Area candidates present dueling views

Published 8:02 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Staff Writer

CHOCOWINITY — From a local man running for sheriff to a Morehead City man running for Congress, last week’s Down East Republican Club meeting wasn’t short on variety.
The session was held Thursday at a Chocowinity restaurant.
Donald Dixon of Washington spoke about his effort to replace incumbent Sheriff Alan Jordan, a Democrat.
Dixon is a Republican who switched parties after losing to Jordan in the 2006 Democratic primary election.
Jordan was elected to his first four-year term in 1998.
Following a pattern established in earlier speeches, Dixon assailed the sheriff’s office for maintaining accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Dixon said the sheriff’s office could fund four deputies on the road by doing away with CALEA.
Speaking of resources, he said, “If you waste them, you have to replace them somehow.”
He accused Jordan of micromanaging the sheriff’s office.
“He has no experience managing people, for one thing,” Dixon said.
He said the sheriff’s office permanently cut two positions and froze three others.
On Tuesday, Harry Meredith, Jordan’s chief deputy, declined to respond to Dixon’s charges.
Responding to a reporter’s questions, Meredith said three deputy slots were frozen last year because of county budget-tightening.
At the time, the positions weren’t occupied, so the office didn’t have to fire or lay off anyone, he related.
Meredith said maintaining CALEA accreditation costs the sheriff’s office approximately $4,200 per year.
An entry-level deputy makes about $31,000 to $35,000 annually, he said.
Next up at the podium was Craig Weber of Morehead City.
Weber is a Democrat-turned-Republican seeking his party’s nomination to run in the 3rd Congressional District.
The district is represented by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C.
Weber, a former television weatherman, ran against Jones as a Democrat in 2006 and 2008.
Weber lost to Jones by 54,061 votes in 2006.
He lost to Jones again in 2008, that time by 97,322 votes.
“I have a problem with Walter,” Weber told the club.
Weber said Jones signed the GOP Contract with America, a spate of conservative pledges dating back to the mid-1990s.
The “contract” was signed by a majority of Republican lawmakers after the GOP swept Congress in 1994.
The document included a proposal to introduce term-limits legislation.
“It’s time to come home,” Weber said, aiming at Jones. “It’s gotten stale.”
Weber said Jones wanted to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This is not a time for weakness in politics,” he said.
He said Jones voted for the wars then changed his mind about the conflicts.
“Someone in our government should apologize,” Weber declared, indicating that changing positions has hurt the troops.
Weber said he is an ex-Marine. Recalling the post-Vietnam era, he said he suffered insults after returning from the service.
“I had a dirty diaper thrown at me,” he said. “Thank God it was number one.”
In response, Glen Downs, Jones’ chief of staff, said Jones supports term limits but doesn’t support lawmakers limiting terms unilaterally.
It does no good for a single congressman to step down after serving a certain number of terms if his colleagues won’t do the same, Downs indicated.
“Congressman Jones did support and does support the concept of term limits,” Downs stated.
Jones’ Web site says the congressman was first sworn in to the House in 1995.
House members serve two-year terms.
Jones favored authorizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Downs.
“He came to change his position on the efficacy of the conflict in Iraq,” he said, adding that Jones believed the fight against al-Qaida was in Afghanistan.
Jones still believes the war in Afghanistan is a necessary one, but he has been critical of President Barack Obama’s surge “and the way it has been conducted,” Downs pointed out.
“He does think it is time to begin wrapping up the U.S. involvement — as it’s currently constructed — of the conflict in Afghanistan, but he’s not for an immediate withdrawal,” Downs stated.
A number of candidates followed Weber, including Buddy Harrell, a Beaufort County commissioner hopeful from Edward.
Harrell referenced remarks he made recently during the GOP’s county convention in Washington.
“About the only thing we teach in Beaufort County is black history,” Harrell said during the convention. “That’s all I hear about.”
Harrell went into greater detail in an interview that took place during a break from the convention.
“This country wasn’t settled by the blacks,” he told the Washington Daily News during the interview. “People came here from Europe for freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
On Thursday, Harrell offered an explanation of his comments in his brief address to the club.
He said his statements at the convention were about the school board.
“I want equal time for the rest of the country,” he said. “Let’s teach history back to the beginning, not just 1877 up.”
The school system is governed from the governor’s office down, Harrell asserted.
“This is not right,” he said. “We need a lot of help to change our school system.”
Until discipline is enforced in schools “we’re not going to teach (students) a durned thing,” Harrell continued.
The county has nice brick school buildings that are standing empty, he said.
“The more buildings they build, the worse the students get,” he added.
The county is in debt from building schools, according to Harrell.
The schools are starting to register 16-year-olds to vote, he said.
“This was started in the ’30s by Hitler,” he said. “Same thing.”
In a January presentation, Kellie Hopkins, Beaufort County’s election director, told the Beaufort County Republican Men’s Club that a new law passed by the N.C. General Assembly makes it legal for 16- or 17-year-olds to “preregister,” even if they don’t turn 18 before the election.
This doesn’t mean that 16- or 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote or that the legislation altered the legal voting age, she advised.
Youths aged 17 could register to vote before the law changed, provided they turned 18 at least 60 days before an election, Hopkins said.
Now, preregistrations will be held in a queue until the normal 60-day period triggers the release of teens’ voter-registration cards, according to Hopkins.
Providing information about preregistration is a required part of social-studies curricula in state high schools, she said.