The General Election is looming. The question of whether Republicans are electable in Robeson has been answered. Can enough Republicans now be elected to make a difference?
Robeson has elected a Republican state legislator, county commissioner and councilmen. A Republican governor, U.S. senator and congressman now represent Robeson as well. Many conservative Democrats already lead Robeson and carry a Democrat card out of tradition if nothing else. As one of the poorest counties in the nation under 100 of progressive leadership, real progress is on the horizon as a trend is emerging.
Look no further than the county Board of Commissioners. A less publicized fact of David Edge’s arrival as the first Republican on the board is that he noted odd financial deductions and transactions that first year. Edge blew the whistle and a firestorm erupted. The backlash nearly ousted the sitting chairman of the board and still smolders today. To the credit of other commissioners, Edge isn’t alone in conservative views. But Edge is the only card-carrying Republican forming a new balance that is helpful to both parties.
There are recent Democratic challengers who wish to appear conservative. It’s now popular for commissioner candidates to disingenuously announce they are giving up personal reimbursements and passing them along to their cistrict if elected even though it simply is another form of coercion. Edge was the first to insist disbursements be made public. It’s clear having a Republican on the board has resulted in differences.
Law enforcement is less about politics and more about safety — or at least it should be. A sheriff doesn’t cast an ideological vote like a legislator or commissioner. So it’s less important from which political party a dheriff originates, as it’s not about political ideology. The sheriff’s race will be a huge opportunity for Robeson to begin another chapter.
Randy Hammonds is the challenger in the sheriff’s race. As a native son of Robeson, playing football at Orrum High School and graduating from UNC-Pembroke, he truly is the best challenger since Malcolm McLeod in 1950. As a member of the state Highway Patrol, he has already led Robeson law enforcement as first sergeant and later became captain, leading many counties in North Carolina, including Robeson, for the patrol.
Early polling is promising. Sheriff McLeod promised to modernize the department and raise it from its past. He did. Randy Hammonds promises to do the same today and clearly has the experience and support to do it. His campaign momentum has him on track to be the next sheriff.
Republicans will control the General Assembly for years to come. This is the reason G.L. Pridgen was so effective as a legislator and the reason Brendan Jones would effectively represent Robeson in Raleigh as the conservative candidate for the state House. Robeson is the poorest county in the state and around the third poorest in the nation — it’s not like conservative views could do worse.
State Democrats have taken Robeson for granted a long time. As Robeson becomes more bipartisan, the challenge now is to ensure state Republicans notice while they are in charge. Either way a swing county gets attention from both parties.
Nationally, 27 U.S. Senate seats are up this year. Republicans safely hold 13; Democrats safely hold five. Two States currently lean Republican. No state leans Democrat and seven are tossups, including in North Carolina. Thom Tillis stands in the way of Sen. Kay Hagan’s continued march with President Obama. Robeson will be somewhat of a factor in that race that helps decide who will control the Senate.
So state and nationally, it’s more important than ever for balanced leadership. A Republican never gets elected in Robeson without a Democrat vote. Fortunately, Robeson is largely conservative regardless of party affiliation. It’s a formula for continued success and Robeson is slowly headed in that direction.
Robeson can start another chapter in less than 100 days.
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.