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Wilson County Democrats gathered Wednesday night to steel themselves for upcoming local and state elections.
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley spoke at the annual Fall Fling fundraiser held this year at Something Different Café and Catering.
Appointed to the position in March by Gov. Roy Cooper, Beasley said she has two roles as chief justice: to lead the state’s seven-member high court and to lead the judicial branch of state government. She said the state has 6,500 court employees who do great work with little resources.
“We are working to modernize the court,” Beasley said. “Most of our court computers still use DOS,” an antiquated disk-based computer operating system.
Beasley said she’s made it possible for court employees to receive eight weeks of paid parental leave for a child’s birth or adoption.
The N.C. Supreme Court is the most diverse high court in the entire nation, Beasley said.
“We want our court to look like North Carolina looks,” said Beasley, the first black chief justice in state history.
Beasley said she’s pushing for driver’s license restoration clinics. She said 1 million people in the state — whose population tops 9 million — have a revoked driver’s license.
“These are people who get a speeding ticket and can’t afford the fine and court costs, and it snowballs from there,” Beasley said.
Beasley said national conservative groups target women and minority judges in North Carolina. She urged the gathered Democrats to tell their friends not to forget judges when they enter the ballot booth.
Former Gov. Jim Hunt introduced Beasley.
“The Democratic Party is on the move in Wilson County,” said Hunt, who received a standing ovation.
Hunt said he appointed Beasley to her first judgeship two decades ago. He praised Gov. Roy Cooper for being wise enough to appoint Beasley as chief justice.
“Gov. Cooper is the best governor in America, and we’re so proud of him,” Hunt said.
Hunt took a moment to thank Something Different, saying the venue tops the events the party used to hold at Silver Lake.
A long line of Democratic candidates for local and state offices spoke during the fundraiser.
State Sen. Mike Woodard of Durham County said it was good to be home again in Wilson County.
“Everything I learned about politics, I learned it from Gov. Hunt,” Woodard said.
Woodard said he and state Sen. Toby Fitch and state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield are like modern-day versions of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
“We are in the fiery furnace fighting knuckleheads, I mean our colleagues,” Woodard said.
Farmer-Butterfield said she has 20 bills parked in committee because Republicans won’t let them onto the floor.
State Rep. Chaz Beasley of Charlotte is running for lieutenant governor. He told his fellow Democrats to take their frustration and turn it into action.
Beasley said he grew up when Hunt was governor, and because of the quality public schools Hunt pushed for, he was able to graduate and go on to Harvard.
Allen Thomas. also a candidate for lieutenant governor, said he’s not running against something — he’s running for something.
“Republicans aren’t going to give the power back, we have to take it,” Thomas said. “We are going to take over the state legislature and send Mr. Trump home.”
Mayor Bruce Rose said he’s enjoyed every day of his eight terms in office. He asked for attendees’ votes to make it a ninth term.
“We have some announcements coming on the 17th day of this month about downtown that will make everyone proud,” Rose said.