LUMBERTON — Six out of the eight candidates invited to a forum next week at the Carolina Civic Center as an opportunity to present their ideas have confirmed their plans to participate.
Four sheriff’s candidates, Randy Graham, James Jones, Ronnie Patterson and Burnis Wilkins, all Democrats in the May primary, have committed, and the fifth candidate, George Kenworthy, also a Democrat, has left the door open to attend. Kenworthy told organizers he has a prior commitment, but that if he can attend, he will.
Incumbent Kenneth Sealey, the sheriff since 2005, is not seeking re-election. There are no Republican candidates, so the primary winner, assuming that person meets the threshold of 30 percent plus one of the votes, will become the next sheriff.
Two of three candidates to lead the District Attorney’s Office, Joe Osman, a Democrat, and Allan Adams, a Republican, have confirmed they will attend. The third candidate for the office, Matthew Scott, a Democrat, said he has a prior commitment.
District Attorney Johnson Britt is not seeking re-election.
The forum, which is being sponsored by the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce and The Robesonian, begins at 6:30 p.m. on April 10 and is expected to last about two-and-a-half hours. The public is invited to attend, and will be admitted at no charge on first-come, first-served basis. The center seats about 450 people.
The Robesonian will provide a live video stream of the event on Facebook. The Robesonian recently began providing live stream video of some county board meetings, and they have been well-received with thousands of viewers taking advantage.
“We think this will be the best opportunity for all the candidates to reach the most number of potential voters,” said Donnie Douglas, editor of The Robesonian.
The event will use a question-and-answer format. A panel has selected the questions, which have already been provided to all candidates for both offices. Candidates will be given a time period in which to respond.
“We made the decision to give the candidates the questions in advance because we want informed answers,” Douglas said. “We figure the longer they have to prepare, the more informed and useful the answers will be to the voters. This is not an effort to provide a gotcha moment.”
Douglas said the questions were also sent to Kenworthy and Scott in case circumstances change and either or both can attend.
“We appreciate and understand they had prior commitments, but should things change and they decide at the last minute to attend, we want them to have the same opportunity to prepare,” he said.
Rebekah Revels Lowry will be the master of ceremonies, The Robesonian will provide the moderater, who will ask the pre-selected questions, and Abe Marshall will be the timekeeper.
The primary is May 8 and the General Election is Nov. 6.