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Election 2020: Ford, Ellis talk racial injustice issues; tout qualifications for Senate race

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — While Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, credits local police departments with reforming their operations, his challenger says lawmakers can play a role in ensuring all laws are applied equally.

Ford was elected to serve Senate District 33, which comprises Rowan and Stanly counties, in 2018. Before his election to the Senate, he served in the state House for three terms, representing District 76 from 2013-18. He’s being challenged by Tarsha Ellis, a political newcomer and Democrat who lives in Salisbury.

In an interview with the Post, Ford said racial injustice problems exist, but there aren’t many in his district and the local area. He said there are bad people in every profession and that local police departments are already doing a lot on their own to reform their operations and make them better.

“There’s always injustice, there always has been and, unfortunately, there always will be,” he said. “You see lady justice with a blindfold. That’s the way it should be. It shouldn’t be based on anybody’s race or color.”

Ellis said talking about racial issues can be uncomfortable for some, but it’s “just part of life.” And state lawmakers can play a role in ensuring laws are being applied equally.

“I think it’s really important that we understand that people have struggles in their community, and there can be unrest,” she said. “We have to be able to respect the views of other people and be able to understand where they may be coming from. I think that’s where you’ll see a lot of that unrest — when folks feel like laws aren’t applied equally.”

Ford is currently a member of five standing committees and six non-standing committees. If elected to a second term, Ford said he’d expect to be chairman of at least one or two committees. He suspects one of those committees would be the Senate State and Local Government Committee, of which he’s currently a member. He also served on that committee in the House.

Additionally, Ford is considering a low-level leadership position, which could range from serving as a joint caucus leader between the House and Senate since he has experience in both.

In his re-election bid, Ford notes his institutional knowledge as a former Rowan County commissioner and his time in the House.

“I already know how to get things done because I don’t care who you are or what party you’re in, when you first get there, you don’t get a lot done,” he said. “You’re getting some help, but everybody that can help you has got their own thing going on. So you need to be able to roll with it and go with it and get done what you can, as much as you can on your own. And then work with people. It’s a lot easier to work with people that you know and they know.”

Ellis said she’s already making connections with other women running for House and Senate seats across the state, and added that she’s received mentorships and advice from both new and seasoned politicians. She credits her more than 20 years of experience in corporate positions, which she says will provide skills that’ll help her in Raleigh, including negotiating, decision-making and project-management skills as well as working with others.

She views not being a career politician as a positive.

“I want to work hard for the people of Rowan and Stanly counties. I genuinely want to make things better,” she said. “One of the unique things I bring to the table is the fact that I’m not a politician, per se. I want to be a servant. I want to take back the things that are important to folks in Rowan and Stanly and take those to Raleigh and work with other legislators to get those things done.”

Both candidates were asked to cite a strength of their opponent. Ellis acknowledged Ford’s longevity as a politician. Ford credited her with being a hard worker based on what he’s been told and, at the time, saying he hadn’t met her.

Both candidates were asked what constituents want from their leaders.

“They want government from the top to the bottom out of the way so they can live their lives. So they can operate their businesses,” Ford said.

“I think they want to be heard,” Ellis said. “(Be) open and honest. (Be) respectful of different points of views. Not everyone’s going to agree with you and you may not like what others have to say. But you’re still their representative.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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