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State Candidates Speak at Fall Democratic Rally on ASU, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton: ‘N.C. is at the at the Crossroads’

By Jesse Wood

Incumbent N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall at the Fall Rally of the Watauga County Democratic Party on the campus of ASU. Photo by Jesse Wood

Sept. 24, 2012. The $10 barbecue chicken dinner sure fired up incumbent N.C. Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin on Saturday as he pitched his track record to the attendees of the Fall Rally of the Watauga County Democratic Party, which was hosted by the ASU College Democrats on the campus of ASU.

Wayne Goodwin – Incumbent Candidate for N.C. Commissioner of Insurance
Arguably the most energized speaker at event, Goodwin spoke about the importance of N.C. Department of Insurance and said that the regulatory work his office oversees “impacts the pocket books” of every North Carolinian.

Since taking office in 2009, Goodwin said he ordered insurance rate cuts, rate freezes, rebates, refunds and restitution that saved North Carolinians more than $1.3 billion, which included reduction in workers’ compensation rates that saved at least $115 million for businesses in the state.

In addition to maximizing auto insurance rates, Goodwin said his agency regulates every insurance agent, every broker and every company that sells insurance in the state. He touted that car insurance rates in the state are the lowest in the South – from “Delaware to Texas.”

“Pardon the pun, but that doesn’t happen by accident,” Goodwin said.

Incumbent for N.C. Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin

Also, he basically called the agency a watchdog for consumer interests, adding that he has made fighting insurance fraud a priority of his administration that has resulted in 600 arrests and nearly $49 million in restitution and recoveries for families.

He blasted insurance companies, Republicans in general and his opponent Mike Causey.

“It frightens me what the other side is going to do to Medicare,” Goodwin said.

“Do the insurance companies think about the people or profits?” Goodwin asked and answered. “Profits.”

“In this race, the other fella in the battle, this is his fourth time running for this office. Now, Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Goodwin said, adding that Causey has worked for 30 years in the insurance industry including 10 years as a legislative lobbyist.

“Do we want anybody who has worked 30 years for the insurance industry to help set our insurance rates?” Goodwin asked. “I have never worked in the insurance industry. I have never worked for anybody or any company that is regulated by the Department of Insurance.”

Elaine Marshall – Incumbent Candidate for Secretary of State
Current N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall mentioned that the Triangle Business Journal recently named her in the “100 Most Influential Business Leaders” list.

The dining hall on the campus of ASU where the event was held. On the right side in the suit is Governor-hopeful and current Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and his wife Lucille, who graduated from ASU. Photo by Jesse

In the report, the journal stated: “What gets her on this list is her passion to support women-owned businesses in the state and making it a personal journey to connect women business leaders with each other so they can learn from their successes and challenges.
Perhaps Marshall’s biggest legacy would be how she chartered a beureacracy in embracing technology to bring efficiency to her office. She initiated e-commerce within various state agencies and started the online registration system for lobbyists and businesses looking to incorporate within the state.”

At the rally on the campus of ASU, Marshall said, “When I became the secretary of state, I found an office that was clearly out of date and the moral of employees was pretty low, and when folks tell you can’t change the ship of the state, all I have to say is, ‘just watch’ because we embraced technology immediately and began to develop confidence in the employees, confidence in the public. Fast forward to today, we’ve received national recognition for cutting red tape for people who want to start and run businesses and interacting with public in way a government agency ought to – with openness and transparency.”

She likened the secretary of state as a combination of clerk of court and register of deeds for the state “all wrapped into one,” adding that “we’re where business begins.”

She also called compared the position to a “cop on the beat” focusing on counterfeiters and illegal manufacturers competing with legitimate businesses in the state and seeking out long-term prison sentences for financial scam artists. She added that $1 billion in funds from financial scams have been restored to investors during her term.

She vowed to keep online business databases that show, “who to invest in, who to sell too, who to buy from” open and harped on “sunshine” government.

“There are those folks who would like to influence policy, but they don’t want you to know who they’ve been entertaining and how much they’ve been spending,” Marshall said. “This is when open sunshine government becomes good government.”

Incumbent N.C. Treasurer Janet Cowell

Janet Cowell – Incumbent Candidate for N.C. Treasurer

Following Goodwin, Janet Cowell’s speech was less than stellar and seemed more like a loose ramble, but none the less she had the support of the loyal Democrats in the audience.

Acting has N.C. Treasurer she oversees more than $74 billion in pension fund investments that affect more than 850,000 public employees including teachers, firefighters and other government employees, and she oversees the State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees that provides health care coverage to more than 664,000 teachers, states employees and retirees, according to her biography on the N.C. Department of State Treasurer website.

She touted that N.C. is one of eight states to have a credit rating of AAA, and she added that the state remained this high rating all through the economic downturn.

Cowell said when reporters ask how the state remains in excellent financial standing while others not so, she says, “Because we keep our promises. When we have obligations we pay them … We borrow on capital.”

At the beginning and ending of her speech, Cowell stressed how her department manages money in a “calm” manner and makes “rational” decisions.

“When you think about the treasurer’s office, I hope you think about our slogan that we are trying to keep a steady hand on the wheel with continued stability in a time of great change for our state,” she said.

Incumbent N.C. Supt. of Public Instruction June Atkinson

June Atkinson – Incumbent Candidate for N.C. Supt. of Public Instruction

While Cowell didn’t acknowledge her opponent in the general election in November, Atkinson practically jumped out the gate attacking the Republican candidate for N.C. Supt. of Public Instruction John Tedesco, who resigned his post on the Wake County Board of Education to run for N.C. Supt. of Public Instruction.

Referring to Tedesco, Atkinson summarized a quote from Mark Twain: “The most dangerous people in the world are those that don’t know what they don’t know.”

“That is my opponent,” Atkinson said. “My opponent has no preparation in public education. My opponent has never worked a single day in his life leading successfully a complex enterprise of public education.”

She cited her bachelor’s degree in Business Education from Radford, her master’s degree in Vocational and Technical Education from Virginia Tech and her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from N.C. State before continuing to blast Tedesco’s educational experience – or lack thereof.

“I have worked in public education for over 30 years. My opponent says experience doesn’t matter,” Atkinson said. “How many of you would get on an airplane with a pilot that has never flown one day? How many would go to an auto mechanic that has never worked for one day on a car and how many of you would go to a surgeon for even a minor operation if that surgeon has never been prepared or had any experience? That’s what is happening in this race.”

Atkinson, who was elected in office in 2005-06 when the graduation rate was 68 percent, highlighted last year’s “all-time historic high” of 80.4 percent graduation rate. Adding that she couldn’t take all the credit, she attributed the increase to teachers, principals, staff, parents and students of NC and vowed to “charge toward” 100 percent graduation.

She referenced a study from Harvard University which found that N.C. is among the top six states in the country in terms of student achievement per dollar spent on public education.

“[We] are working hard to squeeze every dime out of every dollar to benefit the 1.5 million children in North Carolina,” Atkinson said.

She also referenced Education Week that ranked N.C. ranked 17 among the 50 states in education, although it received a “big fat D for funding” public education.

She vowed to continue “helping teachers grow better and better,” to give students access to technology that is “second to none” and to continue to focus on reading in early childhood and early childhood education, which she called “so important.”

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton is running for governor.

Walter Dalton – Candidate for N.C. Governor

Current Lt. Gov. Dalton, whose wife is a graduate of ASU, received the only standing ovation for the night. He preached about the power of public service, and numerous times he said, “The people are asking who can they trust,” in a direct reference to his opponent Pat McCrory.

He said McCrory supports cuts to education and wants to “redistribute the tax burden” in a manner that would affect the “working people, middle class and senior citizens” by taxing services and raising the sales tax. Dalton added that McCrory wants to “spend your tax money” by taking it away from public schools and giving it to private schools.

He said it was the first time in his life he has seen tuition increase while financial aid decreased.

“North Carolina is at the crossroads,” Dalton said. “It’s always been a state of opportunity. We have the best public university system in the nation. It’s part of our DNA … if you have the time, the ability and the desire, then in North Carolina you are going to have the opportunity to be the best you can be.”

Dalton said he released his tax returns to the public but not his opponent. He accused McCrory of a lack of transparency. McCrory works for a “powerful” law firm Moore and Van Allen that represents “big oil, big insurance and big financial institutions,” yet, Dalton said, McCrory isn’t a lawyer nor is he a registered lobbyist.

“So what is he doing?” Dalton asked.

The governor hopeful ended his speech with a story about Walter Cronkite, who left United Press International to report for CBS News because his former publisher was always “downsizing … and cutting corners until nothing but sawdust was left,” Dalton said.

“If you Google it today, it says United Press was once a great international press,” Dalton said.

In reference to education cuts and his opponent’s support of those cuts, Dalton ended the Cronkite story by saying, “That’s what’s going to happen to North Carolina …We have to move North Carolina forward.”

‘Keep Fair Judges’
Judge Linda McGee spoke on behalf of herself and Judge Wanda Bryant and Judge Cressie Thigpen – all three of whom are incumbents running for N.C. Court of Appeals – and Sam Erving IV, who is running for N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice.

“All are lifelong Democrats,” McGee added.

As for the three running for N.C. Court of Appeals, McGee said that if Bryant or Thigpen, who are black, weren’t elected then N.C. Court of Appeals would lose two-thirds of the African-American members of the court. If McGee or Bryant weren’t elected, then it would lose two women members of the court.

“They have no diversity on their court,” McGee said.

McGee requested the folks in the audience to donate two hours of their time before the election to stump for the three judges, adding that the Democrats “wont’ be able to counter” the money that is being thrown the Republican’s way.

Incumbent Candidate for N.C. Auditor – Beth Wood

Beth Wood – Incumbent Candidate for N.C. Auditor

Wood didn’t attend the event because she entered Rex Hospital to have her appendix removed on Thursday morning. She released this statement: “Everything is okay and a full recovery is expected. I am looking forward to returning to work at the State Auditor’s office in the next week or so. I have great faith in our highly capable staff to continue our mission in my absence.”

She added, “I thank everyone for their support and concern and I promise to be back in action in the near future to assure we carry on my work for the citizens of North Carolina.”

Nearly all of the local candidates – from the Watauga County Board of Education and Commissioners to Roy Carter and Cullie Tarleton candidates for N.C. Senate and House – spoke, but this rally is likely to be the only time the state candidates such as Goodwin campaign personally in Watauga before the November election.

This rally also offered constituents a chance to meet and listen to candidates running for the lesser-known departments. As one loyal Democrat mentioned after the event, “I thought it was great because I didn’t even know all of these people.”

Now the folks in the audience were blue through and through. The event was the epitome of “preaching to the choir,” so to speak, and the speakers didn’t have to win over the crowd. But like McGee and especially Tarleton, many of the candidates used their time at the podium to plead for support in not only the polling booth in November but also in spreading the word through Election Day.

101-year-old Iva Dean Winkler was inducted into the Watauga County Democratic Party Hall of Fame at the Fall Rally. Photo by Jesse Wood