The Chronicle Votes: 2020 General Election Endorsements and Political Analysis by Race

The Chronicle Votes: 2020 General Election Endorsements and Political Analysis by Race
October 14
15:30 2020

Here are The Chronicle’s endorsements for the Election Day 2020.  Our sample ballot displays our choice picks for the races in Forsyth County. We feel some of our picks deserve explanation. We have noted those with a red *.  See the notes section for further explanations. 

NC Attorney General

Josh Stein has held the position of attorney general since 2017.  During that time, Stein has made strides to support victims of violent crime, including domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, but Stein has failed to live up to the hype of his campaign. Stein ran on the merits of his father, Adam Stein, who co-founded North Carolina’s first integrated law firm and is well-known civil rights advocate. Attorney General Stein made promises to fight for the rights all North Carolinians and address racial inequities within the criminal justice system, but when faced with the opportunity to free Ronnie Long, a Black man from Concord who spent 44 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and with full knowledge of the lack of evidence against Long, Stein did nothing.

Jim O’Neill is currently serving his third term as Forsyth County District Attorney. Despite his support of President Donald Trump, since he was elected in 2009, O’Neill has made strides as the lead prosecutor in Forsyth County. O’Neill has put several programs in motion that target sex offenders living within our community, as well as programs designed to focus resources on prosecuting violent criminal offenders and those who abuse and take advantage of the elderly. O’Neil is also responsible for the DRIVE (Driver Restoration Initiative and Vocational Expansion) program. Since launching in 2015, the program has helped nearly 2,000 people restore their licenses. The Chronicle endorses Jim O’Neill for N.C. Attorney General.

County Commissioner

Gloria Whisenhunt (R) has served Forsyth County for the last 30 years, and just may be one of the most conservative county commissioners in modern history. Her policy work includes the fight to uphold the county’s prayer policy, and a resolution supporting 2nd Amendment rights for Forsyth County citizens. Conservative principles aside, Whisenhunt has established local beneficial initiatives such as the Stepping Up Initiative, designed to assist men and women with substance abuse and mental illness in the Forsyth County jail. Whisenhunt also led the fight to recruit TROSA, a Durham-based nonprofit residential recovery program for men and women with substance use disorders. Recent studies show that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic hardships have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. The Chronicle endorses Gloria Whisenhunt in hopes that she can continue this important work. 

Dave Plyler (R) has served as a Forsyth County Commissioner for over 20 years. Plyler recently came under fire for social media shares; however, he has had to endure more fire over the years from the Republican Party for consistently voting with Walter Marshall, Beaufort Bailey, and other Democrats on local issues. Dave Plyler attended Winston-Salem State University and is legendarily known for his ability to work across the aisle to solve issues in Forsyth County. The Chronicle endorses Dave Plyler for County Commissioner. 

Chris Smith, Eric Weiss and Gull Riaz are all new to the political scene, and will all serve Forsyth County well if they are selected to lead as county commissioners. Due to COVID-19, candidates have not been able to actively campaign since the primary, creating a slight disadvantage for new candidates. Chris Smith has spent a decade in the armed forces and most recently as an Intelligence Captain in the Army Reserves. Smith has used virtual interviews on social media to get the word out about his campaign during the pandemic, displaying the grit that’s necessary to get the job done in a pinch. His love for America has seemed to translate well to his love for Forsyth County, so we give Chris Smith the edge based on ingenuity. The Chronicle endorses Chris Smith for county commissioner.  

District Court Judge

Whit Davis (D) is a native of Winston-Salem and currently serves as an assistant public defender specializing in indigent cases. In an Oct. 5, 2020 Chronicle Live interview, Davis was outspoken in his support for the African American community and has more than demonstrated his commitment to fairness, due process and equal protection under the law for all citizens. 

Mike Silver (R) has served eight years as a Forsyth County assistant district attorney and now makes judicial rulings for workers’ compensation cases and other administrative claims as a deputy commissioner with the N.C. Industrial Commission. Silver has displayed his knowledge and support for the issues facing Black and brown communities and has been a strong advocate for juveniles involved in the justice system in Forsyth County. 

The race for District Court Judge has been one of the most exciting and evenly matched races this election season. In the Chronicle Live interview, both candidates were able to display their similarities on many of the local issues surrounding violence and criminal justice reform. Both candidates seem to have the necessary compassion and experience to lead as District Court Judge. 

NC House District 75

Donny Lambeth (R) has served over 25 years in politics as chairman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board and as a member of the N.C. General Assembly. In 2019 Lambeth sponsored a controversial bill that would redraw Winston-Salem City Council wards, but withdrew the bill in favor of working across party lines with local Democrats. Lambeth is credited with saving jobs with local newspapers, pushing back on a bill sponsored by Sen. Trudy Wade regarding the publishing of legal notices. 

Elisabeth Motsinger (D) has served as a liberal voice on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board for the last 14 years. Motsinger attended Winston-Salem State University and works as a physician assistant at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Motsinger has been a strong advocate for the local quarter-cent sales tax, which raised the pay for local teachers in the county. 

It’s important to point out that both the N.C. House and Senate are controlled by the Republican Party. Elisabeth Motsinger has proven her ability to work across the aisle with Republicans in her time on the local school board, which may serve her well if the predicted “Blue Wave” doesn’t take place. On the other hand, it’s also important to note that Donny Lambeth now serves as chairman of Appropriations on Health and Human Services. Losing that position could definitely result in financial implications for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County residents already experiencing challenges due to COVID-19. 

This race will come down to who can better turn out their base to the polls, even though both candidates are well suited to serve in House District 75. 

NC Treasurer

Ronnie Chatterji (D) lives in Durham and has served as a senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Chatterji has experience working on policies relating to entrepreneurship, innovation, infrastructure and economic growth. 

Dale Falwell (R) is a native of Winston-Salem. As State Treasurer, Falwell is credited with maintaining N.C.’s “AAA” credit rating, and is only 1 out of only 12 state treasurers to do so. Though Chatterji has extensive experience with policy and theory, Falwell has a proven record of protecting the taxpayers in practice. His constituent services are also known to be first rate for Winston-Salem residents. The Chronicle endorses Dale Falwell for NC Treasurer. 

Northeast Ward

Paula McCoy is the former executive director of Northwest Child Development Corporation and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN). McCoy was virtually railroaded by the Forsyth County Board of Elections when she was initially certified to be on the ballot for the November elections as an Independent candidate, and was later decertified after a last-minute challenge. McCoy has kept her word in launching the most fierce write-in campaign that this city has ever seen. 

Barbara Burke is a former assistant principal at Carver High School and former vice-chairwoman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board. Burke is known for her community work with African American children, and for her lone stance in the fight to make teaching African American history mandatory in schools. She is also known as the daughter-in law of the late City Councilwoman Vivian Burke and the wife of Chief Superior Court Judge Todd Burke. 

It is our view that the Forsyth County Board of Elections got the certification and decertification process wrong, and that Paula McCoy should have been allowed to be on the ballot. It’s important to note that neither a write-in candidate nor an Independent candidate has ever won a local race in modern history. With two strikes already against her in a presidential election year, the odds are slim that McCoy will have the chance that she deserves to adequately compete for the Northeast Ward seat on the Winston-Salem City Council. Barbara Burke has proven to be a fighter in her own regard, winning the March Democratic primary by more than 57% of the vote. It’s important to note that for 42 years the Burke family has always been on the ballot in the Northeast Ward and has always had the respect of the voters in the area. Barbara has proven that she has the community support and leadership skills necessary to lead on the local City Council. The Chronicle endorses Barbara Burke for City Council in the Northeast Ward.

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