Dr. Elaine Jenkins and Neil Underwood at Tuesday night's ELBA Forum
Nic Haag, Libertarian candidate for NC Senate
(Lincoln Herald Staff Photos)
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
A year ago, very few people had any idea that Donald Trump would be leading in the battle for the GOP Presidential nomination. Jeb Bush was considered by many to be the front-runner. Now the Trump Express is rolling along and Bush has suspended his campaign. Patrick McHenry was Bush's North Carolina campaign chairman--an obvious indication that he expected Bush, not Trump, to be the nominee.
The City of Lincolnton elections last year were a surprise to many. The GOP had tried several times to take control of City Hall. In November, they finally managed to elect a second City Councilman. They lost the mayor's race, but Ed Hatley, a Democrat, sided with the Republicans in January in voting to fire City Manager Jeff Emory, who had served in the post for 19 years.
Things are different in 2016. Incumbents are no longer guaranteed a decided advantage against newcomers--in fact, the opposite may be true.
Lincoln County has belonged to the Republican Party this century. Democrats, despite decent registration numbers, had little chance of being elected in GOP landslides. The Democrats didn't even bother to nominate anyone for many offices.
Now, it's 2016. The era of straight party voting has ended--voters will have to vote for particular candidates, not just a party. An "R" beside the name may not be a guarantee of a win in the fall any more than a "D" was years ago when the Democrats held power.
This year, the Democratic Party has two candidates running in the election for three seats on the Lincoln County Commission. These are not just faceless names--little knowns who were recruited to run because nobody else would do it--they are well known and respected individuals.
Dr. Elaine Jenkins is a former Superintendent of Lincoln County Schools, having served as interim Superintendent on two occasions. She has also been heavily involved in civic affairs. She served as chair of the United Way's Board of Directors and in that capacity, it was she who had the idea for a community needs assessment that resulted in a conference in October 2014. Dr. Jenkins also served as a board member of the Lincoln County Education Foundation, on the board of the Arts Council, and the Board of Trustees of Wingate University to name just a few.
Neil Underwood was an award winning band director at East Lincoln and North Lincoln high schools. He's currently working with the marching band at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Some say if all his former students vote for him, he'll win.
The chairman of the Republican Party made a statement during last year's city election that he believed a balance of power is a good thing. It's something that hasn't happened in a long time on the County Commission. The Democrats say with these two candidates, they believe 2016 might be the year.
At Tuesday night's East Lincoln Betterment Association Candidates Forum, people also got a chance to meet another non-GOP candidate. Nic Haag is a Libertarian who is seeking the district 44 seat in the NC Senate currently held by Dr. David Curtis. Curtis faces a primary challenge from former senator Chris Carney.
Haag espouses the Libertarian philosophy of free market capitalism. Asked what he thinks is the biggest issue facing the General Assembly, he said it's government interference in business. "Occupational licensing is driving up the costs of goods and services," he told us. "One in three people need some kind of government license to do their job."
Asked if he believes a Libertarian stands a chance of being elected, he said, "I think there's a possiblity. 28% of those under age 30 identify themselves as Libertarian in their political beliefs." When we mentioned that's the same group who are supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Presidential race, he said, "The Republican Party doesn't have a candidate with whom they can identify. None of the Republican candidates are appealing to that age group."
Haag, who hails from Oregon, has lived in Lincoln County two years. An Eagle Scout, he joined the Marine Corps almost as soon as he could drive and spent 10 years in the military, a part of that in Afghanistan. He worked in cyber security, and his post-military job is in a similar field.
Haag says he got excited about politics thanks to Dr. Ron Paul, whose free market ideas appealed to him. He and wife Brandi live in Denver; they have two children--both boys.
There are less than 200 registered Libertarians in Lincoln County, so Haag will have to get a lot of votes from both Republicans and Democrats to have a chance in November.
The odds are against him--and perhaps the Democrats will find the GOP still has its hold on the county's electorate...but this is 2016, and this year may be different.
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