LUMBERTON — Three of Robeson County’s state legislators have a clear path back to another two-year term in the General Assembly.
The exceptions are G.L. Pridgen, a Republican from Lumberton who represents House District 46, and Sen. Michael Walters, a Democrat from Proctorville who represents District 13. Both will face opposition in the November General Election.
Walters will face Whiteville businessman W. Bernard White Jr., a Republican who is unopposed on Tuesday. District 13, which currently encompasses Robeson and Hoke counties, was recently redrawn to include just Columbus and Robeson counties.
Incumbent state House representatives, Garland Pierce, District 48, and Charles Graham, District 47, both Democrats, face no opposition on Tuesday or in November. Redistricting gave Robeson County a fourth House representative, Ken Goodman, a Democrat who holds House District 66. The district, which had encompassed Montgomery and Richmond counties, now includes a small piece of northeastern Robeson County, including St. Pauls, and parts of of Scotland and Hoke counties.
Like Pierce and Graham, Goodman is unopposed Tuesday and in November.
Democratic voters on Tuesday will elect a candidate to face Pridgen in November. House District 46, which currently encompasses Robeson, Hoke and Scotland counties, has been redrawn to include all of Columbus County and slivers of Robeson and Bladen counties.
Both of the Democrats seeking the District 46 nomination are from Columbus County.
Al J. Leonard Jr., Tabor City’s manager since 1987, holds a bachelor of science degree from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina. In addition to being manager in Tabor City, he serves in an advisory capacity to the Columbus County communities of Fair Bluff, Boardman, the town of Brunswick and the town of Cerro Gordo.
Leonard said he has focused his campaign on economy, pride and education.
“The evidence historically shows that the state does a good job at recruiting smaller industries, but can never seem to recruit larger industries,” Leonard said. “I want to sit down with the Department of Commerce and see what we can do to correct that trend.”
Leonard said that the state must stop hurting job creation with burdensome regulations. He said the government needs to invest more in job training, infrastructure and education.
Leonard said that there is a “lot of discouragement and low morale” among educators who feel that during the past two years the state government has been attacking education.
“We have to stop this attack on education and our educators,” he said. “We want to build a bridge between our legislators and educators.”
Leonard, who rejects the label of politician, said he has heard many complaints about the state Department of Transportation not providing road maintenance and highway improvements in the district.
“This is something that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Leonard’s opponent on Tuesday is Ken N. Waddell, the current mayor of Chadbourn and a farmer. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in Animal Science and a master’s degree in Agriculture Education from North Carolina State University. He taught agriculture at Hallsboro High School and then East Columbus High School until he retired in 2009.
Waddell said one of the major issues facing the district, especially in Robeson County, is plans for tolling on Interstate 95.
“We need to think about whether there can be a more equitable way to build, maintain or replace our roads,” he said. “I’m in favor of tolls to get revenue from people out of state to help fund road maintenance, but I think something needs to be done to help reduce the expense to those locally that have to travel the interstate every day to get to get to work and for other reasons.”
Waddell said that education is a major issue.
“Many schools need a lot of repairs,” he said. “I still believe letting the three-quarter-of-a-cent sales tax expire was a big mistake. That money helped provide for capital improvements to the schools at the local level.”
According to Waddell, a deep-water port in Southport is needed to boost industrial recruitment and create jobs.
“That’s absolutely a necessity,” he said. “We have to have a means to transport products to other parts of the nation and to other countries.”
Waddell emphasized the need for “competitive” incentives to be made available to businesses wanting to locate in the region.
“If we are not in the game to play, we don’t need to say we are in the game,” he said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.