Political Notebook: Local candidates hoping for a strong finish to election contests

Published 2:04 am Monday, November 2, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — In the final moments before Election Day, local candidates last week said they were feeling good about their campaigns as they honed in a few more opportunities to get out the vote in Rowan County.

Mount Ulla Democrat Keith Townsend, who’s challenging Rep. Julia Howard for the House District 77 seat, said the record early voting turnout “says something about the strength of our democratic system,” which he said has been under a lot of pressure across the nation.

“But the struggle is worth it,” Townsend said.

Townsend said his campaign is focusing on making phone calls and distributing door hangers within these final days leading up to the election. Overall, it’s gone well.

“I feel good about it,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done what we could (with the pandemic).”

Howard said she avoids going out to protect others’ health and has instead focused on answering constituents’ questions and telling them what she’s accomplished whether via email or during one of the few times she gets out to grocery shop.

“If people stop and ask me questions, I stop and try to answer them,” she said. “I’m running on my record.”

Howard added that she believes most races across the state will be close.

Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, said his campaign is feeling good and that his team has been keeping up with the latest voting numbers as they’ve come in as well as districts being polled by state caucuses.

“It’s looking pretty good,” he said. “We’re feeling good.”

His Democratic opponent, Tarsha Ellis, also said she’s excited about the turnout. Her campaign has been talking to voters and answering their questions at the polls.

“We’re just hoping for a strong finish,” she said.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, said his campaign’s main focus has been getting out the vote whether in-person or by absentee.

“I feel good with the way things are going right now,” he said. “I hope (voters) will be encouraged by this experience to turnout in elections moving forward.”

He added that he’ll be excited to represent the new addition of China Grove if re-elected to the General Assembly.

His Democrat challenger, Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins, said her team has been visiting the polls and encouraging everyone vote on election day on Nov. 3 if they haven’t yet cast a ballot. On Sunday, volunteers with her campaign participated in a car caravan through Salisbury to encourage people to vote.

“The volunteers on the Heggins campaign team have been phenomenal,” she said. “This team is creative, hard working and has strong love for the people of the 76th.”


Civitas Institute poll shows Cooper leads Forest in governor’s race

RALEIGH — Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s lead over Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has increased since last month, showing he has a 10-point advantage over Forest, according to the latest Civitas Poll.

Civitas Institute is a conservative policy organization based in Raleigh. The survey was conducted among likely voters between Oct. 22 to Oct. 25, 2020. Likely voters were asked, “If the election for North Carolina Governor were held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for?”

The poll shows 52% supported Cooper, while 42% supported Forest. Only 4% responded being undecided.

“Gov. Cooper continues to have a commanding lead in this race, which is surprising considering the national spotlight that has been on North Carolina this year,” said Civitas Institute President Donald Bryson in a statement. “Lt. Gov. Forest has been trailing President (Donald) Trump in party loyalty among Republicans, as well as senior citizens. Those two data sets seem to be the tipping point in this race.”

The Civitas poll was somewhat lower than the Real Clear Politics polling average, which gives Cooper an 11-point lead over his Republican challenger.

Likely voters were also asked who they intended to vote for in several other statewide races. The results show 46% support Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley — versus 43% in support for Mark Robinson — in the race for lieutenant governor and 49% support Democrat Cheri Beasley in the N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice race.

In the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction, the largest number of voters, or 45%, supported Democrat Jen Mangrum, while 13% were undecided. The race for treasurer was close with Democrat challenger Ronnie Chatterji and Republican incumbent Dale Folwell only separated by a single percentage point.

In addition to political races, voters were asked what they thought about Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite partisan leanings, a narrow majority of voters favored now-Justice Barrett’s confirmation, with 51% expressing support. But 41% said she should not be confirmed, while 7% were unsure or refused to answer.

More than half, or 58%, of the voters who responded felt the Supreme Court should not be expanded to include more than nine justices. Bryson said this indicates that despite media coverage and rhetoric, it appears that the majority of North Carolinians not only support Barrett, but want the court to stay as it is. Opposition to court-packing was nearly unanimous among key demographics, to include moderates and unaffiliated voters. Only Democratic and self-identifying liberal voters expressed support for increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court, according to a statement from Civitas about the survey results.

Huffman, ACLU of North Carolina condemn use of chemical agents on protesters in Alamance County

GRAHAM — The ACLU of North Carolina, U.S. House Democratic candidate Scott Huffman and the North Carolina Democratic Party issued statements Sunday condemning the use of chemical agents on peaceful protestors by law enforcement during an assembly near the Alamance County courthouse.

The event was led by Rev. Gregory Drumwright, of The Citadel Church in Greensboro, who led voters in a march to the polls during the last day of early voting on Saturday. Following a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd, the Black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this summer, the Raleigh News & Observer reports Alamance County sheriff’s deputies and Graham Police used pepper spray on the crowd, which included children. One video posted on social media showed a woman in a motorized wheelchair reacting to being pepper sprayed.

At least 12 people were arrested among the nearly 200 who gathered for the protest.

Huffman, who’s challenging U.S. Rep. Ted Budd to represent North Carolina’s 13th congressional district, was present at the assembly and tweeted a video after the events on Saturday. In the video, he expressed support for Black Lives Matter and stated that he was among those pepper sprayed during the peaceful protests.

“What I witnessed is what is happening all over America. This is wrong,” he said in the video. “We’re all taxpayers. The police work for us. Yet today, I witnessed … chemical weapons being sprayed on my fellow Americans.”

He then urged viewers to exercise their right to vote, adding that it’s more important than ever before.

“If we don’t stop this mess, our country’s going to fall apart. It’s really that plain and simple,” he said.

In a statement, North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said the actions represented “completely unwarranted police hostility and voter suppression.”

“This group of North Carolinians was fully within their First Amendment rights to hold their protest and march to the polls. Our democracy is built on the idea of one voice, one vote; no one should be denied their constitutional right to cast their ballot, much less fear for their safety while they do so,” Goodwin said. “It is egregious that local law enforcement would conduct themselves this way.”

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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