Political Notebook: State auditor speaks to Rowan Democrats during virtual breakfast

Published 12:03 am Monday, September 14, 2020

Rowan County Democrats heard from State Auditor Beth Wood during their monthly virtual breakfast Saturday.

Wood, a Democrat, has been State Auditor since 2008, and is currently seeking her fourth term in the upcoming general election. She is being challenged by Tony Wayne Street, a Republican whose experience includes being a small business owner in the construction industry.

Local Democrat Keith Townsend, who’s challenging Rep. Julia Howard to represent District 77 in the state House, spoke ahead of Wood about gerrymandering, calling it the “most pervasive form of voter suppression.”

He noted a referendum to be placed on the ballot in Virginia that proposes turning redistricting over to an independent panel. If passed, it would make Virginia the second-biggest state where the drawing of congressional and state legislative lines is controlled by nonpartisans. California is the biggest. He suggested North Carolina take a similar approach.

North Carolina’s General Assembly is responsible for drawing district lines for legislative and congressional elections.

But as a result of a 2019 court order, the state adopted a new congressional district map. Additionally, the state adopted new state legislative district maps in response to a separate court order and last year wasn’t the first time this decade that there’s been court-ordered redistricting.

While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the drawing of those districts is beyond its authority, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said the decision does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering and acknowledged that North Carolina’s maps are “highly partisan.”

Because of the legal battle, Townsend said it’s important to elect the right judges.

During her speech, Wood emphasized the importance of her role, noting that it’s the only office out of 34 state agencies that oversees how taxpayer dollars are being spent. She said $46 billion in taxpayer funds is being used to run state government.

Wood added that, while her opponent is “a commercial fisherman who’s never seen an audit,” she’s audited local governments, taught accountants across the nation and brought attention to how internal auditors within the state Department of Transportation were “asleep at the wheel” when it was discovered the department overspent by more than $700 million before the pandemic.

She added that, while DOT spent $1 million on its own study to “show its side,” her office only spent $400,000.

“It’s going to take $1.5 billion to straighten out DOT,” she said. “Guess where that’s going to come from?”

Wood also noted the importance of reaching the more than 1 million registered unaffiliated voters in the state as that group is the second-largest voting block in the state.

“We need to bring them home and have them vote for us,” she said. “It just so happens that the Democrats have the most competent (candidate).”

Also present at the meeting was Scott Huffman, a Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in the upcoming election to represent Congressional District 13 in the U.S. House.

Rowan County Democrats will host a virtual office opening on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Anyone interested in tuning in can visit this link or visit the group’s Facebook page to register.


U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announces nearly $120 million in FEMA funding for the state

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is awarding North Carolina a supplemental grant of $119.7 million to provide financial assistance to those who have lost wages due to the pandemic.

FEMA’s grant will allow North Carolina to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 an extra $300 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefits. Part of the state’s $1.1 billion package of federal CARES Act funding, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law earlier this month, includes a $50 increase in weekly unemployment benefits without using any of the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

On Aug. 8, President Donald Trump made available up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Americans who have lost wages due to the pandemic. And on Aug. 21, North Carolina agreed to administer a lost wages program for its citizens who are unemployed due to COVID-19.

“Out-of-work North Carolinians are struggling to get by while Democratic leaders in Washington continue to put partisan politics ahead of the American people and are demanding a take-it-or-leave-it approach on their left-wing proposal,” Tillis said in a statement. “While we keep pushing for bipartisan compromise on another relief package that would extend the unemployment benefits for those who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to thank DHS and President Trump for awarding this grant to help North Carolinians who have fallen on hard times.”


North Carolina Association of Educators endorse Heggins, Ellis ahead of general election

The North Carolina Association of Educators has endorsed Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins and local Democrat Tarsha Ellis ahead of the upcoming general election for state legislature seats.

Heggins, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Rep. Harry Warren to represent the 76th district in the state House. Ellis, a political newcomer, is challenging incumbent Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, to represent Rowan and Stanly counties.

In its endorsement of Heggins, the association said that Heggins, as a former teacher, will fight for the state’s students and for educators.

“As a former teacher, Al knows that we have to make the public education system in North Carolina the best it can be because that’s what our students deserve,” said Rena Taylor, president of the Rowan/Salisbury Association of Educators.

In its statement endorsing Ellis, the association credited her for valuing how critical it is to pay educators at a level that values their talents, gifts and commitment to children.

“Tarsha Ellis believes in us as public school employees and the jobs we do every day,” Taylor said. “Like us, she is an advocate for our children and wants what’s best for their success.”


Biden, Trump comment on police shootings in Los Angeles and North Carolina

In a statement, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, along with wife Jill, said they were devastated to learn of the “cold-blooded” shooting of two Los Angeles County deputies on Saturday, as well as the death of Deputy Ryan Hendrix, a Marine veteran and police officer killed in the line of duty in Henderson County.

“These attacks are absolutely unconscionable — they bring only greater violence, injustice, and grief to a nation in desperate need of healing,” Biden said in the statement.

He added that, just as officers owe it to the American people to protect and serve with honor, restraint and accountability, “Americans owe it to them to lessen the needless danger of their inherently dangerous jobs.”

“Acts of lawlessness and violence directed against police officers are unacceptable, outrageous, and entirely counterproductive to the pursuit of greater peace and justice in America — as are the actions of those who cheer such attacks on,” Biden’s statement said. “Those who perpetrate these crimes must be brought to justice, and, if convicted, face the full brunt of the law.”

On Sunday, President Donald Trump retweeted a video from L.A. County Sheriff’s Office that was captioned, “Update: The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation.” In Trump’s retweet, he said, “Animals that must be hit hard!”

In a retweet from his son, Donald Trump Jr., about the officer shooting in Los Angeles, the president said, “If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer. Only way to stop this!”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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