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Sandy Roberson rebuffs Sandy Smith’s jabs over Rocky Mount crime

Posted on May 11, 2022

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Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Sandy Smith poses with a frying pan in the main image, which she tweeted on Monday. GOP primary opponent Sandy Roberson, inset, defended his record as mayor of Rocky Mount from Smith’s claims that his U.S. House campaign left the city rudderless amid a rash of gun crime.

Photo illustration

Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Sandy Smith poses with a frying pan in the main image, which she tweeted on Monday. GOP primary opponent Sandy Roberson, inset, defended his record as mayor of Rocky Mount from Smith’s claims that his U.S. House campaign left the city rudderless amid a rash of gun crime.

cfriedman@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7813

A war of words between two Republican congressional candidates continued Tuesday as Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson defended his leadership of a city reeling from a surge in violent crime.

GOP primary opponent Sandy Smith blamed Roberson for a rash of gun violence that includes 10 homicides since Jan. 1 and four in a recent one-week span, charging the mayor with abandoning his city to stump for U.S. House in a barrage of broadsides from her Twitter account. Roberson rejected that characterization in a campaign news release that says he “proudly stands by his record.”

“It’s unfortunate that as a response to the public recorded facts I’ve exposed about Sandy Smith’s bankruptcy and other misdeeds, my opponent has gone to name calling and stretching the truth,” Roberson said. “I know the voters are smarter than that, but I am going to take this opportunity to factually respond on the record now.”

RELATED STORY: Sandy Smith blames Sandy Roberson for Rocky Mount's violent crime 

Roberson’s campaign released a trove of opposition research on May 3, including divorce filings in which an ex-husband accused Smith of bashing him in the head with a clock radio, an investigator’s statement claiming she hit her previous ex-husband with a frying pan and court records showing Smith’s teenage daughter sought a domestic violence protective order against her mother in 2012, though the teen later withdrew the request. The document dump also included business and property records.

RELATED STORY: Sandy Smith denies domestic violence claims in heated GOP congressional primary

That prompted Smith to go after Roberson in a series of tweets tying him to the upswing in crime Rocky Mount has experienced, nicknaming her rival #MayorMudSlinger for publishing the opposition research online.

“Rocky Mount murders happening all week,” she tweeted on Saturday. “Where is that mayor? Too busy slinging mud and losing control of his city!”

The same day that tweet appeared, the Rocky Mount City Council held a special meeting and declared a state of emergency. Roberson says he called that meeting and is committed to curbing the violence.

RELATED STORY: Rocky Mount declares state of emergency due to gun violence

“Our city has had a hard few weeks. No one can argue with that,” Roberson said in the Tuesday release. “To gather all parties together to find a solution to gun violence, I declared a Special Called Meeting of the City Council and declared a State of Emergency Against Crime. One concern are the families. It doesn’t matter that the great majority of these shootings were drug and gang related, and the subjects knew each other. These are our children — our future — and we need to protect them. We are going to protect them.”

Roberson voiced support for Police Chief Robert Hassell, Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone and Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson and said those law enforcement leaders are seeking help from state and federal agencies to reduce crime.

He also said he’s “actively supporting” efforts for a resource fair to bring nonprofits, social service agencies and mental health care providers together.

Roberson called on two Superior Court judges — Lamont Wiggins and Quentin Sumner — to set higher bonds for shooting defendants.

“Too often the arrested shooter is out of jail and back on our street the same day,” his campaign says in the release. “Each part of the judicial process, including the court system, needs to be tougher on crime.”

Magistrates determine a suspect’s initial bond and follow guidelines set by a county’s senior resident Superior Court judge with input from the chief District Court judge. When defendants appear in court, judges can modify the conditions of pretrial release. That usually occurs only when prosecutors file a motion to increase bail or when a defendant’s attorney seeks a bond reduction.

Smith hasn’t explained what she believes Roberson should have done differently. While the mayor serves as ceremonial head of city government, the position comes with limited power in North Carolina, where appointed city managers oversee departments’ day-to-day operation.

Unlike in Northeastern cities organized under the mayor-council system, mayors here lack the authority to take unilateral executive action due to the council-manager form of government.

The “Sandy vs. Sandy” feud pits an establishment Republican against a populist who has sought to align herself with former President Donald Trump. N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore endorsed Roberson during an appearance at a recent fundraiser. On Tuesday, Smith touted an endorsement from Tom Homan, who served as acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Trump administration.

While Smith and Roberson lead the pack in fundraising, they face six other Republican candidates in the 1st Congressional District primary: Brad Murphy, Billy Strickland, Brent Roberson, Will Aiken, Ernest Reeves and Henry Williams II. Four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination. 

RELATED STORY: 12 hopefuls seek US House seat

In a Monday tweet to her supporters, Smith warned that the crowded field will result in a runoff if the top vote-getter emerges with less than a 30% plurality.

“Early voting is happening now,” she wrote. “Make sure to get out and vote for me, Sandy Smith, and bring five people with you. We need to get over 30% to avoid a run off. The Deep State is hitting us to try and get us below 30%. We will get over 30% if everyone turns out their family and friends.”

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