Monday, March 26, 2007

Our own Fred

I was on a business trip to Nashville when former senator Fred Thompson told Fox News he was considering a run for president. This weekend, I attended what is likely the first "official" stump speech of Johnston County's own Fred, new candidate for governor, state senator Fred Smith.

The senator made his announcement Friday morning in Raleigh, and that evening was the featured speaker at the county GOP's annual "Reagan Day Dinner" (other Republicans celebrate "Lincoln Day", but I think Johnston County's event more accurately reflects the mind of modern conservative Republicans).

The News & Observer was dismissive of the announcement, making a point of Smith's co-sponsorship of "unsuccessful bills that would raise the cap on charter schools, restrict the use of eminent domain to seize private land and put a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage before voters" and an "unsuccessful effort by state Republicans to win a majority in the Senate". They did acknowledge he had been hampered by being a member of the minority party.

No doubt, particularly during the past few years of Democratic control.

Nevertheless, I give Senator Smith full credit for the attempts, and I am glad he touched on the same or related issues in particular at the Friday night event. The senator focused on his business experience, such as creating between six and seven hundred jobs in his contracting, home building, and other companies, and said he would work strenuously to make the state government "reflect our traditional conservative values ... [and] empower people, not bureaucrats."

"The strength of North Carolina is in its people, not its government," he said.

Smith also said his time serving as a Johnston County commissioner was invaluable experience to learn about local issues. Representative Leo Daughtry, introducing the senator, had already pointed out the current governor's career went from law school straight to state employment, while Smith's path had including military service, founding a legal firm, then building several successful businesses in Johnston County.

"Mike Easley knows how easy it is to sign the back of a check," said Daughtry. "Fred Smith knows how hard it is to sign the front of the check," meeting payrolls and dealing with the effects of taxes, regulations, and the effect of state spending.

Smith said, "We need a government that understands that all that mothers and fathers want is a student-centered education for their children." He gave general support to public schools in the speech, though his support of bills promoting charter schools and his consistent support of homeschooling indicate a broader view of education than simply more funding for the Department of Public Instruction.

He also referenced the recent death of a Johnston County father and son in a crash with an illegal immigrant as "a disgrace" which he blames on a government which tolerates lackadaisical enforcement of immigration rules.

"Under the rule of law, when one part of the law is weakened, it weakens all," he said. "We at the state and national levels [of government] should do everything we can to solve this immigration crisis. [And] No one should be rewarded for coming here illegally."

He also gave his support to a constitutional amendment to protect the definition of marriage; he did not specify if he meant the state or the federal constitution.

Over three hundred people showed up for the event, which included a formal recognition of veterans and current servicemen -- I did not notice any servicewomen standing, though I saw nothing to exclude them. The audience included more than the Johnston County GOP faithful, since the sheriffs of at least three counties were in attendance, along with Republican chairmen from Wayne, Cleveland, Rutherford, Samson, Guilford, Bertie, and Scotland Counties.


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