Citizens in Anson County were given a lot of think about Monday as Congressional candidates Richard Hudson (R) and Congressman Larry Kissell (D) debated at Wingate University in an event sponsored by AARP and, later, candidates for the N.C. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as county commissioners, spoke as part of a panel at South Piedmont Community College.
Since the Congressional debate was sponsored by Wingate University and AARP, nearly all of the questions Hudson and Kissell faced dealt with Social Security, Medicare and financial security, especially for those about to retire.
The speakers each took decidedly different tactics to answer questions from moderators and audience members. Hudson often answered questions by using Kissell’s work as an example of what he wouldn’t do, while Kissell gave shorter answers, often saying he’d continue doing what he is doing now. Both candidates said that Social Security is important to retirement income security. “The answer is it is very important because it is a promise we have made,” said Kissell. “We told folks that that money is going to be there and we need to keep our promises.”
Hudson agreed. “Social Security is absolutely critical to retirement security. My parents are on Social Security and I know they made their retirement plans based on that,” he said. “The biggest threat to our social security is the status quo.”
Medicare was another subject. Hudson said the Medicare program is “critical” and that, according to the 2012 Medicare report, it will be bankrupt by 2024, or possibly as early as 2016. “This is not an issue way down the road; this is an issue that is just a few years away from us.”
Kissell agreed that the program is important. “The Medicare program is one of those promises we have made to people as they enter the work force, … and they have the right to expect that program to be there for them,” he said.
Neither Hudson nor Kissell attended the Anson County candidates forum at the Lockhart-Taylor Center at SPCC. Present were: Gene McIntyre (R) and Gene McLaurin (D), candidates for the 25th N.C. Senate District; Mark Brody (R) and Dale Nelson (D), candidates for the 55th N.C. House District; and Vancine Sturdivant (D) and Jarvis T. Woodburn (D), county commissioners for Districts 2 and 6, respectively. Judge Lisa Thacker was a guest on the panel.
When asked, all candidates agreed that early childhood education is a priority. As McIntyre noted, “We all want the same outcome. I think how we get there… we may differ.”
McLaurin said he didn’t understand why the legislature made so many cuts to early childhood education. “They were wrong,” he said.
Brody agreed that early childhood education should be funded so that students may have opportunities to learn, but said that even with effort in the early stages, students in Anson County are lost in middle and high school. He stated his plan to find what is going wrong in later grades and, if necessary, direct them to areas that benefit them. “There is such a push in this state that everybody must have a college education, and it is blatantly not true,” he said. “We need technical education programs, we need apprenticeship programs, and some of these kids that do not work well at academics can perform well at manual skills.”
Nelson stated that early childhood education is important and that there needs to be a relationship between children and the community. “I disagree with my opponent,” he said. “I think we’re blessed in our education. We have some problems; I don’t want to say that that’s not true. What Elaine [Scarborough] is doing with the Early Childhood Development Partnership, what we’re doing with New Tech, that’s phenomenal. We’re starting a farm in Anson County for kids to learn to sustain and support themselves.”
Sturdivant and Woodburn were asked about poverty’s effect on education. Sturdivant stated that poverty doesn’t need to strongly influence education. She suggested collaboration with organizations such as HOLLA! to supplement children’s education. Referring to Brody’s earlier comment, she said, “I’m a huge advocate of education. I’m also a huge advocate of choice.”
Woodburn agreed that the county commission should supplement education with other organizations. “We’ve got to think outside the box and think of ways we can work with things like Partnership for Children, and HOLLA! and those types of organizations to come together like Ms. Sturdivant said and go back to the village raising a child.”
The date for the general election is Nov. 6; to register to vote, visit the County Board of Elections Office at 101 S. Greene St., Suite B-01, in Wadesboro.