The Rant Monthly | October 2020

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y The Rant l h t on M October 2020 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 2 | Issue 10


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Editorial Gordon Anderson | Billy Liggett | Jonathan Owens |

May 2020: Through6 selects Sanford

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ABOUT THE COVER Sanford's known for its bricks, but perhaps it should consider a Music City moniker. A number of budding, to well-known to flat-out legendary musicians have called Sanford home, and our October edition of The Rant Monthly tells just some of those stories. Our cover guy is Aslan Freeman — producer, songwriter, musician and engineer — currently based in Nashville where he produces and plays with a number of musicians. Photo by Cameron Packee

The Rant Monthly is located in beautiful Sanford, North Carolina. Please address all correspondence to LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard #126, Sanford, NC, 27332. Editorial email: or Advertising: The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free — one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging and ridicule. Printed by Restoration News Media LLC in Raleigh, NC. Copyright 2020, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.

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4 | October 2020


PAGE FOUR THE PODCAST Find these and all epsiodes of our podcast at or on Apple Podcasts SEPT 11 Bob Joyce Econonmic development leader talks Sanford growth over the last decade SEPT 18 Tina Gross Owner of Gross Farms promotes corn maze and North Carolina agritourism industry

Lee County voters will have no excuse if they're not informed heading into the 2020 election. The Rant has partnered with Jim Hockaday (above, center) from WWGP and WFJA to present candidate interviews for N.C. House 51, N.C. Senate 12, the Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Lee County Board of Education, beginning Oct. 5 and running through Oct. 12. Learn more about the partnership and where to find the interviews on Pages 28-29 in this edition.

SIX KICK-ASS AUTUMN LEAVES October means the start of autumn foliage in western and central North Carolina. Here are some of our favorite fall leaves, pumpkin friends.

SEPT 26 Jaslyn Walker Bob Bridwell Meg Moss Promoting fundraising efforts of the local Boys & Girls Clubs

Sweet Birch The shy one

Amer. Hornbeam Likes to flirt

Bitternut Hickory Kleptomaniac


OCT 3 Britton Buchanan Music month kicks off with the former Voice finalist who's got big things planned in the coming months

No. Red Oak

Your mom's 'friend'

Sugar Maple

Votes independent

Amer. Sycamore King of all leaves

This year's Gross Farms corn maze pays tribute to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about it on our Friends of The Rant podcast with Tina Gross or visit grossfarms. com. This year's fall events at the farm began on Sept. 26 and will run through October. Advance tickets are required.

The Rant Monthly | 5

6 | October 2020


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The Rant Monthly | 7 BOARD OF EDUCATION

Lee County Schools moves to Plan B, staggered re-entry

The Lee County Board of Education voted in September to move to the state’s Plan B, which includes moderate in person instruction with social distancing for grades K-8 beginning Oct. 5. High school students will continue with remote learning under Plan C for now, but officials said in a press release that a decision on returning those students to class will be made “in the near future.” Under Plan B, K-8 students will transition to in-person instruction over a three-week period, starting Monday, Oct. 5 on an A/B schedule. Grade levels will be phased in to allow time for students to learn new school routines and procedures to ensure the safety of students and staff, such as temperature checks upon arriving at school, maintaining social distancing when

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standing in lines and moving through the school building, frequent hand washing, and wearing masks. “Because of the number of students and individual classes, returning to the classroom under Plan B is much more complicated for high school,” Superintendent Andy Bryan said in a letter to parents on Sept. 25. “Plans depend on the final number of students choosing to return in person or continue full-time remote learning. Our high school Plan B and its timeline also require approval from the Board of Education.”

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The schedule for Plan B can be found on the Lee County Schools website at An FAQ with guidance for instruction, health and safety, and transportation has also been posted there.

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@therant905 COVID-19 IN LEE COUNTY

1,640 CASES, 15 DEATHS LOCAL MATTERS SANFORD ANNOUNCES EQUITY TASK FORCE The Sanford City Council in September approved the formation of an Equity Task Force Initiative to collaboratively examine and work to dismantle disparities in the lives of Sanford residents by bringing an equity lens to improve outcomes for all populations. The Task Force will identify community needs through research, open forums, community meetings, surveys, and collaboration with various municipal departments, groups, and individuals working in service areas critical to the health and well-being of Sanford residents. The Task Force will be comprised of nine members representing different sectors of the community and three at-large members. Nine members will be selected from the following sectors and must live or work in the Sanford city limits: education, workforce development, criminal justice, health care, employment/wages and income, social service, faith-based community, non-profit organization, economic development, housing, real estate, and banking. All applicants who apply agree to serve a term of six to 12 months. Applications are available at the Sanford Municipal Center, 225 E. Weatherspoon St. or can be downloaded from

SANFORD CANCELS NATIONAL NIGHT OUT Sanford has cancelled its National Night Out event for 2020, according to a press release. Typically held the first Tuesday of August, Sanford initially postponed National Night Out to October due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. That decision was made with guidance from the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), which is now recommending the event be cancelled.

After several weeks of steady decline, county sees a bump in new positives and active cases


ee County’s number of confirmed COVID cases jumped by 65 in a week between Sept. 21 and 28, bringing the total number of residents who have tested positive to 1,640, according to a press release.

Some demographic data about cases is available at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID dashboard, located at

Additionally, a 15th resident was reported to have died on Sept. 28, due to complications from the disease. Details about the patient, who died at Central Carolina Hospital, were not released in accordance with federal health privacy laws. “We offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of this individual and ask the community to keep them in your thoughts and prayers,” said Lee County Health Director Heath Cain. “This highly contagious virus remains a serious risk to public health and safety and we encourage the public to continue following guidance that includes wearing a mask in public,

— patients who have yet to recover — jumped to 114. That total was at 87 on Sept. 21. The rolling seven day average for new cases is 8.43 — up from 5.6 last week — and the test positivity rate is at four percent, down from 6.2 percent last week.

watching your distance to remain six feet or more away from others and washing hands thoroughly and frequently.” The 65 new cases between Sept. 21 and 28 represent an increase from totals confirmed in recent weeks. New cases had been in the 40s for the previous two weeks. Meanwhile, the number of active cases

The Health Department will hold community testing events at 106 Hillcrest Drive every Tuesday through October from 9 to 11 a.m. by appointment only. To make an appointment, call (984) 368-2112 Monday through Friday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. There will also be a drive-thru community testing event taking place on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at W.B. Wicker Elementary School, 806 S. Vance St.The public is strongly encouraged to pre-register by calling (919) 542-4991, ext. 1015 for English and ext. 1016 for Spanish between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.


Drive-in movies coming to Sanford for October The fairgrounds in Sanford will host five consecutive weeks of Friday night drive-in movies starting Oct. 2. The events are sponsored by Adcock & Associates, and proceeds will benefit the Lions Club, Boys & Girls clubs, HAVEN, the Breadbasket and LCI. According to Steve Malloy with Adcock, the features will all be popular films, starting with Grease on Oct. 2, followed by Jurassic Park on Oct. 9 and Dirty Dancing on Oct. 16. The Oct. 23 movie is up in the air (suggestions are being taken via social media), and Oct. 30 will include likely two Halloween-themed flicks. Tailgating each Friday will begin at 6, and the movies will start at 7:30 p.m. Cost will be $30 per car, and tickets will be available on Eventbrite beginning Sunday or Monday. Guests will be encouraged to dress

up according to the films and decorate their vehicles, with prizes awarded each night. In addition, food trucks will be on hand — orders can be placed by phone and delivered to each vehicle.

“With all events canceled, we were looking for a way to provide fun for Lee County [and do] something no one else is doing,” said Malloy, who said A&A is working with a company out of Raleigh that specializes in outdoor movie events. “We realized that a movie night was a way to provide fun and help people who have been most hit by the pandemic. Several of the charities are facing unprecedented demand for their services at a time when donations are down.”

The Rant Monthly | 9


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10 | October 2020

@therant905 QUOTABLE


“Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, 'My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.' But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenter's hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.” — RBG

$30 ain't that bad


et’s hear it for local real estate brokerage firm Adcock & Associates, which has partnered with a number of local organizations to stage five drive in movie nights for families in Lee County throughout the month of October.

The list of movies and details about the time and place can be found elsewhere in this issue, but we’re most happy that someone local had the creativity to come up with a family-friendly activity that’s been sorely lacking in the time of COVID. In addition, funds raised will go to a number of nonprofit organizations that sorely need them - the Sanford Lions Club, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, HAVEN, the Breadbasket, and Lee County Industries. If there’s one thing we don’t love around here, though, it’s a complainer. We saw far too many people moaning about the price of entry to these events, which is $30 per car. Even if you’re a one child family or a couple without kids interested in a date night, you can do a lot worse than $30 for a night of entertainment - especially when you compare that with what it costs to go to the movies. So be happy, gang, that you have an opportunity to have a little bit of fun on a Friday night and benefit a good cause in the meantime. That itself is worth the 30 bucks.

Opioids the other big epidemic


llow us to offer our support to the Sandhills Opioid Response Consortium, a partnership with FirstHealth of the Carolinas, which has added 10 new peer support specialists — serving Lee, Moore, Richmond, Montgomery and Hoke counties — who will help people in recovery from addiction.

All of the new specialists are people living in active recovery with substance/opioid use disorder, and are certified through the North Carolina Certified Peer Support Specialist Program. The Rant invited Stephanie Hoover to its Friends of The Rant podcast back in May to talk about the group’s work and how issues with opioid addiction have actually spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoover shared the story of her own personal tragedy with opioids — losing her son to an overdose before deciding to dedicate her life to preventing more needless deaths. It’s easy to forget that we still have problems like opioid addiction when everything else around us is in chaos. But it’s for that reason that we should continue to be vigilant in talking about and fighting opioid addiction. North Carolina is home to some of the worst cities in the nation when it comes to addiction and overdose. The isolation, anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic has driven more people to addiction and has made the struggle even more difficult for those fighting it. We ask all of you to find a way to get involved. Whether it’s simply educating yourself or helping others who need it — start by visiting opioid-outreach-and-response

The soundtrack that accompanies my life


first gained music conciousness in the back seat of my dad's car. He'd drive, windows down, cigarette dangling in his left hand (it was the early 80s), eight-track cassette jammed into the console and The Beatles filling my ears. Pink Floyd. Lynyrd Skynyrd. Creedence. The Doors. Zeppelin. Hendrix.

Not that I understood at all what I was listening to. But I liked the positive energy. I liked watching my dad drum on the steering wheel, occasionally sing along with the hook or get my attention when he thought I'd like a particular song. Whether you're a musician or have never picked up an instrument in your life — whether your voice melts like butter or frightens dogs — it's likely there is music out there that moves you. Ignites some memory that makes you happy (or sad). When I reach "my time" and my life flashes before my eyes, there will most certainly be a soundtrack accompanying it. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" playing on a Fisher-Price record player in my sister's room — my siblings and I having lip sync contests to "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." My mom blasting Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and "You Give Love a Bad Name" on the boom box at our townhouse community pool in the late 80s. High school baseball road trips and my friend Jonathan playing Creedence Clearwater Revival's greatest hits on his little cassette player in the back of the bus. Walking up to my first college party and hearing Bush's "Sixteen Stone" album blaring from a truck's speaker as someone handed me my first Solo cup of beer. My introduction to Tupac from my roommate, who played him nonstop while teaching

me poker and dominoes when we should have been studying. Playing Pearl Jam's "No Code" album until the tape faded during graveyard shifts at the gas station while still in school. Playing Pearl Jam's "Yield" album until the CD wore out in my friend Tony's car during road trips through East Texas and Louisiana. Better Than Ezra, Cowboy Mouth, Toadies and Deep Blue Something concerts in intimate clubs with my wife long before marriage, mortgages and kids entered the equation. Hearing a U2 song from a few miles away while getting fresh air at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, minutes after the birth of my first child (and remembering that my wife and I were supposed to be at that concert). Then playing "lullaby" versions of Radiohead to get that same first child to finally fall asleep at 2 and 3 a.m. as I rocked her while gently bouncing on a medicine ball in her nursery. Hearing the soundtrack to Hamilton ad nauseam because my youngest loves it more than I ever loved a song as a child. Learning the ukulele with my daughter and attempting to play all the music that's made me happy in the last 44 years. This edition of The Rant Monthly features the musicians from Sanford who've made it big (or are on the cusp of making it big). But more than that, it's an appreciation of music and the impact it has had on all of us. Rock on. o Billy Liggett is one of the guys from The Rant. He'd love to hear how music has impacted your life. Email

The Rant Monthly is published monthly by LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard in Sanford, North Carolina. The Rant was founded as a weekly radio program in 2009 by Gordon Anderson, Billy Liggett and Jonathan Owens. After their program was unceremoniously banished from the airwaves by a petty local state representative, The Rant regrouped and became a web site specializing in local news in 2014. Today, The Rant Monthly has a circulation of 3,500 printed copies, and draws more than 1 million views a year. Wash your hands.

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READER RESPONSE The cover story of our September 2020 edition of The Rant Monthly went into detail about the campaign for a multi-million dollar sports complex — which will go before voters in the form of a bond referendum on the November ballot. _____________ This is a great idea to bring revenue to the city and county. However, the referendum states funds are for “expanding and improving various parks and recreational facilities.” Does this mean Sanford will bring the existing parks and facilities out of disrepair? Everyone is talking about travel sports teams. What about current residents? Any plan for Lee County Parks and Recreation to build new sports programs and activities? Grant Welch _____________ Maybe if this was for the local marginalized kids who desperately need something to do, I'd be for it. But it's not. It's just to attract outside dollars from travel sports. I'd rather see that money invested in our local youth. The local kind who struggle everyday. The local kind who are at risk or are already on the “wrong path.” How about a basketball court? Skateboard park? Nope, we'll just build yet another ball field; just not for us this time. Hard pass from me. Dominique Durand _____________ Anyone who has ever gone out of town to play at a facility like this knows the amount of revenue this brings in. From across the board, it pays for itself and continues to be positive cash flow for years to come for the area. Not just directly from the fees of the facility, but the hotels, restaurants, parks, shops, convenience stores, etc. We've seen wasted petty projects recently like sidewalks not even used, renovations not needed, and others — so I'm glad to finally see something that brings money in ... hopefully finding its way to Lee County. Clayton Vought Actress and political activist Alyssa Milano offered her support for local state representative candidate Jason Cain and four other Democrats in a Tweet to her 3.7 million followers in mid-September. _____________ The matters of “free speech” and personal opinions are important here; especially now

that we must deal with the “cancel culture” mentality that is prevalent today. What I do not like about Alyssa Milano’s opinion was her negative statement about North Carolina Republicans. She is entitled to her opinion, but how does someone from California arrive at that conclusion? Politically, even though it seems our political parties are at odds, they have come together and helped N.C. be the envy of many states. Mr. Cain is running against John Sauls. John is a respectable individual. It would be wrong to categorize him as a bad Republican. D. Jones _____________ Apparently the people who follow her aren’t free-thinking, so she must assume that they need her advice. I suggest Mrs. Milano keep her nose out of North Carolina and donate some of her money and efforts to California to get that trash heap out of debt. Along Mrs. Pelosi, help the people that have lost so much to the fires. Stan Sawicki _____________ Mr. Belvedere > Who's the Boss, and I'll die on this hill. Travis Pedley The Sanford Police Department revealed that members of the Lee County Republican Party reported damage to a vehicle and an attempt to break into another during a motor parade held in east Sanford on Sept. 20, in support of President Donald Trump. Here are just a few of the responses from our readers: _____________ Maybe they did it on purpose. I feel like if you are from Sanford, you should know where this would be accepted. Not to condone violence, but the political climate at this point is not conducive to a Trump parade in certain areas — just as a Biden parade wouldn't be accepted in others. And a school board member at that. These are her students and their families at home on a Sunday. She should know better. Erin Beasley _____________ Trump supporters: Car and boat parades. Biden supporters: Block highways, burn cities and destroy property. Anybody see the difference? Chase Dodson

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12 | October 2020

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The Rant Monthly | 13




Musicians who got their start in Sanford — like Aslan Freeman, Britton Buchanan, Faith Bardill and Stephen Brewer — are making a name for themselves on a national level. They all credit a community that's had their backs from the beginning. By Gordon Anderson and Billy Liggett


his past February found Aslan Freeman in place he never reasonably thought he’d be — on stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Freeman, a 2007 graduate of Lee County High School, was performing with singer Lainey Wilson, who’d been invited with her band to take the stage at what is arguably the most important place in country music. Freeman has been playing guitar with Wilson and acting as her band leader for the past few years. A month earlier, Wilson and Freeman were invited to play at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium — another place so important to country music that it’s known as the “Mother Church” of the genre. The performances were back to back affirmations that Wilson, and Freeman by extension, had arrived, so to speak.

Aslan Freeman is a musician, songwriter, producer and engineer currently working in Nashville with big-name acts like Lainey Wilson. The former frontman for the band Unifier is a 2007 graduate of Lee County High School. Photo courtesy of Aslan Freeman.

14 | October 2020

@therant905 “It’s like any other type of music. Like you think of rock music and indie rock in North Carolina, and if you play at the Cat’s Cradle you know all of your favorite bands have been on that stage,” Freeman told The Rant back in January.

Hip hop legends got their start in Sanford Sanford may not seem like the breeding ground for a pioneer of the Hip Hop world. But it is. Both transplants from New York City, Andres "Dres" Vargas Titus and William "Mista Lawnge" McLean met as teenagers in Sanford and formed the rap group Black Sheep while students at Lee Senior High School. Titus moved to Sanford as a teenager when his parents divorced, and met McLean as a junior at Lee Senior. McLean had moved to Sanford at a much younger age. Titus reflected on the group’s origins in Sanford in an interview on in 2011. “We studied Hip Hop,” Titus said. “We were in North Carolina; there was nothing else to do. We studied Hip Hop every day. And there was no chance of making a record. We did it because that’s what we wanted to do, every single day.” After high school, the group moved to New York to join the Native Tongues movement of alternative Hip Hop in the early 1990’s, joining the likes of top tier acts such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers. Their debut studio album “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” was a hit and was lauded as one of the top albums of the scene for their "playfully satirical, witty, and incredibly imaginative" lyrics, according to one review. “The Choice is Yours (Revisited)” was a breakthrough hit for the duo, and peaked at #1 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. VH1 recently ranked the song #73 on its 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs list. The song also was played heavily during the 1992 presidential campaign thanks to the repetitive lyrics “You can get with this, or you can get with that.” It continues to appear in commercials and movies, including the blockbuster 2018 film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “The Last Dance,” the popular documentary on the 1996 Chicago Bulls. Black Sheep’s single “Strobelite Honey” also made it to #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. — Jonathan Owens

Like any other working musician, Freeman’s path to success in the business has been long and marked by a lot of hard work. But he’ll be the first to tell you that while he loves what he’s doing — he said he wanted to play music with Wilson as soon as they met because he was immediately impressed with her talent — it’s not at all what he expected. “The joke I always make is that if it wasn't for punk rock, country wouldn't have many players left,” Freeman said in a recent interview, giving a nod to a genre he’d been more familiar with prior to his involvement with Wilson and her band. That path began here in Sanford, where Freeman got into music as a kid and as a high school student played in a number of bands that fell far more into the alternative/ rock realm. “My mom made me do piano lessons when I was very young, I think before I was 10 probably,” he said. “I absolutely hated it. It was a total drag trying to get me to practice. I was okay, I could play the traditional stuff a kid could play, but then it got to the point where whatever natural ability I had just wasn’t able to keep up with how slack I was. My teacher basically fired me.” He eventually gravitated toward drums and then guitar, forming those early bands with friends and learning about different types of music as he moved through his teens. That pattern continued when he went on to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to study music composition. After graduation, he got his first real taste of the music business when his band Unifier (known initially as Future Ghosts) was asked to release an EP on a small label. “It became pretty clear toward the end of college that Future Ghosts was gonna be the way to go,” Freeman said. “It seemed like it clicked more with people than other stuff we'd done, and it was kind of obvious that we were maybe a little more serious than a lot of people in our friend group.” And so that small label invested some money and put Freeman and his band on their first tour, setting in motion a several year period in which Unifier would play






The Rant Monthly







Check out our Sanford Spotify playlist Aslan Freeman, Britton Buchanan, Faith Bardill, Stephen Brewer, Black Sheep, Charlie Daniels and more — click on any of our music features at in October to access our Spotify playlist featuring musicians who cut their teeth in the Brick City.

quite a few shows, release a full length album (Colorado) and a follow-up EP. At the same time, Freeman was getting more serious about recording as well, eventually engineering the final Unifier EP in his parents’ Sanford basement and making some side money here and there doing the same for other bands. As many acts do, Unifier slowed down after that initial run, but Freeman wanted to keep playing music. He thought Nashville might be a great place to do that — not because of the allure of country music, but

because it was a town he’d always had fun visiting and because he thought a change of scenery might be nice. “Other bands (than Unifier) might have toured a little bit harder and pushed for a little bit longer,” he said. “We put in a quantifiable smaller amount of work (than some other bands), but we still had some success.” When Freeman got to Nashville, it wasn’t long before he met Wilson, with whom he’s now recorded and released multiple albums and EPs, in addition to extensive touring pre-COVID. As the pandemic has worn on, Freeman said any professional musician has had to adapt, and he and Wilson are no different, recently doing a concert via live stream. He’s also worked recently with Canadian singer Royale Lynn, helping her to write and produce a record. “Weirdly, I’ve been working with a bunch of Canadian singers,” he said. “Otherwise we’re just trying to write, Lainey and I.” For Freeman, his early days in Sanford and elsewhere in North Carolina do continue to resonate — sometimes in unexpected ways. “I mean, what doesn’t stay with you about those early days,” he said. “Particularly with Lainey and me — we’re both from small towns like Sanford, and we can relate to each other in a lot of ways because of that.” His experience with the rock world informs him as well. “If you want to keep doing it, you have to keep doing it,” he said. “If you don’t keep showing up, you’re gonna make room for those opportunities.”

“I mean, what doesn't stay with you about those early days? Particularly with Lainey [Wilson] and me — we're both from towns like Sanford, and we can relate to each other in a lot of ways because of that.” — Aslan Freeman

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16 | October 2020



Ready for the next step in his career, Voice alum has big things coming in 2021


fter the cameras stopped rolling on his life-changing run on the Voice — after the hugs with his new mentor Alicia Keys and his family — Britton Buchanan was whisked away to a small office a few hundred feet away from the stage and studio where he’d reached millions during a nearly fourmonth run and seated on a couch to talk to a therapist.

rely on paying gigs in front of large crowds to make a living, Buchanan is more than alright. In fact, he’s giddy.

“I told them, ‘Yeah. I’m fine,” Buchanan recalls in a Zoom call from his Los Angeles apartment nearly two and a half years later. “I’m going to be alright.”

His long-promised debut album — much different than the one he recorded and scrapped just months after his appearance on the NBC reality show — is set for an early 2021 release. And this month will re-introduce a revamped song, “October Queen,” and an accompanying video featuring some of the biggest horror genre, B-movie stars (such as the guy who played Jason in multiple Friday the 13th movies, genre legend Joe Bob Briggs and more) the West Coast has to offer.

Seven months into a global pandemic that has all but devastated musicians who

While it’s a label he’s proud of, Buchanan is ready to become more than “Voice

Are you good? Are you going to be alright?

finalist.” The coming months, he feels, will determine if that’s going to happen any time soon. “I’m at the very beginning of my career,” he says. “I look at The Voice as pre-career. You go on this show, and it sets you up for your career. The idea for 2020 was to go on tour with [bigger acts] and get a bunch of new music out — promote, publicize and play. Build a fan base and drive sales and streams. That’s usually how you break an artist, but that plan is out of the window for the foreseeable future. I don’t see big concerts returning until 2022, if we’re lucky.” The challenge, Buchanan says, is figuring out how to “adapt and make yourself unique and do things differently to get people to look at you.”

Britton Buchanan, shown here performing at one of his string of sold-out shows at Temple Theatre in June 2018, has two singles due out this fall and a new album expected for next spring.

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He’s working to set himself apart, and he’s confident in the man helping him make that happen. Producer Derek Furhmann — who penned American Idol winner Phillip Phillips’ second single, “Gone, Gone, Gone” and has worked with artists like the Grace VanderWaal and Jason Mraz — collaborated with Buchanan on his single, “Cross My Mind,” released in January, and is co-writing a lot of music for Buchanan’s upcoming album and EP. Buchanan realizes he’s promised an album before. Just weeks after his Voice run, he was in the studio with the show’s band recording songs he’d been writing since he was 16. He had a full album at the ready within a month, ready to strike while the iron was still hot. “It went exactly the way I wanted it to go,” Buchanan says. “I loved the way it turned out, and so we decided to look for a manager.” That manager told Buchanan that his songs were great, but that he didn’t get the same “feeling” from the album that he did when he saw the young man perform. In short, he told Buchanan that his album wasn’t good enough. “It’s hard to hurt my feelings. I don’t believe that I’m always right, nor do I think that I always do things the best way, even if I’m the one writing the songs,” he says. “Maybe I did get it wrong. So you

think it would have stung a little bit, but I saw it as, like, now I have a chance to go back and make it right. I look at a song like “Juliet’s Lullaby,” which we released this February, and it was a song we originally recorded in those early sessions. We re-recorded it this year, and I think we got it right the second time.” The album that will see the light of day will be a long-time coming — two years can seem like an eternity in the music industry. But his post-Voice experience hasn’t been without its big moments. Buchanan toured with YouTube megastars and Harnett County natives Rhett and Link (Link Neal is his cousin) and opened for them during their Mythical tour in 2019. In June of 2018, he sold out multiple shows at Temple Theatre in Sanford — the site of his first performances in front of a crowd while a member of the Temple Teens. When presented with the idea that his demeanor in those shows was akin to Andy

Britton Buchanan will release a video for his song, “October Queen” this month featuring horror movie genre legends like Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th), Dee Wallace (Cujo, ET, The Howling), Barbara Crampton, Mick Garris, Joe Bob Briggs and more. He plans to have new singles out in November and January, with a full length album in February and an EP in April or May of 2021. Buchanan’s interview for the Friends of The Rant podcast will be released on Oct. 3.

Kauffman’s childlike giddiness when he played Carnegie Hall in 1980 (as portrayed by Jim Carrey in the film “Man on the Moon”), Buchanan embraced the correlation. “Most people who know me know I have a very low self esteem, and I’m usually really shocked — and I keep getting more shocked as time goes by — when people pay attention to what I’m doing, come see me play or tell me they like my music,” he says. “I was definitely having the time of my life during those shows, and it meant a lot to me because that’s where I got my start. Fifth grade. The Jungle Book. “I hope I can draw more correlations between my life and Andy Kauffman’s some day.”

Floyd Council — from whom British rock legends Pink Floy go half of their name (along with South Carolina bluesman Pink Anderson) — lived out his final years and died in Sanford in 1976. He is buried in White Oak Cemetery on Lower Moncure Road. The Rant published a story in January 2017 about efforts to preserve Council’s grave and bring attention to his connection to Sanford and Lee County. Council was born in 1911, in Chapel Hill, and as a teenager, he played guitar for tips on the streets of his hometown. He was often in the company of the Strowd brothers, and they played parties and local dances as "The Chapel Hillbillies," according to the website, All About Blues. Floyd later played his fine Piedmont style finger-picking guitar on the streets of nearby Durham, where he met and befriended Fulton Allen. The two played for the thousands of tobacco workers there, especially on payday. When local record store owner J.D.Long became Fulton’s manager in 1935, he took him to a New York recording studio, and several good-selling records were released by ‘Blind Boy Fuller’. Floyd was invited to go with them to New York in February 1937, where his guitar playing on three of Fuller’s records is credited to ‘Dipper Boy’ Council. Council stopped playing after suffering a stroke in the 1960s, and although he only recorded a handful of songs, he was apparently well-regarded enough in the blues world that a young Syd Barrett turned part of his name into “Pink Floyd” when his band, the Tea Set, was looking for a new moniker. From an article by Mike Macinnes: As the story goes, after the band discovered another band with the same name was playing in the same show, Barrett took the names from his record collection, seeing them side-by-side on a blues compilation album in Barrett's collection and came up with Pink Floyd. The rest is history.

18 | October 2020


The Rant Monthly | 19 FAITH BARDILL

Country artist ready to return to the road, record in Nashville and connect with fans


ike that other Sanford native from the Voice, Faith Bardill has her own “singing competition” story, albeit, far fewer people saw it.

Bardill was 13 and on a family trip to Disney World when she signed up for “American Idol: The Experience” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. What was supposed to be a day full of coasters, Toy Story rides and Mickey ice cream bars instead became a full day of competition, earning a Golden Ticket and winning the whole thing. Bardill, who had performed back home with the Temple Teens and had been practicing with a vocal coach, was hooked. She wanted music to be her life.

Ten years later, she’s living that dream. The 2018 Carolina Country Music Awards Female Artist of the Year and the 2015 and 2016 Carolina Music Awards Female Artist of the Year, Bardill has developed her sound and style over the past decade performing live throughout her home state and, most recently, in places she never dreamed of playing (cities like Las Vegas, countries like Belize). She fronted Faith Bardill and the Back Row Saints as a teenager before going solo and leading the Faith Bardill Band. She’s released multiple EPs with original music and has made a living playing those songs and her favorite Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley songs during live shows. In addition to the accolades, she’s appeared on stage with a number of re-

nowned national artists like Justin Moore, Craig Campbell and Michael Ray. COVID-19 was a setback, of course. A slate of shows in March, April and May were canceled, but Bardill has gotten back on the horse in recent weeks playing the aforementioned Vegas show and multiple gigs in Myrtle Beach, and she has 10 performances slated in October in Sanford, Pinehurst, Raleigh and multiple cities in South Carolina. “It’s been a difficult few months,” she says. “But playing in South Carolina has really helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and to stay positive. I’m grateful for where I am right now.” Where she is is on the brink of, hopefully, something “big.” She recorded music in

Faith Bardill has been performing in bands and as a solo act since she was 13. The former Temple Teen has recorded music in Nashville in the past year, and she's working on new music. Photo by Scott Griffin

20 | October 2020


Nashville earlier this year and has released three songs in 2020 — her most recent single, “Carolina Rain,” made it to No. 1 on the Music Mafia Radio independent artist charts. She’s working on new music and is particularly excited about one song that has “potential” for bigger things. Of course, “making it big” to Bardill isn’t what you might think. “I just want a steady living playing music,” she says. “I want to still be able to play shows and live my life doing what I love. I don’t care about being famous. As long as I'm releasing music that people can connect with, that’s really the dream.” The past 10 years have provided several “pinch me” moments for Bardill, some of them small — like a young girl approaching her after a show at Sanford’s Depot Park and telling her she wanted to be just like her — and some of them bigger in scale — a packed venue singing along with her in Vegas in 2019. “It’s one of those moments when you can feel the magic in the room,” she says. “It was pretty cool.”

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Faith Bardill's recent single, "Carolina Rain," made it to No. 1 on the Music Mafia Radio independent artist chart. Fans can find her music on Apple Music and Spotify. Photo by Kendall Atwater

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Sanford 2630 S. Horner Blvd Sanford 1333 Plaza Blvd Stephen Brewer's most recent project — an acoustic album he co-wrote and recorded with singer Cristian Machado — debuted at No. 3 on the iTunes Latin charts.


A career in metal leads local musician to success in completely new genre


eptember 25 was a big day for Stephen Brewer.

The Los Angeles-based guitarist watched as his most recent project — an acoustic album which he helped co-write and record with singer Cristian Machado, a former frontman of the heavy metal band Ill Niño — debuted at No. 3 on the iTunes and Apple Music Latin charts, as well as to some critical acclaim. “The music isn’t the only thing stripped down,” reads a nine out of 10 star review by I’m Music Magazine. “The sheer raw emotion and heart poured into these recordings is truly inspirational.” Brewer, of course, like every other musician profiled in this issue, hails from San-

ford. He graduated from Lee County High School in 2010 and cut his teeth playing in bands around town and at venues in other cities and still maintains a deep connection with his family that lives here. “I was actually at home helping my family for a few months recently because just like the music industry, the restaurant industry got hit pretty hard (with COVID),” said Brewer, whose parents own the Fairview Dairy Bar and the Flame Steakhouse. Before COVID hit, Brewer spent last fall recording Hollywood Y Sycamore, Machado’s debut solo album, at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y. under the production guidance of composer/pianist David Chesky and Jeff Lanier. The sessions were not only challenging because of the approach

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@therant905 — all of the tracks were recorded live in studio, something that’s not so common in today’s music industry — but also because the songs were something of a departure from Brewer’s previous work in the heavy metal band Westfield Massacre, with whom he spent several years touring and releasing two albums.

'Hurricane' launched songwriter's career Nashville-based songwriter Taylor Phillips, who hails from Sanford, has been riding something of a wave since 2016. That’s when country singer Luke Combs released “Hurricane,” a song which Phillips had co-written and which eventually reached number one on the Billboard Country Music charts, launching Phillips onto a path which has since seen the 2018 release of his Six Strings Attached EP. Phillips had been in Nashville since 2013, where his website says he “quickly made his way into the music industry by, well … being himself.”

Sanford brothers make 2/3 of trio Youth League They hold day jobs as their primary source of income, but the members of Durham’s Youth League have released two independent EP’s and done a fair amount of touring across the United States. Brothers Mike and Zach Large are 2002 and 2007 graduates of Lee County High School, and have been playing together for at least 10 years. “Before COVID, we were doing about three or four shows per month, with a couple of longer tours here and there, and then we’d weekend warrior it every now and then too,” Mike Large explained. First EP (2015) and Second EP (2017) — both recorded by Aslan Freeman — showcase the trio’s ability to weave a dizzying-yet concise mix of looped guitar lines, off-kilter drumbeats and powerful bass foundations into short compositions which don’t distract at all from the quality of songwriting that underpins them.

“Acoustic can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to mistakes,” he laughed. “But the album is acoustic, it’s also got kind of an alternative feel, and it’s Latin. It’s a challenge (approaching a new genre), but mostly because you care about it and want to do it well. I was the least experienced person there, so it really put my musician survival skills to the test.” In addition to maintaining a local connection through his family, Brewer’s also stayed connected to Sanford through another high-profile musician from town. In recent years, he’s been sharing a living space with Britton Buchanan, who is profiled elsewhere in this edition. Brewer said he’d been aware of Buchanan’s success on NBC’s The Voice, and that he and Buchanan’s families knew each other, but meeting in Los Angeles, the two immediately had something in common. “My friend Chad Spivey hit me up and said ‘hey man, Britton is moving to L.A.,’” Brewer explained. “He told me he might need a friend who’s also from Sanford. And I didn’t have that when I moved out here in 2014, it was sort of every man for himself.” Brewer sent Buchanan a text, they got together in Los Angeles and eventually figured out it made sense to room together. “We’re both professionals, so it was kind of meant to be I guess,” he said. “And I’ve gotten to play some guitar for him some, help him engineer some stuff. We definitely keep each other grounded, and to work with him professionally is a real blessing.”

Photo by Oddey Rose

you’re willing to do to get there. “I don’t know if it’s talent or something I just wanted so badly,” he said. “I remember playing a Depot Park, and doing whatever I could to get people in high school to come see us play. It never worked out well, but you gotta earn your stripes and pay your dues at every level. I even played at the Flame a couple times on like a Sunday. We’d move the tables around and get out there and play covers.” And although Los Angeles, California and Sanford, North Carolina may seem

worlds apart, Brewer said he carries his hometown with him in a lot of ways. “I think the community aspect, the necessary need for a sense of community in whatever you do is a big part of me,” he said. “Always trying to do your best and putting your best foot forward. I hear that Faith Bardill is doing well, I know Taylor Phillips is doing real well. It makes me really proud because one person’s success is the whole town’s success, and it proves to anybody in Sanford who wants to have a career in music that it can be done.”

“I loved it. I became obsessed with it,” he said. “After that I got a guitar about a year later from a pawn shop in Kendale. It just changed my life, man. That’s all I wanted to do from that moment forward.”

“It makes me really proud because one person's success is the whole town's success. It proves to anyone in Sanford who wants to have a career in music that it can be done.”

Brewer is also humble about his talents, saying success in music is more about what

— Stephen Brewer

Brewer traces his love for music to his 12th birthday, when he received a copy of Metallica’s 1988 album ...And Justice For All as a gift.

The Rant Monthly | 23 DOWNTOWN SANFORD


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Officials assessing condition of historic hotel, assures residents they will not be asked to leave By Gordon Anderson


unicipal officials have spent the several weeks since late August, when a judge awarded control of the Wilrik Hotel to the city of Sanford, going through the building to learn as much as they can about the situation. City Manager Hal Hegwer said that process is ongoing, but as of Sept. 29, the city had determined that of 41 units in the building, which until recently was run as low-income housing by an entity known as the Sanford Affordable Housing Development Corporation, 12 were empty, with a handful of those being currently unusable. “There’s a few that are in pretty bad shape, but we’ve determined that most of the damage to units comes from maintenance that was deferred — some leaks, some heating and air issues. But we’re not seeing anything that’s a true threat to life or safety,” Hegwer told The Rant. “We’re still going to have to do some heavy lifting to learn everything we can about the situation.” Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist ordered on Aug. 31 that the SAHDC, a private nonprofit which has owned the Wilrik since 2013 and operated it since 2016, essentially dissolve and re-form as a board consisting of Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, Sanford City Councilwoman Rebecca Wyhof Salmon (whose ward includes the Wilrik), and Sanford Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Brian Mitchell. That group will have two years to appoint a successor board to oversee operations at the building. The Sanford Affordable Housing Development Corporation was also ordered to pay nearly $33,000 to the city to cover attorney fees and is enjoined from disposing any of its other properties. The order came after a lawsuit filed by the city in late 2019 seeking to regain control of the building. The story goes back far further, though, to at least 2013, when the Sanford Housing Authority — which unlike the SAHDC is a

federally-funded agency with board members appointed by city government — purported to have purchased the building from Duke Energy Corporation, promising to make between $50,000 and $75,000 in upgrades. In exchange, Sanford and Lee County governments agreed to forgive roughly half a million dollars in debt on the building’s seller and ensure it remained available exclusively as low income housing for five years, after which the living spaces could be converted into high end luxury apartments and possibly even retail space. Instead, it was revealed in 2016 that it was actually the SAHDC which owned the building, and when the organization canceled its management contract with the SHA, the city no longer had any control of or involvement with the property, leaving no mechanism for enforcing the promises made three years earlier. A year later, the SAHDC’s remaining board member, Ben Gardner, reported a $100,000 embezzlement from the organization. Former board member Robert Woods was formally accused in that case in January, with his charges still pending. Meanwhile, Hegwer said the city had partnered temporarily with a local company to act as a property manager, and the work continued to determine everything possible about the status of the building. “Of the 41 units, 93 percent are required to remain income based, so we have two or three units we can offer at market rate,” he said. “So now we’re going back and ensuring that we know who’s living there, who’s supposed to be living there. We’ve been able to get in touch with a lot of the tenants, and the goal is to make sure we’re taking care of the citizens that live there. They’re all good people, and they like living there.” Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said in mid-September that current residents don’t need to be worried about finding another place to live. “Right now, our biggest priority is to get in there, make sure the building is safe and see how we can help those people living there,” he said.

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Smoke & Barrel in Downtown Sanford reopened in May after shutting down for a few months at the beginning of the pandemic.

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Smoke & Barrel owner on getting back to business By Corbie Hill Fortunately for Jeff Towson, Smoke & Barrel — which he owns — is not purely a music venue. Sure, the restaurant and bar hosted country and country-adjacent acts before the pandemic (and plans to do so again in October), but its revenue comes from food and booze. And that has kept the lights on as venues nationwide flounder and capsize. “You're reading all about it,” Towson says. “A lot of these places are shutting down.”

has been stronger in Sanford than at City Tap in Pittsboro, which Towson is 45 percent owner of, and where residents are evidently more cautious about going out. The Rant caught up with Towson to talk about running a business in the time of COVID, as well the return of live music to Smoke and Barrel. What would a bar owner be going through right now — someone who doesn't have a kitchen?

True, his own business closed temporarily about two weeks after North Carolina's initial stay-at-home order in March. Takeout and curbside service really didn't fit the Smoke and Barrel model, and the business was in a decent enough position to shut the doors and renovate instead. Importantly, and thanks to emergency funds like PPP loans, Towson was able to keep his ten employees paid.

If you're a bar owner, you're going through a tough time. We had that first round of PPP, so as a bar owner I'd hope they'd be able to take advantage of that. With the current restrictions in place, if you're a bar and you rely on alcohol as your business and you have to shut down at 11 p.m. you have a pretty small window each night of the week to make your money for the month. I feel for people who are owners of bars who don't have that food to fall back on.

Since Smoke & Barrel's May reopening, business has been strong, but different.

Music-wise, I see you have a few shows on your calendar.

“The lunch crowd is a little bit less than we're used to,” Towson says. “COVID concerns maybe impact that particular crowd a little bit more, but the bar crowd later at night has been really good.”

I went ahead and booked Brittany Davis on the 16th (of October). I booked her way back in January or February. She and I were going back and forth and I was debating whether or not to keep that show, but I'm going to go ahead and do it, just to see.

There are fewer families or large parties, he says, but more tables for two. Indeed, business

My big hesitation was capacity concerns.

The Rant Monthly | 25 I don't want to bring a band in here, pay the band, and half the place has to be empty. That's not a recipe for financial stability. We're going to see how it goes. I've been working with the artists. They've been accommodating in terms of pay, so we're going to see how that goes. We've also got two other bands other than Brittany Davis booked. Going into the fall and winter, with some of the forecasts of the flu and COVID hitting at the same time — what are some of your feelings going into those seasons? I'm concerned. Right now, I've had a couple staff members get sick and we've had to take them off the schedule and they've gotten tested. Fortunately, they've both tested negative, so we're able to bring them back on. When you get concerns like that, it really impacts how you do business. Aside from the fact that you want everybody's well-being, but from a business standpoint it really affects scheduling. It puts more of a weight on some people who

aren't having to be tested and they're having to work doubles — things like that — and I don't want to hire someone and turn around and say, “OK. They tested negative and I don't have any shifts for you.” I'm going through it right now. One girl on my staff, she's worried she might have it. I said “get tested,” she got tested, she's going to hear back in I think two days whether she's got it or not. Until then, I've got to cover for her. If she does test positive, then she's going to be out for some period of time.

Pinehurst No. 2 course to host five U.S. Opens over the next 27 years The USGA has announced it will establish a new headquarters in nearby Pinehurst, and the village and its famed No. 2 course will host five U.S. Open Championships in the next 27 years.

fruition through a “comprehensive economic development effort that involved representatives from the North Carolina General Assembly, Moore County the Village of Pinehurst and economic development experts.”

Is there anything else in terms of running a music venue during all this?

First, about those U.S. Opens. Pinehurst was recently home to the 2014 Men’s and Women’s U.S. Open events in 2014, and will host again in 2024. This week’s announcement added four more Opens — 2029, 2035, 2041 and 2047.

Luckily for me, [music] is not something I'm dependent upon. If I'm a live music bar where I'm just serving alcoholic drinks and relying on live music to make the revenue, it would be a different story. I would have to think way outside the box to do some things differently.

“The decision accelerates the USGA’s strategy to stage its premier golf championship at America’s most iconic venues with greater frequency,” reported. “By doing so, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club will serve as the USGA’s first anchor site for the U.S. Open.”

The headquarters will include a new equipment-testing facility, innovation hub, museum/visitors center and office in Pinehurst by 2023. A total investment of $25 million will mean two new buildings (housing 50 full-time staff members), and the USGA Golf Museum will give visitors a chance to “delve into the association’s premier collection of golf artifacts and connect them more deeply with the game’s rich history.”

For me, luckily I've got the food and the lunch and dinner crowds to keep me afloat.

According to the site, the plan — conceived over the last several years — came to

According to, independent studies estimate that the total economic impact of the USGA’s long-term presence will exceed $2 billion to the state of North Carolina.

26 | October 2020

@therant905 LEMON SPRINGS

Pop-up restaurant 'Mills’ South' set to serve on Oct. 18 Local bartender Jake Wells will host a pop-up restaurant — open for one night only from 1 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18 — at Camelback Brewing in Sanford. Named for a tavern his great grandfather operated in New Jersey just after the end of Prohibition, Wells said Mills’ South will offer plates like Nashville hot chicken and waffles, Calabrian chile meatball sandwiches, shrimp burgers with Old Bay aioli, parsnip soup with chorizo, and more. Camelback Brewing is located at 804 Spring Lane in Sanford. For more information, call (919) 292-2244.

Volunteers hope to raise money to bring once-vibrant community park back to life By Charles Petty In the quiet community of Lemon Springs, down the road from Greenwood Elementary School, sits a park that has a history of bringing the community together. Now, a group of volunteers is working to give it new life. The Lemon Springs Community Park as it is now known was formally established in 2017. But it’s been a vibrant part of the small community in southern Lee County for far longer than that. The park sprang up a few decades back, when a few area residents – all but a few of whom have now passed on –

wanted in particular to bring the communities in Lemon Springs and nearby Tramway closer. To that end, they built a park with a ball field so that their children would be able to play games together. A clubhouse was added not long after. The park was run for decades on a volunteer basis, and what money was made by way of the concession stand went toward upkeep of the grounds. As they years went on, though, regulations in regards to the ballpark – fence sizes, lighting requirements, game rules, and more – began to stifle attendance, leading to the park eventually being used only as a practice spot for teams. The original charter members of the

The Rant Monthly | 27 organization that initially operated the park had hoped that the property would go to an organization that would continue to operate it as a nonprofit, and eventually went with a group dear to their hearts: The Lemon Springs Volunteer Fire Department, which continues to run the park on a volunteer basis. Lately, the fire department and other volunteers have been working to help clean up the park, add new amenities, and bring awareness to the wider community. The department also continues to take care of the clubhouse, which is now available for rentals at $100 per day for anyone who wants it for special occasions. Recently, volunteers staged a major cleanup at the park, adding benches, a volleyball net and a trail. The funds for these projects come from the park’s annual fall turkey shoot, which is held every November with roughly 100 participants (follow the organization’s Facebook page to get details for future events). Kenny Patten, who works with the fire department and volunteers at the park, said he loves the turkey shoot and how it positively impacts the park with much-needed funding. “It is one of the best things we run that helps make money to maintain the clubhouse and the grounds and to promote community

spirit,” he said. Volunteer Jennifer Graham said she wants to make sure Lee County is aware of an underutilized asset. “We’re just trying to get the word out to the community that we are here and have facilities that are useful for families,” she said. “We hope people take advantage of the playground and the walking trail.”

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The park also has a gofundme page with a goal of $5,000, and park volunteers said the nearby Martin Marietta stone quarry has been a big contributor, including laying gravel to redo the parking lot. Going forward, park goers can expect more small changes and fixes, including making the playground handicap accessible.

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Volunteer firefighter Mike Holmes said he’s optimistic about the park’s future. “Everybody who volunteers has a role to play here,” he said. “We all do our best to help out in any way we can. My son has a grading tractor that keeps the driveway up and I help in all the ways I can. This place is special to us and we’re glad to be a part of taking care of the park.”

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@therant905 The Rant to partner with WWGP, WFJA Radio for local candidate interviews

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Early voting and the Election Day will be here before we know it. To help inform local voters, we’ve asked candidates in local races (up to the state legislature — there’s plenty of information available elsewhere about the statewide and federal races) two questions apiece about their respective campaigns. Visit throughout the month of October to read full Q&A with candidates for local and statewide offices. There will be no excuse to head to the polls uninformed this election season.

The Rant will partner with WWGP and WJFA Radio in Sanford to interview candidates for the Lee County Board of Commissioners and Lee County Board of Education on Wednesday, Oct. 7 (Sharpe, Lovick and Dalrymple); Thursday, Oct. 8 (Fine-Mbuangi, Jones and Carver) and Monday, Oct. 12 (all candidates for the board of education). All interviews will be broadcast live on the radio stations and on The Rant's Facebook Live feed. All recorded video interviews will also be published at, in addition to all of the Q&As from each candidate printed in The Rant Monthly over the past three months (including in this edition). The Rant will continue to report on news regarding the election in Lee County in the days and weeks leading up to Early Voting and Election Day. If you have questions regarding our election coverage, email or

The Rant Monthly | 29 Early voting opens Oct. 15, other important Election 2020 information Lee County will offer two early voting locations beginning Oct. 15. In a change from previous years, voting will not be available at the Board of Elections office. Instead, the Bob E. Hales Center at 147 McIver St. will host downtown voting, while the McSwain Center at 2420 Tramway Road will continue to serve as a location. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays from Oct. 15 to Oct. 30, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays Oct. 17, 24, and 31, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays Oct. 18 and 25. Curbside voting will be available at both sites for anyone who cannot enter the sites due to age or physical disability. The last day to register for Election Day, change party affiliation or update registration is Oct. 9. Same day registration will be available at both early voting sites. Voters can check their registration at Election Day is Nov. 3, and polling sites across the county will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Absentee voting is also available. Absentee ballot requests are due by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27 and are available at or at the Lee County Board of Elections office at 225 S. Steele St.

Participant in local 'Trump parade' reports car was vandalized Documents from the Sanford Police Department show members of the Lee County Republican Party reported damage to one vehicle and an attempt to break into another during a motor parade held Sept. 20 in support of President Donald Trump. The parades were held on at least two consecutive Sundays, with multiple vehicles driving slowly through neighborhoods and commercial areas alike, waving Trump flags while honking horns. Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 20, as the group drove near 418 McIver Street in east Sanford, two members reported violence or attempts at violence, according to incident reports filed with the Sanford Police Department. First, Lance Grames told officers that someone approached his vehicle and tried to remove a flag. As that happened, a win-

dow on his vehicle was broken, and Grames reported that the person then spit on him and kicked his driver’s side door. Grames, according to police, reported the incident to the Lee County Magistrate’s Office, who issued a warrant for 19-year-old Jose Omar Benitez. Police arrested Benitez Monday on charges of simple assault and injury to personal property. Later, Lisa Ragan told police that someone attempted to open her car door as she drove in the parade, but she drove away. Some social media traffic indicated that there were reports of gunfire at the time, but Major Vinnie Frazer of the Sanford Police Department said officers conducted multiple interviews and weren’t able to substantiate that claim. Both incident reports list Sherry Lynn Womack, a Republican member of the Lee County Board of Education, as a witness. Womack can be heard in at least one video posted to social media saying that “what started as a nice, fun, freedom little convoy has not ended too well here in Lee County,” although the video in question doesn’t appear to show any of the incidents reported.

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30 | October 2020


CANDIDATE Q&A N.C. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES | DISTRICT 51 The race for the North Carolina House of Representatives District 51 seat pits incumbent Republican John Sauls, a retired pastor, against Democratic challenger Jason Cain, an educator and former soldier.

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The News & Observer reported in July that roughly 1.2 million adult North Carolinians under age 65, or about one in five, live without health insurance, a number that was exacerbated by job losses occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What, if anything, should the General Assembly do to ensure these people have access to affordable care? CAIN: When the newly elected legislature takes office next year, we will immediately vote to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 500,000 working North Carolinians who fall into the coverage gap, including about 30,000 North Carolina veterans. Being uninsured or under-insured is bad for our fellow North Carolinians and it’s bad for public health. When people are sick, we need to get them treatment. Additionally, our first step in reducing the overall cost of healthcare must be to address health concerns before folks end up in the emergency room, often because they can't afford to see a doctor. Preventive primary care is exponentially less expensive than emergency care. The cost of those emergency visits by uninsured patients is passed on to all of us through higher fees for those with insurance coverage. Expanding Medicaid not only helps our fellow North Carolinians, at no cost to us, it actually saves money for those of us with insurance. SAULS: No response.


Pandemic-related job losses have also led to situations in which renters are being evicted from their homes because they can no longer afford rent. One such situa-

Sauls (R)

Cain (D)

tion here in Sanford was even covered in The New York Times. Does state government have a role in addressing these situations, and if so, what do you think should be done to prevent individuals from being evicted? CAIN: Yes, state government absolutely has a role to play here and the General Assembly should immediately expand the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive benefits. The vast majority of folks facing eviction are in danger of losing their homes by no fault of their own and largely due to our worst in the nation unemployment benefit system. Our current economic crisis has far surpassed the 12 weeks to 20 weeks of eligibility our state provides those who are actively seeking but unable to secure employment. When I worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I worked with mayors across our country to end the calamity of veteran homelessness. Leading experts and research convinced us of the efficacy of the housing first model to address the homelessness crisis. Stable housing is the most important factor in determining someone’s ability to be a productive member of society as well as keeping their families safe and secure. The General Assembly must do everything in their power to avoid a growing homelessness crisis on top of the health and employment crisis we are currently in. SAULS: No response.


Carver (R)

Dalrymple (D)

Three at-large seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners are on the ballot in November. Voters may choose three, and the top three vote getters will win the seats. Candidates include Republican challenger Bill Carver, Democratic incumbent Chairwoman Amy Dalrymple, Republican challenger Paula Fine-Mbuangi, Republican challenger Sandra Jones, Democratic challenger Mark Lovick, and incumbent Democrat Cameron Sharpe. Residential growth continues, with multiple new housing devel-

Fine-Mbuangi (R)

the tax base. We can focus on ways to raise the median per capita income and encourage new business to hire workers who will reside in Lee County; when our citizens prosper they contribute to increased sales and property tax revenue.

Lovick (D)

opments and apartment complexes springing up. What are your thoughts about how to provide a high quality level of services to both existing and new residents without having to consider an increase to the county's property tax rate? CARVER: Some construction projects are in areas annexed to the city; the annexation is often motivated by project developers needing to obtain water and/or

Sharpe (D)

Jones (R)

sewer from the city. In these cases, both county and city taxes are paid by residents with the city providing most services except K-12 education. When a development has a high density of children, providing for increased enrollment can exceed the additional income from new county taxes. The recently passed budget does not require a tax increase to provide services to new developments typically received by other citizens in Lee County. Future need for services can be met by sustained growth of industry that significantly contributes to

DALRYMPLE: The key to providing high quality services to our residents as we grow is to strike a healthy balance between residential growth and industrial/commercial growth. For example, the $500,000,000 Pfizer expansion is the equivalent of 2,000 homes valued at $250,000 each. The industrial investment provides jobs and greatly increases our tax base without requiring many additional county services, (unlike homes). The new employment opportunities are great for people and the addition to the county's bottom line enables us to provide improved and expanded services, while keeping taxes low. The more business growth we can bring to the county, the more opportunities we can afford for our residents without an additional tax burden.

32 | October 2020


JONES: From what I have observed, the majority of these new housing developments and apartment complexes are being annexed by the City of Sanford. This includes the newest development of Cumnock Village at the corner of Cotten Road and Cumnock Road. The reason for this being so water and sewer services can be supplied to these developments. This also obligates the City of Sanford to provide most other services including law enforcement protection, fire services, trash and yard waste disposal.


The main obligation for Lee County would be to provide K-12 educational services. Hopefully the value of these new homes and apartment complexes will provide the necessary property tax revenue and the new residents’ sales tax revenue,

to cover the educational services needed without having to increase any taxes. LOVICK: Lee County is blessed to have new housing and apartments coming in to our county. With this, we are also experiencing tremendous growth in our industries. Lee County has the great fortune to have landed four of the top 25 companies that came to North Carolina within the last year. With the expansion of Pfizer and these other companies, Lee County will be adding close to $800 million to our tax base. With this increase in tax base, taxpayers should not have to face a tax rate increase. SHARPE: Residential growth has taken on a fast pace in our county over the last few years. The first thing that comes to mind on how to provide high level services would be the 800 million dollars that will soon go on the books from recent economic development successes the county experienced in 2019. If this increase in revenue is handled responsibly, there should absolutely be no reason to increase property taxes. In fact, we should be able to lower taxes again like this board did in the 2019


FINE-MBUANGI: Lee County will be responsible for schools and social services for the residents of the new housing developments. The City of Sanford will be responsible for most services and annexed areas, not impact county taxes. Based on the current budget that was passed, there will not be an additional tax increase for new developments for next year.

The Rant Monthly | 33 budget year. We lowered the county’s property tax rate two pennies from 79.5 to 77.5 cents per $100 of property valuation. It was the board’s intention to lower the property tax rate another two pennies in the 2020 budget, but Covid-19 came, and we were not able to do so. If re-elected, I see the board taking another look at lowering the county’s property tax rate in the 2021 budget. Without a doubt, the county will continue to grow and through good planning and fiscal responsibility, we will provide high level services to our citizens. The country's opioid crisis continues, and overdoses have spiked since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee County government in 2018 joined counties and cities across the nation in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers seeking damages in order to fund

programs for prevention, treatment and education. What is your view of this effort to combat the crisis? CARVER: I would like to see Lee County embrace an overall plan that addresses substance abuse and mental health. We need to consider providing an in-house treatment facility for services to Lee County residents. In addition, we can promote an education program to alert our citizens to the seriousness of substance abuse and options they or caregivers can take to obtain services. The lawsuit settlements would be a major help in financing care and facilities in our county; however, even though those funds will most likely reach us, we need to act promptly to budget a response to both substance abuse and mental health without depending on a final resolution to the lawsuit.

DALRYMPLE: The opioid crisis is still very real and claiming lives. It did not stop when Covid-19 came to our country. When the county entered into the lawsuit, it was clear that any resolution for us would be years away. So Lee County has done what counties always do, we keep moving forward to try and find solutions and help those in need. A local task force assesses programs, various agencies and departments constantly look out for grants, and we try to navigate around the challenges the coronavirus has placed in our path. The manufacturers and distributors that profit from this tragedy should and can do more to help local governments fight this battle that they helped create. Giving settlement dollars to state governments and agencies often gets so diluted that they don't go as far as they could if they were awarded at the local level. I would like to see these companies offer

more grants and awards to local programs and solutions. FINE-MBUANGI: Once the monies are allocated, I believe there should be a collaboration between possibly city and county officials to identify an existing facility in Lee County. The treatment center should provide temporary in-house detox, medical treatments, psychological counseling and education directed at preventing a relapse. The treatments should be limited to Lee County residents to prevent a financial burden on Lee County taxpayers. JONES: Having served the citizens of Lee County as a state magistrate for over 29 years, I have seen first hand how opioids as well as the abuse of other controlled substances have devastated individuals and families. Another one of our main problems is methamphetamine. ANY programs that can help our citizens

34 | October 2020 would be helpful and improve the quality of life for all of our citizens. One of the main areas lacking in Lee County is treatment for any kind of substance abuse and mental health in general. These problems are costing all of us. An example being that approximately 20 to 25 percent of individuals we are housing and feeding in the Lee County Jail at this moment are there because they could not get the type of mental health treatment they need. We are paying because of individuals committing property crimes to support their needs and extra expenses needed by our law enforcement. I think the money from this lawsuit in helping to prevent, treat and educate about controlled substances is a start. Hopefully it will bring awareness of how big the problem is in our county and bring about a greater effort to assist these citizens of Lee County. LOVICK: I know all too well about the opioid crisis. I lost a brother to this. As a commissioner, I will do everything possible to help combat this growing problem. I am glad Lee County joined in the litigation. Every penny received should help to fight this growing crisis. I am in favor of this money to fund programs for prevention, treatment and education. SHARPE: As a member of the BOC, I voted for the county to participate in the lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. Let’s face it, opioid addiction is an epidemic. Literally every family across America has been touched in some way by opioid addiction. For that reason, I feel the drug manufacturers owe the people because they misrepresented the addictive ability of the drugs they were selling. Since they misrepresented their product, I feel that they should pay the county’s and municipalities damages. The opioid epidemic has cost the county financially, therefore I think it‘s only right for the drug manufacturers to pay for damages to help with prevention, treatment, and education. With financial help from these manufacturers, we can only hope and pray we can put an end to this terrible epidemic.


even extended family. We must, however, strive for safety. There is no silver bullet that will make perfect what is imperfect. No one plan will work for everyone.

Bowen (R)

Davidson (R)

Frye (D)

Kelly (D)

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are frequently used in education. In a sense, what is trying to be achieved for all is an IEP. A case in point is some students who were doing average work in the classroom, are now doing above average work virtually. The IEP for these students is learning virtually.

Laudate (D)

Miller (R)

Eight candidates are seeking four seats on the Lee County Board of Education. They are former board member Sandra Bowen (R), challenger Eric Davidson (R), challenger Tom Frye (D), incumbent board Chairman Patrick Kelly (D), challenger Jamey Laudate (D), challenger Todd Ashley Miller (R), incumbent Dr. Lynn Smith (D), and incumbent Sherry Womack (R). Voters may cast their ballot for up to four candidates. All of the seats are elected on an at large basis. K-8 children will begin returning to school in person as early as Oct. 5, with high school students likely to return some time not long after that. What are your thoughts on balancing the safety of students, families, teachers and staff with the fact that many situations require parents to be away from their children for work? BOWEN: It is essential that we get our children back in school, as soon as it is safe to do so. While I don’t envy the Board of Education and their position in making decisions during this pandemic, I am one of the many working parents who have been put in a difficult position by the decision to remain virtual. I know there are families in far worse shape than I, and I feel for them, their children, and their situations. It is time that our children return to some sense of normality and

Smith (D)

Womack (R)

routine. I have seen the challenges that teachers are facing in the virtual environment, I have witnessed the children’s growing frustration, and the parental exhaustion. We have seen the COVID caseload in our county rise, plateau and then begin a decline, and we can’t wait for the case rate to be zero, because that will not happen until either a vaccine is ready, or herd immunity takes over. In order to prevent learning loss and socialization loss for our children, let’s work together to have safe schools, now and in the future. DAVIDSON: As a parent of grown children, I can only imagine how difficult that has been on parents and their children. Yet sometimes, I wonder during these discussions if teachers who are also parents of school age children are not recognized for the added stress they are under. I suspect that many parents have a greater appreciation for teachers after they have been asked to teach their own children. At least, I hope they do. To make everyone happy at the same time is impossible regardless of the situation. Adding to this conundrum is we are living in a time none of us alive have experienced. No doubt, this is a balancing act for students, faculty, staff and their families,

FRYE: The safety and well-being of students and staff is always the primary consideration for education decision-makers. While the school district charters new territory as it develops protocols to mitigate the risk of infections during this pandemic; the well-being of students and staff is multi-faceted. Controlling the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff is certainly the top priority; however, another significant consideration for elementary children exists. In most homes, all adults must work to support their families, and many are not afforded the opportunity to work remotely. For families without childcare resources (e.g., other family members, daycare), young children may have periods of time with little or no supervision, which is also dangerous. With the district’s plan for a staggered return to the brick and mortar classroom in grades K-8, students will have an opportunity to acclimate to this new (hopefully temporary) normal in a controlled and planned environment that facilitates social distancing and sanitary practices with an ultimate goal of a complete return of all students. For parents who are apprehensive to return their children to face-to-face instruction, the Inspired Virtual Academy remains as an option. Additionally, if warranted, a return to completely online instruction is possible. KELLY: Balancing the safety and learning needs of our students, staff and families, along with the pandemic restrictions placed on our schools by the state is difficult. I also understand that remote learning is challenging for some families. Throughout this pandemic I have led

The Rant Monthly | 35 difficult conversations with the Board of Education about these topics. Consulting with our local Health Department officials and analyzing pandemic metrics are very important to making the right decisions about safely returning students and staff to schools. If possible, I also believe it is important to give parents a choice for their children about in-person or remote learning. I also understand that no decision is going to satisfy everyone. The pandemic is not a problem with a perfect solution. However, I do listen to everyone's viewpoint and try to do what's best for students, staff and parents. My experience dealing with the pandemic on a day-to-day basis for the last six months and making the difficult decisions about students and staff safety will be beneficial for our board and community in the coming months, whether we are preparing for students to return on a fulltime basis or adjusting to another pandemic change. LAUDATE: My first thought is to the teachers, staff and after school caretakers. Covid statistics show that older demographics are more likely to have severe

symptoms than 5-18 year-olds. At the same time, as the question states, there are children attempting to navigate virtual learning alone while parents are at work. Additionally, there are children attempting to navigate virtual learning with no internet. And finally, other school districts have been the guinea pig and have been able to resume in-person learning. Remote learning isn’t a substitute for in-person learning. Balance is the perfect word. The current A/B solution balances these factors with risk mitigation and lets parents keep their children in a virtual learning environment if they choose. It's a commendable start and I do hope the current A/B plan is extended to the high schools. But again, I do worry about teachers & staff who are not only more vulnerable but also teaching both in-person and virtually at the same time. MILLER: With winter coming upon us we will see an increase of students who may become ill from a multitude of reasons, such as: cold, flu, etc.. We should make it mandatory that all personnel must wear a face mask to be in or on school property. We should establish a station at

every entry door to check temperatures of everyone entering our schools. We must enforce the school policies about illnesses that students and staff must have a doctor’s note allowing them return to school/ work after their checkups. SMITH: I support plan B as presented by staff. It allows a return to getting students back in the classroom. My support stems from two considerations: children under the age of 12 seem to be much less affected by the coronavirus, and the plan includes measures to minimize exposure to the virus and procedures for controlling spread if we get incidences of the disease. And I do expect a surge in virus contagion as we reopen our classrooms. WOMACK: No response. If a return to in-person learning led to a high number of new COVID-19 cases, would you be willing to consider going back to a more virtual setting? BOWEN: As is the case with any emergency situation, we have to be prepared to adapt and overcome. We should continue

to monitor the situation with COVID in our community, however, we must not overreact. If there was a substantial increase in community transmission, involving our schools, then of course it may be necessary and prudent to return to more virtual education. From what I have read about COVID, it is the opinion of scientists that it may be a cyclical or seasonal illness, which means it may take a similar path as the yearly influenza strains. If this holds true, then our schools should use many of the same protocols that they use for any other illness. If the numbers take a significant jump, then we will have learned from 2020, and move more quickly and effectively to limit the spread. Some students will never be able to perform in a virtual setting, as well as they would face-to-face, while others will thrive in a virtual setting. The best approach would be to offer choices, and let the parents be the final decision makers. DAVIDSON: A knee-jerk reaction could result in an automatic yes. I believe a measured and responsible reply is needed. Would I consider going back to a more

36 | October 2020


virtual setting? Yes, I would consider this as a possible option.

that are not guided by the wind.

As a member of the Board of Education, one of my priorities and responsibilities will be the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and their families. On any decision before the Board, I will not make a knee-jerk reaction due to the tremendous impact the Board’s decisions have on all residents of Lee County.

As I referenced previously, the option to return to completely online instruction remains, if warranted. Having this as an option (albeit a difficult and disruptive option) or perhaps an increased virtual environment, provides the plan with a safety net.

All options must be on the table that will allow the Board to make a decision that is in the best interest of most every person. To limit the Board’s options by stating I would not consider going back to a more virtual setting under any circumstances is foolish. I realize that common sense might not be so common anymore but part of the Board’s responsibility, to the best of our ability, is to provide an environment conducive to the success of each student’s learning. The actions of this Board matter, and I commit to making informed decisions

FRYE: Yes.

KELLY: I've already led our Board of Education through this decision making process. On July 20, the Board of Education voted unanimously to start the school year in Plan B. Ten days later, after learning from the health department that our positivity rate had risen to 16 percent, our Board unanimously voted to begin the school year with Plan C, remote learning. Given the uncertainty with this pandemic, I believe every board member should be willing to shift course when conditions drastically change--that includes returning to remote learning. LAUDATE: Let me preface by saying I am a parent of three children in Lee

County Schools — one at Lee County High School, one at West Lee Middle School and one at W.B. Wicker Elementary School. There is nothing I want more than getting those three children safely back in the classroom. However, I would absolutely consider a return to a virtual setting if numbers spike. We are not out of the woods. It would be irresponsible to say “we are sticking with in-person learning no matter what the numbers do.” The responsibility falls on the entire community to keep numbers down and keep schools in-person. Don’t send your children to school with symptoms, reinforce the importance of wearing a mask while in school, maintain social distancing whenever possible, and wash hands religiously. MILLER: This is an era of mass technology and the ability to reach each other in an instance at our fingertips, regardless if we have an increase of new COVID-19 cases or not we should implement a virtual setting for in class education. This would

not only assist with the current issues we face but be the cornerstone for future issues. Instead of having to close schools for weather; or students missing classes or assignments due to illnesses students would be able to continue their much needed education. Virtual Learning is not new. So we do not need to recreate the wheel but implement what already works into our education system. SMITH: If we get a surge of coronavirus infection, my first choice is a short pause in-school attendance, as in Durham Hillside high school, to allow for cleaning and sanitizing classrooms and identifying where cases exist and conduct contract tracing to isolate and contain the disease. Only if the spread of the virus cannot be identified and controlled, would I be in favor of returning to plan C on a long term basis. WOMACK: No response.

The Rant Monthly | 37 N.C. SENATE | DISTRICT 12

have closed, and 16 more are in danger of closing. bly do to ensure these people have access to affordable care? BURGIN: No Response

Burgin (R)

Kirkman (D)

The race for North Carolina Senate District 12, which encompasses Lee, Harnett and part of Johnston County, pits incumbent Republican Jim Burgin, a Harnett County businessman, against John Kirkman, who is chairman of the Lee County Democratic Party. The News & Observer reported in July that roughly 1.2 million adult North Carolinians under age 65, or about one in five, live without health insurance, a number that was exacerbated by job losses occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What, if anything, should the General Assem-

KIRKMAN: We are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken more than 3,300 North Carolina lives and sickened more than 196,000 of us. And 1-in-5 adults under the age of 65 does not have health insurance. The number of uninsured adults has been exacerbated by job losses occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the General Assembly had expanded Medicaid, every man and woman who lost their job as the result of COVID-19 would be eligible for Medicaid. But for years, the Republicans have refused to act, forfeiting $21 billion in tax dollars North Carolinians have paid to the federal government. That is money that would come back to us to pay for 90 percent of Medicaid expansion. As a result of this health-related catastrophe, 1.2 million N.C. adults have no health insurance, five rural hospitals

How can the Republican-controlled legislature continue to refuse to expand Medicaid during a pandemic? Gov. Cooper has fought for Medicaid expansion to save lives, bring thousands of jobs to NC, lower the cost of private insurance and keep rural hospitals open. If elected to the Senate, I will vote to expand Medicaid. Pandemic-related job losses have also led to situations in which renters are being evicted from their homes because they can no longer afford rent. One such situation here in Sanford was even covered in The New York Times. Does state government have a role in addressing these situations, and if so, what do you think should be done to prevent individuals from being evicted? BURGIN: No Response KIRKMAN: I have been involved with S3 Housing Connect since it started. S3 seeks to bring together the needed resourc-

es in Sanford and Lee County to create a coordinated and comprehensive approach and to ensure that homelessness is prevented whenever possible, or is otherwise a rare, brief and non-recurring experience. I have learned that governments at every level — city, county, state and federal all have a role in addressing homelessness. Evictions in North Carolina were put on hold on March 15 of this year at the direction of N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. That hold was allowed to expire on June 20. Evictions were allowed to resume until Sept. 4, 2020, when the CDC issued a nationwide ban on evictions for the rest of the year. The vast majority of unemployed North Carolinians do not qualify for N.C. unemployment compensation. The Republican majority legislature savaged the program in 2013, making it one of the stingiest in the nation, with just 12 weeks of coverage. The program should be returned to 26 weeks of coverage and pay a higher benefit to more laid off workers. A state rent subsidy should also be considered for Covid-19 related job loss.

38 | October 2020


DISTRICT ATTORNEY | LEE & HARNETT COUNTIES role of a prosecutor, what, if anything, should be done to help balance the rights of individuals with the need to protect public safety?

Matthews (R)

Porter (D)

The winner of the race for District Attorney in Lee and Harnett counties will replace outgoing D.A. Vernon Stewart, a Democrat who is retiring after multiple terms. The candidates are Republican Suzanne Matthews, currently a prosecutor under Stewart, and Democrat R. Andrew Porter, an attorney in private practice. Calls for reforms to the criminal justice system have increased since incidents over the summer involving George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more. Specifically with regards to the

MATTHEWS: Above all, the role of the prosecutor is to seek justice. This requires careful examination of each case, taking into consideration its strengths, weaknesses, and appropriate application of the law. No one should be prosecuted based on anything other than the merits of the case presented against them. To do so would be in direct violation of the oath of office each District Attorney and assistant is sworn to uphold. As District Attorney, I will insist that my staff continue to seek justice based on the facts and without regard to inappropriately considered factors. Practically speaking, we will continue to work to resolve cases in a manner which both protects the public and the rights of the defendants. It is a delicate balance and one that takes experience to


effectively navigate. We will not put aside compassion when appropriate, but will be firm when necessary. I am also committed to working with our law enforcement partners to present and attend trainings to ensure that these standards are being met. By learning together, our system becomes stronger and we can guarantee that we are operating at the highest level of professionalism. PORTER: These two things are not mutually exclusive. People can practice their right to free speech and assembly, and do so in a manner that does not endanger the public. As Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi taught us, civil disobedience is most effective when it’s non-violent. In regards to the role of a prosecutor, their duty is to hold individuals who break the law accountable for their actions. Their role is also to help the victim become whole. By following these principles, a DA can respect the fundamental rights of each citizen, while also protecting the public. Moreover, the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the shooting of Jacob Blake have brought the issue of criminal justice reform to the forefront of American society. I am a southern white man. I do not know what it is like to live in America as a minority. However, I will do my best as DA to listen to the needs of these communities and make decisions with their advice and counsel. Furthermore, I will be accessible to all citizens by cell phone, (910 322-1771, and e-mail, r.andrew@ It’s time we have a DA that’s accountable to the people. Lee County is much smaller and less populous than Harnett County, which both of you call home. What steps will you take to ensure that Lee County receives the same resources and attention as Harnett County? MATTHEWS: With the difference in population and caseload, I can understand how a perception could develop that Harnett County takes priority over Lee County. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Our District Attorney’s Office happens to have two locations, and therefore, by necessity, has staff assigned to each. But make no mistake, we are a unified office. The resources of one are the resources of both. My vision for the future is to continue to make that more obvious. Our Assistant District Attorneys should feel comfortable not only handling cases in either courthouse, but also in calling upon their counterparts in their sister office when the need arises. It is also important for the elected District Attorney to be involved in the day-to-day operations of each location. I believe it is necessary for the District Attorney to spend time in each office, and I intend to make that a priority. PORTER: I live halfway between Lillington and Sanford in Western Harnett County. However, I grocery shop, go to the gym, and dine in Sanford. With my election, Lee County is almost guaranteed to receive more attention than it does now. Unfortunately, resources are determined by the state legislature and are not within the direct control of the District Attorney. The NC General Assembly uses the data provided by each prosecutorial district to determine how to appropriate taxpayer dollars to each county. Fortunately, I have existing relationships with many legislators and have already spoken to them about the needs of both Harnett and Lee counties. Additionally, I will seek grants to try and fill any gaps that arise in funding. Furthermore, I have plans to partner with local and county governments to start expunction clinics that make use of the Second Chance Act that goes into effect in December. The best way to improve our local economy is to improve the quality of our workforce. By expunging old charges and convictions for indigent workers, they will have an easier time finding gainful employment. The District Attorney’s Office has the ability to be a real change maker for Lee County.


DEMOCRATIC BALLOT Together, we are the Democratic Party. We are fighting for a better, fairer and brighter future for every American: rolling up our sleeves, empowering grassroots voters, and organizing everywhere to take our country back.



The Rant Monthly | 39

40 | October 2020



DEMOCRATIC BALLOT Together, we are the Democratic Party. We are fighting for a better, fairer and brighter future for every American: rolling up our sleeves, empowering grassroots voters, and organizing everywhere to take our country back.



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