The Macon County Democratic Women’s Club hosted a rally for state and local party officials last Thursday night at the Otto community center. The Democratic Women’s Club, led by President Margaret Perry, held the rally for former N.C. State Senator John Snow, who lost his reelection bid against Sen. Jim Davis in 2010 by a slim margin of 161 votes. After a moment of prayer and a recital of The Pledge of Allegiance, Democrats began to discuss how they should approach the 2012 campaign season.
Democrats in attendance were hoping to witness Snow announce his candidacy to unseat Sen. Jim Davis in 2012, but were somewhat disappointed when Snow said he is still undecided. Snow’s reluctance to make a decision is due to redistricting issues that may force him and former Sen. Joe Sam Queen to decide amongst themselves about which candidate will run.
Boyce Dietz, district representative for Rep. Heath Shuler, kicked off the event by entertaining the audience with an enthusiastic endorsement of former Sen. John Snow. “We lost the last election because we did not get out the vote. Democrats did not do enough to get out and support our candidates. That’s why Sen. Snow is not in Raleigh right now. We have to do a better job in 2012,” he said.
Snow’s former colleague and current House Rep. Phil Haire introduced Snow at the rally, who received a standing ovation from his fellow Democrats. “This is a deeply respectable and admired man, a man of integrity, and someone who had the reputation of being the hardest working Senator in Raleigh,” said Rep. Haire when introducing Snow. “This is not political talk and I say this unequivocally, we simply can’t do any better than John Snow.
The rally was filled with emotion, as party leaders gave passionate speeches about a wide array of issues, mostly encompassing the topic of public education.
After his introduction, former Sen. Snow talked about his concerns regarding the future of public education in North Carolina. “I feel really good about being here,” said former Sen. Snow. “Losing by 161 votes was very hard, and it’s been tough since the last election, so it’s good to be back here in Otto,” Snow said. “I feel pretty good about ya’ll. There are some hard working Democrats in Macon County, and it’s a pleasure to be here again,” he said.
Snow continued, “the Republicans were elected to bring jobs to North Carolina, but all they’ve done is cut jobs. People asked me why I voted for a one penny sales tax increase back in 2009, which raised about $90 million; I voted for it to save thousands of teachers jobs,” stated Snow amidst unanimous applause. Republicans were able to take control of the state legislature for the first time in 100 years after campaigning hard against the one cent sales tax in the 2010 campaign cycle.
A number of educators were in attendance and Sen. Snow reached out to them directly during his speech. “They cut about $84 million dollars in two years from public education, dollars that were supposed to go towards funding instructional materials for teachers, who now have to pay for those materials out of their own pockets,” criticized Snow.
The former senator continued to focus his speech on public education, offering his opinions about the policy implications of some of the bills passed by the Republican controlled legislature. “They've done everything they can to destroy public education in North Carolina. They also did a number on Medicaid, and we could lose about 13,000 jobs in the health-care related field as a result. Funding public education is how North Carolina progressed into the 21st century. Programs like Smart-Start and More at Four were created to help at-risk children, but Republican legislators think they are welfare programs. Think about this, for every $1 of spending on these programs, we get an estimated $8 return,” said Snow while laying out his support for the two educational programs that received significant funding cuts in the 2011-2013 state budget.
Macon County Public Schools have already seen the impacts of the More at Four Program cuts, as school administrators had to end the program at Macon Middle School, which affected 18 students.
Despite their disappointment of Snow’s reluctance to announce his candidacy, Democrats at the event did not hesitate to voice their criticisms about the Republican controlled legislature in Raleigh, claiming that GOP initiatives such as voter-id, the marriage amendment, and the shortening of the early voting process has nothing to do with jobs and everything to do with winning reelection. “What they've done to public education and redistricting is tragic,” said Snow. “We now have fewer teachers and less money to educate our children, and 14 counties in North Carolina could be electing 50 percent of our legislators.”
Rep. Haire articulated his opposition to recent Republican initiatives by making several statements at the rally. “As a way of saving money, they shortened early voting by one week,” said Rep. Haire. “Is that how you bring jobs back? Since this year, North Carolina went from being 5th to 49th in the nation in per-pupil education spending for needy children,” he said.
Macon County Commissioner Bob Kuppers, who is up for reelection in 2012, also spoke at the rally. He offered his support for former Sen. Snow as well, stating that “when John Snow decided to run he visited my classroom and told me he was thinking about running and asked me what I thought. “I was really glad that he thought enough of teachers and public education to come speak with us about his candidacy,” said Kuppers. “Not only did he come to my classroom, but he visited every teacher and faculty member and sought out their needs.”
Commissioner Kuppers, who has represented Macon County's third district since 2008, went on to talk about his tenure on the Board of Commissioners. “We have managed to hang on to the vast majority of our services in this county, and we've only had to raise taxes one time and that was to build a public school. We got a great interest rate for that investment,” said Commissioner Kuppers. “I am proud of what we have done so far and if I'm fortunate enough to serve again on the Board beyond 2012, I will continue to work hard for the people of this county.”
Public education was not the only salient issue discussed at the event. Ben Utley, chairman of the Macon County Democratic Party, closed the rally in addressing other topics. “The North Carolina Highway Patrol has suffered massive cuts recently. They had to send over $2 million in funding back to the state this year and are set to lose much more next year,” said Utley. According to Utley, the North Carolina Highway Patrol is facing monumental reductions as a result of GOP budget cuts. Utley believes the cuts will undoubtedly affect the agency’s ability to serve Macon County, and thinks the cuts offer another example of Republican ineptitude in Raleigh.
Utley did not digress too much during his conclusion while giving his endorsement of former Sen. John Snow. “The best thing we can do for this county and western North Carolina is to reelect John Snow back to the North Carolina State Senate,” concluded Utley.