Dan Forest rally in Albemarle canceled due to fog

At least 50 people, clad in a sea of red shirts, showed up at Courthouse Square Park in Albemarle Thursday morning for what was billed to be a “Get out the Vote” rally featuring Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

But due to heavy fog, Forest, a Republican who’s challenging Gov. Roy Cooper in the gubernatorial election, could not safely land at the Stanly County Airport and the event was canceled. Many people, clad in Forest T-shirts and holding signs, had waited in anticipation for his arrival for more than an hour.

Even though Forest didn’t show up, the throngs of people still had a good time bonding with each other over their shared support for Forest and many other state Republicans running for office including Rep. Wayne Sasser and State Sen. Carl Ford, who were both present and briefly spoke.

Sasser, who’s running unopposed for reelection, emphasized the critical role Stanly County, usually voting heavy Republican, will play in making sure North Carolina remains a conservative state.

“We kind of assume that all of North Carolina is like Stanly County is, and that’s not the true picture,” he said. “If Stanly County doesn’t turn out and vote at least 65 to 75 percent Republican then our state candidates will lose.”

Sasser was at the Stanly County Commons around 7:15 a.m. Thursday and said there were around 35 people already in line to vote, even though early voting didn’t officially start for another 45 minutes.

“I know Stanly County is going to vote and it is important that we all go vote and vote big for our Republican candidates.”

Early voting in North Carolina runs through Oct. 31.

Ford mentioned that with Cabarrus and Rowan counties having recently become more Democratic, it’s even more important for the Republican voters in Stanly County to show up and vote this year. Ford, who represents the 33rd District, is running against Democratic challenger Tarsha Ellis.

He told the crowd that, as they cast their ballots in the coming weeks, “when in doubt, just look for the Rs.”

According to Real Clear Politics, which takes the average of all the polls, Cooper leads Forest by around 11 percentage points. Forest, who grew up in Charlotte, has served as the state’s lieutenant governor since 2013.

Both candidates faced off in their lone gubernatorial debate Wednesday, where the two covered topics including the coronavirus pandemic, the use of masks, the economy, teacher pay and systemic racism.

Forest believes that wearing a mask should be a person’s choice, not a mandate. He has repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of masks and many of his rallies have featured largely maskless crowds. The majority of the people at the Forest event in Albemarle, including Sasser and Ford, were not wearing masks and many were not socially distant.

Forest said during the debate that if elected governor, he would lift the statewide mask mandate that Cooper issued in June and would reopen all K-12 public schools immediately for daily, full-time in-person instruction.

Stanly County Schools switched to all remote learning for the next two weeks following an uptick in coronavirus cases, including a Norwood Elementary teacher who recently died after contracting the virus.