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Political notebook: Forest defends self after Salisbury church speech

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is facing criticism after a June 23 speech at Salisbury’s Cornerstone Church in which he said that no nation has “survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today.”

Liberal news website ThinkProgress equated his language to supporting white supremacy.

“Anti-multiculturalism rhetoric is popular among the growing white nationalist wing of the Republican Party,” the website said. “Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has made similar comments in the past, and the Southern Poverty Law Center has attributed the rhetoric to white nationalist hate groups.”

Forest spoke of unity at the church, which is nondenominational, and of diversity. He said Satan’s plan is to divide people.

“God doesn’t want us to divide our state,” Forest said. “He doesn’t want us to divide our nation. He wants us to bring people together and live together like the Acts 2 church did, and yet no other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division and because of this identity politics. No other nation has survived this.”

Forest also addressed the current divisions in the country.

“We found ourselves now living in these challenging times,” Forest said. “We look across our country and see hatred and vitriol and political incivility, and we see people at each other like we haven’t seen in quite some time. It’s not new to our country by any means. We’ve seen challenges before and certainly this one we can overcome. As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we know how to overcome them.”

Forest is in the exploratory process of running for governor in 2020.

He also was in Salisbury Friday, speaking at the Rowan County Republican Party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner.

After reporting on his speech, Forest’s communications director, Jamey Falkenbury, released a statement saying, in part, “The lieutenant governor believes that when ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ are used as weapons to divide our nation and create factions based on identity politics, then that is bad for our country. He believes that all people are created in the image of God and that we need to work together across race, religion and political divide to bring people together, not pull them apart. The speech in context was about loving your neighbor, and he delivered it to a diverse and multicultural audience.”

The church also commented on the Facebook video.

“We do not represent a specific ethnic community,” the statement said. “We bring together individuals of every culture, color, gender, age and expect a mighty move of God every time we gather together in his name.”

Rep. Warren: Governor did not read budget

Legislators will have to return to negotiations after Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget Friday.

In his veto message, Cooper wrote, “This is a bad budget with the wrong priorities.” Cooper spoke alongside public school teachers and health care professionals and advocates to explain his veto.

“I am vetoing this budget because it prioritizes the wrong things. It values corporate tax breaks over classrooms, gimmicks over guaranteed school construction, and political ideology over people,” Cooper said.

The budget was passed by the N.C. House and Senate on Thursday, mostly along party lines. Because the fiscal year ended Sunday, the state will continue to operate on the 2018-19 fiscal year budget.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, said the immediate veto signified to him that the governor did not read the budget. Cooper’s reasoning about the lack of education funding is proof of that, Warren said.

“He didn’t wait any time, and that validates my position,” Warren said.

Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, argued that corporate tax breaks are what makes industries, such as online pet retailer Chewy, look to North Carolina for investment. Chewy announced in April it would open up a distribution facility in Rowan County with more than 1,200 new jobs.

And Ford noted the budget included some funding for Rowan County projects, like Bell Tower Green park, the renewal school district plan and the N.C. Transportation Museum. Ford said he feels confident the local funding will stay in the final budget.

Warren said Republicans are open to talking about Medicare expansion, which the governor advocates, but they do not think it should be part of budget negotiations. They are open to coming back for a special session to discuss the issue, Warren said.

“Our neighbors, our friends, our farmers, our child care teachers, our small business owners, our brothers and sisters in the grips of opioid addiction — these are the people in the health care coverage gap,” Cooper said. “But 2,305 days ago, the legislature slammed the door on expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. Every day that count gets higher is a lost opportunity to help our state.”

With the July 4th holiday, it is likely legislators will next vote on the budget next week.

Municipal filing to begin Friday

Cities and towns across Rowan County will begin the filing period for municipal elections at noon Friday.

Among races on the ballot are mayoral seats in China Grove, Cleveland, East Spencer, Faith, Granite Quarry, Landis, Rockwell, Salisbury and Spencer.

Salisbury City Council will have five seats open. Aldermen and town council seats will be up for grabs across the county.

The filing period will remain open until noon July 19.

The price for filing ranges from $5 to $10, except for Kannapolis, where it is $30.

Candidates should file with the Rowan County Board of Elections Office at West End Plaza, 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W., Suite D-10.

Candidates must be residents and qualified voters of the town or city where they file for office.

Questions should be directed to the Rowan County Elections Office at 704-216-8140.


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