Truth Tracker: Phelps, Steinburg talk school safety ad in race for NC State Senate District 1


ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) – Wednesday was the first day of early voting in North Carolina, which runs through November 2. 

Election Day is November 6. 

There is a nasty battle brewing in the NC State Senate District 1 race that covers all of Northeast North Carolina, and includes 11 counties.

There is currently only one television ad running for this race, which targets school security and education in the state.

The ad pits a young 29-year-old Board of Commissioners member from Washington County against an experienced state legislator who currently holds a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives.

10 On Your Side caught up with both candidates at a meet and greet in Elizabeth City on Tuesday night.

This is only the second time during the campaign that Democrat Cole Phelps and Republican Bob Steinburg have appeared side-by-side.

Campaign Websites: Steinburg | Phelps

“He is virtually an unknown. If he is not defining himself, then it is my job to try and define him, and that is what I am doing,” said Steinburg. 

He is trying to define Phelps with a major media buy on WAVY-TV, and his ad targets Phelps for allegedly being soft on school security. 

Here is part of the Steinburg ad:

“Bob Steinburg knows good schools are safe schools. Bob’s plan: (millions for) increased security training and more officers in schools. Cole Phelps? “I don’t believe the answer is to increase metal detectors and increase SRO officers.”

SRO are school resource officers. They are sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.

Steinburg’s political commercial is the cornerstone of his ad campaign against Cole Phelps. 10 On Your Side asked Phelps what he thought of the onslaught of ads against him.

“His (Bob Steinburg’s) commercials are drawn and made up to make people think I’m a monster, and that I’m out here to ruin northeast North Carolina, and I am some liberal, crazy type of person,” said Phelps.

10 On Your Side asked Phelps, wouldn’t these things increase security in schools? 

“Well, they would, what I said (in that statement) was I don’t believe the answer is to increase more metal detectors or more SRO officers, because in Washington County we have them in every school.”

10 On Your Side fact checked that statement and it turns out SROs are not in every Washington County School. 

According to Washington County Schools, there are four SROs for Washington County’s five schools.  Two schools are close to each other and they share one SRO.

“Studies will show we need SROs in schools. I don’t know what sane person would say we don’t need to keep our kids safe in school,” Phelps said. “Why in the world would the North Carolina Association of Educators endorse me if I don’t believe in safe schools?”

Anticipating that answer from Phelps, Steinburg told us earlier in the day, “That’s his comeback line.  Would they have endorsed me (if I didn’t believe in safe schools?) Well, I don’t know. They did endorse him and in my view he is (dangerous to schools.)”

The ad ends, “Cole Phelps: he is dangerously wrong about school safety.”  

Steinburg repeated that belief in the interview. 

Phelps says he cares deeply about schools and said this right after the SRO comment on April 1 you see in Steinburg’s ad.

“So if we are going to increase all these safety measures, we have to make sure we have text books, we need to make sure we have the supplies teachers need.”

Phelps says there must be a balance of everything else and school safety. “Those ads do not represent me. They show how desperate my opponent is, and the tactics he will resort to.”

Rankings released by the website PoliticsNC  calls this race a tossup, with more registered democrats than republicans in the district.

New campaign financial disclosures are due out later this month.

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