: he declared his own candidacy in Wilhelm’s stead, serving as a placeholder while Wilhelm recovered or the party selected another, qualified Democratic candidate.
Wilhelm’s health appears on the mend as he talked Saturday with members of the Rowan County Democratic Party during their monthly breakfast.
If he takes the party’s nomination, he will face Republican Carl Ford in the general election.
Hoy said there is a process of withdrawing and “putting the real candidate in place.”
“We’re taking our time to make sure that it’s done legally and appropriately and all that,” he said.
Wilhelm, a community engagement specialist with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, served on the Granite Quarry Board of Alderman from 2013 to 2017. He is a four-year veteran of the Navy and served six years in the Navy reserve.
During Saturday’s breakfast, he said his life of service began on a soccer field, when he learned that his best friend, Sterling, had passed away in a traffic accident.
“That traumatized me very badly,” he said. “Back then we didn’t know as much about trauma as we do today. … I dealt with survivor’s guilt for a long time.”
His grades and participation in school would decline, until one person made a difference, he said: his geometry teacher.
“Mr. Byerly hounded me, lovingly, about snapping out of it, about talking to him,” he said. “He offered to stay after school every day with me if it took to bring my grades up and help me pass geometry.”
Wilhelm said he eventually took the man up on his offer and passed the class. Because of this, he said, his thoughts often went to Mr. Byerly when he considered teachers marching on May 16.
“I think a lot about how that man did so much for me, but how we tend to undervalue him and his chosen profession,” he said.
Wilhelm said that the state needed to increase teacher pay and give merit increases for those with advanced degrees, training or certifications — particularly when it came to mental health.
“These people spend so much time with our children, why would we not want them to be so well prepared that they could help address any problems that our children may be having?” he said.
Wilhelm also said that, while he was a supporter of the Second Amendment and a person’s right to bear arms, he also believed “a person has a right to drive only if they pass the test.”
He said firearms should be treated in the same way, and that civilians didn’t need bump stocks or automatic weapons in order to protect themselves or hunt.
Finally, Wilhelm said he was a supporter of Medicaid expansion due to his work with those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“People wait seven to 10 years just to receive intellectual and developmental disability services,” he said. “… If Medicaid was expanded these people could receive services. People who need health care could have it. Think about the jobs it would create for our state.”