Rowan County residents look to establish local chapter of national Veterans Party
SALISBURY — Billy Fincher of Rowan County believes North Carolina needs a political party that is for the people.
Under the direction of Kenneth Phillips, Rowan County chairman of the Veterans Party of North Carolina, Fincher and other Rowan residents are working with people across the state to establish a statewide chapter of the Veterans Party of America. Veterans and law enforcement officers formed the party, Phillips said, but it is open to all.
Phillips said he has at least 12 signatures so far on a petition to form a Rowan County chapter of the party. The party needs 12,000 signatures statewide to be officially recognized in North Carolina, Phillips said.
The Rowan chapter would be part of the national Veterans Party of America.
There’s a “general mindset of the Veterans Party of service to others,” Phillips said.
The party has a self-described centrist platform, and Fincher said that’s one reason it’s attractive.
There is gray in every black-and-white issue, he said. Fincher said he feels that Republicans and Democrats don’t want to find a happy medium.
“Veterans Party of America feels that the two-party political system has derided the intent of our founding fathers concept of a constitutional republic, where the citizens can freely vote for the best candidate versus voting for the party,” the party’s national platform says.
Phillips said he feels the two-party system is not working.
The new party would give people a voice in how they vote, said Ronnie Strickland, a retired law enforcement officer who is interested in the new party.
The Veterans Party is not a party of the “good old boys,” Strickland said.
Phillips said the Constitution is important to Veterans Party members.
“(The Constitution) is not subject to interpretation or indifference by our elected officials for their own purposes,” the party platform says.
Still, Phillips said the Constitution does need to be updated from time to time. Instead of interpretation, Phillips said, such changes need to be put to a vote.
“Veterans also believe in and will protect America and the Constitution,” said Rick Rhodes of Rowan County, who supports the idea of a new party. “I know that most if not all veterans take their oath very seriously, and it is ’till death’ not just ’till we get out.’”
“Most in both political parties say what they have to to get elected, then they don’t care about anyone but themselves,” Rhodes added.
Fincher said blue-collar workers need better representation. The Veterans Party could provide this, he said. No politician of the mainstream parties is going to come sit down with working-class people to understand their issues, he said.
Tom Shaver — who is not a veteran but says he may support the party — said veterans issues are not being adequately addressed by members of the mainstream parties. The stories of what veterans go through “are hard-hitting,” Shaver said.
Phillips said the immediate goal is not necessarily to win the presidential election in 2020. Instead, Phillips said he would like to see a ripple effect in Rowan County.
Fincher echoed that sentiment.
“If we can just have a candidate in 2020, people will have heard of us,” Phillips said. That might spur interest, he said.
Strickland said he could see the party being something that grows rapidly in North Carolina. Strickland counted at least five “world-class military bases” in the state that would boost the party’s efforts.
Phillips said he is going to try to coordinate efforts with local unaffiliated candidates in the 2020 local elections.
Seeing the party take a footing in Rowan County would be an ideal start, Fincher said.
Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264.
Correction: This article was updated at 10:40 a.m. on July 3 to state Kenneth Phillips is the Rowan County chairman of the Veterans Party of North Carolina. Due to an editing error, Phillips was misattributed. We apologize for the error!