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OUR VIEWS

Third Ward voters need clear choices for council

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Campaign signs have been popping up like spring flowers around Elizabeth City in the last month. Candidates for city offices — council and mayor — are working neighborhoods, speaking engagements and forums to let voters know who they are and what they stand for.

Politically, it's crunch time with early voting getting under way last week and election day just 16 days away. In the last week, city voters have had a chance to hear candidates address key city issues from concerns about the recent utility billing debacle to how the city can attract more jobs and economical development to how candidates will improve relationships on council for better cooperation and progress.

Through these candidate interactions, forums and other public settings, voters should be gaining a clearer picture of who the candidates are, what they stand for and, hence who deserves their vote.

That seems accurate with one exception: the 3rd Ward.

Voters from that ward may be a little confused by actions, words and perhaps intentions of one of the three registered candidates and one non-running incumbent. Officially running in that race, are incumbent Rickey King and challengers Kem Spence and Linwood Gallop. Gallop, however, seems to be giving conflicted signals -- which is not what voters need to hear.

Apparently, Gallop's conundrum about possibly representing the 3rd Ward is — or was — tied to whether Michael Brooks, current incumbent councilman, is in or out of the race.

Brooks stated prior to the candidate registration period last July that he would not be running for re-election. For his part, Gallop's words and actions suggest he was stepping up as a replacement candidate for Brooks, indicating that he did not want to challenge Brooks as long as the incumbent councilman remained active on council.

Both his and Brooks' intentions appear to have changed, however.

During a town hall meeting last Monday at Arts of the Albemarle, responding to a comment from the audience, Brooks said he would serve if elected as a write-in candidate.

That admission apparently threw Gallop's campaign an unexpected curve ball, which he had to explain the following night at the candidates forum held at the Pasquotank County Courthouse. The forum was sponsored by The Daily Advance, the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters of Northeastern North Carolina and the Pasquotank branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Gallop, arriving late, was missing for the questions directed at the 3rd Ward candidates -- King and Spence -- who were in attendance, before walking in late. Mark Maland, moderator for the forum, nevertheless, allowed Gallop to explain his platform and his top priority.

In addition to responding to those questions from Maland, Gallop used the time to apologize for his tardiness and to explain why he was late -- which has now morphed into additional election drama.

Initially prepared to drop out of the race after hearing Brooks voice his willingness to serve if elected by write-in, Gallop said support for his candidacy "has been very great,” and he'd become convinced over the last 24 hours to continue in the campaign.

Hence, Gallop was in, maybe out, then back in the race for a 3rd Ward seat.

Brooks has since claimed he’s not running again and has no campaign -- but is fully committed to serving the ward, if voters should “draft” him through a write-in vote. “Look at my track record; have you ever seen me let off the gas?” he told our reporter Jon Hawley.

To us, it looks like both he and Gallop are running. The question, however, for voters in the 3rd Ward is whether either man is fully engaged. And could something happen between now and Oct. 10 to change either or both candidates’ mind about running? Who knows.

Voters typically want to give their support -- and their vote -- to confirmed and committed candidates. Unlike King and Spence, Brooks and Gallop have made that a confusing and difficult choice.

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