'Stop talking about me.' How this NC congressional forum turned into a nasty stare-down

Rep. Adams responds to attacks during forum

12th Congressional District Rep. Alma Adams responds to opponent Patrick Register's statements during a candidate primary forum on Thursday, April 5, 2018.
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12th Congressional District Rep. Alma Adams responds to opponent Patrick Register's statements during a candidate primary forum on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

A Charlotte forum between a member of Congress and an opponent turned into a testy stare-down Thursday night, prompting a third candidate to get between them and drawing a pointed warning from the host.

Democratic Rep. Alma Adams didn't hide her disdain for challenger Patrick Register at the forum hosted by the Black Political Caucus.

The two are among four Democrats and three Republicans running in the 12th District, which encompasses most of Mecklenburg County.

The trouble started with their opening statements.

Adams, 71, introduced herself as somebody who "gets things done." Register, 37, said he couldn't get on the news for a particular story because he was told Adams wouldn't comment on it.

"That's what she gets done," he told the audience of around 200. "You don't get to hear the truth."

The candidates, who were joined by Asheville Democrat Keith Young, went on to answer several questions. Then they were asked what the term "Black Lives Matter" meant to them.

Register, who is white, said to him the term means "all lives matter."

12th Congressional District candidate Patrick Register touched a nerve with his opponents Keith Young and Rep. Alma Adams on Thursday, April 5, 2018 when he spoke about Black Lives Matter.

Young, who is African American, took issue with that description. "What it means is our lives matter just as much as yours," he said to applause.

And Adams cited the number of black men and boys "shot down for no reason."

Turning to Register, she continued, "We're concerned in our community about what's happened to our black men. You need to get a better understanding of that. So I'm glad you're here."

Register stood. He said he apologized if he insinuated that black lives didn't matter. Adams appeared to say something and Register turned to her and stared.

"What's your problem?" Adams said.

"You said something to me." Register replied.

Adams motioned for Young, who had been sitting at the end of the candidates table, to move between the two opponents.

After the moderator moved on to other questions, the candidates were asked for closing statements. Register repeated his claim that he was not getting media coverage because Adams refused to comment on issues, thereby denying him a platform.

"This young man is not telling the truth," Adams said, turning again to him. "I cannot control what the media does. Raise some money. Run your campaign. Talk about the issues and stop talking about me."

Register replied by raising a question that came up in 2016 about Adams' residence. He said she "lied" about where she lived. The candidates began talking over each other.

That prompted Caucus Chair Arthur Griffin to take the mic from moderator Steve Crump.

"I told the audience to be respectful and courteous," he said., "I expect that of the candidates."

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill