Young Democrats hosting candidate forum for 5th Congressional District

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

Democratic candidates for the Fifth Congressional district will be making themselves available for voters’ questions during a town hall-style forum this month in Elkin.

The Young Democrats of Surry County have organized the candidate forum, which is being sponsored by the Surry County Democratic Executive Committee. Kayla Edwards, one of the key organizers, began coordinating the event while she was events and campaign coordinator for the Young Democrats group. Edwards is now third vice chair of the Surry County Democratic Party.

“Alexander County had one in January, and we’d talked about doing something similar before,” Edwards said of a candidate forum. “After theirs was successful, the ball started rolling.”

In 2017, the Young Democrats hosted the two women who have declared their candidacy for the Fifth Congressional seat on the Democratic ticket, Jenny Marshall and D.D. Adams, both Winston-Salem residents, at a meeting to hear from them.

The Feb. 20 candidate forum, set in Elkin High School’s Dixon Auditorium, will follow a town-hall format, Edwards said.

Young Democrats from Surry County, one from Wilkes County and one from Yadkin County will ask the candidates questions during a portion of the evening’s agenda, and then the audience will have a chance to ask questions as well.

“We’re going to try to make sure there is at least 30 minutes for audience questions,” Edwards said.

No one, no matter their political affiliation, will be turned away from the event, she said. “I’m sure there are some Republicans who are interested in hearing what they have to say.”

The Fifth Congressional district seat, now held by Virginia Foxx, a Republican from Watauga County, is one Edwards said the Democrats see as one where they are hoping for an overturn in the 2018 election. But first, the Democratic field must be narrowed to one candidate.

Filing for the congressional race will be Feb. 12 at noon through Feb. 28 at noon.

“I just hope that the audience goes away with some of their questions answered,” said Edwards. “Right now there are a lot of fears, and we want their fears soothed and their questions answered. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

While most of the events where Marshall and Adams will be seen during the campaign trail will be stunt speeches and prepared campaign speeches, Edwards said this forum will allow voters to get their questions answered, rather than just hear platforms.

She expected that job creation is one of the topics to be broached at the forum. “They both stress bringing jobs to rural communities, specifically jobs for younger people that aren’t food or retail, but provide a livable wage,” Edwards said. “I’d like to bring up education. With them going to the federal level, they’re still going to have to support this area. Funding keeps moving toward charters and other education, I want to know they’ll support public school funding to stay and increase it.

“As someone who lives in Pilot Mountain and drives to Winston-Salem for work, I know it’d be nice to stay in the county I live in and work here, and have good schools for my daughter,” she said. “It would be good to have a representative represent what northwest North Carolina is about, and I don’t think Virginia Foxx is doing that.”

She said even for those who don’t plan on voting for a Democratic candidate, or who can’t during the primary because they are registered with another political party, “it is important to see an alternative view point.”

The Elkin location was chosen for the forum because it is more centrally located for voters in the Fifth district, which includes Surry, Stokes, Alleghany, Wilkes, Yadkin, Alexander, Ashe, Watauga, Avery and Forsyth counties.

“I just hope it has a good turnout. We definitely want to make it worthwhile for voters and the candidates to take the time to come out and talk to us,” Edwards said.

In addition to the question-and-answer session with the U.S. House candidates, Edwards said all Democratic candidates for county and state races attending will get a chance to introduce themselves with a 30-second “elevator pitch.”

She said there will be an opportunity for people to register to vote if they are not already registered, and to learn more about ways to get involved in voters’ precincts and campaigns.

The Fifth Congressional District Democrat Candidate Forum will begin with a casual meet and greet in the auditorium lobby, 334 Elk Spur St., Elkin, from 6 to 6:45 p.m., and the formal forum will begin at 7 p.m.

Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.

By Wendy Byerly Wood