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Political Notebook: Local parties will host watch parties for presidential debate

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Both the local Republican and Democratic parties will host watch parties for the first presidential debate, which will air at 9 p.m. today.

Rowan County Democratic Party Chair Geoffrey Hoy said the county’s party coordinator will set up a virtual watch party for the presidential debate. He emphasized that the county’s Democratic party office is closed for safety precautions.

The county’s Republican party will host a watch party at its office, located at 612 W. Innes St., for today’s debate and future presidential debates. The watch party will begin at least 30 minutes before the debate starts. Rowan County Republican Party Chair Don Vick said the office has room for 50 people to watch the debate.

Additionally, both party chairs shared their thoughts on the two Senate debates between U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and Democrat challenger Cal Cunningham. Tillis and Cunningham have debated twice so far, once on Sept. 14 and again on Sept. 22.

One topic discussed in the first debate was the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the general election. Cunningham expressed hesitancy to take the vaccination, citing financial and political influence over it. During the second debate, the two U.S. Senate candidates touched on the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat, COVID-19 relief and marijuana legalization.

Tillis, in line with the GOP, supports pushing through with a new justice prior to the election. However, Cunningham said he preferred waiting until after Americans cast their votes in November. Over the weekend, Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the vacant seat. Barrett is a former clerk to the late U.S. Justice Antonin Scalia.

On the topic of COVID-19 relief, the two sparred over GOP- and Democrat-backed bills.

Tillis supports researching marijuana’s medical benefits but didn’t express support for legalization. Cunningham said he felt marijuana should be removed from the federal controlled substances schedule.

Hoy said he thought the second debate went better for Cunningham, noting that while Tillis has had more experience, Cunningham has caught up rapidly and held his own in a strong and positive way during the second debate.

Vick said Tillis won both debates, adding that Cunningham “seems befuddled” by what he’s supposed to be doing. He added that it’s apparent Tillis has learned some things about working for the people of the state and the nation.

“I think now we’re seeing a true Thom Tillis,” he said.

 

Party chairs share thoughts on New York Times findings from Trump’s tax documents

SALISBURY — Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that it obtained copies of President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which indicates Trump paid just $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017.

Additionally, the report states the documents reveal struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Vick said he anticipates Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden will reference the tax return findings in the presidential debate today, but added that those returns “needed to come out.”

“Any elected official should have transparency,” he said. “But we’ll see he has done tons of good for the people, the average Joe.”

Hoy said it’s important for those running for office to be open and transparent about such records. He added that, when he filed to run in the state’s Democratic primary for Senate District 33, he completed extensive ethics documents that required him to disclose all connections to stocks, businesses and liabilities.

“I think it’s tragic that our president didn’t see fit to disclose his financial records,” Hoy said. “Apparently, our traditional system is catching up with him.”

He added that preliminary information being reported does raise some serious questions, but that “we will have to wait and see exactly what is revealed.”

In the Times report, it’s noted that more stories will be published in the coming weeks that highlight more findings from Trump’s tax records.

“I do want to go on the record to say my wife and I paid more than $750 in income taxes in 2016,” Hoy said.

 

NFIB North Carolina PAC endorse Warren, Howard ahead of general election

RALEIGH — The NFIB North Carolina PAC, a small business political action committee, has endorsed Rep. Harry Warren in the 76th District House race.

The political action committee is comprised exclusively of NFIB members. The PAC’s support is based on the candidates’ positions and records on small business issues.

“Our members support the candidates who will support small businesses, which is why Harry Warren is the clear choice in this race,” NFIB State Director Gregg Thompson said in a statement. “Harry Warren understands the challenges facing North Carolina’s small businesses. Our members believe he will do everything he can do to help small businesses recover safely and fully from the pandemic so they can grow and create jobs.”

The NFIB North Carolina PAC has also endorsed Rep. Julia Howard, R-77, ahead of the state House race, saying that Howard understands the challenges facing small businesses and how best to help them recover. 

 

More than 120 groups send letter to state officials urging protection for essential food workers

RALEIGH — More than 120 labor, farm, environmental, faith and civil rights groups representing millions of people in North Carolina and across the country sent a letter on Friday to state officials calling for immediate, comprehensive COVID-19 protections for essential workers in the food supply chain.

The letter was sent to Gov. Roy Cooper, NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

More than 3,000 North Carolina workers in meatpacking plants alone have contracted COVID-19, according to an article by the News & Observer, and hundreds of complaints to state health officials have gone unanswered, according to OSHA complaint data.

“Workers in North Carolina’s food supply chain face health risks every day this crisis continues, but they show up to do their jobs anyway,” said Edna Rodriguez, executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, which is one of the organizations delivering the letter. “Workers are essential members of our community. They are our family, friends and neighbors. Gov. Cooper needs to do his job and keep his promise to issue an executive order to protect these workers.”

The letter calls on the state to adopt an emergency standard to protect workers by enforcing requirements such as physical distancing, improved ventilation, personal protective equipment, COVID-19 screening and transparent reporting about cases of COVID-19.

“Learning about other workers falling ill or even dying around them but not receiving information, care or benefits can be deadly for workers. The financial pressures they face arriving in the U.S. in debt and the constant fear of retaliation by their employer for causing upheaval may result in their silence despite being sick,” said Lariza Garzon, executive director of the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. ”To merely offer guidance during this crisis, as opposed to issuing actual, enforceable base-level requirements, is to ignore the inherent imbalance of power endemic to industries with workers most at risk. We need action now.”

In the letter, groups noted employers aren’t required to meet the most basic public health guidelines and called on Cooper and Cohen to require such measures. It also states that Berry hasn’t yet enforced existing workplace health and safety laws, and that Troxler’s actions have further endangered agriculture workers by allowing employers to require that critical infrastructure workers return to work if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic. Additionally, the groups said Gov. Cooper’s administration’s lack of transparency has sown mistrust among the public.

Anna Jensen, coordinator of the Farmworker Advocacy Network, stated, “Since the beginning of this deadly pandemic, North Carolina has prioritized corporate profits and industry relationships over the health of our food workers, their families and our communities. This must end today. We’re calling on state leaders to take immediate action to protect workers who put their lives on the line while sustaining North Carolina’s largest industries and our food supply.”

 

Treasurer Folwell announces payments to survivors of murdered public safety workers

RALEIGH — State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell and the Retirement Systems Division announced last week that almost $1 million has been sent to survivors of nine public safety officers murdered in the line of duty.

The additional payments were authorized as part of “Conner’s Law” that was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2019 as House Bill 283, and funded in HB 425 this year.

The funding measure for the new law went into effect July 1 and is retroactive to July 1, 2016, which means it will apply to qualifying deaths occurring on or after that date. This will include the families of the corrections officers who were murdered by inmates on Oct. 12, 2017, at Pasquotank Correctional Institution during the deadliest prison escape attempt in the state’s history.

The North Carolina Retirement Systems provides retirement benefits and savings for more than 950,000 North Carolinians, including teachers, state employees, local governments, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.

The legislation is in honor of slain Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner, who was murdered during a routine traffic stop in October 2018. In addition to providing a supplemental payment to the families of public safety officers murdered in the line-of-duty, HB 283 also increased the criminal penalty for assaulting a law enforcement officer, probation officer, parole officer or emergency personnel with a firearm or other weapon.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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