The candidates’ forum discusses hot topics | Local

SNOW HILL — A forum hosted by a local grassroots organization tested candidates for Greene County office last week on a range of issues, including some hot national topics.

Ten candidates for local office, including sheriff, school board and board of commissioners, attended the event hosted by the Greene County Improvement Association Thursday at the Greene County Public Library.

A large audience filled the library meeting room as Reverend Rod Debs, a Oneness minister from Greenville, served as the forum’s moderator and District Court Judge Curtis Stackhouse was the timekeeper.

The forum included both general and office-specific questions. Candidates, who received a list of possible questions in advance, were asked to limit their answers to two minutes.

General questions focused on voting rights and the January 6 violence at the United States Capitol. The first questions asked candidates if they supported voter registration reforms such as automatic voter registration, online voter registration, or same-day voter registration.

The three candidates for Greene County sheriff, Republican James Harper and Democrats Matt Sasser and Jason Tyndall have all affirmed the right of all citizens to vote as long as voters obey the law. “Anyway, the fact that they have to register to vote is fine with me as long as it’s done legally for all citizens of the United States,” Harper said.

Tyndall was the only candidate to address each of the three registration reforms posed in the question. He supported same-day registration and automatic voter registration, citing the potential for increased turnout, convenience and lower costs. However, he remains “suspicious” of online voter registration due to security concerns.

Participating candidates for the Board of Commissioners included Democrat Natasha Sutton from District 3, Democrat Bennie Heath and Republican Salvador A. Tinoco from District 4, and Republican Eric Keel and unaffiliated candidate Ray Johnson in District 5.

Tinoco said he supports the democratic process and efforts to get people to participate, “legally”. Heath began his response by encouraging everyone who is eligible to register to vote.

“There are so many options out there with the ways you can vote,” he said.

“Voting is a privilege. I would support anything open, but at the same time I want things done in a proper and legal way.

Sutton said: “I strongly believe that if you are eligible to vote you should have that right. The world is changing and these things would help more people exercise their right to vote.

Johnson said, “If it’s legal, I’m okay.” He also cited the fact that several states already have these measures in place.

Forty states and Washington DC have implemented online voter registration, 21 states and Washington DC have implemented same-day voter registration allowing voters to register and vote on Election Day, and 20 States and Washington DC have implemented automatic voter registration.

Eric Keel said he supports traditional Election Day registration and voting. “It is not necessary to vote on the day itself. Election Day is a scheduled event. I feel like there is plenty of time for people to register before an upcoming election.

Two candidates for the Democratic Board of Education attended the forum, Donna Lynne Blow and Darius Shackleford.

Shackleford said he would support any measure that legally allows someone to exercise their right to vote. “I grew up here in this town in the 1960s. My father took me to meetings that were held, some of them in secret so the community could have a chance to vote. I think anyway that a person who can vote must be supported.

Blow echoed his response, saying, “Essentially, I think we should do everything we can within the bounds of the law to allow anyone who is eligible to vote to be able to do so.”

All candidates were asked which term best describes those who stormed into the U.S. Capitol on January 6: protesters, rioters, patriots, terrorists, peaceful protesters, or insurgents?

Tyndall and Harper said they would label individuals who violated the Capitol building as rioters.

“They weren’t okay with what was going on so they went to Washington and when they felt like they weren’t getting what they wanted, some of them started breaking the law and that’s when they turned into rioters,” Tyndall said.

“Peaceful protests are allowed in the United States, but as soon as you start causing chaos, violence and destroying property, it becomes a riot,” Harper said.

Sasser, currently acting sheriff, did not answer the question directly. “Anyway, I think it was a terrible stain on our country’s history and an embarrassment…I’m focusing on here in Greene County.”

School board candidate Blow said: ‘The only thing I have to say about this issue is that no one should be allowed to break the law. There are legal ways to enter the Capitol building and we need to make sure everyone obeys the law.

Shackleford said he believed those who breached the Capitol building were insurgents. “When I hear people say they are going to hang the vice president and they are going to kill people, I think they intended to overthrow the government. That was my thought based on what I I saw and heard. They would be called insurgents,” he said.

Commissioner candidate Eric Keel said people cannot base their opinions on what they see on television. “I think you should have been there to come to a better conclusion on intent.” He said he believed there were all kinds of people who violated the Capitol.

Johnson, Keel’s opponent, said: ‘I think it started as a peaceful protest and they got caught in the moment and it turned into a riot. So far we have been blessed in this county. There is no violence here and I believe in everyone’s right to protest, but it must be done legally.

Sutton simply stated that “it was a sad day in the history of the United States, by whatever term you choose. It is ultimately up to the judicial system to deliver justice. Whatever the issue, we all need to learn to agree to disagree and to love one another.

Bennie Heath said: “I think there was each of the above elements. They were all intruders. Any time you break into an area that is supposed to be secure, you are a trespasser. Especially for them to break down the doors and enter the Capitol building. I think it showed a weakness in our nation when you have citizens doing the things they used to do. I disagree with that and would like them to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

His opponent Tinoco agreed saying, “I think there was a bit of everything. I think it may have started as a peaceful protest and then turned violent. We have laws and we have the democratic process. If you don’t like the chosen ones, you can change that without doing what they did.

Sheriff candidates were asked to identify the main crime problem and they all said drugs.

Sasser, who will face Tyndall in the May 17 primary, said drug addiction is linked to “everything from property crime to murder.” He suggested that having an experienced patrol team would help alleviate the problem.

Tyndall said: “We all know someone who is affected by this, whether it’s a parent, sister, brother or other loved one.” He supported the need for experienced deputies and suggested increasing training saying, “We need deputies who are experienced and trained to work on drug cases so they don’t get them and then lose in front of them. courts”.

Republican Harper, who will face the winner of the Democratic primary in November, also said the county has a traffic control problem. “I’m not trying to turn the Greene County Sheriff’s Office into a highway patrol, but that’s a problem. Whether it’s people driving recklessly, speeding or drinking and driving.

Candidates for the Board of Commissioners were asked whether citizens would receive more efficient services at a better rate if more county functions were outsourced to private providers?

Tinoco responded that it is possible that private companies could provide more efficient services at a better price, but this should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Heath, the current chairman of the board of commissioners, said “some of our county services are provided in-house and some are private, and I am not aware of any shortcomings at present.”

Keel supported the use of private contracting services in certain situations where their specialist knowledge would be useful. Johnson replied, “I think private contracting services should be considered by managers and approved by the board. We need to look at what best benefits citizens.

Sutton said: “Sometimes working with private providers costs us more in the long run. Some of these private contractors do not employ our residents. I have to make sure the citizens are employed.

School board candidates were asked to suggest ways to improve schools in Greene County.

Blow replied, “We need fairness and accessibility. I also want to see more diversity in the staff. It would be nice to see the staff reflect the demographics of the students.

Shackleford suggested increasing diversity among staff and improving retention. “Like every other part of the county, we have to try to find ways to retain good, qualified people,” he said.

Melvin B. Baillie