Picture of Tom  Apodaca


 The Hendersonville Times-News reported Sunday morning...

Rick Wood, Democratic candidate for the N.C. Senate’s 48th District, says his opponent, incumbent Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville), is avoiding engaging with him in a public discussion of the issues.

For his part, Apodaca said the two forums he’s agreed to participate in with Wood should suffice.

“I think it’s pretty clear-cut,” Apodaca said Thursday. “I’m a conservative business guy and he’s a liberal school union guy. There’s not a lot to differentiate. I think people know where we stand. Either way, I don’t think it’s going to be like the Lincoln-Douglas debates.”

Wood said he’s particularly disappointed that Apodaca is “refusing to attend” a Henderson County League of Women Voters forum scheduled for Oct. 1 at the City Operations Center in Hendersonville, since League rules prevent Wood from answering questions without his opponent there.

“I understand that incumbents sometimes want to avoid challengers,” Wood said. “I get that. But I just don’t think that serves the voters well. The League forum has such a history. I can’t remember a candidate refusing to attend one. My understanding is every other Republican candidate is going to be there.”

Apodaca said he told League representatives he had an education oversight meeting and three other important appointments in Raleigh that day and couldn’t be there.

“We’re looking at preliminary enrollment and how many teachers are needed, so I think I need to be in Raleigh,” he said. “I told them it wouldn’t fit.”

Sharon Burlingame, president of the Henderson County LWV, said she also asked Apodaca if he would be available to participate at a second forum the League is sponsoring Oct. 8, “and he said he’d be in committee meetings that day.”Apodaca’s campaign chair, City Councilman Jeff Miller, dismissed suggestions that the six-term senator and Senate rules committee chairman was avoiding debate with his Democratic rival, a former school teacher and basketball coach who serves on the Henderson County School Board.

“He is not afraid of any question that can be asked by Rick or anyone else,” Miller said. He pointed out that Apodaca has consented to two other events with Wood: a live, in-studio candidates’ forum at WHKP on Oct. 14 and a debate sponsored by the Council of Independent Business Owners in Asheville on Oct. 16.

Larry Freeman, WHKP’s news director, said the station’s Tuesday morning program “is not really a debate. It’s a typical candidates’ forum. We spend an hour with both candidates in the studio, just passing questions around and talking about the issues.”

Freeman said the first half-hour will consist of introducing the candidates to the station’s audience, beginning with questions posed by station staff.

“Then the last half-hour, we usually open it up to questions from listeners,” he said.


Freeman said if there is sufficient interest, phone calls and questions, the Wood and Apodaca forum on October 14th may be expanded to two hours from 9 to 11am.  He also said that due to the interest in the campaign, the forum will be recorded and re-aired at a yet-to-be-determined date and time before the election.

Wood said he welcomes “any opportunity to be involved,” but complained that Apodaca has chosen two environments favorable to him — radio and a “friendly business crowd” — rather than entering into an open public debate with him.

On the contrary, Miller said, “radio gives it the best chance for people to hear it. And No. 2, everything is recorded, so if you step in it, it’s like a tar baby — you can’t get it off. Every race I’ve ever been in, there’s been a radio debate. You can certainly get a lot of people listening that way.”

As for the CIBO event, Miller said he participated in the group’s debates while running against former Congressman Heath Shuler in 2010. “I found the questions to be business-oriented, but I didn’t think I got treated any better than Mr. Shuler did,” he said.

CIBO Executive Assistant Patty Beaver said the public is allowed at the group’s debate on a limited basis, but a $10 admission is required to cover the cost of the event and lunch.


Similar to the Apodaca-Wood event, WHKP plans to broadcast a forum with Republican Sheriff Charlie McDonald and Democrat challenger Marty Katz from 9:05 to 10am on Tuesday October 28th.  The format will be the same as in the Wood-Apodaca forum, and the sheriff's forum may also be expanded in there is sufficient interest and questions.  The sheriff's forum will also be re-aired before the election.