The News + Record hosted the first of its two candidate forums last Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center, featuring those seeking office for N.C. House Dist. 54, N.C. Senate Dist. 20 and Chatham County Sheriff.

Incumbent Democrats Rep. Robert Reives II, Sen. Natalie Murdock and Sheriff Mike Roberson attended and responded for questions for almost two hours; their Republican challengers did not attend.

Chatham County Republican Party Chairman Terry Schmidt falsely claimed two days before the event that GOP candidates were “uninvited” by the News + Record. The GOP had earlier requested to videotape the event; the News + Record agreed on the condition that the videographer not be a specific person who has exhibited a four-year record of hostility and harassment toward News + Record staff and the newspaper. The GOP would not accept that condition; Schmidt emailed CN+R Publisher Bill Horner III on Tuesday morning, two days before the forum, to say his candidates would not participate in the event — but the candidates were never uninvited.

Two letters below are from Chatham residents who attended Thursday’s forum. At press time, GOP candidates for Chatham County Board of Commissioners and Chatham County Board of Education were scheduled to attend the News + Record’s second forum, set for Wednesday evening at Central Carolina Community College’s Pittsboro campus.

Maybe the Republicans don’t have good ideas for Chatham?

To the Editor:

Thanks to the Chatham News + Record for sponsoring a candidate forum that I attended on October 20.

All Chatham candidates for N.C. State Senate, N.C. House of Representatives and Chatham County Sheriff were invited to participate. Unfortunately Chatham County Republicans chose not to take part.

I appreciated hearing statements from Democrats N.C. Sen. Natalie Murdock, N.C. Rep. Robert Reives II and Sheriff Mike Roberson. Questions to the candidates from the moderator, Bill Horner III, were important and timely. They focused on growth, jobs, safety, affordable housing, education, the environment and other issues facing our county. These candidates gave thoughtful, well reasoned answers to the questions. Candidates also responded to questions from the audience.

I have a good idea about where these individuals want to steer the county and the values that guide them. I missed hearing responses to these important issues from the other party. I wonder why Republicans are unwilling to answer questions in a public forum? Pulling out at the last minute, supposedly because a videographer (who has been very disrespectful to News + Record staff in the past) was not allowed to film the event, seems like a stunt to me.

Perhaps they don’t have good ideas to put forward about the future for our county?

Vickie Atkinson
Chapel Hill

Chatham’s political culture on the ropes?

To the Editor:

Claims are made that Republican candidates were not welcome at last week’s Chatham News + Record Meet the Candidates at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center building.

But it was a videographer who was not welcome, who enjoys accusing Chatham’s award-winning newspaper, the Chatham News + Record, of “fake news.” Is it the same videographer who mocked and insulted a News + Record reporter for wearing a mask during the pandemic? If so, what obligation should the paper have to him?

And how could any party’s candidates be stampeded into missing a chance to present their positions in the same room as other candidates?

This year we’ve witnessed a campaign of anonymous complaints against Sheriff Mike Roberson. A complaint from a student whose family refused to meet with the school to clarify and resolve a dispute was hyped into accusations against members of our county’s Board of Education.

The audience at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center heard from candidates dedicated to representing all their constituents rather than dismissing the other party’s voters and representatives as evil.

As growth brings changes, we especially need leaders dedicated to working together, to preserve the Chatham culture my family has loved and appreciated for over 50 years.

Jerry Markatos

Blue collar work still needs value

To the Editor

Regarding Ben Rappaport’s column, “State of Chatham” and college preparedness, here are a few thoughts:

In a recent episode of “This Old House,” the crew were talking about an apprenticeship program they are working with, teaching young people building trade skills. These are kids who aren’t necessarily low income or low achieving, but just don’t feel college is a good fit for t hem. As the master electrician pointed out, many of the trades people have aged out and retired and aren’t being replaced. 

We are facing a housing shortage, so the news reports tell us — but where will the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, come from if we don’t start feeding them into the system now?

The past 40 years were a perfect storm that combined the disappearance of good-paying blue-collar jobs with “degree creep” in the education sector. While some of the blue-collar jobs have been automated, many of them are still hands on, and somebody’s got to program the robots! 

I’m glad to see the shift toward things like apprenticeships and education in the building trades, among other areas that don’t require a four year degree. While I understand the appeal of white collar jobs and the denigration of blue collar jobs, not everyone is a good fit for a desk job or a suit and tie every day. Too many young people no longer know the satisfaction that building something can bring, or how good hands-on work can feel, at the end of the day. In distancing ourselves from the drudgery of ‘mill work’ type jobs, we’ve perhaps thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Sandi Campbell
Siler City