Shootout at the Golden Corral…Forsyth County GOP Sheriff Candidates Debate Over May 4 Primary

By Sandra Robles

I attended a GOP candidate debate on Monday, April 26, 2010 at the Golden Corral in Winston-Salem. Both the incumbent sheriff and his opponent Dave Griffith were present. The May 4th primary in Forsyth County will determine which of these two men will be on the GOP ballot for the November election.

The banquet room was filled to capacity, with the GOP Chairman, Nathan Tabor presiding over the debate. Both candidates were given the opportunity to speak specifically about their plans for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department. Both candidates were presented questions by the audience.

It was a lively, spirited group that did not hesitate to call a bluff, ask a hard question, or hold the candidate’s feet to the fire. This is what I saw and heard from each candidate.

On gang crime: At this meeting, the incumbent said that local gangs were not a problem in that they only committed 1% of Forsyth County crime. He said you could look this up on the Internet. (You can also look up a WXII interview aired 3-3-10 where the incumbent stated “His main issue is drugs and gangs.”)

On crime: The current sheriff stated that Forsyth County crime has been reduced by 30% during his incumbency. He has been in office since 2004.

On illegal immigration: The incumbent said that he did NOT support Arizona’s attempt to protect their citizens with their new and powerful Immigration Law. Felt that the Arizona law “illegally profiled” Hispanics/Latinos.

On certification: The incumbent felt it was more important to “become a certified department” (an expensive process that has no effect on crime control) rather than participate in the federal 287G program which gives enforcement strength to immigration laws already on the books. He claimed that only four North Carolina counties participated in the 287G program.

On sex offenders: The incumbent stated that only 3% are unaccounted for and they are not a problem.

On Employee turnover: Turnover is not a problem.

Several specific questions were directed to the incumbant concerning his current department.
1. One observer asked specifically about the Chief Deputy Brad Stanley having not only hired but also promoted his boyfriend within the sheriff’s department. The questioner specifically asked if this type of “cronyism” was common in the department and was the boyfriend “qualified” to be in his position.
2. One observer challenged the incumbant to his misrepresentation of the Arizona immigration law.
3. One observer challenged the incumbants assertion that only four counties in NC were 287g certified and offered state documents to prove her point.
4. One observer challenged the incumbants statements on crime in Forsyth County and offerred documents from the sheriff’s department website as proof.

From GOP challenger, Dave Griffith

On gang crime: Quoting the Sheriff’s Department Annual Crime Report 2008, Dave stated that Forsyth County school violence is up 28.15%. He pledged to work hand in hand with the school board and administration to “fully investigate and reduce these incidences”.

On crime: Dave Griffith outlined plans for a drug interdiction team similar to that in Iredell country. Iredell’s interdiction team earned its citizens 2 million dollars in sheriff department funding that the tax payers did not have to finance.

On crime: After quoting the Sheriff Departments Annual Crime Report 2008 documenting an increase in total crime by 8.15% in Forsyth County, Dave Griffith vowed to reduce this figure and better serve the citizens of this county.

On illegal immigration: Just like more than 20 counties in North Carolina have done, Dave Griffith pledged to participate in the Federal 287G program. He pledged to use every law at his discretion to reduce the illegal immigration problem in Forsyth County.

On certification: Unlike the incumbent, Dave Griffith said he would NOT put Forsyth County to the expense of certification of the Sheriff’s department. In this current climate of budget constraints, he intends to use available financial resources to improve crime control, increase revenues from drug/crime seizures, and streamline the effectiveness/accountability of the Sheriff’s department.

On sex offenders: Quoting a WXII report on 3-10-10, the crowd learned that 40% of Forsyth County sex offenders are unaccounted for. Dave Griffith has plans to assign more than the current one car/one deputy tracking these offenders. He is adamant about increasing departmental accountability and locating these “missing” offenders. He will keep them accounted for with the improvements in manpower and departmental changes in policy and tracking.

On employee turnover: According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office HR director, turnover in the sheriff’s office since 2006 is 57%. The incumbent told WXII on 2-15-10 that “each new deputy costs the county tax payers $100,000 the first year when factoring in costs such as salary, benefits, and equipment”. Dave Griffith promised to work tirelessly to retain our great staff in Forsyth County. The cost is too great…at $100,000 per hire…the savings are obvious”.

The debate ran for over an hour, with many in the audience hungry for more time to ask questions. Both candidates hung aroung to meet and greet.

For those of you who missed this debate, it was quite the showdown. Just like the Old West gun-slingers fought to the death at the O.K. Corral, these two candidates stirred up a cloud of dust that would have made Clint Eastwood proud. America was alive and well in that room. It was good to see.

Please do not wait until November to vote. If you do not vote in the May primary, you will lose your only opportunity to pick the candidate most qualified, most trustworthy, most principled for the job. Take a friend to the polls.

If you have any questions on this race, feel free to ask me through the comment section.

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