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Voter Voices: The Governor's Race

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The governor's mansion in Raleigh will soon have a new occupant.

By Michelle Bliss

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/whqr/local-whqr-761047.mp3

Wilmington, NC – With Election Day less than two months away, North Carolina's gubernatorial race between Bev Perdue and Pat McCrory is tight.

A recent Public Policy Polling survey shows McCrory and Perdue virtually tied. But even with such a small gap, McCrory is struggling to win the African American vote, with only 12% of black voters supporting him compared to Perdue's 68%.

WHQR's Michelle Bliss met with choir members from a historically black church in Wilmington to talk about the election and why one candidate may resonate over the other.

About a dozen Shiloh Baptist Church choir members meet to plan their upcoming performances, such as a concert for the church's 138th anniversary in November.

Men and women of this historically African American parish sit in wooden pews, gathered together between the purple, blue, maroon, and orange stained glass windows.

Della Kenion is a choir member, as well as a mental health nurse. She says North Carolina's mental health system is not serving those who need it most.

"As a nurse, I could work in a hospital, I could work in a different area. But hardship is caused to people that I work with--people who are homeless, people who are disenfranchised."

Kenion says she's also concerned about gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and the high drop-out rate among high school students.

Choir member and retired postal service employee John Wells says increasing minimum wage to about $10 would help solve these problems.

"When the children are left alone--I don't care whose child it is--an idle mind is the devil's workshop. And when a parent has to work two jobs to make ends meet as a necessity, something's wrong with the system."

Wells has raised six children, three who attended public schools and three who went to private schools. He says he can't stand Pat McCrory's idea to provide school vouchers for children in failing public schools.

"He's taking away vouchers from the public school system. I don't agree with that. I think the public school system is a great system. And if he's going to take supposedly 900-million dollars away from public schools, he needs to rethink his values."

Even though Wells disagrees with McCrory about school vouchers, and even though he is a registered Democrat, Wells says if he had to vote right now, it would be for McCrory.

Kenion and medical administrative assistant Shirley McKoy are also registered Democrats leaning toward McCrory. McKoy says a candidate must offer more than his or her party affiliation.

"Well, we're not going to vote democratic simply because we're registered democrats. A candidate has to bring something; something that we can believe in, something we can see."

McKoy, Kenion and Wells say they do not want to vote for Bev Perdue because she is part of the current administration.

All three say change in North Carolina is necessary, but when it comes to dealing with matters like illegal immigration, they don't agree on what that change should be. McKoy says the key word in this debate is: illegal.

"You need to be a citizen, you need to be legal, to take advantage of all that we have to offer. I don't think you should be here illegally, getting services that we're having to work and pay for, and that some of us can't even afford."

Wells agrees that illegal immigrants should not be allowed to enroll in college or receive in-state tuition. But what about their children?

"I don't think the children of illegal immigrants should pay for the ill deeds of their parents. If a child has been here for 18 years and he wants to go to a community college, he should be afforded that opportunity."

Despite how North Carolina's next governor decides to handle issues like illegal immigration, mental health nurse Della Kenion stresses that the government isn't responsible for everything.

"I want to make it very clear that the full responsibility does not fall on our government. It goes back to the home. It goes back to the church. It comes back to the community because we are also responsible for cleaning up our own lives and making things better for ourselves."

And that's what Kenion, McCoy, and Wells say they will continue to do no matter who gets elected. That, and gather in the pews of Shiloh Baptist Church to sing God's praises.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. news@whqr.org.