My thoughts

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Ever wonder how the county got stuck with a commissioner as controversial as Brian Berger? It happened in the primary. It happened because there was an almost rabid push to unseat long-term commissioner Bill Caster. Berger wasn’t a viable candidate, he was just a tool used to do the deed. But once Berger bested Caster in the primary, there was no way to stop the train and Berger was swept into office.

I attended two of the three political primary candidate forums last week.

For the one I missed, I turned to the recorded footage on WECT’s website. Sitting through these forums was not a picnic. In fact, a snack and a cold drink would have done wonders, the ability to hit pause and do something else was so nice on the one night I watched online.

Why would I give up rare time off for such a dry endeavor, you ask?

Because that is how critical this primary election is. Yes, it is only a primary, but for once in a long while, there are qualified candidates to pick from.

There is zero excuse for not knowing the candidates, and there are a lot of them to know, obviously some are not as qualified.

ECT will keep its footage up until next week’s election. Make use of it, and watch it all from start to finish.

There is a lot to be said for hearing each candidate answer the exact same question. To see them side by side, how informed, how prepared, how viable is invaluable.

Our forefathers died for the right to choose their representatives.

The most important race to us in New Hanover County? It is a three-way tie: the two congressional District 7 races, McIntyre’s house and Hagan’s senate seats, plus the state senate District 9 race to fill Thom Goolsby’s seat.

Why Goolsby chose not to run again is still a mystery, but considering how badly the state legislature ran amuck, it is critical we get a guy in there who will not pour fuel on the vindictive fire that began last year.

State house majority leader Thom Tillis, running for the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, did not attend the forums held locally. Guess he is too important, too busy. Yet his campaign signs litter our highway medians. That’s too bad.

Tillis and seven other Republican candidates are vying for the nomination for U.S. Senate from District 7. North Carolina’s 7th congressional district  is Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, New Hanover, Pender, Robeson and Sampson counties. The winner will face the Democrat nominee, possibly incumbent Kay Hagan in the general election. Two Libertarians are also seeking the 7th U.S. Senate seat.

Just four of the eight Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, District 7 showed up for the two local forums, the others did not despite two chances.  After watching, I am confident a voter can choose between them.

Choosing between three men for the Republican nomination to represent the 7th in the U.S. house wasn’t as hard, all three candidates attended: Chris Andrade, David Rouzer and Woody White. Each candidate represented himself well. These men are vying to face a Democrat in the general election this November to fill Mike McIntyre’s congressional seat. McIntyre is not seeking reelection. Democrat Jonathan Barfield Jr. will face Walter Martin Jr. in the May 6 primary.

The three Republican hopefuls to fill Thom Goolsby’s N.C. District 9, New Hanover County state senate seat are Michael Burns, Justin LaNasa and Michael Lee.

Which one can best represent you and yours at the state level and in Washington? How a candidate handles himself or herself back home is how he or she will act inside the beltline in notoriously fickle Raleigh or in power mad Washington. How they prepare and respond to questions in a forum is how they will handle themselves on the floor of the house or senate, as well as in front of reporters and constituents.

If possible get out and greet them somewhere, shake their hands and look them in the eye. This age-old test of character still has validity. If a candidate does not have time for you before the election, don’t expect any access after.

Choosing between the five NHC board of education candidates for four open seats is also important. Three of them have served on the school board too long, the school system is a mess. Former county manager Bruce Shell is challenging the establishment.

I also watched the two District 8 North Carolina Senate candidates looking to challenge Sen. Bill Rabun for his seat representing parts of Pender, Brunswick and Bladen counties and downtown Wilmington.

The county commissioner race still remains the toughest choice, though there are two seats to fill. There will be 10 Republican candidates on a primary ballot, and two on the Democratic primary ballot. Within such a large field, there are certainly those who are running to make themselves feel good. But I cannot remember a time when there were so many choices. We must pick the best.

One qualifier for this important position of leadership: Choose a candidate who, if elected, will fill out the term. Using one elected position to stairstep to another race is so annoying. When that happens, an appointment is made and the voters have no choice in their new representation.

The Republican and Democratic primary candidate race for sheriff is perhaps the most interesting. There is a great deal of law enforcement experience seeking the job. This position is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. Everyone else answers to him or her. The sheriff is elected; all other municipal chiefs are appointed. This will count if consolidation talks solidify.

And this election is historic in a sense. On the Democratic side is the former sheriff trying to unseat his hand-picked successor, who is dug-in, fighting an upsweep in gang crime with an unsympathetic citizenry and a now critical former sheriff. Expect this race to sink into the mud as the days grow shorter.

On the Republican side you have a veteran radio host who is a former police officer, currently a private eye, going up against a former marine, former department of corrections officer, former sheriff’s deputy turned lawyer this last six years.

But I am confident: Watch all four answer the questions, watch it from start to finish and you will be able to make a choice and feel good about it.

Or, you can ask your cousin’s uncle’s brother who works with some of these men who they’d choose.

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