What was setting up to be a rather boring general election on Nov. 6 is being injected with life in bickering that is likely to escalate between two candidates vying for the District 13 seat in the state Senate — Danny Britt, the Republican incumbent seeking his second two-year term, and John Campbell, a Democrat and member of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County.
Campbell, in an op-ed piece published in another newspaper, has complained about what he calls “dirty” politics from the Britt campaign. Campbell asked this newspaper to publish the piece, but it declined because Britt’s accusations had not been published in these pages.
The newspaper advised Campbell he could purchase an advertisement, and he was also asked if he would like for the newspaper to do a story on the situation. He has not purchased an advertisement, and he declined on the story.
However, that door opened somewhat in a page 1A story today by Managing Editor T.C. Hunter about Campbell being tardy on campaign finance reports that are required by state law.
Britt, in fliers mailed to thousands of households, highlights that Campbell has bounced checks, been convicted of mortgage fraud, and once took $1,168 to attend a school conference in New Orleans but was a no-show. In Britt’s most recent flier, he publishes in full an editorial published by The Robesonian at the time saying Campbell should resign from the school board.
Campbell, in his op-ed, points out that the bounced checks were more than 30 years ago, and that he repaid the school system for missing the school conference because, according to him, of a family emergency. He did not address the mortgage fraud.
In news articles from The Robesonian that were published at the time, Campbell said he did attend the conference for two days, and never mentioned a family emergency. He said he had repaid some of the money, but The Robesonian learned it had not been repaid in full, and the system was forced to garnish his salary as a school board member.
All of these things occurred long ago, however, and it will be up to the voters to decide if they remain revelant.
Campbell, in his op-ed, suggested that Britt is trying to win with “dirty” politics because he doesn’t have ideas. Britt’s fliers, however, itemize what he says are plenty of achievements that he can claim indvidually, as well as some with other Republicans, including higher teacher pay.
When individuals make the decision to run, they have to understand that they risk revelations about past indiscretions. It presents a challenge for the media, which must decide what is relevant to return to the conversation, and how far back do we go. We aren’t bothered with bounced checks from the 1980s, but the fisaco with the school conference is concerning, not only that it occurred, but that Campbell’s story now doesn’t match his at the time.
This is a sword that can cut both ways. Some voters might be turned off with what they see as dirty politics, while others might be glad to have the information. It is likely that the recent sheriff’s race tipped toward Burnis Wilkins because of another candidate’s problem with the truth.
All of this is a reminder that politics, figuratively at least, is a contact sports. That will become increasingly apparent during the next two months as Democrats fight for a once-safe Senate seat they need to regain power in the General Assembly, and the Republicans cling to keep it.