Editorial: Candidates skip quickly past pleasantries

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Rowan County could be in for one or more bitter primary elections among local Republicans.

Already, 2022 elections have started with Republican County commission candidate Angie Spillman publicly announcing her intention to unseat incumbent Judy Klusman and a judicial candidate, Lauren Hoben, leaving the Rowan Republican convention before she was scheduled to speak because of accusations made by a party executive committee member.

Things can go the other way and become civil and less divisive as Election Day draws closer. Some elections may never get to personal attacks. But the former seems highly unlikely as candidates work to make their pitches to voters in a community that’s as divided than ever.

Consider events Rowan County experienced after the last local primary election in 2020 — a divisive presidential election some still refuse to believe is settled, COVID-19 and all it has entailed, protests around racial injustice and the removal of a Confederate monument, the city’s first mayoral election in modern times and, now, spiking inflation. For those alive today, the previous few years have been some of the most transformational for society. The previous couple years have affected how people interact with each other in daily life. They certainly will affect how Republican candidates address one another when jockeying for an elected position.

Commission incumbents Greg Edds, Jim Greene and Judy Klusman tried and succeeded in bringing a new style of leadership to county government — one that gets people with different perspectives to work together. They’re now running as a team for a third term on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Spillman is taking strategy more like Commissioner Craig Pierce or former Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides, identifying her targets, issuing sharp, public criticism and not worrying too much about repercussions.

During the Rowan GOP’s convention on Saturday, Spillman looked directly at Klusman when saying she wants to unseat the two-term commissioner.

“The reason I’m doing that is because you’ve let me down as a Republican woman,” Spillman said. “It’s hard being a Republican woman. We have to stand up and we have to take care of what men are afraid to take care of, like pro-life issues. You’ve just not went out there and did the things you should as a Republican woman and having the great platform we’ve given to you.”

Local judicial races haven’t attracted major attention in the recent past because there haven’t been many contested races, but there will be two for Rowan County District Court and one for Superior Court this year. The races got  off to a strange start Saturday when Hoben left. Her husband, Paul, spoke about her decision to leave and not speak to Republicans.

“Oddly enough, I find myself incredibly disappointed,” Paul Hoben said. “We came to the convention this morning and my wife Lauren was accosted by a member of the executive committee making accusations that are, quite frankly, part of them were completely untrue and the other part were her past.”

Judicial races should be based on a person’s qualifications and ability to interpret and enforce the law fairly and equitably. Politics as usual will not be helpful for voters because district court judges shouldn’t make politically motivated decisions.

The obvious choice for a hotly contested, bitter race is the GOP primary for Rowan County sheriff, where there are six Republican candidates. Candidates can make their case without saying why they’re better than the others, but it may not be enough to finish on top.

The good news is an election can be civil while involving criticism of others on the ballot. Voters will be more informed when there’s civil debate.