Candidates for N.C. Senate and House speak at forumBy Yasmine Regester / October 19, 2018
“Representatives should vote on behalf of the people, not the party,” said Alissa Batts, Republican candidate for N.C. House of Representatives District 61, at a forum held at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro on October 16.
Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad and the Greensboro News & Record, newcomers and incumbents running for N.C. House and Senate seats voiced their positions on issues such as healthcare, elections integrity, redistricting and the economy. N.C. House and Senate seats are all two year terms.
Batts is challenging incumbent Rep. Mary “Pricey” Harrison (D), who said her top priorities were to improve elections security, eliminate gerrymandered districts, and support an independent redistricting commission.
“I feel like I represent the people,” said Harrison.
In the N.C. House District 57 race, Democrat Ashton Clemmons noted one of her priorities focuses on access to affordable healthcare for everyone. She added that improved access and affordable healthcare will help boost the economy and create jobs.
“We need people at the state legislature who will listen to the people and make the state a place our children deserve,” said Clemmons, a former educator.
Republican opponent Troy Lawson, president of the Guilford County Republican Party, said he does not support expanding Medicaid.
“I’m in favor of expanding the economy so people can afford those healthcare issues,” said Lawson.
When asked about protecting the integrity of elections, Clemmons said she believes elections should be handled by a non-partisan Board of Elections to ensure every person has a voice in the voting process.
Lawson said he was in favor of voters presenting voter IDs at the polls.
“To me, it’s very simple — show your ID. You have to show your ID to get a P.O. box. Why wouldn’t we do that for something as scared as voting?” he asked. Lawson also said he would be in favor of taking ID machines into communities to provide valid IDs for voters.
Candidates for the N.C. House of Representatives District 58 were asked about their respective positions on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requesting voter registration information in 44 N.C. counties. Republican Peter Boykin said he didn’t see how it was any different from collecting information through a census.
“I think it’s a good indicator of how our legislature should move in the future,” said Boykin.
District 58 incumbent Amos Quick (D), who is running for his second term, said he is against using voter records as a way to scare people.
“Using the census is better way to keep count of people. Using voter records taints the integrity of elections,” said Quick, who added, “We also need an independent redistricting commission.”
Quite a few other candidates also said they supported an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission to redraw N.C. Congressional District maps that were ordered to be redrawn by a federal three-judge panel.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman for N.C. Senate District 26 said the current redistricting process works fine.
“The best way to do redistricting is the way we do it now,” said Tillman, who has served in the seat for 18 years. “Policy says that the prevailing party has that responsibility of drawing the district. There’s nothing wrong with partisan election districts.”
Democrat William McCaskill, Tillman’s opponent, said he would be in favor of an independent commission.
“I think you can never ask legislators to draw these maps and the maps not favor their party,” he said.
Recruiting and retaining quality teachers was one of the legislative priorities listed by Steve Buccini (D), a candidate for N.C. House District 59.
“(Low) teacher pay is a great indicator of the lack of respect we give to our educators in the state,” said Buccini.
Republican incumbent Jon Hardister said that it was the Democrats who cut education funding in 2009 and 2010, and the Republican party is still trying to fix it.
“My personal goal is for teachers to be amongst the highest paid in the country,” said Hardister.
Democrat Martha Shafer, candidate for N.C. House District 62 discussed the importance of a teacher pay increase. She spoke about a teacher friend who has to work two additional jobs to make ends meet.
“We need to raise teacher pay to national average. We need to be able to attract and retain teachers in our state.”
Incumbent Republican Rep. John Faircloth said that while there has been improvement in teacher pay, it’s not where it should be.
“I try to take up the issues of the people who sent me to Raleigh,” said Faircloth.
State candidates not present at the forum, but will appear on the ballot are:
- N.C. House District 60 – Incumbent Rep. Cecil Brockman (D) will face Kurt Collins (R).
- N.C. Senate District 27 incumbent Trudy Wade (R) is facing Michael Garrett (R). Wade was not present at the forum.
- N.C. Senate District 28 incumbent Gladys Robinson (D) will face candidate Clark Porter (R).
- N.C. Senate District 24 has Rick Gunn (R) is facing J.D. Wooten (D).