Open forums bring the candidates to the people

Open forums bring the candidates to the people
October 19
13:45 2022

To ensure voters have all the information they need to cast their ballots on Nov. 8, the Black Political Awareness League, The Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, and The Chronicle are bringing the candidates to the people. Leading up to the election, candidates in some of the most impactful races have been invited to participate in open forums. 

The first in the series of three forums was held on Tuesday, Oct. 18, and featured candidates for Forsyth County District Attorney and Forsyth County Sheriff. Although all candidates were invited, the Republicans in both races – Jim O’Neil (incumbent District Attorney) and Ernie Leyba (running for Sheriff) did not attend. Denise Hartsfield, who is running for District Attorney, didn’t attend the forum but sent Alex Bohannon, who is a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools Board of Education, to represent her. 

“All of the potential candidates were notified. They were notified, if I’m not mistaken, at least six times. These are the only ones who responded to the clarion call for this particular event,” said Reginald McCaskill, president of the Black Political Awareness League. 

Throughout the forum, Bohannon touted Hartsfield’s record as a district court judge, attorney and community servant. 

In 2002 Hartsfield was elected to serve in the 21st Judicial District when Judge Roland Hayes decided not to run for re-election. During her tenure, Hartsfield made it her mission to help young people throughout the community. For years, she led the juvenile drug treatment center and the juvenile court. She also helped launch several initiatives geared toward ending violent juvenile crime. 

Before becoming a judge, Hartsfield also served as assistant district attorney and she also worked for the Legal Aid Society of Northwest NC, a statewide nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people. She also served as assistant county attorney here in Forsyth County. 

On the same day Hartsfield retired, she announced that she was running for Forsyth County District Attorney. Bohannon said Hartsfield felt a calling to throw her name in the hat. 

“She retired and she felt the calling to run for District Attorney. This is in part due to the fact that this community is tired of the same old practices that don’t work. She also understands that representation matters,” Bohannon continued. “She understands the responsibility of this office heavily and will continue to serve this community in the way that she has for these decades.” 

Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough used his time during the forum to talk about some of the initiatives and programs he has implemented throughout the community since taking office four years ago. 

In addition to forging relationships between the Sheriff’s Office, Winston-Salem Police Department, and other local law enforcement agencies for the first time, Kimbrough also helped establish several community programs, including a GED program for adults, and an after school program for at-risk youth at Winston Lake YMCA. He also helped raise $60,000 for students at North Hills Elementary School. 

Although he has accomplished a lot during his time as Sheriff, Kimbrough said there is still more work to be done. Kimbrough told voters not to be fooled by what he calls PWI or Politics Without Integrity. 

“When you go down the list and you see people that are participating in what I call PWI, politics or politicians without integrity, that’s not what you want. When you go down the list and start voting and you see a man who even in bad times I face you, good times I face  you … that’s the man you want. A man that shows up regardless of what’s going on,” said Kimbrough. 

“The Office of the Sheriff is one of the highest offices in this county. The person that we send into office gotta be able to face you, love you and be honest with you .”

The next candidates forum will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Forsyth County Central Library, 660 W. 5th St. in Winston-Salem. The forum will feature candidates running for Forsyth County Board of Commissioners and N.C. General Assembly. The last forum will be held on Thursday, Oct. 27, and will feature candidates running for seats on the Forsyth County Board of Education. The forums will be aired live on The Chronicle’s Facebook page. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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