Carolina Colours volunteers get A+ for well-attended candidate forum

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CAROLINA COLOURS – Tuesday night, this upscale community off Hwy 70 just east of New Bern did more than its fair share to bolster respectful political discourse in our area, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Florence that almost eliminated public venues this election season.

In a typical election season, the three counties that comprise State Senate District 2 would see a half-dozen or more opportunities for candidates to appear together in a public setting. But not so this year, thanks mostly to a Category 1 storm that hit the region on Sept. 13.


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“This year has been very unusual,” said Norman Sanderson, the incumbent Republican, who has held the District 2 seat for three terms. “Up until tonight, I had not even met my Democratic opponent, Ginger Garner, although I did see Tim Harris, the Libertarian, during the Croaker Festival in Oriental.”

The two hour session, planned by Carol Aluzzo, Jane Robinson, and other Carolina Colours residents, was a first time experience for the group. Before the event, billed “as neither a debate nor a town hall meeting,” Aluzzo was on pins and needles. However, election forum veterans (like this reporter) immediately recognized a mighty special project in the making – with exceptional flair!

A large ballroom known as the Pavilion – surrounded outdoors by a well-manicured golf course – proved to be a magnificent setting.
Just one example: Each candidate had an individual podium (sporting the candidate’s name), a top quality microphone, comfortable upholstered stool, individual water pitchers, and in front of each podium was a display of colorful, yellow mums – complete with a nifty U.S. Flag.

Exceptional.

But wait, there’s more! Aluzzo had recruited local philanthropist, and jaunty raconteur, Mr. Nelson McDaniel, as the evening’s moderator. Talk about classy! McDaniel is incredibly well-known, and serves as President of the Tryon Palace Foundation. To his credit, he easily lent both fun and gravitas to the affair.

Yes, Aluzzo and her mostly senior citizen committee members had quickly learned how to pull off a stellar campaign stop. All 140 or so attendees – including the three candidates – could not have been more impressed! And now, of course, the Carolina Colours folks are on the hook to do a forum like this EVERY ELECTION SEASON!

Speaking of those candidates, you might wonder what happened! What were their positions on the ten or so “questions that have been prepared and presented to each candidate beforehand?”

As even a rank-and-file voter might expect, Harris, the Libertarian, proved to be the most unconventional of the three. Unlike Sanderson and Garner, Harris said that he favors a military downsizing initiative known by the acronym BRAC, or Base Realignment And Closing legislation. Later, he drew the most chuckles of the evening in responding to a question about what he would do, if elected, to “support local family-owned farms and encourage young people to take up farming.”

“I really don’t care for hogs that much,” said Harris, gently rebuking the state’s mega livestock farms. “And, I don’t care that much for chickens either.”

Rancor among the three was absent. Each person came across as passionate, intelligent, and willing to tackle his or her firmly held beliefs.

Early on, Garner strongly criticized all six amendments to the state constitution, proposed by the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

“The explanations on the ballot are grotesquely misleading,” she said. Garner later added that two amendments having to do with appointments “are a clear power grab by Republican legislators.” She also cited studies that prove voter fraud is not a problem, but “the Voter ID amendment will lead to massive voter suppression.”

On the other hand, Sanderson urged support for the amendments.

“They will add strength to our Constitution, not weakness,” he said. “They are good for the State of North Carolina.”

Considered the front runner in this election, Sanderson reminded the attentive audience that “we live in a dangerous world.” He labeled nearby Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station “as the most important economic driver in our region and we must do everything in our power to protect it.”

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