The race for Senate in newly drawn North Carolina legislative District 21 is one highlighting a stark contrast between two native sons of the Tar Heel state.
One candidate is associated with natural energy, gasoline and oil, as head of a small, family-owned business. The other is known as the energized champion of his fellow citizens, a strong advocate for rural voters and a stalwart defender of fiscal integrity.
This readily explains why state Senate incumbent Tom McInnis has been re-elected four times since winning his seat for the first time in 2014. McInnis innately envisions how to pursue and enact the priorities of the folks he represents and the Republican Party.
His opponent in 2022, Frank McNeill, has never made a serious run for a state legislative office. When the former council member of the town of Aberdeen in Moore County took on a Republican for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, McNeill was crushed by more than 27,000 votes.
McNeill’s top campaign aide, Lowell Simon, has an even less impressive record as a candidate. State House representative Jamie Boles topped Simon by about 2-to-1 in races in 2018 and 2020.
McNeill and Simon are proponents of radical Leftist policies embraced by a minority of residents of Moore County, which comprises a significant portion of the new D-21. McNeill can’t run on a record because he doesn’t have one, and he can’t run on his own liberal platform because it can’t possibly attract enough voters.
So what does McNeill do instead? He and his surrogates work overtime to demean and defame Tom McInnis, a top ranking member of the state Senate leadership, the chair of the Transportation Committee, a champion of salary increases for public school educators, a champion of eliminating regulations that hurt business owners and job creation, and one of the driving forces influencing the United States Golf Association to relocate its headquarters to Pinehurst, N.C., and Moore County.
McNeill’s most disingenuous scheme to try to taint McInnis’s reputation is almost certain to backfire. Every state has a high school athletic association. Every state relies on these associations to operate programs that provide students with opportunities to excel in sports as part of the high school experience.
But when McInnis began to hear from fellow residents that the iron fisted conduct by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) was disadvantaging rural sports teams, particularly in football, he took a closer look. In his effort to learn more about its policy enforcement, McInnis discovered the secret hiding in plain sight.
“I learned that they had a fund balance and endowment of more than $40 million,” McInnis says. “I found that they charged financial penalties to even the poorest schools for ridiculous infractions. They had preferred vendors and required the schools to use them at higher cost than local providers. Their appeal process was nontransparent, and they used an illegitimate election and voting process.”
Additionally, McInnis found that NCHSAA charges excessively for catastrophic insurance, and takes cuts from gate receipts of playoff football games but provides no support for game-day operational costs.
McNeill’s campaign wants us to believe that McInnis has a score to settle after a high school football team in Anson County, part of his soon-to-be-former district, was disqualified from competing in playoffs because players were ejected for misconduct. He says McInnis is trying to destroy the association and turn it over to a state government panel. It’s quite telling, however, that the legislation to address the inequities of the NCHSAA was bipartisan and signed into law by the Democrat Governor. Had this strictly been a revenge act by McInnis, which it certainly was not, do you really think both Republicans and Democrats would have voted in the affirmative on this bill?
Ironic, isn’t it, that McNeill, a product of the party of government control and regulation, would protest government intervention in the case of examining the operations of the NCHSAA? This is the same party, the Democrats, that complains there is not enough money allocated to public education yet stands by as the NCHSAA sits on more than $40 million – more than five times the endowment of high school sports powerhouse Florida and its high school association.
McNeill’s campaign website proclaims he is running to “get our state back on track” and “deliver solutions and results”. Apparently, McNeill has been asleep during the past decade when North Carolina has been soaring under Republican leadership in Raleigh.
A national survey in 2022 rated North Carolina the No. 1 business destination for new and expanding businesses. That doesn’t just happen overnight. Economically, North Carolina is a model of solvency with a $5 billion-plus budget surplus. And, yet, the state has been held back from emerging as a national leader in so many other categories thanks to McNeill’s favorite Democrat governor, Roy Cooper.
McNeill harbors a nonsensical ambition to get his state “back on track” by cheering on a governor that has issued a record number of legislative vetoes – 75 to date, the most by an N.C. governor in history. While McInnis and fellow Republicans were working to end COVID-19 restrictions that were killing the economy and destroying the ability of children to learn, Cooper extended a state of emergency for nearly 900 days, and supported endless masking and vaccine mandates.
McNeill was all for it. And he surely is equally all-in on reckless economic policies coming out of the hard Left Biden White House, which have plunged the U.S. into recession and malaise.
So what happens when Republican Tom McInnis distributes campaign literature exposing his opponent’s indifference to rising prices for everything including gasoline, which is McNeill’s bread and butter? Democrats whine that McInnis is being unfair. They claim gas prices are high because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And they insist McNeill’s Exxon gas stations in Moore County can do nothing about the cost of a gallon of gas.
Here’s the problem with that flimsy defense. McNeill does not have a political record but he has an operational record that demonstrates that gas stations to which he is a supplier have been No. 1 for the wrong reason – No. 1 in price-per-gallon – and this has been the case not for months but for years and years.
Just drive around – if you can afford it. On a recent October day, regular gas at three stations in Cumberland County was $3.09 per gallon. In Southern Pines and Aberdeen in Moore County, a gallon set you back $3.49 at McNeill-owned locations.
Even if you do not care about the cost of re-fueling your car, you still must ask: Can we afford to set Frank McNeill loose in the North Carolina General Assembly?