BY MIKE FUHRMAN
It’s tough to make a lasting impression on voters in three minutes.
But that’s what a group of local candidates attempted to do during the Statesville Branch NAACP meeting on Sunday afternoon at the Unity Center.
With the countdown to kick-off for the Super Bowl approaching, each candidate was allotted three minutes to introduce themselves and discuss their reasons for seeking election and any important issues.
First, it’s worth noting who showed up:
♦ District Attorney: David Addison (R), and Sarah Kirkman (R)
♦ Iredell County Commissioner: William Compton (R), Gene Houpe (R), Angela Matthews (R), and Beverly Maurice (D)
♦ Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education (District 2): Kevin Angell (R)
♦ N.C. House (84th District): John Gallina (R), Chris Gilbert (D)
♦ U.S. Congress (NC-10th): Brooke McGowan (R)
Here are a few highlights:
If he’s elected as the District 2 representative, Kevin Angell vowed to be a champion for all students. His professional background, including his work as a youth pastor and executive director of Children’s Homes of Iredell, has given him insight into the many challenges that today’s students face.
Following a year in which the I-SS Board has devoted countless hours to the personal and political crusades of a few board members and their associates in the Moms of Liberty, Angell said he would work with the other board members to be “a steward” for the lives of children.
“When adults don’t agree, you know who suffers?” he said. “Kids.”
Angell’s opponent in the March 5 GOP primary, Laketha Bobish, is a leader in the local Moms for Liberty group.
Incumbent Sarah Kirkman touted her experience as the county’s top prosecutor since 2009, her staff’s work during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as her role in the new Veterans Treatment Court.
Kirkman stressed that local magistrates — not her staff — set bonds for individuals who are arrested and explained that judges who are bound by state guidelines are responsible for sentencing criminal defendants.
“We do target repeat offenders and violent crimes,” she said.
David Addison, her challenger in the March 5 GOP primary, said his previous experience as Statesville police chief would be an asset to the community if he is elected. While emphasizing he respects the DA’s Office, he said too many criminal cases are disposed of (upwards of 80 percent, he claimed) without a criminal conviction.
“We owe this community an explanation,” he said. “We owe them more than that.”
Addison vowed to improve transparency in the DA’s Office and said he would personally attend community meetings with representatives of law enforcement agencies to ensure the public remains informed. He also said he supports a court diversion program for 16- to 18-year-olds charged with their first misdemeanor.
Congressional candidate Brooke McGowan told the audience that she believes the Covid-19 pandemic was the result of a global conspiracy orchestrated by the World Health Organization and the Communist Party of China, among others. Her father, McGowan said, was one of the 1.2 million people who were “murdered by the medical protocols” put in place by federal, state and local governments, who conspired to withhold potentially life-saving medication such as ivermectin from Covid patients.
If elected, McGowan said she would push for investigations and indictments of the “monsters” involved in the Covid-19 conspiracy.
“I want to help save your life,” she said. “Covid was just the start of it all.”
McGowan, who lives in Troutman, is one of five Republicans running in the March 5 primary election.
John Gallina, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Jeff McNeely in the GOP primary for the N.C. 84th House District seat, said he would be visible and available if he is elected — and he vowed to listen to all residents of the district.
“We need a representative that represents all of Iredell County,” he said. “When you are elected, you represent everybody — not just one set of people.”
Sharing that his mother once worked at the Food Lion on Shelton Avenue, Gallina said he would strive to help economically distressed areas of Statesville.
“I absolutely agree that a grocery store and public transportation are needed,” he said.
Chris Gilbert, a Democrat who will face the winner of the Gallina-McNeely primary in the November general election, outlined a progressive agenda, which includes legalization of cannabis, expungement of non-violent convictions related to marijuana charges, and pay increases for teachers. He also vowed to work to reduce gun violence and said he would support a moratorium on state -funded vouchers for private schools.
Board of Commissioners
Commissioner Gene Houpe was the only incumbent who attended the meeting. Calling himself “the most transparent commissioner in his tenure” on the board, he explained that commissioners have a lot of responsibilities, ranging from paying for school construction to providing funding for 26 county departments, 19 fire departments and three rescue squads.
The board, he said, has worked to support economic development and workforce readiness. Local municipalities, he added, are responsible for the massive growth in residential development occurring throughout the county, which has put a strain on schools.
Commissioners lowered the personal property tax rate by nearly four cents following the significant increase in property values as a result of the recent countywide revaluation required by state law, Houpe said. Given the need for new schools, a new courthouse, new health department and new headquarters for the sheriff’s office, commissioners could have been justified in not reducing the tax rate, he added.
Constituent service, he said, is an important part of the job.
“I represent 200,000 people,” he said. “If you call and ask for help, I don’t ask if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.”
Challenger Angela Matthews said her experience working as a CPA for 26 years and her involvement in community organizations like Yokefellow Ministries, the Pregnancy Resource Center and Boys & Girls Club of the Piedmont have helped prepare her to serve on the board of commissioners. Along with her daughter, I-SS board member Abby Trent, Matthews has also started a reading program at N.B. Mills Elementary School.
If elected, Matthews said she would work to ensure the board was fair to all residents and transparent in its work.
“We need to explain what it is we’re doing with your tax dollars,” she said. “It’s your money and it’s your community.”
Another challenger, William Compton, told the audience that his experience working in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in a low-resourced school would be an asset to the board.
As a colon cancer survivor, he is also raising awareness about the cancer cluster in southern Iredell County.
“It’s really unbelievable,” he said. “A lot of people don’t talk about it.”
Houpe, Matthews and Compton are three of the seven Republicans running in the March 5 primary for three open seats.
Beverly Maurice, a Democrat who will be on the November 5 ballot, touted her work as a developmental therapist, her education in bioethics, and her work with Iredell Clergy for Healing and Justice as experience that would serve the county well if she is elected to the board.