Runoff campaign heats up on social media

Jun. 28, 2014 @ 05:49 PM

Early voting begins Thursday for the runoff election between Stony Rushing and Tracy Kuehler for Union County Board of Commissioners. 

Primary election results gave Rushing a slight lead over Kuehler. But Rushing did not receive the required majority of votes to be named the winner. Because vote totals between the two candidates were so close, Kuehler requested a runoff. That election takes place July 15.

For those not on social media, the runoff campaign has appeared fairly quiet. But some Facebook users know a battle between Rushing, Kuehler and their supporters have been ongoing since before the May primary.

Some of the drama plays out on the Ask the Candidate - Union County, NC community board where Facebook users can ask questions of the people running. Candidates often respond, but most chatter comes from the candidates’ supporters.

The forum was started mid-March and has since covered almost every controversial topic about county issues and individual candidates. Early posts involved the entire field of commissioners candidates. After the primary, topics winnowed down to potential candidates for Union County Board of Education and the race between Rushing and Kuehler. Countless screenshots of comments that were later erased were sent among between posters as they argued about who opposed school redistricting first or who supported

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which candidate before changing their minds. 

One post can spawn more than a hundred responses. Most conversation threads begin with civil discourse. But as politics gets involved, things get nasty. Even a post about which candidate was watching the World Cup became bitter.

“This page has become so contentious, even the posts that were meant to be a joke,” Sandy McMahon Simpson wrote. 

Kuehler’s supporters have repeatedly posted a video exerpt of an October 2, 2006 Union County Board of Commissioners meeting. Rushing said fellow commissioner Hughie Sexton was “fixing to be in the middle of getting his rear end whipped” when Sexton criticized Rushing’s opposition to an adequate public facilities ordinance. Rushing also said he “might slap (Sexton’s) face” if the board chairman did not call an immediate recess. 

Rushing’s critics have also characterized him as being “pro-developer.” Facebook user Roger Twain posted images of a the Union County Homebuilder’s Association newsletter from 2006 endorsing Rushing and Parker Mills in a primary runoff election also involving Richard Stone and Lanny Openshaw. 

“Thank you for reposting...notice how he and his supporters steer clear from this? You can’t hide the fact that thousands of dollars from developers went directly to him the last time he ran...and all of a sudden it’s like he’s a saint?” Rich Watson posted. 

Twain asked if any candidate had promised to limit residential development until infrastructure caught up.

“I don’t remember hearing anyone come out on record and say that. I have heard the ‘we need to discuss and plan’, but i haven’t heard anyone put themselves out there and take a hardline stance on it,” Twain wrote.

Both candidates spoke up. 

“I support requiring adequate public facilities prior to development and think that development should be held accountable for their impact,” Kuehler wrote. “I also very publicly refused all contributions, both in 2008 and currently, from developers, the real estate lobby, etc to my campaign efforts. I’m not anti-growth, but I am for sustainable, responsible growth.”

Rushing wrote that he has repeatedly stated that water and sewer service is the key to limiting residential growth. 

“The answer is simple don’t expand sewer so fast. If you can’t manage what we already have, it is time to slow it down until you can,” he wrote. “My opponent has claimed it’s illegal. That is not true. If it were many of my neighbors and I would have a great lawsuit where we could demand sewer and water. Unless sewer availability is managed, the fight is not how many homes are built but who will benefit.”

Then Rushing and Kuehler argued over which was more “pro-developer.” For three days, their supporters argued among themselves about insults explicit and suggested. 

Commentors criticized Kuehler’s performance as a commissioner. They blamed her for the county almost selling Carolinas Medical Center - Union to an outside company. Some suggested that Kuehler is culpable for sour relations between the county and Monroe during her tenure.

“Tracy Kuehler, I have seen you say that when you were commissioner you fully funded the school’s budget requests,” wrote Tracy Peterson Wesolek. “How do you feel about the current budget request? Would you rubber stamp this request like you did your two years as vice chair?”

Kuehler responded that she was vice chair one year. 

“I have never “rubber stamped” anything ever--in my career or as a Commissioner. In fact, if you bother to watch any of the past meetings, my fellow Commissioners (the bigwigs), used to get irritated that I asked too many questions,” Kuehler wrote. “That being said, I would be asking for more detail.

“You should have stuck with your original question, without the incorrect facts, instead of the edited version,” Kuehler wrote. 

Wesolek also pressed Kuehler about her campaign signs, which appear mostly on the county’s western side. They state that Kuehler is good for Weddington, Wesley Chapel and Waxhaw. The candidate responded that she appreciated her supporters in those towns for putting out campaign signs.

“I’m sure you are, but it just makes me wonder why they would think that. What is good for Weddington may not be what is best for the entire county,” Wesolek wrote.

Then commentors argued about whether Wesolek’s first post was worded unfairly for two days. 

To read the complete community posts, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411908802396984/.