Polk Republicans question candidates to replace Guice

Published 6:40 pm Thursday, December 22, 2011

Members of the Polk County Republican Executive Committee showered potential appointees for Rep. David Guice’s seat with questions Wednesday, Dec. 21 in an effort to select Polk County’s choice for the nominee.
“We are fortunate enough to have four candidates here today to meet with us and allow us to better understand their intentions were we to nominate them to this important position,” said Debbie Arceneaux, chair of the Polk County Republican Party.
N.C. Gov. Bev Purdue announced Dec. 15 that she had selected Guice as the state’s new director of Community Corrections. Guice subsequently resigned from his post as representative of District 113 to take on the role, effective Jan. 1, 2012. His resignation opens a vacancy in the North Carolina House of Representatives that must be filled by appointment until the seat is up again for election in November 2012.
Members of the local executive committee spoke with Ted Beddingfield of Columbus, Grady Hawkins of Hendersonville, Trudi Walend of Brevard and Chris Whitmire of Brevard, all candidates for the appointment.
Ted Beddingfield
When asked if the government should be providing subsidies to lure businesses into the 113th District, Beddingfield said he did not believe it was right for the government to use taxpayers’ dollars in such a manner.
“I believe they should keep the money in the peoples’ pockets,” Beddingfield said. “In my opinion the majority of the deals that have been made… do not accomplish the task. After a few years they pull up and leave, they don’t pay their gift back and the general economy is not often improved.”
In regards to the state budget, Beddingfield was asked how he would approach trying to bring North Carolina into a state of financial prudence.
“I believe a few years back they approved a Balanced Budget Act,” Beddingfield said. “I would hold everyone accountable to that standard. The first thing I would do if I were personally in an economic crisis is lower expenses  – I think as a state the government should be held to the same standards. Don’t promise anything if you are not financially able to do it.”
Beddingfield has lived in Columbus for nine years after spending much of his life in Henderson County and in the United States Army. His wife is currently a schoolteacher in Polk County and he said he has connections in Transylvania County through prior work experience.
Grady Hawkins
Several questions posed to Grady Hawkins came back to a single solution – home rule.
“I think one of the most important things I would like to see, and I’ve advocated for it for a long time, is home rule,” Hawkins said when asked what his platform would focus on in an election. “I think Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties are probably smarter than most of the general assembly and could do better making their own decisions.”
Hawkins pointed out that twice while he was a member of the Hendersonville Board of Commissioners the state started looking for solutions to solve its budget crisis and found them in the form of holding onto county sales tax dollars.
Another instance Hawkins alluded to in relation to state government is the increase of school days to the yearly calendar. He said he felt it was wrong for the state to mandate the addition of five extra days to the school calendar without providing funding to pay for it.
Regarding the federal government Hawkins wants to see North Carolina jump onboard with efforts to repeal Obama’s health care package.
“The Obama care is the most egregious thing I’ve just about ever heard of,” Hawkins said.  “We need to get on that [voting to speak out against the bill as a state] – that’s one of the first things we need to do.”
Hawkins is a native of Asheville but has lived in Hendersonville since retirement as a colonel with the Air Force. Hawkins is married with four children and six grandchildren.
Trudi Walend
Trudi Walend, a former member of the N.C. House, said she would take a hard stance on immigration if appointed.
“I think we should adopt a law similar to what Arizona and Alabama are doing. If we are not going to have a law on the books to fix this problem at the national level, then we need to have something at the state level,” Walend said. “I think the employers should be required to use the computer systems to check everyone out before hiring them to work. Our farmers are saying they’ve got to have some people here to do the seasonal work but they don’t need illegal workers.”
Walend also pointed out to executive committee members that she believes her seniority in the House would do a great deal for the district.
“I have five terms under my belt right now,” she said. “That puts you in position of leadership and a position to get your bills through easier – you have a lot of clout.”
Though questioned about concerns over nominating a career politician were raised, Walend said she does believe someone being elected to 15 terms would be too many but that she would appreciate the opportunity to go back and work a few terms under a majority in the House; something she did not experience in her past five terms.
Walend has been a 48-year resident of Brevard. She and her husband have three children and six grandchildren. She said she originally retired from the House back in 2009 to spend more time with family, who have since moved to Raleigh.
Chris Whitmire
Chris Whitmire was the final candidate to speak with committee members Dec. 22.
Whitmire talked about Republican principles and how they drive much of his decision-making.
As a member of the Transylvania County Board of Education, he said he believes the state and national governments have become too involved in education. He said education decisions are better handled with the least amount of government and the closest connection with the people affected by those decisions. This includes decisions on items like the Healthy Youth Act – House Bill 88. This bill requires schools to teach age appropriate sexual education material.
Executive committee member Michael Gage said he’s concerned, however, that the bill does not require parental consent.
“As far as all the lobbying and trying to oppose that bill,” Whitmire said, “I can tell you I probably sent 100 emails on that. We fought long and hard and we lost, but what we have as our [Transylvania] policy passed legal muster.”
Whitmire said healthcare is another realm where government needs to be reduced.
“I am adamant when it comes to Obama – he’s got to go,” Whitmire said. “Obama Care doesn’t work and we need to make sure we do anything we can so that when there is a change it’s something that is actually going to help and Obama Care does not.”
Whitmire was born and raised in Transylvania Co. He spent 25½  years in military service flying airplanes. He is married with three children.
The Polk County Republican Executive Committee will meet again Thursday, Dec. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Polk County Library to vote on who Polk would like to see as the next representative of Dist. 113. Several delegates from Polk County will then attend a Republican district convention in Brevard Jan. 2 to cast the county’s final votes for the representative seat.