Hijacking the process

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 22, 2007

The Democratic process was hijacked in Windsor Thursday night.

Despite the best efforts of First Congressional District Democratic Party Chairman Don Davis, the process was flawed. That’s not true. The process wasn’t flawed. It was the people who were involved in the process.

In almost 20 years of covering local government, I’ve never seen anything like what I witnessed when four women and one man hijacked the process of choosing a new member of the North Carolina House from District Five.

Martha Thompson, Marsha Langston and Sang Hamilton began the process of putting into that seat an under qualified candidate.

Sources close to the process confirmed to me all three of those members of the Democratic Executive committee made promises concerning their vote and did not carry them through. If my sources are accurate, and I believe they are, does that make those committee members people who are not true to their word?

There were five people nominated for the House seat left vacant when Howard Hunter Jr. passed away more than 10 days ago. They included three very qualified candidates and two who had no political experience.

One of those with no experience (Alvin Basnight) was eliminated after the first vote. The other (Annie

Mobley) somehow, beyond the bounds of reasonable explanation, became the nominee for the seat.

With experienced candidates such as Hertford County Commissioner Howard Hunter III, Windsor Commissioner Hoyt Cooper and Winfall Mayor Fred Yates on the ballot, Mobley’s victory is something straight out of the twilight zone.

Let me stop here and say for the sake of clarity that I consider both Hunter and Cooper personal friends. I do not believe it sways my opinion in this matter, but I want it stated plainly for the record.

While covering the event for this newspaper, I wrote down several remarks made by each candidate as there was no way to know which one may be elected. My only direct quote from Mobley was saying she did not know what she would do in Raleigh. Now there’s a qualification we should all be seeking in a new House member, isn’t it?

She then unashamedly looked at the seven women and one man on the committee and asked them to send her to Raleigh merely because she was female. That was an embarrassment to the good people who have worked hard to earn their seats in the House and those who have put their names on a ballot and were elected by people of their districts.

What made it even more embarrassing was when those eight people – minus Evelyn Rawls, Paulette Wester and Janice McKenzie Cole – did just that.

Some of it seemed personal as Hamilton embarrassed the Hertford County Democratic Party by casting part of his votes for Yates, who is from Perquimans County, and Basnight, a Bertie native, without casting a single ballot in favor of Hunter, who is a duly elected Democrat in Hertford County. If the party allows him to hold any position of power ever again, they deserve the embarrassment they received Thursday night.

Langston’s choice of votes was just as shameful. She is a former Gates County Commissioner who was thrown off that board by the voters of her own county last year. I guess those voters will pay for Langston’s political mistakes for at least two more years.

Thompson, who admitted to me that she had no idea what she was doing when the process began, made a promise to cast her support to Hunter and Yates, according to multiple sources. If those sources are accurate, a person who is entrusted by the people of Lewiston-Woodville to do right by them, was not true to her own word.

I don’t know what kind of representation we’ll get in Raleigh from Mobley based on her earlier revelation that she has no clue of what to do.

Maybe she will become a good legislator, but in this case I’ll invoke the motto of one of our mid-western states: “I’m from Missouri. You’ll have to show me.”

Until then I will remain embarrassed by what happened Thursday night as all citizens of Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Perquimans counties should be.