The Transylvania Times -

Election 2018: N.C. House, Senate - Brevard NC

 

October 1, 2018



Editor’s Note: Candidates for the Board of Education, Transylvania sheriff, Board of Commissioners, and state House and state Senate took part in a candidate forum recently at the library. School board and sheriff candidates appeared in Monday’s paper. Last Thursday’s edition featured the candidates for the Board of Commissioners.

Today’s final story from the forum includes the incumbent for the N.C. Senate District 48 seat, Republican Chuck Edwards, the incumbent for the N.C. House of Representatives, Republican Cody Henson, and his challenger, Democrat Sam Edney.

Edwards’ challenger, Democrat Norm Bossert, did not attend the forum.

Tad Fogel was the forum’s moderator.

The forum opened with the candidates’ opening statements:

Edney: “I am running for this seat because I think North Carolina is going backwards. We are going backwards on public education, voting rights and we are on the brink of losing our democracy in North Carolina. So, that’s why I’m running for this house seat.”

Henson: “It’s been an honor of my lifetime to be able to serve you in the North Carolina General Assembly as your House representative for almost two years now. I feel like we’ve accomplished great things, and I want to continue to work hard for you every single day. I made several promises in 2016 that I’ve been able to keep, and I want to expand on those promises and you’ll learn more about that today.”

Edwards: “Before I make my comments as to why I’m running, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind us that, while we are sitting here warm and dry with electricity, that the eastern part of our state has experienced a horrific hurricane and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are without electricity, and have lost their homes. Also, I’m extremely proud that out of the three counties I represent, we’ve got several teams helping out right now, including rescue squads, fire departments and emergency personnel. I’m running because I love this state, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m the right man to do it.”

Question: State and national politics seem to be at an all-time high with divisive partisanship. What specific action can you and your party take to reach across the aisle and improve the situation?

Edney said he has worked with a Republican majority school board and a Democratic majority commission board that both were able to accomplish tasks.

“We increased teachers’ supplements, and that was in the early days,” he said. “We ran a construction program that helped build a media center at T.C. Henderson and remodeled over at Brevard Middle School.” He said he “stood up” with several others who wanted accountability when Brevard Middle School’s footings fell.

“The architecture firm that was in charge of that paid for rebuilding those footings,” he said. “At the same time, I worked with Carroll Parker and John Smart, and members of the commission board to get things done for our students.”

Henson said that the “cure” for divisive politics is to talk with one another.

“Get off Facebook and talk to people,” he said. “We all get in arguments on Facebook, so go out and talk to somebody. Try to understand his or her point of view and his or her way of life. And I’m talking to myself just as much as anybody else. We just have to learn that we are all human. We all want the same thing. We all want the best for our state and nation. We just have different ideas on how to get there, but I think the end result is the same, which is to make the state of North Carolina the best it can possibly be. So, how do we take these completely polarized, opposite ideas and find common ground? Just talk to one another.”

While serving in the House Finance Committee, Henson said he sat between a Democrat from Wake County and a Democrat from Forsyth County and they worked together on issues and bills.

“Of course, one side might not win, and one side might win another time, but we can always work together,” he said. “It’s actually talking and listening to each other and not constantly griping because I have an ‘R’ next to my name and he or she has a ‘D’ next to his or her name.”

Edwards began by stating that there is a distinct difference between national and state politics, and he said he thinks the audience is smart enough to remember that when they go to the polls on Nov. 6.

“As far as myself, as a business man, I believe in seeking first to understand, and then to be understood,” he said, “and I feel like that is one of the exercises I used in helping me be successful.”

Edwards said he’s achieved goals in working with Democrats in the General Assembly.

“I’ve worked very closely with Democrats in Buncombe County on a number of issues,” he said. “Sometimes, I had to do things that, quite frankly, I didn’t think was the way I would have done it, but there was a belief from those folks that it would better serve Buncombe County, so I used my position in the majority to get some things done over there, with the willingness to work together and put differences aside to find common ground.”

Question: If you could control the location and the wording of a large billboard, where would you put it and what would it say?

Henson said he would put the billboard on a road where many people would see it.

“And what it would say is, probably, vote for Cody Henson on Nov. 6,” he said.

Edwards said he’d put the billboard on a busy corner.

“In red, white and blue, it would say, ‘Remember,’” he said. “What that would mean to me is to remember what built this country. Remember what values our forefathers had, and the values, and the hard work, sweat, labor and sacrifice that went in to building this country.

“Remember those who gave their life for us to have the freedoms that we have today to consider and debate and argue with one another. Remember what makes this county great and what separates us from everybody else.”

Edney said that before addressing the billboard question, he would address Edwards’ comment about partisanship.

“I don’t consider passing a $24 billion budget to the Democrats in the Senate one hour before they were expected to vote on it and having had no input into that budget (as working together),” he said. “I would hazard a guess that your family budget and certainly the school board budget, and certainly the county commission budget, have more discussion than that $24 billion budget on how to spend your tax dollars.”

Regarding the billboard question, Edney called it a “silly question.”

“But I’ll say this: Polk County has a billboard ordinance. No new billboards,” he said. “They don’t want any more billboards, and they don’t allow more billboards. And Cody Henson voted on a bill that would have allowed more billboards in Polk County, and that infuriated those people down there.”

Question: A number of workforce related issues, like training, workforce housing and affordable quality child care, are problematic for our community. What do you feel should be done at the state level to address these issues?

Edwards said there is a skills gap in the country that needs to be addressed.

“There are almost 7 million jobs in the U.S. that can’t be filled because the folks to take those jobs don’t have the skill level to take them,” he said. “One of the things I’m extremely proud of — that we were able to do in this session — is we created programs like Apprenticeship N.C. and moved it from the Department of Commerce and over to where it belongs in the community college system that helps bring together employers, industry, manufacturers and comm-unity colleges to begin to close that skill gap.

“We funded career coaches, which brings junior high and high schools together with employers and community colleges to begin to close that skills gap.”

He added, on the subject of workforce housing and child care, that the government “needs to get out of the way” when it comes to that development.

Edney asked that if employers are saying that the problem is in training, then why has funding been cut from public education.

“We are treating our teachers like second-class citizens, and we have a teacher shortage in this state,” he said. “It was entirely created by this General Assembly. We now rank 37th in the nation in teacher pay, and 39th in the nation in funding for public school per pupil basis. So, if the problem is training, why don’t we fund our schools and pay our teachers?”

He then asked why the child care tax credit was cut from the budget.

“This group likes to brag about the tax cuts,” he said. “Well guess what, to pay for those tax cuts, they eliminated the earned income tax credit on working people, they eliminated the child care tax credit and they imposed sales tax on services that had never been charged before. That hurt average people. Sixty-six percent of their tax cut went to 1 percent in corporate entities.”

Henson said much has been done in the General Assembly in the recent two years to expand vocational courses offered in middle and high schools across the state to prepare students for “the jobs of tomorrow.”

“I’ve worked hard with Blue Ridge Community College to expand on what they are doing,” he said. “They’ve offered a whole new variety of courses just in micro brewing to prepare students for these new jobs that are coming in.”

On workforce housing and child care, he said those issues are solved through economic development.

“What are we doing to create a business friendly environment here in Western North Carolina?” he said. “We are doing it by cutting owners’ regulations that are stifling business. We are reducing the tax rate that you as the individual taxpayer, as well as the corporations, have to pay to make our state more attractive. We are one of the best states for business right now, and we are consistently getting that. It’s about continuing that work we’ve already done to make North Carolina the best place to live and work and do business. We are slowly getting there, but we have to keep working.”

Question: We live in what is often described as a “Dillon’s Rule” state, with state government having the power to enact local legislation without consultation or consideration of local concerns, often leaving a disconnect between what happens in Raleigh, and what local government deems to do to serve their citizens. What can be done to alleviate this disconnect?

Edney said the first task is to “stop meddling” in local politics’ business.

“Chuck talked about what he did in Buncombe County, and I presume he was alluding to imposing districts on the City Council elections over there,” he said. “He made it sound like he worked with Democratic representatives, and that it’s important to understand the community’s needs, but 75 percent of the people in that jurisdiction said in a referendum in the city of Asheville that they didn’t want districts, but they got them.”

Edney stated that the General Assembly has had 19 bills ruled unconstitutional.

“This General Assembly has remained in court the entire time since they took over the majority,” he said. “I think we have a poorly conducted government when 20,000 teachers march in Raleigh, and we cram things down local jurisdictions’ throats.”

Henson said his “personal philosophy” is not to “meddle” in local politics.

“I’ve had several local bills that were filed that later on I got a memo from the local governments of those areas saying we didn’t want this, we didn’t ask for this we begged for it not to happen, so I actually worked to get those bills pulled off the calendar, because it’s not my job in the state legislature to tell the people elected at a local level how to do their business,” he said. “That’s not what I do.”

Edwards said he wanted to respond to earlier comments from Edney.

“He made the allegation about the budget that was passed without any input,” he said. “Obviously, he did not read that budget when he made the statement about education being cut in North Carolina. The budget that I read said that teachers have had raises in North Carolina each of the last five years. The budget that I read said that we added $1.5 billion to K through 12 public education. The budget that I read said that we added another $7 million to textbooks.”

Regarding “Dillon’s Rule,” Edwards said there are times when “intervention” from the General Assembly is “necessary.”

“Yes, there was quite a bit of cooperation between myself and Democrats, such as Sen. Terry Van Duyn, who agreed that Asheville needed to have districts,” he said. “To have the same election process in place since 1797, it was time for a change and that wasn’t going to happen without some intervention from the General Assembly. And, so, that bill passed unanimously in the Senate. I’ll also say that there are times, while it’s not my preference to interject any rules on any municipalities, quite frankly, there are times with the progressive movement that we see out in some more metropolitan areas that it comes in handy, so, personally, I would not want to live in another state.”

Question: Are you in favor of a comprehensive, single-payer health care system for North Carolina? If so, why? If not, what do you feel should be done to deal with the current challenges citizens are facing in finding access to affordable health care?

In his research, Henson said he found that single-payer health care would cost the state of North Carolina $72 billion.

“To put it in perspective, you’ve heard it tonight, the state budget is currently $24 billion,” he said. “The federal government would only pay about $30 billion of that, leaving you the tax payers to pay for $42 billion on top of the current spending needs of the state, so that’s fiscally irresponsible.”

Henson added that they are already addressing health care in the state.

“We added an additional $75 million to the Medicaid transformation reserves. We are actually working to fix the loopholes of Medicaid,” he said. “I stood back there on this same stage and said that we need to fix Medicaid in North Carolina, and we are starting to do that now. Medicaid is a broken system folks. It’s not the answer to all of our problems. There are major issues, and if we start flooding that market with more people, we are going to have more issues until we actually get it fixed.”

Edwards said his answer is “no” to being in favor of a single-payer health care system.

“We have to keep in mind that the ‘mothership’ for all health care is the current Affordable Care Act, which was doomed from the beginning, and so many folks are suffering as a result of that right now, with coverage lost as well, with high deductibles at incredible rates,” he said. “What North Carolina is doing right now to help citizens who truly need help is we are spending $14.2 billion on Medicaid, and, in addition to that, we’ve added another $17 million for various other programs to help those folks that truly need help.”

Edney said 1,145 people die every year in North Carolina “simply because they are poor and live in North Carolina.”

“Chuck and Cody like to talk about how much they are working on Medicaid system, and, in the meantime, we’ve sent billions of your tax dollars to other states to expand Medicaid programs there and take care of their children, and their elders in states like Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio and New Jersey,” he said. “Those Republican-governed states understood that Medicaid expansion was a good thing for their people.”

He said the failure to expand Medicaid led to the closing of the birthing center in Brevard, Franklin and Spruce Pine.

“So, if you live in Balsam Grove, you have a two-hour drive to the nearest birthing center,” he said. “It limited our ability to provide care for victims of the opioid crisis, and it wasted our tax dollars. Ohio’s experience, on the other hand, with the expansion of Medicaid, means that 96 percent of the people in the program with opioid addiction got treatment, and 37 percent of the smokers were able to quit. One-third reported improved health, including better access to medical care, ER visits were down 17 percent and there was a 10 percent increase in the number of people seeing primary doctors, and most recipients said Medicaid expansion made it easier to find work and earn money.”

Question: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for economic development at the local level?

Edwards said local government and the state of North Carolina have “a great story to tell” regarding economic development.

“For the last several years we’ve run budget surpluses. We’ve generated more revenue than we can expect,” he said. “We’ve created jobs, and in the last 12 months in North Carolina. We’ve created 109,000 jobs, and unemployment is less than half of what it was just a few years ago. Our gross domestic product is up 2.8 percent, and well over the national average.”

Every municipality is dependent on the policies of the state, such as the tax and regulatory environment, Edwards said.

“I’m proud to have been a part of that for the last two years, and I look forward to continuing on the momentum to grow the economy in every municipality in this district,” he said.

Edney said it’s not just tax cuts that bring businesses.

“Before these tax cuts, North Carolina ranked number one in Site Selection Magazine from 2000 to 2009 in the top 10 reasons for business investment when they are looking for a place to locate,” he said. “Taxes don’t rank in the top seven. What matters are quality of life, public education and a skilled workforce.”

North Carolina’s economy did not begin in 2010, he said.

“It began with a long history of investment in public education, building out infrastructure, creating the community college system, putting in community college within 30 minutes of every resident of North Carolina,” he said. “It’s time to invest in public education. It’s time to invest in infrastructure and it’s time to bring back the economic development resource that left the Western part of the state in 2013 and went to Raleigh, Charlotte and the center part of the state.”

Henson discussed the industrial building being constructed on Ecusta Road, where he said there will be more job opportunities, including some manufacturing.

“Manufacturing jobs were something that I guarantee many people in this room thought were a thing of the past in Transylvania County,” he said. “They are coming back. It’s been a long road, but we are working there. That building was a partnership between local and state policy makers who decided we were going to do something there, and also SylvanSport coming in, and they are going to create jobs to put into that building.”

Henson said he wants to see Transylvania County “thrive” again.

“We’ve taken many strides at the state level to make this a better state to live in, and we are constantly at the top when they ask businesses where they want to go,” he said. “They want to go to North Carolina, and our economy is showing all of that. We have a thriving economy, and I want to continue to work to bring more jobs right here to Transylvania, Polk and southern Henderson county.”

Closing Statements

Fogle read Bossert’s closing statement: “Norm Bossert is your candidate for N.C. State Senate in the 48th district. Two years ago, he ran for the same seat while working full time as a school administrator in Buncombe County. Today, Norm is a recently retired school administrator.

“He began his career as a teacher and administrator in 1973, when he graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. In 2001, he graduated from Western Carolina University with a master’s degree in school administration. Shortly thereafter, he began working as a school administrator until June 2017.

“He completed a 44-year career and now likes to substitute and teach occasionally because he misses the kids and being in a school. He is, and has been, active in the world of politics.

“Norm married his wife, Shelley, the day after he graduated college, and that was 44 years ago. Along the way, they traveled over seas and worked in Norfolk, central New York and Western North Carolina.

“They have two grown sons and six grandchildren. Norm’s work as a schoolteacher and admin-istrator gave him a unique view of the challenges many families in poverty and on the edge of poverty struggle with daily.

“Homelessness, food challenges and lack of health care plague too many of our neighbors. He believes service as a state senator might enable him to tackle the problems caused by income inequality, the needs of our senior citizens, and those who are unable to fully access the bounty of our community and country.

“I care about my neighbors and appreciate the good fortune I’ve had in my life. When I asked Medicare recipients if they would go back to the insurance they used to have, they always say no. That being the case, why wouldn’t we all want the same care for our children and grand children? “Likewise, why wouldn’t I want all people to share the bounty of our country. I hope voters know that when they vote for me they are voting for a person who will listen and who will lead.”

Edney: “I want to ensure you that I spent my entire life here in the Western part of the state. I love it. I raised my children here. And I want the best for the people in the Western end of the state. Folks, we may be at full employment, our economy maybe booming, but, in this district, people are still struggling to make ends meet.

“I was in the pharmacy the other day to pick up my medicine and an older lady was in front of me. When I stepped up to the counter, she had left, and I realized that she had left her medicine there on the counter. I said, ‘That lady forgot her medicine.’ I grabbed it and started to leave, and the clerk behind the counter said, ‘No, she didn’t have the money to pay for it. We have an economy in this state, and we have hurt our people in this state with policies and decisions made in Raleigh. It is time to invest in our people, in our infrastructure, and it’s time to provide real assistance to the working people in our communities and give them the opportunities that we all shared growing up.”

Henson: “I want to reiterate that it truly is an honor to serve you in the N.C. House of Representatives. Together, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot of great things. I want to go to work for you in Raleigh again in 2019, with the same promises I made in 2016. I want to represent this district with the local mountain values instilled in me very early in my life. And every day I will go to work and vote my conscience. I will continue to do that in 2019, and I ask for your support this fall when you go to the polls.”

Edwards: “We live in a great state. We live in the greatest state in the greatest country on the planet. I love it dearly. I’m concerned about where we’ve been in the past. We ran this state into the ground in 2010, 2011. The tax and spend policies had no eye on efficiency, which, as a businessperson, just really ignited me. I began to see us start to stray from the values on which this country was built.

“That really disturbed me, and, so, I stepped out of my comfort zone and put myself into politics, so that I can serve people because I love this state. I love people. I want to help people. I believe that we’ve got to keep the economy on the right track to do all the things we want to do.

“There are lots of investments that need to be made. We aren’t going to be able to do that without a strong economy. An economy is the engine that allows us to produce the income to pay workers like our teachers and state troopers, to help those that are truly in need, and to invest in our education system and highway infrastructure. Without a strong economy, none of that is going to be possible. The other thing that we have not talked much about at all tonight is just the level of efficiency in state government.

“It’s not about more money; it’s about what are we getting out of the money that we spend. And then a lot of cases it’s about just knowing where the money is going. You talk to so many folks in Raleigh who really should know, and there is a lot of times there is just not the knowledge of where the money is at.

“We need a businessperson who can look at things, make the challenges, and ask the right questions and help us all do what we want to do.”

 
 

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