Locals looking to get an up-close look at the Democratic candidates for governor will get that opportunity Saturday, as three top contenders for the nomination will be in Laurinburg to participate in a forum at The Highlands.
The event, which will include a moderated discussion and a question and answer session, is being sponsored by black elected officials from Scotland, Hoke, Robeson and Richmond counties.
State Rep. Garland Pierce, one of the event’s organizers, credits combining the influence of multiple counties with securing attendance commitments from candidates Walter Dalton, Bob Etheridge and Bill Faison.
The candidates expected Saturday are:
— Lt. Gov. Dalton, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, filling the seat once held by his late father. He served in the Senate for six terms, rising to co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He was elected lieutenant governor in November 2008
— Etheridge, a Sampson County native, who has been in the political arena most of his life. Etheridge served as a Harnett County commissioner from 1973 to 1976, and was elected to the state House of Representatives for two terms from 1979 to 1988. He served three terms in the U.S. Congress and served as N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction.
— Faison, who represents Northern Orange and Caswell counties, was first elected to the Legislature in 2005 and has served on a variety of committees, including acting as chair of the House Study Committee on Rural Highspeed Internet Access and chair of the House Democrats’ Business Caucus.
Other Democrats running for governor include Matthews resident Gary Dunn, Winston-Salem resident Gardenia Henley and physician Bruce Blackmon. The winner of the Democratic nomination is likely to face Republican Pat McCrory in the general election. McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, ran unsuccessfully for governor against Perdue in 2008.
“In a primary, where turnout will be low, four counties coming together could change the election, and they all understand that,” said Pierce, a Wagram Democrat.
In addition to residents of the four counties, candidates for local office, as well as at the state, regional and national levels have been invited to attend.
“All folks from these four counties are invited to attend, as well as all clergy and friends of other agencies and organizations,” Pierce added.
Citizen-representatives from each county will take turns querying the candidates for governor, followed by questions from the floor during a question and answer segment.
According to Pierce, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when evaluating a candidate for office.
“People will soon start asking who they should vote for, and what they really need to do is to come out and hear the candidates speak for themselves – to look at them and observe their body language.”
While all are invited, Pierce said that group organizers were specifically interested in getting young people to attend the 8 a.m. event.
“I would encourage our teachers to bring out their civics classes, because we really want young people to be part of this process.
“What these officials decide if they are elected probably won’t affect me as much as it will the young people,” said Pierce.
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell is also expected to attend.
A continental breakfast, including pastries and juice/coffee will be served at the event.
Those with questions are invited to contact the organizing committee at 276-1098.