Candidates discuss riots, hunger and farms

U.S. House candidate Josh Brannon and Agricultural Commissioner candidate Walter Smith

Candidates discuss riots, hunger and farms
September 29
07:30 2016



The Charlotte riots, struggling farms and food insecurity were just some of the topics discussed by U.S. House candidate Josh Brannon and Agricultural Commissioner candidate Walter Smith during a forum on Thursday, Sept. 22.

The forum was held by the African American Black Caucus of the Forsyth County Democratic Party as a way to let voters who were in the 12th District meet Brannon, who is running for the fifth district. After court ordered redistricting, Winston-Salem is now out of the 12th district and the entire county is in the fifth district, with Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx as its congresswoman.

Brannon, a software developer from Watauga County, told attendees he decided to get into politics and challenge Foxx in reaction to the housing crisis, which resulted in millions of foreclosures and the Great Recession of 2008. He said the crisis and lack of prosecution for the bankers responsible highlighted the country’s “runway economic inequality.”

He also spoke on another type of inequality in his opening remarks, talking about officer involved shootings, citing a ProPublica article that found black men ages 15 to 19 were 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts. Last week saw Charlotte protests turn into riots after police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, a black man. Scott’s family says he was unarmed, while police say they recovered a gun he was holding.

“While I don’t condone violence in either direction, and I don’t think anyone else does, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone either,” said Brannon. “We have to fix it.”

He decried the lack of deescalation training in many police departments and said that action needs to be taken on a federal level to hold police accountable. He called Black Lives Matter a “great movement” that’s “much needed.”

Other candidates were also invited to the forum and Smith – who is running for the statewide office of N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services – accepted. He said it’s an important position that deals with agriculture, consumer and food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare. He said incumbent Republican Steve Troxler has let politics affect the way the department is run, so it isn’t doing its job when it comes to protecting consumers, animals and the environment.

“I talk to Republicans and independents trying to get them to vote for me, I get a comment that ‘Well, he hasn’t done a bad job.’ My reply is, ‘If you don’t do anything, it’s hard to do something bad,’” said Smith.

He said losing family farms has become a big problem in North Carolina.  Smith said he’ll make farms profitable again, and use NC. A&T and N.C. State universities to help identify, educate and assist the next generation of farmers.

On environmental issues, Smith said he opposed fracking because it can pollute ground water and believes Duke Energy should have to clean up all its coal ash spills. He also hopes to combat food insecurity by enticing grocery stores to open in food deserts, teaching people how to grow food in urban environments, and distributing unused food from farms.

Smith also told attendees he believes he’s better qualified for the position. He’s a longtime farmer who worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more 30 years and was the director of the USDA Farm Service Agency office in Yadkin County.

Smith unsuccessfully ran against Troxler in 2012, losing by 6.4 percent. Brannon lost to Foxx in 2014 by 22 percent. The fifth district is a heavily gerrymandered Republican district and remains so even after recent redistricting.

“If Donald Trump keeps enough people home, we may have chance, but that being said, it’s an uphill battle because it’s drawn to be an uphill battle,” said Brannon.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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