UPDATE: Carrie Eaves, assistant professor of Political Science at Elon, will moderate the forum. The new regional editor for area Gannett newspapers, including the Burlington Times-News, Donnie Fetter is expected to take part. Admission is free. The Moseley Center is located across from the McMichael Parking Lot off North O’Kelly Avenue on the Elon campus. The Times-News is streaming the forum live on its Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/TimesNewsBurlington. Also, Colin Donohue of the School of Communications at Elon saysElon News Network will stream the forum on its Facebook page.and the student radio station, WSOE FM will air it live at 89.3.
I have to admit, I don’t keep up with local politics as closely today as I did more than three years ago when I was still editor of the Burlington Times-News. That was my job in those days, making sure folks in the community had a pretty good idea of not only who is in office, but those interested in replacing them.
Over the past few years, keeping up-to-date became more difficult. I focused on other things. Of course, the state of newspapers, those historic producers of local news, aren’t making it easy either. Corporate cuts have gutted hundreds of newspapers to the bone nationwide. With just two reporters and a city editor on staff, my former employer can barely get a filing list of candidates in the daily newspaper or online, much less a thorough look at multiple candidates and the issues that define races for county Board of Commissioners or Board of Education.
And when I say multiple candidates I mean a bunch of them. In all, seven Republicans and five Democrats are running in the March 3 primary for three seats on the board of Commissioners. This kind of situation defines the sports adage about not knowing the players without a program.
How then to sort them all out?
This is why I was glad to get a phone call on Wednesday from my friend and Elon University colleague Jason Husser letting me know that the university is taking the lead role in producing a candidates forum featuring the 12 people running in the March 3 primary for the county Board of Commissioners. The forum will be at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 5 at McKinnon Hall in the Moseley Student Center at Elon. Parking is free in the lot across the street between McMichael Science Center and Sankey Hall. People who attended the Community Connections local issues series at Elon will recall that those forums were also held at McKinnon.
Husser, associate professor of Political Science and Policy Studies and director of the Elon Poll, developed the forum with campus leaders like Jeff Stein, vice president for Strategic Initiatives, in hopes of filling a gap of local information for residents. Historically the Times-News hosted candidate forums — sometimes in partnership with a radio station. The newspaper is no longer able to take on a leadership role in this important area of community service. Elon, as part of its community engagement goals, can and will. The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Elon and the Times-News is offering publicity and coverage.
The races for the Board of Commissioners look to be highly competitive. All three incumbents up for re-election — Tim Sutton, Bill Lashley and Eddie Boswell — decided not to run. Sutton told me a few months ago he wasn’t seeking office again and was as good as his word. And while Lashley isn’t seeking re-election, there is a Bill Lashley on the Republican ballot — his son.
So the Republican field shapes up this way: Jim Johnson, James Kirkpatrick, William (Bill) Lashley, John Paisley, Jr., David Michael Spruill, Pamela Tyler Thompson and Blake E. Williams. Paisley has held a seat on the board before. Thompson is currently on the Alamance County Board of Education. Spruill has run unsuccessfully for office on more than one occasion before winning a non-partisan bid to become a Soil & Water Conservation Supervisor.
The field of Democrats looks like this: Bob Byrd, Dreama J. Caldwell, Anthony Pierce, Kristen Powers and Henry Vines. Byrd served a four-year term on the board but lost his re-election bid in 2018. Powers ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in 2018. Vines has run unsuccessfully for state House of Representatives and commissioner.
I hope people take advantage of this opportunity to see and hear all the candidates who choose to take part in the forum. In a race with so many faces and voices, any avenue to sort them all out is welcomed.