Mary Katherine Murphy
Nearly 100 Scotland County Republicans gathered this past weekend to honor “two of our greatest presidents.”
The Scotland County GOP held its annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in the clubhouse at Deercroft Golf Club in Wagram on Friday. Bill Owens, chairman of the Scotland County Republican Party, welcomed guests with a note of commendation for their political involvement.
“Just being here shows me that you have an interest in and most likely a concern with the political situation that our nation, state, and county, are in,” said Owens. “I need not tell you that it is not good at any level.”
The dinner, which also serves as a fundraiser for the Scotland County GOP, is held in honor of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
“Both were strong believers in the principles of liberty and justice for all,” Owens said.
Attendees included Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker, Scotland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Davis, and Scotland County Board of Education Chairman Charles Brown.
Also on the guest list were a handful of political candidates: John Whitley and Vernon Robinson, both running for the District 8 seat on the U.S. House of Representatives and Gene McIntyre, campaigning for the 25th District seat on the state Senate.
Fred Smith, the evening’s featured speaker, stumped for Pat McCrory’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign, but also addressed several issues concerning the state. Smith ran for governor in 2008 but defeated in the Republican primary by McCrory.
“We’ve got a broken economy,” Smith said. “Everyone in here knows a friend, or a neighbor, or a relative who is out of work. Scotland County, when I ran for governor your unemployment rate was just above eight percent. Today it’s north of 16 percent – it’s doubled. We can do better than that.”
Smith criticized the economic approach of the state’s current Democratic leadership.
“Today in North Carolina, 451,000 people are unemployed,” Smith added. “That’s greater than the populations of Asheville, Gastonia, Burlington, Chapel Hill, Greenville, and Wilmington combined. And what do the leaders in Raleigh want to do to fix this? They want to raise taxes, and tax what you buy for children. They want to tax small businesses and what they also want to do is pay up front cash to corporations from out of the state to come in and give that bill to the present businesses we have in this state.”
Nationwide, according to Smith, continued reliance upon the service economy will be untenable in the long-term.
“[McCrory] believes that we need to have all our policy and all of our laws and all of our effort supporting industries that grow things, manufacture things, build things, and innovate things, because we cannot be a first class society if we only depend upon the service economy,” said Smith.
Should McCrory find himself in the governor’s mansion next year, Smith said, supporting agriculture and reforming public education will be eminent on his list of priorities.
“Agribusiness is the number one economic engine in this state – over 70 billion dollars, and Pat understands that,” said Smith. “He understands the importance of being able to ship our agricultural products overseas. He understands the importance of not letting the government try to tell farmers how to run things on their own farms.”
Smith suggested that moving learning online will be one way to modernize the education system.
“Pat understands that we need to bring our educational system into the 21st century,” Smith said. “Just to pour money into an outdated educational system is not the way to support our young people so that they are trained to meet the needs of business and to get a job.”
Smith also upheld community college as a viable way for students to learn skills for a lifelong career.
“We need to realize that a four-year degree is not the only way to success,” said Smith. “Our community colleges are critical to the success of our workforce. I see that in my business, how important plumbers, electricians, and auto mechanics are. They make a good living… There’s nothing wrong with being a plumber or with working with your hands.”
Owens also named the Scotland County GOP’s Republican of the Year during the dinner, presenting a plaque to Bonnie Schenck, president of the Scotland County Republican Women.
“It was a surprise - it’s nice to be appreciated,” Schenck said. “I enjoy this and a lot of people don’t have the time to put into it. I do, and I feel like it’s important.”