The weather has heated up and election season hasn’t cooled off as a handful of candidates are in a runoff for the primary election.
Two county-wide positions are being contested, along with state senate seat 43. Candidates for that senate seat and the Newton County chair seat were invited to a primary runoff forum hosted by the NAACP at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Thursday evening.
The Democrat-only forum allowed candidates to give an introductory statement about themselves, before moderator Art Crutcher asked questions specific to either the chair or senate seat. The audience of around three dozen people from around the community and the Newton County Chapter of the National Action Network then were able to ask questions.
State Senate 43 candidate Tonya Anderson and Newton County Chair candidate Phil Johnson attended.
Dee Dawkins-Haigler and Marcello Banes, running for the Democrat candidate in Senate 43 and Newton County Chair, respectively, did not attend.
Anderson, who received 46.04 percent of the vote in the May 24 primary, falling just four percentage points short of winning the Democrat election outright, told the crowd of her experience in local government and her time in the United State’s Air Force Reserves.
Johnson, who received 41.07 percent of the Democrat votes in the primary, relayed to the crowd the story of why he decided to run for chair two years ago.
“The overriding issue is the lack of leadership in the chairman spot and it needed to be filled immediately,” Johnson said. “When people ask why do this, it’s easy — I have 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.”
Both candidates said they will work with the community in making big decisions, and Johnson said he wants to meet with officials at the area’s institutions of higher learning and industrial plants.
“I will have a presence in the county,” Anderson said. “I won’t force anything without meeting with the citizens of the county.”
Anderson also told the group that she is against the opportunity school district referendum that will be on the ballot Nov. 8.
“There are no definitives and it is detrimental because our public tax dollars would go to form new school districts, schools may close, money for schools will go to a new district and someone not appointed by the people will be running things,” Anderson said.
Johnson’s biggest issue of the night was how to get the board of commissioners working together, citing his time negotiating deals as an attorney.
“Change in personnel can contribute to a good board of commissioners,” Johnson said. “But a good chairman would make these commissioners a better board of commissioners. The chair has to have vision and a rapport with the district commissioners. It’s about consensus building on the board.”
Both candidates will be on the ballot for the second time in three months when the primary election takes place July 26 with early voting starting July 5.
The winner of Johnson and Banes will go up against Aaron Varner in the general election in November. And whoever receives the most votes between Anderson and Dawkins-Haigler will run against incumbent JaNice Van Ness in the general election.