Some 230 Democratic Party supporters and their families met Monday night at the Highlands for a campaign rally and chicken and barbecue dinner. The event followed a grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting earlier in the day for the new Party headquarters at 112 E. Church Street in Laurinburg.
Candidates Garland E. Pierce from House District 8, Doug Yongue from House District 46, and Bill Purcell, Senate District 25, were present at the event, along with candidates for the Scotland County school board and county commissioner positions. A representative for U.S. Larry Kissell also attended.
"This gathering was held to help energize the local Democratic party, and to pick up momentum by raising awareness of early voting," said Scotland County Democratic Party chairperson Joy Ellison. "It was our hope that those in attendance could interact with the candidates and with each other in a relaxed atmosphere."
The event included a video excerpt of President Obama's acceptance speech in 2008, prompting applause from the audience at several key moments.
"The road ahead will be long," the president said. "Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there."
Carol H. McCall, a candidate for Scotland County commissioner, saw the dinner as a call for Democrats to "get out and vote."
"The work that was put forth in motion in 2008 has not been completed," McCall said. "Obama's election was a beginning, not an end, and the progress we are looking for takes time. We need to give him that time."
Walter Rogers, chairman of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus and Public Relations Director for the 8th District of the Black Leadership Caucus, said the likelihood of a good showing by Democrats in the coming election was high if his fellow party members disregard the negativity promoted by certain naysayers in the media.
"There are people out there creating something negative that they want you to believe," Rogers said. "They want you to believe that there is no hope if you are a Democrat. If they entice you to believe these things, it could be ugly. If you ignore them, we will be successful."
Rogers said he hoped the dinner event would be a positive influence in the face of "such negativity".
"I think tonight will generate enthusiasm and help people understand the importance of not believing everything they hear," he said.
In reference to national politics, Rogers supported McCall's opinion on the progress Obama has made since assuming office.
"The president has done well after two years if one considers that he took office 'behind the eight ball' by inheriting the real mess left by the previous administration," Rogers said. "He's made progress given the situation he inherited."
Mac Mcinnis of Laurinburg attended the event to both "support the candidates and to support the party."
"In my opinion, Democrats haven't backed President Obama as they should have," he said. "I'm proud of what he has accomplished so far. No one could correct in two years what the previous administration did in eight."
Asked if he was optimistic about a positive Democratic outcome in this year's local elections, McInnis said yes.
"I think the closer we come to election day, the more people will vote Democratic," he said. "This is a good group here tonight, and I hope that having heard the candidates in attendance the people will go to the polls with a better knowledge of the choices they have when casting their vote."
Early voting will take place from Oct. 14 to Oct. 30 at the Scotland County Annex Conference Room at 231 E. Cronly St., Laurinburg.
The dinner began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Juliana Colon, 7, and Evan Colon, 6. Juliane and Evan are the grandchildren of former Scotland County Democratic Chairperson Jan Schmidt of Laurinburg.