Context of the NC House 66 Race
On Saturday, February 1st, Republican candidate for NC House 66 Ben Moss, held a ‘meet and greet’ event at the VFW in Rockingham. Moss, a Richmond County Commissioner, is one of two candidates in the Republican primary in a district where Republicans have one of their best chances to flip a seat. The event drew local elected officials including Lee Berry, the mayor of Ellerbe, and Ken Robinette—who serves alongside Ben Moss on the Board of Commissioners. Several candidates were also in attendance including Mark Robinson, candidate for Lt. Governor, who was also the keynote speaker. The absence of elected officials from Montgomery County highlighted the regional nature of this primary.
The 66th District includes the entirety of Richmond and Montgomery counties, as well as a portion of Stanly. Joey Davis, Moss’s primary opponent and the 2018 Republican nominee for the seat, is a lifelong resident of Montgomery county, while Moss is a lifelong resident of Richmond county. When Davis held his campaign launch event in December the elected officials who attended we’re almost exclusively from Montgomery County.
Both counties have long-standing histories as Democratic strongholds but have begun to trend in the direction of the Republican Party. Ben Moss himself provides an example of this as he lost his first race in the region in 2006. He ran again in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he became the first Republican elected to the Richmond Board of Commissioners in over 100 years. To illustrate an example of the progress that his party has made when speaking to The Cycle Moss said that in 2020 the Republicans will have their first-ever primary in the County Commissioner’s race. The party has never before drawn more candidates than there are seats available on the board.
Back in December Davis told The Cycle that he believed he was the only candidate that could do as well in Montgomery as he did in 2018. Moss makes a similar claim about Richmond County. In 2018, while Davis won in his home county of Montgomery, he fell short in Richmond.
At the ‘Meet and Greet’
Lee Berry spoke first, remembering how Moss had worked on his strawberry farm while he was still in high school. Ken Robinette introduced Moss by focusing on projects they had worked on together and the results they had produced for Richmond County. Moss himself spoke about the County’s unemployment rate going from 15% to 5% during his time in office. He also recounted the first time he ever ran for office when he filed to run as a Republican and the person filing his paperwork at the Board of Elections asked him if he wasn’t sure he didn’t want to change his party affiliation.
Moss’s Christian faith was a reoccurring theme throughout the night as he prayed for the meal, and then later told the room that the Bible passage from Luke 21:26* had first inspired him to run. He said he had a record of doing what he believed was right, rather than politically expedient and he emphasized his blue-collar roots, saying he always wears his work boots to remind him who he is. He finished by informing the room that in the upcoming weeks the Richmond County Board of Elections would be voting on a resolution to become a 2nd Amendment sanctuary county, an action that several counties are taking in the aftermath of gun control laws being passed in Virginia.
*Luke 21:26 from the King James Translation of the Bible reads, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”