Partisan municipal races on the horizon in Rowan County after 2021 approvals – Salisbury Post
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – Local Republican and Democratic leaders say it’s unclear to what extent party approvals impacted the 2021 non-partisan municipal elections, but they agree the approvals are necessary for a more informed electorate.
While all municipal elections in Rowan County are non-partisan, the Rowan County Democratic Party has thrown in a slew of supporters in the Salisbury race during the early voting period, including Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins, the Reverend Anthony Smith and the incumbent Tamara Sheffield. Meanwhile, the Rowan County Republican Party-associated women’s group supported Mayor Karen Alexander as well as council candidates Nalini Joseph and Jessica Cloward. In addition, only the Republican candidates were present this summer during a “Patriot’s Rally” organized in Sloan Park.
Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics at Catawba College, said it was not surprising that partisanship had become a factor in non-partisan races given the hyper-partisanship across the country.
“Politics are everywhere,” Bitzer said. “It is difficult to withdraw politics from any type of election.”
Gary Freeze, retired history professor at Catawba, said the nation had “entered a new era where a non-partisan election has an overtly partisan feeling.”
Freeze said the consensus throughout the 20th century was that the party shouldn’t matter at the community level because the best person should be chosen from both sides. It was a model based on the idea that most local administrators have a non-partisan approach anyway, which is not true of modern politics. This idea was also rooted in the “New Deal consensus,” he said, where economic policies were defined by demand-side government interventions until the 1980s.
“Now partisanship is at the heart of everything we fight,” Freeze said. “This trend is attracting the nation. Why should we be different? It is simply a reflection of the fact that Salisbury is on the main stage of national politics. ”
Even in local races, Freeze said that a display of personal and partisan divisions among candidates, as seen in the 2021 election, can be positive when it comes to approaching how issues can be. resolved.
Democratic Party Chairman Geoffrey Hoy said the organization’s executive committee voted four years ago to support local candidates and provide documentation describing candidates who aligned with the platform and the party mission. Party registration is also a frequently asked question by voters, and a candidate’s political affiliation can easily be found by searching the North Carolina database, he added.
“It just openly says what people know in private about who is who,” Hoy said. “I just think it’s important to help people be informed, fully informed. I don’t think we should be afraid to say it openly.
Hoy said it was unclear how much of an impact the approvals impacted this election, but the support candidates felt for the approvals really mattered.
“If (the approvals) helped get voters out, wonderful. If they helped elect some of these candidates that we supported, so much the better, ”Hoy said. “But the approvals were one factor that perhaps helped the candidates get elected.”
Tenure is another factor. The two board members who sought re-election – Sheffield and David Post – were successful.
Reverend Anthony Smith, who finished fourth, was the Democrats-endorsed other successful Salisbury town council.
Heggins was unsuccessful in his mayoral bid against Alexander. Albert Smith, who lost the third seat to win in East Spencer by one vote, was also backed by the Democrats.
Hoy said he doesn’t see the infusion of partisanship in non-partisan races as a bad thing. While there is more room for agreement at the local level compared to senior offices, “there are still different ways of approaching the issues”, which party registration can help clarify.
Rowan County Republican Party chairman, Reverend Brad Jenkins, told the Post that the organization’s executive committee voted to follow the lead of the Democratic Party’s active participation and endorse municipal candidates for the election. to come up. Jenkins said voters have frequently asked this year which candidates are Republicans or Conservatives.
He said the party was happy that Alexander was re-elected and that the Rowan County Electoral Board did a very good job of handling the election with as much integrity as possible. But like Hoy, Jenkins said it was unclear how much they would have meant in this election.
“I believe there would have been an impact without a doubt because every time you work there is an impact,” he said.
Republicans hope to codify partisanship in local elections by formally asking Rowan County lawmakers for a local bill to make non-partisan races in the county partisan. A handful of counties in North Carolina hold partisan municipal races.
“It has become that way anyway and not really of our doing,” Jenkins said. “People should have the right to know where their candidates stand. For some people, getting on the electoral roll says a lot about them, whether they know them or not, because it shows what this candidate publicly wants to identify with.
Jenkins said partisanship continues behind closed doors during the election anyway. It is therefore more ethical to be honest and transparent about this to voters.
Newly elected council members have a different take on the issue of instilling partisanship into the local race. Post publicly expressed his opposition to such a move and said during election night that the turnout in the precinct showed “party against party”, which is unfortunate as the city’s problems are not issues. “Republican or Democratic problems”.
Likewise, Harry McLaughlin Jr., owner of McLaughlin’s Grocery Store, said he did not run as a Republican or Democrat. Instead, he ran “as a candidate for everyone” because his campaign was about bringing people together. He ultimately received the second highest number of votes with support across the aisle.
Sheffield said the results showed it was still a non-partisan race forcing candidates to work for their support.
Former Republican President Don Vick has said it is unclear whether stronger support from Republican PArts groups rather than affiliates would have made a difference, especially as the women’s group announced the Republican candidates and young Republicans knocked on doors, which is not common for local races, he said. -he declares.
Although he opposed it when he was president, he is now in favor.
“So we have no choice,” he said. “We’re going to have to do it from now on.”
Vick said the move to approvals could cause voters to vote primarily by party, but he’s less optimistic that an “R” or “D” next to a candidate in a local race will produce more voters. .
Perhaps an example of some voters’ views, Vick has said he won’t support a Democratic Senate candidate, but is comfortable voting for candidates across the aisle locally. if they seem to be the ones who can do the best job for the local residents.
“I will vote according to my conscience in local elections,” he said.