Candidates shift focus to Florence


Staff Writer

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Candidates for state House and Senate races in the Twin Counties suspended their campaigns last week to help their communities prepare for an incoming Hurricane Florence.

Fundraising took a backseat to spending time with family, readying constituents and praying for everyone, according to local General Assembly candidates.

State Sen. Rick Horner, R-Wilson, is running in Senate District 11, which includes Nash County. He said he's been impressed by the state’s response.

"Gov. Cooper has done a great job on this," Horner said.

Horner said he kept his office lines open to constituents and pushed everyone to download the Ready NC app, which provides updated information in all sorts of emergencies and has been extremely helpful in prepping for Florence.

Nash County Commissioner Lisa Barnes, a Republican candidate in House District 7, stayed in close contact with county officials regarding emergency operations throughout the county.

"My main concern has been caring for my elderly parents," Barnes said. "We have a generator at my house so my mom, who is an invalid, and my dad have been weathering the storm with us."

With tobacco, sweet potatoes and peanuts still in the field, excessive rainfall is a huge concern for farmers still in the middle of the harvest season, said Barnes, a leading farmer in the area.

"We appreciate the assistance from the governor’s office waiving transportation rules to allow farmers to ramp up harvest in anticipation of the hurricane."

State Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, is the incumbent candidate in House District 7. She began last week by encouraging residents to create a disaster plan. She shared important emergency information via email and her social media platforms. And she attended to her 94-year-old mother and other senior citizens.

"Storms like this are bigger than politics," Richardson said.

John Check, Republican candidate for the vacated House District 25 seat, said he opened his home to friends who needed to evacuate their houses in Manteo and New Bern, which was devastated by the storm.

Check said he's looking after his daughter's dog Winnie while his daughter went to New Bern so the hospital there would have a pediatrician on hand during the storm.

"She wanted to take care of the babies in the nursery and welcome new babies who would arrive during the storm," Check said. "It was a bit unnerving to see her drive out of the driveway and head toward the storm."

The Rev. James Gailliard, Democratic candidate in House District 25, spent the week prepping staff at Word Tabernacle Church for disaster relief support.

Gailliard also made sure his adult children and elderly mother were ready.

"Thursday was a full work day at the church getting last-minute logistics in place so we would be ready if (and) when requested," Gailliard said. "Phone meeting with Governor's Office of Engagement to share our strategy and offer our support."

Gailliard said his efforts are framed by a single philosophy: "Not everyone in the community will belong to our church but our church belongs to everyone in the community."

Nick Taylor, a Libertarian candidate in House District 25, said as a teacher he was off work and able to spend the last part of the week with his wife and young daughters.

"The Creator has blessed me with my three girls and I hope to continue to provide for them," Taylor said. "I hope this storm gave other families and friends opportunities to spend quality time together."

Taylor also coordinated with neighbors to male sure everyone had what they needed in the days before the storm.

"Please keep your hurricane supplies handy, hurricane season is not over and lasts until Nov. 30," Taylor said. "Let's keep our heads up and hands out to those still in need."

State Sen. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, is the incumbent candidate in House District 23. He coordinated with emergency officials and residents in Edgecombe and Martin counties in the days before the storm.

"I will continue to be available to the citizens in my district and I will be visiting emergency shelters throughout the weekend as a member of the House Select Committee on Disaster," Willingham said.

Claiborne Holtzman, Republican challenger in House District 23, made sure his business was properly protected and kept in contact with employees and family members to make sure they were safe.

"I also checked on some neighbors to make sure they had a safe place to be during the storm," Holtzman said.

Candidates for the five state legislative seats representing Nash and Edgecombe counties who aren't quoted in the story were unable to reply to questions before deadline.