ASHEBORO — Candidates for Randolph County commissioner and Randolph County sheriff debated Monday night with conservative principles, the role of local leaders and the use of public funds as primary topics. North State Journal editor-in-chief Matt Mercer served as the moderator of the two debates, which featured seven total candidates at the Sunset Avenue Church of God in Asheboro.
Before the debates started, North State Journal publisher Neal Robbins welcomed the crowd of nearly 300 to the first debate sponsored by the newspaper. Sunset Avenue Church of God pastor Boyd Byerly also welcomed the audience and candidates and gave the invocation. Robbins introduced Randolph County Board of Commissioners chairman Darrell Frye, who is running unopposed in both the GOP primary and the general election.
The first group onto the stage was the county commissioner candidates. Incumbents Hope Haywood and David Allen both drew primary opponents with local farmer Craig Frazier challenging Haywood and Ramseur Pastor and Faith Christian School administrator Todd Daniel challenging Allen.
After opening statements, the candidates faced three questions from Mercer. The first question addressed the COVID lockdowns instituted by Gov. Roy Cooper which included church closures. Mercer asked the candidates if the county commissioners have the authority to question state leaders or disobey their orders.
Haywood, the first candidate to answer, focused on the importance of staying united and said she knew that the governor’s orders would not be enforced. Concerning challenging state leaders, “Jesus said, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” said Haywood.
Allen said the county did not increase mandates and only did what was mandated by Cooper. “The county is a creature of the state,” said Allen. “We are somewhat subjected to what the dictates of the state are, and that includes the governor.” Allen added, “I am not one to contest someone else. I follow the rules. Sometimes those rules need to be broken, but I’m proud of our churches.”
Daniel questioned whether Cooper had the right to issue orders shutting down churches and pointed to a court case that ultimately blocked Cooper’s church closures.
“I think churches should’ve had a right to choose,” said Daniel. “If you can go to a Walmart and 1,035 people can be in Walmart, 500 people can be in this sanctuary.” He said he believed in the situation surrounding church closures that commissioners had the right to say, “We will not comply.”
Frazier said he would take it a step further. “It is your personal responsibility to look after your personal freedoms,” said Frazier. “[County commissioners] are supposed to look after your constitutional rights, that’s their job.” He said church closures were the choice of churches, not the governor.
The candidates were also asked about gun rights and the right to carry firearms in county buildings and meetings. The final question related to state and federal COVID funds, some of which have been earmarked for local projects. All of the candidates expressed opposition to raising property taxes to supplement state and federal funds.
In the second debate, the three Republican candidates for sheriff took the stage. Incumbent Greg Seabolt is facing former sheriff Robert Graves, who he defeated in 2018, and longtime deputy Tim Hasty.
The sheriff candidates faced six questions from the moderator on topics that included their prior law enforcement experience, the recently created service garage that was instituted by Seabolt, and pistol purchases. The final question related to the county funding and the detention center.
Seabolt defended his establishment of the fleet maintenance facility and cited the fiscal and safety aspects of the move.
“We did a return on investment, and that return on investment showed that we would have it paid for within 12 months to 13 months. We did it in 11 months,” said Seabolt. “Not only did we save the taxpayers money, we brought a safer vehicle to our patrol officers.”
Graves said he favored using local businesses for maintenance and called the fleet maintenance facility a “dream.” Recalling the prior program, Graves said using local shops “put money back into our economy” and “allowed the officers, if they were working in Archdale Trinty, Liberty of wherever they might be, to have their vehicle serviced.” Hasty said he would evaluate the garage and perform a financial review and “if it makes sense to keep the garage, then it will stay.” He also said, “There will be no sworn officers working on cars.”
All three candidates said their experience was a factor in how they would serve as sheriff. Both Seabolt and Graves had careers with the N.C. Highway Patrol. Hasty spent more than 30 years working in the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office.
The candidates spent time discussing drug cases and their enforcement strategies along with their plan to combat the rising rates of elder and child abuse in the county. All three candidates expressed support for the Second Amendment and voiced their desire to get pistol purchase permits and concealed carry permits into the hands of citizens as quickly as possible.
The debate was livestreamed via YouTube and can be watched online at randolphrecord.com/2022debate.