Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I ended up on the front page.

The Daily Dispatch 10/21/2008, Page A01
Comments in Granville get personal



OXFORD — A preelection
candidate forum in Oxford on Monday night turned into an intense verbal clash between Democratic state Sen. Doug Berger and one of the local Republican leaders, Jimmy Chalmers.
And that was followed
by a spur-of-the-moment emotional remark aimed at Berger by Connie Stires, who is the wife of Berger’s GOP opponent, Chuck Stires.
The situation erupted nearly 50 minutes into the nearly hour-and-10minute-long session, but stemmed from Berger’s remarks earlier in the forum in which he argued the state government
had a surplus in 2000.
Berger argued that, in North Carolina, “We have a balanced budget.
And over the past four years we have taken the surplus that we have had and invested it principally in education while at the same time we have an $800 million rainy day fund.”


PERSONAL, from page one

And Berger argued that, “We have been good stewards of your money.”
Berger is up for reelection Nov. 4 in a 2006 rematch with Stires.
Some minutes later, state Rep. Jim Crawford, a Democrat also up for re-election, took his turn at the podium.
Crawford, who is one of the chairs of the state House Appropriations Committee, told the audience, “We’ve got a lot of very serious problems that we’re facing in the North Carolina Legislature.” According to Crawford, the state has spent much money and has tremendously increased the education budget, but has faced tremendous inflation.
Crawford argued the state is trying to ensure the young people “are ready to take the jobs of the future” instead of the jobs of the past.
Then, Crawford stated, “We’ve got a serious budget problem this time. It looks to me like we’re going to be a little over $2 bill ion — with a ‘B’ — short. That’s about a 10 percent shortage in our state budget.
“So there will not be dollars available for the kind of issues that we’ve been funding in the past. And there’ll be some serious budget cuts,” Crawford added.
Later in the forum, after the floor was opened to questions, Chalmers, who is the Granville County Republican second vice chairman, asked Berger about stating the budget is balanced has is rainy day fund when Gov.
Mike Easley, a Democrat, is indicating the state will come up short and Crawford moments earlier forecasted at least a $2 billion shortfall.
“So, sir, which budget are we discussing here?” Chalmers asked. “Is the budget actually running behind? Are we actually going to be short or is there lots of money laying around in Raleigh that we haven’t spent yet?”
Berger argued Chalmers mischara cterized his position, which he restated.
“However, your party in Washington has run this country in the ground,” Berger, his voice rising, told Chalmers. “Your party spent $10 billion in Iraq and that’s less than all that we’ve had for child health insurance.”
Chalmers argued that he was not discussing what was going on in Washington, but that “I’m concerned with what’s going on with the state budget in Raleigh.”
As Oxford attorney Willie Darby, moderating the forum, called for order, Berger stated that, while he would answer the question, “I’m not going to debate the Chuck Stires right-wing coalition.”
“Let’s keep our tact,” Darby advised. “Let’s not make ’em personal.”
Berger argued that the state will have to make cuts, that the whole system of mortgage lending has been destroyed and that Uncle Sa m will have to spend at least $700 billion to bail out the banking system.
“But,” Berger said, “point is, I’ll put up (Democratic U.S. Senate candidate) Kay Hagan’s record, my record, Jim Crawford’s record, up against (Republican U.S.
Sen.) Elizabeth Dole, John McCain or George Bush, because one thing we do, we pay the bills.
Crawford declined Darby’s offer to comment.
Then, Connie Stires faced Berger. In a soft voice, she stated that, for a time, she worked in the school system in Massachusetts.
“And when I came back, I was very distressed at what I saw,” she recalled.
She went onto to add that she was for a time working at North Carolina’s Teacher Education Consortium, where part of her job was to compile the answers to questionnaires.
Her eyes nearly in tears, she stated, “I was appalled at the grammar of the teachers who were teaching the children” and added that she today constantly corrects one of her own grandchildren.
She went on to express concern about the effectiveness of the money being spent in terms of performance in the classrooms.
Berger replied that he sees the schools system fundamentally different from her and Chuck Stires and went on to argue that the Bush administration&# 8217;s “No Child Left Behind” was a good concept, but that the money did not follow the program.
At the same time, Berger, his voice again rising, argued that one of the reasons North Carolina is top-ranked nationally in business investment is because of a first-rate university system, with most of the students coming from
within the borders. “So all this bashing of North Carolina schools, I don’t buy,” Berger said. “I see Granville County as on the cutting edge in particular.”
Chuck Stires supports parents having the right of school choice and favors lifting the statewide limit on charter schools.
Berger, addressing Connie Stires, argued, “I am the only Democrat to be a primary sponsor of lifting the cap on charter schools, but they’ve got to be done properly and for the right reasons.”

Contact the writer at bwest@hendersondispatch.com.


  1. Holly Riley9:39 AM

    Ah, debates...such wonderful and horrendous things... ;)
    I just think it's funny that the sudden outburst of Prov politics happened on a hugely heated election year. Figures.
    Hope you're having a great day!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. So did Berger ever answer your question? Do we have a $2B shortfall, or do we have millions in a rainy day fund?

    I might as well have pencilled in the Republican box on the 2008 ballot. Why can't we get Republicans to run for these uncontested Democratic seats?

  4. He did not answer my question.

    The state budget is running at least $2billion short.