Political Notebook: Republicans say they didn’t sponsor August ‘Patriot’s Rally’ at Sloan Park

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Former Rowan County Republican Chairman Don Vick and Erica Vedeikis of Rowan Republican Women’s Club told the Post Monday a patriot’s rally held at Sloan Park in August was not a party-sponsored event.

A handful of Republican candidates spoke with voters in August during what was organized as the Rowan County Patriot Rally. Vedeikis said the rally was a grassroots efforts led by Dawn Stroud, who credits herself as founder of the Rowan County Patriot Alliance. Stroud told the Post at the rally she helped organize the event to publicize the candidates and their platforms.

The rally included Salisbury City Council candidates Nalini Joseph, Jessica Cloward and Jonathan Barbee, who attracted criticism for comments about Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins, as well as Mayor Karen Alexander. Other speakers included Republican candidates for Rowan County sheriff, county commission and North Carolina Supreme Court. Greg Lambeth spoke on behalf of Fame Preservation Group. Steve Poteat represented the Rowan Rifles Commander and Tea Party. State Sen. Carl Ford also made an appearance.

The Rowan Republicans Women Club, Vedeikis said, was there to support the Republican women. Vedeikis said she was asked at the last minute to introduce each candidate since she was familiar with a lot of those in attendance.

The Salisbury City Council race is nonpartisan. Vick said the Rowan County Republican Party doesn’t endorse candidates or endorse Republican candidates during primary elections, including the U.S. Senate race. Individuals in the party can work for candidates.

The Rowan Republican Women’s Club, however, may choose to make endorsements. Campaign finance reports show the organization donated $200 each to Joseph and Cloward for their campaigns. The Rowan Republicans Women Club received a charter in March from the National Federation of Republican Women, which Vick said allows the organization to host its own events and activities without a sign-off from the party.

Rowan County Attorney Jay Dees told the Post in August that the county didn’t sponsor the Patriot’s Rally and has since alerted political candidates and organizers to refrain from using the county seal.

Vedeikis said any event hosted or sponsored by the women’s group will be advertised as such on any promotional material. To keep up with what the organization is up to, she recommends visiting the organization’s Facebook page or direct website.

Heggins calls for Lt. Gov. Robinson’s resignation following comments about LGBTQ community

Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins, who is running for mayor, says Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson should resign after comments he made about the LGBTQ+ community.

In a video that circulated social media last week, Robinson said in front of a church, “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth. And yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like that I called it filth, come see me and I’ll explain it to you.”

Heggins said it’s her duty as a public servant to stand against hate speech and discrimination being promoted.

“As such, I am deeply disturbed by, find despicable and condemn N.C. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s transphobic and homophobic words,” Heggins said in a statement. “I view his stance as prohibitive to the pursuit of happiness and dangerous to the peaceful existence of our N.C. LGBTQ+ community and extremely harmful to overall positive human relations. Instead, we must foster environments that value the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families, which in turn promotes the learning and compassionate growth of cisgendered individuals.”

Over the weekend, Robinson shared to Facebook a video of him doubling-down, stating that his comments about the “sexualization of children from the classroom and our public education system” have been twisted “by the media and those on the left” to put the focus on lack of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

State Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat running in the 2022 U.S. Senate race, also denounced the comments and called for Robinson’s resignation.

“It is our duty to stand with the LGBTQ+ community in the face of this kind of hatred,” Jackson said in a statement.”These comments are abhorrent. To hear this from a member of such a high office signals to countless folks that they’re unwelcome in our state.”

Jackson represents Mecklenburg County in the state Senate. Robinson presides over the Senate.

North Carolina Senate Democrats also denounced the rhetoric, with Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue of Wake County saying Robinson’s comments don’t represent the beliefs of the caucus.

“It is our hope that no educator would ever teach their students to consider another person to be ‘filth,'” Blue said. “Lt. Gov. Robinson’s comments are hateful and serve to divide North Carolina. That’s not the kind of leader this state deserves.”

Sen. Carl Ford did not respond to a request for comment about the remarks by the time of publication.

Forums will feature municipal candidates ahead of election

Salisbury City Council and mayoral candidates will participate in two forums this week as early voting begins Thursday.

Both Rowan Concerned Citizens and the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP will host a virtual forum with all candidates Tuesday. Beginning at 6 p.m., voters can tune into the Rowan Concerned Citizens’ or Salisbury-Rowan NAACP’s Facebook accounts to hear from Mayor Karen Alexander and Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins, who are challenging each other in the city’s first mayoral race. Rev. Dee Ellison, pastor of At the Cross Ministries, will moderate the discussion.

Then at 7 p.m., Dr. M.J. Simms-Maddox of Livingstone College will moderate discussion among council candidates, which includes incumbents David Post and Tamara Sheffield, along with Anthony Smith, Harry McLaughlin Jr., Nalini Joseph, Jonathan Barbee and Jessica Cloward all competing for four open seats.

Voters can submit questions for the discussion to info@salisburyrowannaacp.org. Questions will also be accepted during the forum.

On Thursday, the Rowan Chamber of Commerce, Catawba College and Salisbury Post will host a forum beginning at 6 p.m. Candidates will gather at Norvell Theater without an audience due to COVID-19 safety measures. The forum will be live streamed and rebroadcast several times via Salisbury’s public access channel WSRG-TV before Election Day on Nov. 2. Josh Smicker of Catawba College will moderate the discussion.

The chamber also will host a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. for candidates running for election in Spencer. The discussion can be viewed via Zoom or the chamber’s Facebook page. Mark Lewis of People’s Bank will moderate the forum and questions can be submitted to info@rowanchamber.com.

On Oct. 18, the Salisbury branch of the American Association of University Women will host a virtual “Meet the ‘She'” candidates forum for all of the female candidates, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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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