The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 10, 2014

Democrats rally platform at county convention

Several candidates skip event

By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor

Thursday, April 10, 2014 — There were as many no-shows as candidates vying for office at Saturday’s Democratic convention and breakfast at Stanly Regional Medical Center’s Magnolia Room.

About 50 attended the convention, with more Democrat officials sitting in the audience than running for office.

Former N.C. Sen. Bill Purcell of Laurinburg served as the keynote speaker. He reminded the partisan crowd that the Democratic way of governing is superior to Republican philosophies, especially when it comes to what’s best for people.

Purcell, 84, said Democrats, not Republicans, better foster education, promote a business climate, protect the environment, serve the poor and are overall more efficient and accountable.

It was Stanly County’s Dr. Nalin C. Mehta, however, that stirred the crowd with a message that prompted a standing ovation.

“I will not wear a badge of conservative or liberal, but I will be a responsible servant and leader,” Mehta said.

Mehta is a Democrat candidate for the N.C. House’s District 67. He will face the GOP primary winner between incumbent Justin Burr and Peter Asciutto in November.

Mehta called Gov. Pat McCrory’s planned pay increase for teachers akin to the motion picture “Hunger Games,” with some winners, but mostly losers. He called it a means to divide and conquer.

County commission hopefuls Debra Morgan and Franklin Lee briefly introduced their platforms. They are at-large opponents in the Democratic primary.

Both touted Stanly County’s need for an educated workforce as key to improving its economic recovery.

Lee said a quality school system is critical when trying to lure industry to the county.

“People aren’t going to move here if there aren’t good schools to educate their children,” Lee said.

Sheriff Rick Burris, the only remaining Democrat to maintain elected office, told the crowd that he works for the people of Stanly County and that he considers them his boss.

“It’s time for me to get my report card and I hope it’s a good one,” Burris said.

Burris’ Democratic opponent, Cameron Speights, did not attend the convention due to illness.

Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Rockingham, forwarded his regrets for not being able to attend.

U.S. Rep. Antonio Blue, District 8, also failed to show.

While U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan also passed on attending, she forwarded a statement, citing her political objective. Her husband was on hand to speak on her behalf.

Local attorney Charles Brown endorsed N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson, who spoke Friday in Albemarle at a Democratic Century Club luncheon.

Judy Hammill, chairwoman of the county Democratic Party, urged those attending to head to the polls this year in an election that fewer Democrats are expected to vote.

“We must turn Stanly County blue again,” she said.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28 or email