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GOP hopefuls speak at local breakfast; trio contends to succeed Sen. Apodaca


N.C. Secretary of State candidate A.J. Daoud is among Council of State hopefuls speaking locally Saturday. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Several spoke Saturday morning, at the monthly Henderson County Republican Breakfast before about 75 people in Fireside Restaurant on Sugarloaf Road near Dana. Many of the 17 candidates introduced spoke.

Two critical local vacancies are in the N.C. General Assembly, to succeed two retiring Republicans. Sen. Tom Apodaca (48th District), 58, of Hendersonville is concluding 14 years and seven terms as local state senator. He rose to screen bills as Senate gatekeeper, as powerful Rules and Operations chairman. Rosman native State Rep. Chris Whitmire (113th Dist.) is stepping down after two terms.

Lisa Carpenter Baldwin of Fletcher, Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville and Dennis Justice of Fletcher contend in the GOP primary to succeed Apodaca. The district covers Henderson and Buncombe counties, and South Buncombe. Each spoke to the crowd.


Lisa Baldwin touts her abilities for the State Senate. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Baldwin served four years as a strong dissenter as on the Buncombe school board, winning in 2010 then falling in a reelection bid in 2014. She points to budgeting prowess, and calls for sharp state budget reform.

She earned a conservative John Locke Foundation leadership award and made Fox News airwaves. She is a Tribune Papers columnist. She was a U.S. Agriculture economist, with a master’s degree in economics from Maryland in 1990.

Baldwin is a “strict constitutionalist, and fiscal and social conservative.” She ripped Common Core statewide guidelines. The high-IQ MENSA member called for “higher standards for our children.”


Chuck Edwards makes a point, about his business know-how fitting the N.C. Senate. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Edwards cites tax easing, jobs, education training, and (i.e. I-26) corridors as among chief needs. He is eager to apply his job creation and prudent, budget-balancing “business skills, in understanding how to get things done in Raleigh.”

He owns seven area McDonald restaurants in three counties, employing 370 people. The 1978 West Henderson grad worked his way up, starting at 16 and becoming an owner in 1998. Whenever told how fortunate he is, he quips “the harder I work, the ‘luckier’ I get.”

Edwards has chaired the City of Hendersonville’s Business Advisory Committee, and served on the Henderson County Planning Board. He is an Entegra (formerly Macon) Bank board director, and active with the local Chamber’s Government Relations Committee and Henderson Community Foundation.


Dennis Justice’s face is a familiar yet now-whiskered one, as a dissenter in local politics. He is among three in the N.C. Senate District 48 GOP primary. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Dry-witted Justice has crunched numbers and spoken out briskly at local government meetings for some 10 years — such as for recreation, against incurring debt, and for tighter school construction costs.

Mental health care needs much more priority funding, Justice said. He wants an Ag Center arena domed, as a regional disaster shelter. He criticized Common Core. Justice vowed to apply “common sense,” and that “I will fight for you.” Like the others in his race, Justice emphasized his Christian faith.

The lone Democratic candidate in the District 48 race, school principal Norm Bossert of Pisgah Forest, lost in 2014 to Rep. Whitmire.

The 113th GOP “Code of Honor” (as some might call it) primary pits Coty (Ferguson) versus Cody (Henson). Both military men call for better economic development measures.

Rosman native Henson, 23, spoke at the breakfast. The Marine Reserve corporal drives 45 minutes to Arden to work as a call center supervisor, since “there are no (good-paying) jobs in our area.” He said “I want to change that” for current and future generations such as his five-month-old son, who has “no future in this area.” He quipped, “our children shouldn’t be our biggest ‘export.’”

Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Ferguson is a Brevard-based realtor on the Brevard Planning Board. He is presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich’s local grassroots coordinator. He has served 12 years in the Army, with several stints in Iraq. He advised Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) about combating Islamic terrorism.

The GOP victor faces another Transylvania resident, in retired naval Capt. Maureen Copelof. A former Republican, she is unopposed in the Democratic primary.

State Rep. Chuck McGrady (117th Dist.), who represents most of Henderson County, is not rivaled in the GOP primary. Commissioners Grady Hawkins and Charlie Messer and several district judges are also unopposed.

Eight candidates contend for four non-partisan school board seats in the general election Nov. 8. Incumbents are longtime Chr. Ervin Bazzle, retired educators Mary Louise Corn and Rick Wood, and first-term outspoken conservative Josh Houston. Challengers are Michael Absher, Jared Bellmund, Blair Craven and Burt Harris.

Bank teller Absher, 26, has been busy as non-profit Only Hope WNC’s award-winning CEO in getting its new teen shelter house ready this month. He told the crowd he is for more “quality education,” and against “wasteful spending.”


Blair Craven is among eight Henderson County school board candidates, for for seats. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Craven joined the chorus against the mandated Common Core curriculum. His son is in third grade, in Bruce Drysdale School in Hendersonville. He said there is too much reliance on periodic exams and “taking that test at the end of the year” as academic measures, instead of ongoing learning.

Observing the event was Hunter Street, as secretary of local Teenage Republicans (TAR). The North Henderson High School sophomore told The Tribune he was impressed by natives trumpeting family heritage and alma maters. “They grew up here. They went to school here,” he said. “They have pride in our county schools, and in education.”

Education is his main issue. He likes how Republican Gov. Pat McCrory pushed for teacher pay raises. Street’s father John teaches eighth grade in Apple Valley and is its sole carry-over as a teacher from closed Edneyville High. Hunter’s mother Joan is a teacher assistant.

Street liked how state school superintendent candidate Mark Johnson’s glossy refrigerator magnet cards feature men’s basketball schedules for the state’s four ACC schools. Johnson is on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board.

His primary foes, J. Wesley Sills and Dr. Rosemary Fernandez Stein of Burlington, also spoke. Sills teaches high school civics and economics in Harnett County. “We don’t challenge our kids” enough, he said. Pediatrician Stein’s ancestors were leading Dominican school officials. Supt. June Atkinson’s Democratic primary foe is former principal Henry Pankey of Durham.


N.C. Secretary of State candidate Michael LaPaglia speaks out. Beside him is GOP breakfast host Bruce Hatfield. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

All Republicans for several Council of State positions spoke. Abraham “A.J.” Daoud, the choice in 2012, and Raleigh “entrepreneur” Michael LaPaglia seek to challenge Democrat Secy. of State Elaine Marshall. LaPaglia called her too liberal. Daoud, of Pilot Mountain, said he got the lottery board chairman deservedly fired in overseeing the state lottery. McCrory appointed Daoud. Daoud wants corporate employers to have to provide proof of workers’ citizenship, in annual reports.

Chuck Stuber is sole GOP challenger to State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat. Stuber, a former FBI white collar crime investigator, vowed to ferret out fraud as a financial “watchdog.”

The insurance commissioner race GOP trio of Raleigh insurance agency owner Mike Causey, former Onslow County commissioner Joe McLaughlin and Ron Pierce of Charlotte each spoke. Causey, the ’12 GOP nominee, said the state insurance office passes the buck in telling customers angry their insured property is not fully reimbursed to “get a lawyer.” McLaughlin calls some insurance under-covering/paying “unconscionable.” Pierce is “pissed off” enough to sue, about an insurance-related case he said wrongly landed him in jail.

Administrative law judge Phil Berger Jr., son of N.C. Senate Pres. Pro Tempore Phil Berger, also spoke. He said his decisions will be strict upholding of constitutional rights, “the rule of the law, and will be grounded in North Carolina values.” He challenges Court of Appeals Judge Linda Stephens, on Nov. 8.

U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows (11th Dist.) is unopposed in the GOP primary, while semi-retired astrophysicist Tom Hill of Zirconia and Rick Bryson are Democratic primary candidates. The sole presidential candidate represented was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The Republican Breakfast is held on third Saturdays — next Feb. 20 again in Fireside. For details, call host Bruce Hatfield at 329-4971.

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