‘This is what I believe’

County Republicans rally at convention

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ELLERBE — The Richmond County Republican Party was represented by few in number, but large in spirit.

And their top cheerleader also happened to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 general election in Sen. Tom McInnis, who upset Gene McLaurin in the race for the District 25 seat. McInnis served as the Richmond County Republican Party Convention’s featured speaker Thursday night at the recently reopened Ellerbe Springs Inn.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Freshman Republcian Sen. Tom McInnis, District 25, talks with fellow party leaders about his first week in Raleigh.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Freshman Republcian Sen. Tom McInnis, District 25, talks with fellow party leaders about his first week in Raleigh.

McInnis was fresh off a number of personal legislative firsts — first week in session in Raleigh, first bills sponsored and co-sponsored. Of one bill, though, he is particularly proud.

Senate Bill 298 would allow cameras to be installed on school buses throughout North Carolina. But these cameras wouldn’t focus on the behavior of students or bus driver. Instead, the camera would be placed  near the stop-arm and, when extended, would capture a digital image of the license plate of the vehicle in question.

It’s a safety issue, McInnis said — a situation that occurs “over 3,200 times a day” in the state as 13,303 school buses travel highways and rural roadways to transport children to and from school. In Richmond County, 91 buses handled the load. The bill, if passed into law, would allow footage from the camera to be used as evidence in prosecuting the driver of the vehicle. A civil fine of up to $500 each instance could be levied. After paying the vendor, the balance would be given to the local school system.

“Would anybody think anyone would be so stupid … so ignorant,” McInnis questioned aloud.

McInnis said a member of the General Assembly lost a family member due to such an occurrence. It has to stop, he said.

McInnis called the bill “one of my most proud” moments in Raleigh but, in an ideal world, the legislation wouldn’t result in any revenues for the school.

“I’m hoping that we don’t get anybody,” McInnis said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Josh Austin was elected to a third term as chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Josh Austin was elected to a third term as chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.

He expects the bill, filed Wednesday, to get its first consideration by members of the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations early next week.

It’s been a busy first week in Raleigh for the freshman senator. McInnis filed his first piece of legislation on Feb. 9 and has been the primary sponsor on six bills and a co-sponsor on 14 others.

* * * 

There was a short business meeting prior to McInnis’ presentation. Josh Austin, chairman of the county Republican Party, and Zach Arnold, a North Stanly High School graduate and now a student at Wingate University, led the group through the election of county party officers.

Austin was elected to a third term as chairman. Marrisa Grooms was elected vice chair, Toni Maples is secretary-elect and Billy Moss was elected to the position of treasurer. Austin said being chairman wasn’t easy. He also said he didn’t always agree with what the Republican Party did, but he noted he agreed with Republicans more often than Democrats. Richmond County presents a unique challenge, Austin said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com U.S. Marine Corps veteran John Foster, of Rockingham, salutes the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
U.S. Marine Corps veteran John Foster, of Rockingham, salutes the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

“You know this is a big Democratic county,” he said. “We may be small in number … there are a lot of conservative people here.”

It’s not an easy job, “but I do this because this is what I believe.”

Party delegates can go to the district convention, set for April 18 in Stanly County, and the state convention, scheduled for June 5 through June 7 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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