Here's something I agree with Ron Margiotta about. It was a lot more fun campaigning for office than it is serving in office, the first-term Wake County Board of Education member says. School board, county commission, Raleigh City Council, take your pick--they all pay a pittance, take enormous amounts of time if you really pay attention, and the issues are never as simple as they looked when you were running. Notwithstanding the above, Called2Action, the year-old Christian right group formed in Raleigh for the express purpose of being intolerant when it comes to homosex'ls, is looking for candidates to run this year for local offices--school board in particular--and Margiotta was one of its speakers at a recruitment session last week at Providence Baptist Church. Margiotta's a Republican, as were most of the three dozen folks in the room.
Bottom line, the Republicans aren't exactly overflowing with candidates. In fact, I'm aware of none so far in the two school board district races they're targeting, and just one--former City Councilor John Odom--who's definitely running for the two at-large Raleigh Council seats. More on that below. Other observations from the GOP side of the world:
No wishy-washy praying.
Asked how he balanced faith and politics, former Wake Commissioner John Converse told the C2A crowd that when the GOP ran things in the '90s, they always started meetings with a prayer "in the name of Jesus Christ," and no other. "There wasn't any of this wishy-washy stuff." Or, as Steve Noble, C2A's founder, put it, "You can't rely on ungodly people to do God's will." He meant, of course, the Christian God. The one who said so clearly in the good book that shellfish are sinful and so are gays. The latter sin, C2A thinks, should be taught in the schools--perhaps along with a warning re: the high mercury content of fish?
Prayer in the schools (board).
Wake voters will elect school board members in four of the nine districts this fall. In two of those four, the GOP is happy enough with the incumbents, it seems. They are North Raleigh's Patti Head, who was in the C2A audience, and Garner's Amy White. It's the other two where they're praying/hustling for candidates: In District 7, Cary's Bill Fletcher is the incumbent, but of course he's a candidate for state superintendent of schools in the 2004 race that never ends, and it's assumed he won't be running again; in District 9, Katherine Quigg, a Wake Forest Democrat, is the incumbent.
De-consolidate, then pray.
Fletcher and Quigg are part of a 5-4 board majority that insists on a reasonable degree of racial--sorry, economic--diversity in every Wake school. Given how economically segregated the county is, and especially how upscale the fast-growing western and northern boundary sectors are, that's no easy job. Hence, the annual battles over reassignment as new schools open in lily-white communities. Here, the interests of the C2A group, which backs "family values" by way of neighborhood schools, and those of the old ABC group, Assignment By Choice, coincide. In a word, as ABC head Cynthia Mattson put it to her new friends, the goal is to "de-consolidate" the county schools, meaning break the system up into districts. No more reassignments across local boundaries, in other words. Win either Fletcher's seat or Quigg's, and that could be the result.
They ain't all wrong (#1)
County Commissioner Tony Gurley, a Republican, said at another event last week that the Wake system wouldn't be looking at a huge backlog of school construction projects if it adopted year-round schools as the "default" option rather than, as now, they're being the exception to the rule of summer's-off schools. Sounds right. Year-round schools, with staggered attendance, give you buildings full of students all year long.
They ain't all wrong (#2)
Jere Royall, of the N.C. Family Council, was among the many C2A types bemoaning the pro-state lottery vote in the House last week. They think gambling is sinful (like shellfish?), but also think it's sinful to prey on the poor for your tax revenues. Can't argue with that.
Elephants do remember.
Gurley, smiling, still recalls the Indy saying that his was the easiest of the '02 commission races to decide--we endorsed his opponent. "That's because I've filled out your questionnaire," he said. "Most conservatives don't." Also smiling, Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister says he saved his Indy clipping for his mother, because we said he was "smiling and handsome" before, yes, endorsing his opponent.
Some GOP'ers are likeable.
Locally, anyway. Former Raleigh Councilor Neal Hunt, now in the state Senate, contrasted the bitter partisanship of state politics with the general gentility of city politics, where most issues are, in his opinion, "shades of gray," and people disagree much more agreeably. I agree, even though--as Hunt said--we usually do disagree. Hunt's a C2A man--no wishy-washy prayers for him, either.
"Believe what you believe."
That's the key to running for office, says state Rep. Russell Capps, dear leader of the Christian right. "Don't be wishy-washy." Again--good advice.
Will the Meekers prevail?
What's new with Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker? Well, he said, just before taking his seat at the Triangle Community Coalition luncheon on Friday, things are starting to pop in the at-large council race. Oh?
Meeker proceeded to put in a good word for my architect-friend Russ Stephenson, welcoming him as a "real progressive."
Was that an endorsement? The mayor gave his best enigmatic smile and one of those rapid-fire responses of his that I translated as: not so fast.
You'll recall that Meeker pronounced himself agnostic on the choice of a Democratic replacement for former Councilor Janet Cowell, elected to the state Senate in November with our friend Mr. Hunt.
Consequently, Stephenson and another progressive Dem, the Rev. Paul Anderson, were passed over in favor of the only Dem the Republican Council members would support, the newly seated Joyce Kekas. (Republican Tommy Craven got Hunt's seat, with the Dem members all voting supinely for the Republicans' pick--go figure.)
Then, it gets complicated. Craven wanted to run in District A, assuming the Republican incumbent there, Mike Regan, was going to run for mayor. (And where, by the way, the Rev. Anderson is currently mounting a campaign.)
But Regan stuck his Christian-right foot in his mouth once too often, and now he's not running for mayor, so Craven won't run in District A and may or may not be a candidate at-large. (It's a lot harder race citywide.)
We noticed, at the Wake Republican Convention a couple of weeks ago, that John Odom was introduced as an at-large candidate, but Craven wasn't.
So will the GOP back Odom and, explicitly or implicitly, Kekas?
On the Democratic side, Kekas says she's leaning toward running but hasn't made up her mind. Also moving around in candidate-like fashion is former Councilor Benson Kirkman, who may run at-large or try to win back his old District D seat from Thomas Crowder, who took it away two years ago.
If Kirkman runs at-large with Stephenson, Kekas and Odom, it makes the only woman in the race and the only Republican the co-favorites, which can't sit all that well with Meeker. His endorsement(s) would help to sort things out.
Kirkman, by the way, fell out of favor with Meeker two years ago when he voted with the Republicans to give the city's lobbying contract to Capitol Link, a firm headed locally by then-GOP State Chair Bill Cobey.
Last week, Capitol Link's contract was up for renewal, and once again Dem swing voters--this time Jessie Taliaferro and Kekas--teamed with the three Republican members to give Cobey the business. And again, Meeker wasn't happy. He says the contract's unnecessary, because city staffers do all the work anyway. Kekas and Taliaferro, for their part, say they didn't know Meeker's views until after they voted. They backed a GOP firm, they told me, because Washington's run by the Republicans.