LAURINBURG — Three Democrats hoping to win their party’s nomination for governor will be in Laurinburg on Saturday for a candidates forum.
The event, being held at the Highlands beginning at 8 a.m., is sponsored by a group of elected officials from Robeson, Scotland, Hoke and Richmond counties. It will include a moderated discussion and a chance for the public to ask the candidates questions.
State Rep. Garland Pierce, who is one of the event’s organizers, said Thursday that the forum offers a good opportunity for area voters to see the three leading Democratic contenders for the gubernatorial nomination up close and on the same stage.
“This is a unique opportunity for folks to learn about the candidates,” Pierce said. “They will all be here together. Who knows if that will happen again.”
Pierce said that all three of the major contenders for the nomination — Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, and state Rep. Bill Faison — are aware that an event involving four counties offers them a good opportunity to get their ideas across to a large number of voters.
“In a primary, where voter turnout will be low, four counties coming together can change the outcome of the election,” said Pierce, a Democrat whose district encompasses all four of the counties. “If we lockstep together, we can make a real difference, and the candidates know that.”
Dalton was first elected to the state Senate in 1996 to fill a seat representing Cleveland and Rutherford counties. The same seat was once held by his father. He served six terms in the Senate before being elected lieutenant governor in November 2008.
Etheridge, Sampson County native, served as a Harnett County commissioner in the mid-1970s. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1979 to 1988, and was the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1989 to 1996. He most recently represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District for three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Faison has represented Northern Orange and Caswell counties in the state House of Representatives since 2005. He is an attorney whose practice focuses on helping people who need assistance fighting insurance companies.
There are three other Democrats running for the gubernatorial nomination, Gary Dunn, of Matthews, Gardenia Henley, of Winston-Salem, and Bruce Blackmon, of Buies Creek.
The winner of the Democratic nomination is likely to face Republican Pat McCrory in the November general election. McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, lost a close race to Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2008.
In addition to the gubernatorial candidates, candidates for local, state and national offices have been invited to attend the forum.
Pierce said the event is open to all residents of the four counties.
“All folks from these four counties are invited to attend, as well as all clergy and friends of other agencies and organizations,” he said.
Pierce said the event is not a debate. The forum format will provide representatives from each county the opportunity to take turns querying the candidates for governor, followed by questions from the floor.
“People will soon start asking who they should vote for, and what they really need to do is to come out and hear the candidates speak for themselves,” Pierce said.
Also expected to attend the forum is U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell. Kissell, a Democrat, represents District 8. Due to recent redistricting, most of Robeson County is now in Kissell’s district.
A continental breakfast, including pastries and juice/coffee will be served at the event.
For information, call 910-273-1098, or 910-276-1098.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or bshiles@heartland publications.com.