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LUCAMA — A literal red wave began as cherry-colored streamers swirled above attendees’ tables at the Wilson County Republican Party’s oyster roast fundraiser on Saturday.
The party faithful hope that ritual foreshadows a figurative red wave sweeping GOP candidates into office in the Nov. 6 midterms, preserving Republican majorities in Congress and the N.C. General Assembly during a time of intense polarization over President Donald Trump.
“This is not about me,” said state Senate candidate Richard Scott, who led the stadium-style “wave” of red streamers. “This is not about the rest of these candidates up here. It’s about you. It’s about you getting out the vote and making sure you’ve got your parents, your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren ... It’s about the future generations you’ll never see.”
Scott, a community college instructor from Scotland Neck, is running against Sen. Milton F. “Toby” Fitch, D-Wilson, and Libertarian hopeful Jesse Shearin for the Senate seat whose district encompasses Wilson, Edgecombe and Halifax counties.
1st Congressional District candidate Roger Allison said Democrats’ opposition to Trump has exceeded partisan norms and shows a left-wing extremism he compared to “insanity.”
“The Democrats, have they lost their mind?” Allison said. “ I mean, who wants open borders? Who wants socialism? Who wants to give their ‘crumbs’ back and stop this wonderful economy from steaming ahead? It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Allison, who is challenging U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and clashed with his opponent over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s rancorous Supreme Court confirmation, said the rush to judgment against Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations has energized conservative and independent voters.
“Being a ninth descendant of Patrick Henry, I know a little bit about liberty. It’s in my DNA,” he said. “And our Constitution was absolutely written so that everybody is innocent until proven guilty.”
Judicial posts were a key focus in Saturday’s oyster roast held at Scott Farms. N.C. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson and Court of Appeals candidate Jefferson Griffin each face a registered Republican in addition to a Democratic opponent on the ballot.
Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican before filing for Jackson’s seat, joining Democrat Anita Earls in the race, and Griffin faces GOP opponent Sandra Alice Ray in addition to Democrat Toby Hampson.
Jackson and Griffin are endorsed by the N.C. Republican Party and cast their Republican-registered opponents’ candidacy as an attempt to confuse citizens and split the GOP vote. Analysts say the three-candidate fields are unintended consequences of state laws that made judicial races partisan and eliminated May primaries for those offices.
“I’ve been a judge now for almost 14 years,” Jackson said. “During that time I’ve authored around 700 opinions. I’ve sat on thousands of other cases. Experience is very important in our state Supreme Court — it’s your court of last resort. Neither one of my opponents have any judicial experience.”
Griffin, a Wake County District Court judge and captain in the Army National Guard who’s served as a prosecutor and private-practice attorney, said losing Jackson’s seat would be a catastrophe for constitutional conservatives. He called her race “the most important election in North Carolina this year.”
Chuck Kitchen, who faces Democrat Allegra K. Collins and Libertarian Michael Monaco for another Court of Appeals seat, also briefly addressed party members.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is not up for re-election this year and is a presumptive candidate for governor in 2020, was scheduled to speak but could not attend due to a schedule conflict.
Wilson County GOP Chairwoman Christy Fyle introduced N.C. House hopeful Ken Fontenot, explaining that the state and local Republican Party are backing the unaffiliated candidate.
As an independent, Fontenot had to collect nearly 3,000 petition signatures in order to be listed on the ballot. Fontenot said he reached that goal three times over, falling just shy of 10,000, and believes he has the momentum to unseat eight-term state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield in District 24.
“There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Fontenot said. “I believe this coming Nov. 6, we will take that seat for this conservative party.”
School board candidate Rhyan Breen emphasized the importance of voting and said all residents in Wilson County’s District 7 who want a more transparent, accountable and responsive Board of Education should support his candidacy.
While seats on the school board are nonpartisan, Breen is a Republican, and his opponents, Stephanie Cyrus and Wayne Willingham, are both Democrats.
“I call balls balls, I call strikes strikes,” Breen said.
“There was a linebacker who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers quite some time ago, his name was Greg Lloyd, who told everybody, ‘I’m not going to be hired for my disposition.’ Similarly, if I’m elected, I’m not going to be hired for my disposition. My job is to effectuate change.
“There have been too many 6-0, 7-0 votes from the school board, not enough people being heard. My job is to make a little bit of noise, and that’s what I’m here to do.”