By Russ Lay on October 13, 2012
The event, held Oct. 8 at the Ramada Plaza in Kill Devil Hills, differed from other area forums as the candidates were free to engage and rebut one another during each round of questions.
If there was a fear that such a format would devolve into a fracas, this proved otherwise. The candidates were cordial to one another and where there was disagreement, it sometimes came between candidates that are not running against each other.
Participating in the debate were Democrat Alfred Jackson and independent write-in candidate Sandy Semans-Ross from District 1, Republican Bob Woodard and Democrat Bob Muller from District 2, and Democrat Allen Burrus and independent Kevin Conner from District 4.
Commission chairman Warren Judge, who is running unopposed in November, also participated in the debate.
Republican Richard Johnson, the incumbent District 1 commissioner, was unable to attend and submitted a written statement.
Following an opening statement, four topics chosen by Russ Lay and Sam Walker were presented to each candidate.
They had an opportunity to answer the question, followed by time to rebut their fellow candidates responses.
The candidates were then given the opportunity to make a closing remark.
Candidates did disagree, especially on the reality or necessity to increase taxes going forward, whether or not we spent too much money during the real estate boom, and on privatization of some government services.
There was also a lively exchange between the District 2 candidates concerning which was more suitable as a candidate, and some obvious differences between incumbent county commissioners and candidates who had served on town boards in regards to budgets and spending.
The candidates also worked in their own talking points on issues not covered by the questions.
In addition to each candidates experience, motivations, and backgrounds, the group expressed their opinions on education, the real estate market, diversifying the local economy, jobs, representation in Raleigh, the crisis in the fishing industry and parts of the county some view as overlooked in the government process.
There has been comment in social media concerning the “lavishness” of county buildings. One local website said “we built Cadillac’s when a Chevy could have done the job”. Did we overspend during the boom or did we spend our tax revenues wisely?
Why should voters believe you are a more suitable choice than your opponent?
Are you prepared to tell taxpayers that a “revenue neutral” property tax rate will mean a net increase for many of them, especially year-round residents?
An incident at a local nightspot this weekend has been described as “gang-related”. This marks the third such incident this year and there has been little said by local law enforcement. Should the county take the lead in confronting this problem and reporting such incidents to the media and the public?