Turnout for the Chamber of Commerce candidate debate last Thursday was a little anemic. Someone optimistically estimated there were 150 people in the audience; the number was probably much lower, and most of those were friends or family members of the 11 candidates. Too few of them were just interested citizens seeking clues about how to vote Nov. 7.
Nonetheless, the event was enlightening.
- County Commission District 1, Scott Nichols vs. Ron Thigpen: Nichols has the best campaign slogan ("Vote Nichols for change" - get it? Nickles? Change? Never mind.) and stuck to his message that the county should have impact fees. Thigpen did a good job of highlighting his service on county boards that he feels has prepared him for office - boards that Nichols hasn't served on, he counters, because no one will appoint a Democrat to them.
- School Board District 2, incumbent Mildred Blackburn vs. Sissy Hobbs: Both looked as uncomfortable as debutantes at a strip club. Blackburn did a disappointing job of highlighting her two terms in office, while Hobbs alternated between claiming to know in detail how the office works, or admitting she didn't know because she's never held it.
- School Board chairman, Regina Buccafusco vs. Lawrence Hammond vs. Lee Muns: Probably the most substance of the four debates. Buccafusco talked too fast and flustered; Hammond, the only one of the three who's never served on the board, nonetheless did an OK job fielding questions but lost audience points when he hit Muns with what some thought was a "dirty" question; and Muns was far more collected and reasonable-sounding, a total contrast to his well-established reputation as overly contentious and argumentative.
- Superior Court judge, David Roper vs. Willie Saunders vs. Les Wilkinson vs. Bill Williams: While Roper may have won the beauty contest (and I'm speaking figuratively), Saunders was Miss Congeniality. Wilkinson and Williams, both of whom professed to having no community or civic lives outside their legal practices, sparred over bragging rights for Most Important Cases Tried.
What's all this worth on Nov. 7? One person asked me afterward if any of the candidates won an endorsement. My answer was no, but some of them might have lost it. I guess we'll sort it out soon enough.
Turn in threat-makers
Sunday afternoon, Terry Carter Jr. busted out of the Lincoln County Jail. The jailers didn't know he was gone until he was captured more than 14 hours later in Columbia County.
The arrest wasn't a result of blazing investigative talent or hard-nosed police work. Not that we don't have plenty of great investigators: We do. But Carter was caught because someone called the cops.
A clerk at the TPS station on William Few Parkway received an anonymous call that Carter, who was sitting in the store, was an escapee. She called the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and they later helped find Carter half a mile away.
But that anonymous caller and the TPS clerk aren't the only people who can get a criminal off the street. Someone knows somebody involved in some of the bomb threats that recently disrupted Columbia County schools. If they make a call, the cops will do the rest.
For the person who helps get an arrest and conviction of someone making a bomb threat to Greenbrier High School, there's also a $500 reward waiting. Other schools may offer rewards, too.
These incidents have died down now that the threatening-note writers have gotten their thrill. But that doesn't get them off the hook. If they're juveniles, Judge Doug Flanagan says he's ready for them: If convicted in his court, they'll have to pay all of the costs for an emergency response - possibly several thousand dollars.
Who knows: Maybe he'll even make 'em pay back the reward. That would be sweet justice.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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