Senate hopefuls solicit votes

Published 8:55 pm Monday, April 21, 2014

WINDSOR – Their backgrounds are as broad and diverse as the populace of the eight-county district they desire to represent.

One is a member of the well-established Democratic guard in Raleigh; another has enjoyed three professional careers; and the third guides his flock from a pulpit.

Respectively, Clark Jenkins, Erica Smith-Ingram, and the Rev. Alan Mizelle will square off on May 6 in the Primary to see which candidate will earn their party’s nomination to move forward on the ballot to November’s General Election.

Jenkins is an Edgecombe County native who is currently serving his sixth, two-year term in the NC Senate representing the 3rd District – Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Hertford, Martin, Northampton, Tyrrell, and Washington counties.

Smith-Ingram traveled the world with her military dad before coming home to NorthamptonCounty. She has worked as an engineer with the Boeing Company, was a Patent Examiner with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and currently serves as a high school Math, Physics and Chemistry teacher along with being a member of the Northampton County Board of Education.

After spending the majority of his adult life placing ink on paper as a pressman at Pierce Printers of Ahoskie, Mizelle found his true calling in life and is now an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He resides in Windsor.

At last week’s political forum hosted by the Bertie County African American Caucus at Bertie Middle School, each of the three NC Senate candidates promoted their individual political platforms in an effort to lure votes.

“I’m here for a little different reason than some (candidates) and that’s because I’m really disturbed about politics in general,” said Mizelle in his opening remarks. “I’m disturbed over the direction our government is taking. I’m disturbed as a Christian minister, but mostly as a Christian, over the fact that our values and our ethics are totally disappearing. I cannot truly fathom how we got to this point.”

Mizelle stressed that the United States was founded by God and the nation has flourished under his guidance and wisdom.

“But now look at us, we left him behind and look at where we’re at,” Mizelle stressed. “We have to get back under his control and we can do that by stopping politics as is. We need to know what do you (the citizens) think. I will take your voice to Raleigh.”

Smith-Ingram stressed the need to move Senate District 3 forward.

“We’re behind,” she said. “That same lesson plan, those same skills that I have in teaching, I want to use in Raleigh and I want you to send me to the capitol building. I have a four-point lesson plan on how we can revitalize northeastern North Carolina, how we can bring innovative agricultural technology to help us advance economic development, how we can assure equal access, equal opportunity and equal protection for all citizens of North Carolina, and, most importantly, how we can stop cuts to education so our young people will have the resources to compete.”

Jenkins touted his background as a six-term State Senator, saying he worked with former State Senate Pro-Tem Marc Basnight, serving as the chairman of his Finance Committee and Transportation Appropriations Committee.

“What we’re going through right now, since 2010, with the current leadership in the General Assembly is a disaster,” Jenkins noted. “It’s about education, healthcare and economic development. We need to look at it as a three-legged stool, you can’t have one without the other. It takes all three of them to make North Carolina work.”

Jenkins stated that the current leadership in Raleigh has slowly taken away from education on every level – kindergarten to college. For economic development, he said the Republican leadership has done away with regional partnerships, solid bonds which he touted as a lifesaver for northeastern NC.

“And then take a look at healthcare…. Republicans won’t even accept an expansion in Medicaid, for the sickest people to go to the hospitals; they won’t accept expansion in unemployment insurance, neither program costs the state one dime,” said Jenkins.

As the senior Democratic member of the North Carolina Senate, Jenkins said he wants to return to Raleigh to continue his fight for the people of the 3rd District.

Each of the three candidates answered one general question submitted from the audience….Bertie County is a persistent poverty county; a badge we wear, but not proudly. It’s considered a legacy of hardship when 20 percent or more of our citizens live in poverty for four decades. What can you do from the office of the Senate to help coordinate your counties to address persistent poverty?

“The Republicans hold a super majority in the (North Carolina) House and Senate, which means they don’t care what the Democratic members want,” answered Jenkins. “That’s what needs to be turned around to address the poverty.

“They (Republicans) refused to accept Medicaid expansion for 500,000 people, which are primarily in our part of the state,” Jenkins added. “They refuse to accept expansion for unemployment (benefits) which affects people in our part of the state. And one of the most important things we can do in this election is to elect more Democrats, so there is no more Republican supermajority; then we can become more effective.”

Smith-Ingram answered the question by saying the fight against poverty begins on the local level.

“We cannot advocate for you if we’re not working in the District, working in the individual counties, becoming intimate with what your concerns are, what your needs are,” she noted. “There are three things we need in District 3 – economic development, we have the resources, we have the land to develop to harness agricultural technology; poverty is persistent because we lack jobs…we need to train the unemployed for these new technical jobs when they come; and lastly we have to fight to expand Medicaid so our people will be healthy.”

Mizelle noted that the current problems facing Senate District 3 did not start in 2010.

“I’ve been a lifelong resident of Bertie County, this is a problem I’ve seen all my life,” he remarked. “We’ve always been one of the poorest counties in our state, and the same applies to most all of Senate District 3.

“It’s not something Republicans caused; it’s not something Democrats caused….we just thrown by the wayside while all the good jobs and the good roads went elsewhere in our state,” Mizelle continued. “There’s only one way to fix that and it’s not by politics as usual. It’s by getting somebody in Raleigh that actually gives a dern about Bertie County, and Hertford County, and Northampton County and all the counties of this District. We need someone to go to Raleigh and speak for the people, not for the people that put money in a politician’s back pocket.”

Each candidate was given a short closing remark at the end of the forum.

“I want to continue to be your senator,” said Jenkins. “I will continue to work for you.”

“When you elect me as your state senator, you will have someone who is empowered, who is equipped, and who is engineered to bring something to northeastern North Carolina that we had never had,” promised Smith-Ingram. “I’m an educator so I understand what is needed for resources to connect our students to future opportunities. We need to collaborate to bring together education and economic development. The sky is the limit for us.”

“I believe you are like me, concerned about our government,” remarked Mizelle in his closing statement. “That starts at the municipal level, to the state level and on up to the federal level. Government isn’t working, and it hasn’t worked in quite a while. We need to do something different and that starts with putting you, the people, as the voice behind the government. You are the government. It’s time to take your rightful place.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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