The rally, sponsored by the Robeson County Democratic Party, featured Beverly Perdue, the Democrat hopeful for governor; Kay Hagan, U.S. Senate candidate; Walter Dalton, running for lieutenant governor; several Council of State candidates; incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre; several local candidates; and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, standing in for presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Mabus — who served as governor from 1988 to 1992, and later as ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996 — touted the party line, saying Obama as president will mean tax relief for the middle class, a responsible withdrawal from Iraq, affordable health care for all and a move toward energy independence.
“This country can’t stand four more years of an economy in shambles, jobs shipped overseas and a deficit going through the ceiling,” Mabus said. “I’ve been working for Barack Obama for 18 months and I’m telling you he’s going to bring real change to Washington.”
Mabus warned against complacency that might result from polls showing Obama will most likely become the nation’s first black president.
“But,” Mabus said, “we haven’t won anything yet. Posters and buttons are nice, but they don’t vote. The only thing that counts is walking into that voting booth and pulling that lever.”
Before the rally started, Mabus said he was encouraged by the number of volunteers and their enthusiasm in working to get out the vote for Obama in North Carolina.
“It’s astounding to see who has come out, the numbers of people going door-to-door and making phone calls,” Mabus said after chatting with Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt. “I’m encouraged by the number of early voters who are getting out. New registrations are skyrocketing in North Carolina.
“It’s pretty simple. If we get our voters to the polls, we win.”
Mabus said the Obama campaign is paying more attention to the smaller towns and communities than Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
“People in rural areas are concerned about broadband access to the Internet, recruiting doctors to high-need areas and affordable health care,” he said. “McCain is running a negative campaign and barely talking about issues that are important to people in smaller communities.”
Mabus said Obama’s strategy of challenging McCain in so-called Republican red states is paying off.
“I’m sure John McCain never thought he’d have to come back to North Carolina after the primary,” he said. “People questioned Obama’s strategy, but now he looks like a genius. McCain’s having to spend a lot of money in a lot of states he thought he had locked up.”
Turn North Carolina blue
State Sen. David Weinstein introduced Perdue as someone who made sure North Carolina had a AAA bond rating, helped North Carolina become the No. 1 state to locate a business, and made sure North Carolina had an $800 million rainy day fund to get through the current economic crisis.
“She’s not a city slicker from Charlotte,” Weinstein said. “She’s one of us.”
Perdue moved the partisan Democratic crowd to applause when she opened her remarks by saying the election was going to turn North Carolina blue.
“The Bush economic plans will be done away with, but I am a realist,” she said. “One person can’t lead this country through the global economic crisis we’re facing. It’s going to take all of us working together. I can and will lead this state through this economic crisis as your governor, though.”
Perdue said her opponent, Republican and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, has attempted to pit urban North Carolina against rural North Carolina.
“The mayor of Charlotte has said he doesn’t believe we should pave so many roads in rural North Carolina, and that he would have vetoed legislation that prevented New Jersey and New York from sending their garbage to rural North Carolina,” she said to a chorus of boos. “Your own Sen. Weinstein and Rep. Ronnie Sutton helped write the legislation that kept that from happening.
“I’ll be governor for all of North Carolina, rural and urban,” she said. “Our state is one state.”
McIntyre urged the crowd to focus on three L’s — listen, labor and lead.
“We need to listen to our children and families,” he said. “We need to listen to our senior citizens and thank them for what they did to make our country great. We need to labor for these next 11 days to get out the vote with yard signs and buttons. There’s no excuse not to vote now, not with One-Stop Voting available to everyone.
“And we need to lead, as Democrats, out county, our state and our nation. Together we can build the roof of national security over our homes.”
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester from Minnesota introduced U.S. Senate hopeful Kay Hagan, who is challenging for Elizabeth Dole’s seat. Tester rallied the crowd by getting half the audience to shout “Kay” and the other half to shout “Hagan.”
Hagan said she decided to run because “Washington’s broken.”
“Something’s wrong when we’re paying $4 for a gallon of gas and $17 billion tax incentives are going to big oil,” she said. “Something’s wrong with all the partisan bickering that’s going on.
“I can mediate partisan differences. I have a child at Duke and another child at Carolina.”
Hagan said that with a $450 billion deficit increase in one year and an $11 trillion national debt, “we’ve got to change the way Washington does business.”
Hagan also got a cheer when she said she would work to get federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe.