Curtis gets Lincoln nod for Senate
by Courtney Price and Justin Vick
LINCOLNTON – In preparing to fill the district’s vacant state Senate seat, the Lincoln County GOP effectively whittled three candidates down to one Tuesday night, Nov. 22.
The district parties will vote Monday, Nov. 28, to fill the seat, which was left vacant after Sen. Jim Forrester died Oct. 31. District 41 includes precincts in Lincoln, Gaston and Iredell counties.
David Curtis, Maeneen Klein and Martin Oakes, all east Lincoln residents, had asked to be considered by the Lincoln County Republican Party executive committee for a nomination.
Iredell County resident and Mooresville Town Commissioner Chris Carney is also seeking the seat.
As of Wednesday, Nov. 23, no candidates have stepped up from Gaston County.
The Lincoln GOP executive committee took a preliminary poll of its voting members Tuesday night, Nov. 22, and Curtis came out on top.
Klein received no votes in the poll, and Oakes dropped out and encouraged those who voted for him to support Curtis.
“I dropped out so the board will be united behind Dr. Curtis,” Oakes said Wednesday. “It’s for the good of the party.”
Klein said she’d hoped to get more consideration, but was satisfied with the decision.
“I didn’t get in the race until Saturday (Nov. 19), I was a little late, and I think their votes reflected that,” Klein said.
Wayne King, state GOP vice chairman, said the poll was something he’s never considered before.
“It’s kind of a unique idea. I haven’t seen that done before,” King said. “But it gives you an idea of where people are.”
King also said the vote was not a binding agreement, and the nomination could change at Monday’s meeting.
How the vote works
Members of the executive committees for each of the counties’ parties vote to select the replacement.
The members’ votes are weighted based on the population of the areas in the district. Because Iredell County has the largest portion of the district, based on population, one vote by an Iredell member counts for more than one vote by a Lincoln member.
Lincoln County’s party has 14 votes, Iredell gets 11 and Gaston has 12. But because of the differences in population, Lincoln County’s votes total 37 percent of the district’s votes, while Iredell has 46 percent and Gaston has 16 percent.
The Lincoln County party will actually only cast 13 votes, since Curtis is a voting member and must abstain, but those 13 votes will still amount to 37 percent of the total vote.
To win, one candidate must earn more than 50 percent of the weighted votes.
Members will bring nominations to the joint meeting, which will be held Monday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. at the East Lincoln Fire Department on South Pilot Knob Road in Stanley.
King said from a party standpoint, focus on 2012 should be a factor in Monday night’s decision.
“This is bigger than the appointment for this year. This is about winning the seat again in 2012,” King said.
Curtis to take on Carney
Because neither candidate can win with his county’s votes alone, focus will turn to the Gaston County executive committee as the deciding factor.
“Assuming (Carney) gets most of Iredell, he has a distinct advantage,” Curtis said Tuesday night. “But I think I have a real chance to overcome that advantage. I’m reaching out to Iredell and to Gaston folks and hoping to win a few of them over. I’m sure Chris is doing the same thing.
“But each voter (on the executive committee) is going to vote for the interests of several thousand Republicans that they represent. They’re assuming a big responsibility, one they probably never expected.”
Curtis said he feels a connection with both the Denver and Mooresville communities, and thinks he could represent them well.
“Iredell has the largest percentage of population of the three counties, so it would seem incumbent on me to meet the concerns that they express,” Curtis said.
And Curtis said that this race is just round one.
“Round two will be May 8, 2012. I expect, no matter who wins, Chris and I will run against each other again.”
Curtis had already planned to run for Forrester’s seat next year, expecting Forrester to bow out for health reasons. He’ll run against Carney again if he’s not appointed Monday.
Carney said he has the Iredell County Republican Party’s support.
“I don’t think anyone knows exactly how this stuff turns out until there’s a final vote,” Carney said. “But having the leadership of Iredell County let me know that they would be in favor of recommending me, I think that in itself was a truly humbling experience.”
Carney is serving in his second term as commissioner of Mooresville’s fourth ward, but he’s represented the entire town as mayor pro tem since 2009.
Curtis has been criticized for not having political experience like Carney, but Curtis said he thinks about it differently.
“Dr. Forrester and I have very similar values, and since he won big in the last several elections, then that tells me that the voters in this district share my values,” Curtis said. “It’s true that I don’t have the political experience that Chris has, but I don’t look at that as a huge negative. I’m a fast learner. I feel like a significant number of people in the N.C. Senate share my values and philosophy.”
Reflecting on Forrester’s legacy
Carney considers Forrester among the most humble elected officials he has met.
“He was always gracious with his time,” Carney said. “If you didn’t know he lived in Gaston, you had no idea where he lived, because he was very involved in every community.”
Curtis said when he attended Forrester’s funeral, he sat next to Mark Creech, state director for the Christian Action League.
“(Creech) told me that Sen. Forrester was the most consistent supporter of family values in the N.C. legislature. Boy, that’s pretty impressive,” Curtis said. “I would like to carry on that legacy.”