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State senate candidates stake out positions

fr candidatesVerbal sparring over key campaign issues in this fall’s state senate race was lively and pointed between N.C. Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, and former Democratic state Sen. John Snow at an Aug. 9 forum the Macon County League of Women Voters hosted in Franklin.

The two political rivals will squareoff in this fall’s election in a rematch for who will represent the seven western counties in the Raleigh. Snow, D-Murphy, held the seat for six years, but two years ago, Davis unseated Snow by roughly 200 votes.

Davis definitely had the hometown supporters on his side in Franklin. What was slated as a forum between Davis and Snow more strongly resembled a campaign rally for the incumbent as red shirts sporting “Re-elect Jim Davis” logos dominated the 125 or so person crowd in the Presbyterian Church cafeteria.

They clapped when Davis exclaimed his support for low taxes and cuts to what he classified as wasteful state programs. Davis proffered a few examples, ridiculing an allegedly insolvent state-run ferry operation that spent more on the salary of a ticket taker than it made back in tickets, claiming the state would be better off if the ferry was free. Davis claimed there is an employee at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in library science making six figures to pick out magazines, drawing a scoff from a man in the crowd.

“I can find enough examples to make you sick,” Davis said.

Davis said Democrats are in support of raising taxes even during a recession an approach that he opposes.

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But Snow claimed the Republican cuts to education and other state programs in the end were a poor way to balance a budget. The cuts, though seemingly made to reduce the burden on taxpayers, were actually paid for in the end by the middle and lower class in the form of higher fees, such as for licenses, and higher tuition costs to send their children to college, Snow said.

During the back and forth between the candidates, Snow stayed steadfast in his support for funding for higher education, claiming many jobs require college or technical school training.

He also claimed Davis and the Republicans were looking to privatize the state’s public education. And he contended that Republican cuts to education caused the loss of thousands of jobs in the state.

“Ladies and gentleman, public education is the foundation of this democracy,” Snow said. “We are at a crossroads in North Carolina; the leaders in Raleigh today are talking about privatizing public education.”

Snow said education shouldn’t be run like a business. A smaller crowd, most without party affiliated garb except for scattered pro-Snow stickers, politely clapped at the end of each of Snow’s talking points.

Davis countered that the state has a monopoly on education, and residents should have more choice. He said he believed in healthy competition and would support tax breaks for families who sent their children to private colleges.

Snow also spoke to the predominantly older crowd at the forum and told them he wasn’t in support of cuts to programs that benefitted elderly and needy. But, that gesture didn’t seem to win him any more claps from the attendees in red shirts.

One Franklin resident, Sarah Fricks, sporting Davis attire, said she had helped organize conservative supporters to come out to the forum. But admitted that she was not always anti-Snow.

“I had voted for Snow in the past,” Fricks said. “At the time, he was the candidate to vote for. Now, it’s Mr. Davis.”

Following the forum, Ed Morris, Macon County Democratic Party Chairman, said he thought the biggest distinction between the candidates would be on issues regarding education. Republican cuts to funding for local school districts and tax breaks, where he claimed they are not needed may be deciding factors, Morris said.

“I think there is a huge difference between the candidates,” Morris said.

Morris said he hopes Snow wins this time around. And a different election battleground could help realize that wish. New district lines were drawn throughout the state based on the latest population counts from the 2010 Census. The district Snow and Davis are battling for was redrawn to take Democratic-leaning Haywood County in its entirety and cut out the more conservative-leaning Transylvania County, resulting in a net gain of registered Democrats in the new district.

The 50th District is 41.1% Democratic; 33.1% GOP; and 25.7% unaffiliated.

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