Editor's Note: All candidates were sent two questionnaires by the News + Record. The first asked general questions about candidates and their goals for each role. Questions are indicated in bold, any question left blank was unanswered by the candidate.
The questionnaires provided to candidates are being posted here with some editing for grammar and privacy.
How long have you lived in Chatham County? (If you live outside Chatham, please elaborate). I've lived in Chatham County since 2018. Prior to that I represented Chatham County in the legislature as a Lee County resident, when the district still included parts of Lee County.
Age on election day: 52
Occupation (where you work, what you do): Attorney; member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
Party affiliation (even if your race is nonpartisan): Democratic
Current and previous elected offices held or sought & terms you served: North Carolina House of Representatives District 54, 2014-present; North Carolina House of Representatives Democratic Leader, 2020-present.
Campaign manager (if applicable): Sydney Dougan
Campaign treasurer (if applicable): Sue Jackson
Why are you seeking this office?
Public service is a passion of mine, and my pedigree has prepared me for it without separating me from the voters. I lived and grew up in some of our more economically disadvantaged areas, but have served with and become friends with some of the most economically advantaged people in the state. I can be a voice for all, and I've been lucky to come from a family which placed more importance on those relationships than on material success.
What makes you the best candidate on the ballot?
I know I can make a difference because of my support. I have a strong cross-section of partisan relationships, which are built on friendships and not relationships of necessity. Those who help me know I want their help for the greater good and not for some personal benefit. They know that if I felt someone could do the job better I wouldn't hesitate to step aside.
Give us a job description you’d write for yourself if you’re elected to this seat:
The number one priority for any public servant should be to improve the lives of the people they represent, whether through robust investment in our education system, promoting legislation that respects the rights and dignity of every citizen, or protecting our green spaces and natural resources like Jordan Lake from pollution and other threats, my voting record is in line with these values and will continue to be if I'm re-elected.
What three specific, measurable and attainable goals would you pursue if elected?
I will support the establishment of a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
I'll push for legislation that raises the age limit for the purchase of handguns and assault rifles, bans bumper stocks and high capacity magazines, and expands background checks for the purchase of a firearm.
I will push to revisit Medicaid expansion as quickly as possible. Rejecting federal funds for this purpose in the past was irresponsible.
What are the biggest challenges in Chatham and/or N.C. right now — and how would you address them?
Statewide, we should be expanding our investment in public education, working to protect access to healthcare – including for family planning purposes – and protecting the unique natural resources across North Carolina. Locally, that means continuing to support our schools, ensuring the people of Chatham and Randolph counties have reliable access to life saving procedures and medications, and ensuring that our current growth doesn't pose any threat to Jordan Lake.
Chatham County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. What do you see as the major challenges/opportunities coming from this growth and how would you address them?
The growth isn't coming – it's here. The VinFast, Wolfspeed and Toyota announcements will transform Chatham in many ways, so it's important that we continue working with local elected officials across partisan lines to ensure they have the resources to protect Chatham's sense of place as thousands of new people locate here. It's also critical that Chatham has a strong voice in Raleigh to position our communities well for state investments that will allow our various infrastructure to keep up with the growth.
What’s your overall view of the role of the elected body you’re seeking to join? Is it fulfilling its mission now? If not, what needs to change?
The legislature has veered too far in the wrong direction under one party rule over the last decade-plus. Breaking the GOP's supermajority has allowed for some progress – we've been able to pass a budget for the first time in years, for example – but I believe more partisan balance would force legislators with differing priorities and constituencies to the negotiating table in order to find common ground that benefits people across the state.
Do you believe the 2020 Presidential election produced fair and legitimate results? (Please respond with a “yes” or “no” answer, then, if desired, you have 100 words to support your response.)
Yes. Countless inquiries into so called election fraud have found nothing of the sort, and the narrative of a stolen election is obviously being used to undermine faith in our democratic process.
The most significant challenges facing the General Assembly over the next two sessions involve finding common ground on education and strengthening our democracy. On education, we have to fully fund our public schools in North Carolina. Our county in particular has thousands of new jobs on the way. We must ensure that every child in our community, and across North Carolina, has the opportunity to get a sound, basic education. That means investing in schools, including the people who work there and the infrastructure itself.
I would like to see more compromise on legislation that will strengthen our democracy, too. We should end gerrymandering by creating an independent redistricting commission. We should also make it easier for North Carolinians to vote, not harder. Our democracy is stronger when hurdles to voting are removed. Voting rights are a foundational part of our system and I want to see them preserved and expanded.
2. Should the state expand Medicaid? Why or why not?
Yes. We need to make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care coverage. Medicaid expansion has been available to North Carolina for a decade, but political gridlock has kept it from happening. We are close this year, and I believe that expanding Medicaid would be a transformational shift for our state. Hundreds of thousands of people who lack insurance today would gain coverage. That would be good for the health and well-being of our neighbors, as well as a boon for our economy. It is both morally and fiscally sound policy, and would help lower insurance rates for everyone.
3. The Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana for individuals with qualifying medical conditions, passed in N.C. Senate but has stalled in the House. Should North Carolina legalize medical marijuana?
Yes. Medical marijuana should be legalized in North Carolina. The Compassionate Care Act, as written, was narrowly tailored legislation that would benefit people with certain medical conditions. I believe we should have medical marijuana available to even more folks who face medical issues. We have seen how horrible the opioid epidemic has been across the country. We would be foolish not to explore safer options for people with medical issues to get relief.
4. What is your stance on current laws and access to abortion in North Carolina?
The right to choose is under attack in North Carolina, but Democrats in the General Assembly currently hold enough seats to uphold any vetoes by Governor Cooper. I support codifying the rights that were previously protected under Roe v. Wade. We cannot go down the same path as other states that are outlawing medical procedures and criminalizing women and doctors.
5. Counties across the state, including Chatham, are seeing major growth in the immediate future. As development continues, how do you believe the General Assembly should address North Carolina's affordable housing crisis?
I believe the best role for the General Assembly with regard to housing affordability is to be a partner, not an adversary. We need to work closely with local leaders who understand the needs of their communities best. I believe we should look at creative ideas like pilot programs to help fund affordable developments in communities like ours. We cannot afford to sit back and let the crisis worsen, and it should not be a partisan fight.
6. You're an experienced office-holder. What makes you the clear choice to represent Chatham County in the state legislature?
I have developed a strong brand of working across the aisle to get things done for our community and state. This was my first session as the leader of my caucus, and we were able to accomplish big things. I worked with other legislative leaders and Governor Cooper to reopen our schools, to pass the first state budget in years and to help secure billions of dollars in economic development for our county. I will continue to help bring Chatham County values to Raleigh and to advocate for every member of our community.
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