OAKBORO — Stanly County Board of Education candidate Meghan Almond joined county commission candidates Levi Greene, Patty Crump and Thomas Townsend for a night of fellowship and discussion at Oakboro’s Los Jacubes restaurant this past Thursday.
It was the latest group appearance for the four Republican candidates who are campaigning together as representatives of the Stanly County Freedom Network, a grassroots conservative movement and Facebook group of nearly 1,600 members with its sights set on winning four local seats in the 2022 elections.
Almond will challenge incumbent Dustin Lisk (R) for the District 1 school board seat, while Greene is set to challenge incumbent Mike Barbee (R) and Mike Haigler (R) for the District 1 commissioner seat; Crump is running against incumbent Lane Furr (R) for the commission’s at-large seat, and Townsend is facing Jon Ledbetter (R) for the commission’s District 2 seat (GOP incumbent Bill Lawhon has not yet filed for office).
The election primaries are now scheduled for May 17 after being pushed back from their original March 8 date by the N.C. Supreme Court.
Almond, Greene, Crump and Townsend have each made recent appearances at public hearings for the Stanly County Board of Education and Stanly County Board of Commissioners, and at Stanly County GOP meetings. In those venues, they have spoken out against mask policies in schools, lengthy quarantining requirements and Critical Race Theory taught through the state-run Social and Emotional Learning program.
Event host and network co-creator Jason Phibbs explained that the origins of the group date back to June, when six forming members met to discuss the county’s mask mandate in schools and how to influence the school board’s decisions on that matter. That meetup eventually led to a “Unmask Stanly County Schools” online petition (with over 2,000 signatures) and a corresponding Facebook group that was later renamed to serve a broader scope of issues.
“Looking back on the last six months of work, God has been good,” Phibbs told the crowd on Thursday. “We’ve compiled resources and information to help families get educated and treat COVID-19. The pressure we’ve created on the school board has caused the board chair to resign, which has completely changed the tone and tenor of the meetings.”
The network’s social media addresses itself as a discussion forum and event planner for “freedom-loving people of Stanly County to debate, share, and take action on the issues that threaten our liberty,” and the four candidates are now taking the core tenants of their local political collective to the campaign trail.
Almond spoke to SCJ about her campaign for a school board seat and the issues that schools are currently facing as a result of the pandemic. With the prospect of a potential enforcement of COVID-19 vaccinations in the public school system looming in some areas throughout the country, she confirmed that she would be strongly opposed to that policy if it was to be handed down through Raleigh.
“If the state were to come down and say you have to do mandatory vaccinations, I would fight that to the core and I wouldn’t give up,” Almond said. “We have outright asked my opponent what he would do if forced vaccinations were to come — his words were that he would ‘obey law and order.’ I will disobey law and order on anything that is against our constitutional rights.”
The Stanly County Freedom Network can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/freestanly.