PILOT MOUNTAIN — With a key congressional runoff election now less than a week away, a televised debate is scheduled Friday night between the two Republican candidates involved, Phil Berger Jr. and Mark Walker.
“This will be the only debate for the Sixth District,” said A.J. Daoud, a Pilot Mountain businessman who is the Republican Party chairman for that district, which covers Surry and all or parts of nine other counties. The winner of Tuesday’s Berger-Walker runoff will face Democratic nominee Laura Fjeld in November for the right to replace this area’s retiring congressman, Rep. Howard Coble.
The Sixth District GOP organization is sponsoring the debate that is scheduled from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday on the Time Warner Cable News channel. Daoud said Wednesday that local viewers who aren’t cable subscribers can watch the debate live on the Internet free of charge, via the News 14 website.
“Also, we’ve been working with one of the broadcast media (stations) to do a re-broadcast,” the party chairman said of further efforts to reach citizens using the regular airwaves.
In addition, Surry residents have the opportunity to shape the debate itself.
“I’m happy to announce that we have set up a link on the Time Warner Cable News website where voters can submit their questions for the debate,” Daoud mentioned regarding that step to involve the public.
“It’s vitally important that voters are engaged and have an opportunity to ask questions that are important to them to help make a better informed decision in the July 15 runoff election.”
Questions can be submitted at http://triadnc.twcnews.com/content/politics/6th_district_runoff_debate/709312/submit-a-question-for-the-6th-district-runoff-debate/.
Casting ballots for the runoff, or second primary — required due to Berger not achieving a clear majority in the first primary on May 6 — is open only to registered Republicans and certain unaffiliated voters. But many of the issues that have emerged during the campaign, such as immigration, are expected to carry over to the general election.
Early voting for the second primary has been under way since last week at the Surry County Board of Elections in Dobson, where 75 people had cast ballots as of noon Thursday.
In discussing the debate, Daoud said the district GOP leadership considered it important to find a way to make it accessible to voters in the sprawling district.
“I just thought it was part of my responsibility as Sixth District chairman,” said Daoud, the owner and president of Cox-Needham Funeral Home in Pilot Mountain.
That led to negotiations with Time Warner to broadcast the debate on its news channel.
“We set up all the guidelines and everything,” Daoud said of the Republican leadership.
“I’m looking forward to working with both campaigns and the staff at Time Warner Cable News to ensure a successful and informative discussion between Mark Walker and Phil Berger Jr.”
The hour-long debate will be moderated by Tim Boyum, the anchor for the “Capital Tonight” program on the Time Warner news channel which is dedicated to political affairs. The questions submitted to Berger and Walker will be a combination of those of Boyum from his vantage point as a journalist and ones suggested by voters.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.