The Transylvania Times -

2020 Primary Election Candidate Questionnaire

 

Last updated 2/17/2020 at 3:11pm



Editor’s Note: The Transylvania Times contacted candidates running in several competitive races in the March 3 primary.

The candidates were sent five questions and asked to provide some brief biographical information.

GOVERNOR

On the ballot in the Democratic Party primary, Gov. Roy Cooper is being challenged by Ernest Reeves.

In the Republican Party primary, Dan Forest and Holly Grange have filed.

Grange was the only candidate to respond.

Holly Grange

Family: husband, David, and two sons

Education: West Point graduate

Occupation: member of the N.C. House of Representatives and director of community relations at Osprey Global Solutions, a Wilmington company specializing in remote medical, logistics, security, training and business intelligence services.

In the past year, several rural hospitals across the state have closed while many others have reduced their services. What is your plan to keep rural hospitals open and to have them maintain the services they now provide?

Holly Grange: The focus to improve health care in our rural communities must be multifaceted. Firstly, we need to ensure that we’re taking advantage of all available tools when it comes to health care delivery outside of brick and mortar buildings. I also believe the training and retention of health care professionals in this area and strategic regional partnerships are crucial. This is a complex issue that I am confident I can spearhead as governor, by bringing people together to solve the problem.

The state now provides vouchers for students to attend private schools. Should the state require any financial or educational accountability from those private schools or not?

Grange: Accountability already exists for private schools. If the parents and students don’t receive an extraordinary education, parents can choose to leave those private schools for schools that do. This is why educational choice is so critical to bringing about improvements in all the educational activities funded by the taxpayers.

There have been concerns raised about expanding online lottery sales and the percentage of lottery proceeds that actually go to the schools. Are there any changes to the way in which the lottery is run and how funds are distributed that need to be changed?

Grange: The lottery continues to add critical dollars to the general fund – over $200 million dollars just this year. Since the state already spends 60 percent of its $25 billion budget on education it’s no longer as much a discussion about enough, but rather about how the money is appropriated.

The state has gone through several lawsuits regarding gerry-mandering. Should the state establish an independent commission to draw political districts? If not, what should the state do to avoid facing so many lawsuits in the future?

Grange: Many of these were politically motivated lawsuits with politically motivated decisions. I believe the legislature is still best suited to draw the maps, as they are held directly accountable by the voters. I did recently support a bill that would have created a commission with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who would draw the maps. I believe the legislature and governor should appoint those individuals, so there is still a level of accountability to voters.

The state’s Read To Achieve program has not resulted in increased reading scores for students. What should the state do to improve students reading scores?

Grange: First and foremost, schools must be held accountable. That is why school choice is so critical as it is the most genuine form of accountability. I believe in ensuring that our schools are recruiting and retaining the best teachers and giving them the flexibility they need to best educate our kids. The days of one size fits all education programs are done.

U.S. SENATE

On the ballot in the Democratic Party primary are Cal Cunningham, Trevor Fuller, Atul Goel, Erica Smith and Steve Swenson. Cunningham and Fuller responded.

In the Republican Party primary, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is being challenged by Larry Holmquist, Sharon Hudson and Paul Wright Hudson was the only candidate to respond.

Cal Cunningham

Family: Wife, Elizabeth, and two children

Education: Bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill; Master’s degree in public policy and public administration from London School of Economics; and law degree from UNC School of Law

Occupation: leads WasteZero, an environmental services and waste reduction company

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Cal Cunningham: A federal budget, like any family budget, is a reflection of priorities and it is clear there is significant need to realign our government spending and tax code in order to invest in domestic programs that have been neglected for far too long, and to help lift up families who need it the most, instead of giving savings to massive corporations. Here are a few of my priorities in regards to federal spending:

•While the GOP tax law supported by Sen. Tillis could have been an opportunity to raise revenue for priorities like infrastructure, instead, it added $2 trillion to our national debt in order to reward corporations and the ultra-wealthy. I believe one of the best ways our country can start to realign our priorities is by addressing tax loopholes and other breaks that benefit corporations and the wealthy, and use those savings to help North Carolina families through efforts like expanding the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits.

•I support allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies which importantly will help lower costs for consumers, but would also save taxpayer dollars.

•I oppose moves like President Trump’s use of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to propose defense spending in excess of federal budget caps, which even his own OMB Director has called a “gimmick.”

•And I oppose any efforts to reduce the deficit on the backs of aging Americans who have paid into Medicare and Social Security over their entire lives. I’m proud to be endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for that commitment.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Cunningham: As someone who has served with the Army Reserve – including during three active duty tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Fort Bragg – and who comes from a long line of veterans, I understand the consequences that a reckless and nationalist foreign policy can have on our national security and the military personnel and families who are called to support those prerogatives.

The challenge we’ve grappled with for years across the Middle East is how to pursue our national security without strengthening enemy hardliners, drawing our country deeper into war and putting U.S. troops or diplomats in danger. In striking the balance, it has been important to exercise restraint, even against clear enemies.

In the Middle East, our two primary missions have been counterterrorism and security assistance to allies, both of which require U.S. leadership and neither of which require heavy presence of boots on the ground.

I have enforced and taught U.S. and coalition combatants to use force in accordance with inter-national law and our national principles, and I am a firm believer that we are strongest on the world stage when we live out those values: human rights and dignity, proportionality and restraint and remaining focused on narrow military objectives, while protecting civilians and non-combatants.

Our way of life and our sovereignty require that we maintain a leadership role in the community of nations and that we always seek to validate our actions by conducting ourselves in accordance with inter-national laws and norms, in concert and coordination with allies.

Student loan debt is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Cunningham: In the Senate, I will fight to lower the cost of college and expand access to community college and technical training. I support efforts to allow students to refinance student loans, fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, expand Pell Grants and eliminate cost as a barrier to community college access. As a member of the Army Reserve, I’m also committed to ensuring that veterans can access and have time to use the educational benefits available to them and their families.

North Carolina also has a proud tradition of strong public universities and our Historically Black Colleges and Universities are a critical part of our higher education system, so I will work to ensure the federal government increases investment and support for these important institutions.

What health care plan do you support?

Cunningham: One of the most frequent issues I hear about as I travel across the state is the urgent need to improve access and bring down the cost of health care for families, and I am committed to achieving those goals. First and foremost, that means strengthening and extending coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and standing up against all attempts to roll back protections for people with pre-existing conditions and other benefits of this law. We must also build on the Affordable Care Act by creating a public health insurance option to increase access to care, and do more to support rural hospitals and address doctor shortages.

We should also allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies in order to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and I will oppose efforts in Washington to cut Medicare benefits.

I am proud to be endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare for that commitment and the North Carolina AFL-CIO for my commitment on health care.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Cunningham: When I joined the Army Reserve, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. And I never believed that one of the greatest threats to the future of this country would be Washington itself. I am running to fulfill that oath to take on the corruption that’s standing in the way of progress on the most important issues, like bringing down the costs of health care and prescription drugs.

I am in a strong position to defeat Thom Tillis in the fall and put this seat to work for North Carolinians.

I am traveling the state listening to North Carolinians, and working hard to earn every vote. I have earned endorsements from more than 140 North Carolina leaders, including the late Sen. Kay Hagan, and have support in all 100 of North Carolina’s counties.

I have also been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, labor organizations like the AFL-CIO and Teamsters, the campaign finance reform organization End Citizens United, VoteVets, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Voter Protection Project, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

I am marshaling the resources it will take to stand up to Thom Tillis in what is going to be top race nationally, and I have done so without accepting donations from corporate PACs. We have reported raising more than $3 million so far, including donations from 7,000 North Carolinians.

Trevor Fuller

Family: Wife, Camille Davidson, and two children

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English literature from Hamilton College and law degree from Georgetown University

Occupation: attorney

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Trevor Fuller: President Obama and President Clinton, the last two Democratic U.S. presidents, both lowered the national deficit considerably. The last two Republican presidents, including the current one, have consistently increased the deficit. For example, on Jan. 20, 2017, when the current president took office, the total amount of outstanding public debt was $19.9 trillion. Just recently, it surpassed $22 trillion.

In 2017, the Republican-led Senate enacted the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

This legislation was supposed to boost the economy, increase jobs and pay for itself: it did none of those things. What it did was hand out close to $150 billion in corporate tax giveaways, just in 2018!

Those corporate tax handouts will add $1.9 trillion in debt over the next eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Spending on Medicaid and Social Security will increase by 2.4 percent of GDP by 2030, but revenues will only have risen by 1.6 percent.

That 0.8 percent differential doesn’t sound like much, until you realize our GDP is approximately $19 trillion. The government subsidies for Medicaid expansion in 2018 totaled $685 billion. So, just that 0.8 percent difference could have paid for Medicaid expansion (twice) in 2018.

To reduce this historic debt, we would need to undo the damage done by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by moving up its expiration date from 2025. This Act is too costly and benefits too few and it must be changed if we want to manage our debt. Further, we need to eliminate subsidies and other unduly favorable tax treatment received by corporations. And we need to invest in our people through universal early childhood education and care from birth, and through universal health care.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Fuller: Lost in all of the controversies with domestic politics is our complete abdication of sensible foreign policy.

This abdication can be seen most starkly in this administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear deal. Our nation was pulled out of that deal because of politics, not facts. Facts: the Iranians were abiding by the terms of the deal.

They allowed international observers into their nuclear facilities, which Iran had previously not done, shut down the centrifuges that could have enriched uranium to weapons grade and required all spent fuel to be exported. We have a verifiable process by which to monitor Iran’s weapons program, but we threw it all away and got nothing in return.

We also need to return to our “honest broker” role with respect to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Our abrogation of the Iran Nuclear Deal and siding with Israel, while disregarding the Palestinians, may be popular among conservatives here and in Israel, but both actions have made Israel less safe.

This administration’s “deal of the century” between Israel and Palestine essentially gives Israel all of what it wants, while providing nothing of substance to the Palestinians. This is a recipe for future conflict. True peace can only be gained by having both sides compromise for the greater good. If we cannot be trusted to deal equitably with both Israelis and Palestinians, our own national security is threatened.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Fuller: I am concerned (particularly since I have one child in college now and another one on the way next year). The debt college graduates carry limits their finances for decades, especially when they are not able to find jobs making enough to repay the debt. In addition, since minority students tend to come to college with fewer resources, they end up with more debt when they finish, and the debt load they carry after college weighs them down even more. To reduce this disparity, I support debt-free college legislation that would include all expenses for college, not just tuition.

This could be accomplished through need-based grants administered at the state level. When our students graduate from college, they should receive a debt-free degree, not one with a promissory note attached.

What health care plan do you support?

Fuller: In 2009, President Obama achieved what no other president ever had: establishing a national law providing health care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. In the years since its implementation, the ACA has worked better than most expected, it has brought down costs, reduced the number of uninsured, allowed people with preexisting conditions to have health insurance coverage, allowed parents to have their children covered until the age of 26 and eliminated lifetime insurance caps. Without it, millions and millions of Americans would be sicker and less well off than before.

Health care is one of the biggest personal expenses families incur. But our health care system has put quality, comprehensive health care out of reach for millions of Americans. Indeed, we have a system in which health care is made available only to some and primarily through private insurance companies. In other words, we have a system in which, metaphorically, the fox is guarding the hen house. Insurance companies are deciding on the amount, cost and quality of care for individuals – life and death decisions in the hands of entities for which their primary motive is making a profit. This is wrong.

Health care is a right, not a privilege. The passage of the Affordable Care Act was an important first step. Now is the time for bold action to finish the job with universal health care available for everyone. Medicare for All makes that possible.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Fuller: Our democracy is in crisis. This president and his toadies in Congress have made it so. We need change. We need bold action and bold leaders who have vision, experience, demonstrated leadership and a proven record of meaningful achievement.

These are qualities, taken together, that I’m blessed to bring to the table that no other candidate in this race can do, including the incumbent.

•Bold Vision – My leadership in bringing Universal Pre-K to Mecklenburg is an example of my ability to see the challenges we face (and their root causes), discern and develop solutions, and execute on the vision. This is why I believe so strongly that Medicare for All is what we need now for our health care challenges, even when others cannot see it.

•Experience – I’ve been elected to four terms as a county commissioner at large in the largest county in North Carolina, representing a diverse population of more than 1 million people (as diverse as the entire state), far more than my primary competitors combined ever have represented. My success in this position lies in my ability and openness to hear multiple perspectives and craft inclusive policies that drive progressive change.

•Demonstrated leadership – I served for three years as the chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commission, leading the county and representing our interests at the state and national levels. In 2018, I was honored by my peers as the Outstanding County Commissioner of the Year by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

•A Proven Record – Among many other things: Universal Pre-K; Charlotte- Mecklenburg Economic Opportunity Task Force; Mecklenburg’s PrEP Initiative to reduce HIV/AIDS; Paid Family Leave; Veterans Holiday for County Employees. In times such as these, we can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Actionable change is what we need in Washington. We need to send someone with the education, knowledge, training, experience and heft to get the job done. That’s why I’m reporting for duty.

Paul Wright Hudson

Family: Married with three children

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English literature UNC-Charlotte and secondary teaching certification

Occupation: small business owner, property manager

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Paul Wright Hudson: There are two ways to reduce the national debt: reduce spending and increase revenue. Since we are building the wall at our southern border and have invested heavily in our national defense, which I believe are both necessary expenditures, it is time to begin tackling our debt. Some of the ways we have cut expenses are by reducing welfare roles through job creation, becoming energy independent, renegotiating trade deals to be more in our favor, insisting that other members of NATO pay their fair share and stemming the flow of illegal aliens across our border. The effort to cut expenses where possible must continue. It has been proven that raising taxes in the long run reduces revenue, so I would not advocate for a tax increase.

Instead continuing to cut regulations and taxes where appropriate will grow business even more, enabling us to collect more taxes from these new businesses. We also collect new revenue from our expanded work force, and the new trade deals are decreasing our trade deficit. I am open to other ideas of how to shrink the deficit.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Hudson: We will always want to have a diplomatic presence there, but now that we do not need their oil, and since the terror threat has been greatly reduced, it is time to bring most of our troops home. If we can help broker peace deals, that would be amazing.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Hudson: We should stop encouraging students to borrow money for expensive schools that they cannot afford. Community colleges and trade schools offer a wide-variety of courses at a reduced rate. For those already in debt, we should make it easier for them to restructure their loans. This is a huge problem. Way too many of our citizens are in financial bondage.

What health care plan do you support?

Hudson: I support private insurance with a public fund to help cover preexisting conditions. I believe this would cover the most people with the best benefits at the lowest cost. Obamacare works for some people. We need a plan that works for everyone.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Hudson: I believe I would have wide appeal in the general election. I do not think Senator Tillis can win in November. Most Republicans do not like him. The Democrats like him even less. People are tired of holding their noses and voting for candidates they do not really want.

N.C. SENATE DISTRICT 48

On the ballot in the Democratic Party primary are Brian Caskey, Cristal Figueroa and Najah Underwood. All three responded. Incumbent N.C. Sen. Chuck Edwards faces no opposition in the Republican primary.

Brian Caskey

Family: Wife, Stacey, and two children

Education: Undergraduate degree in biology from Stetson University and a graduate degree from UNC-Wilmington

Occupation: Owner of Biltmore Tutoring, a tutoring and test prep business

In the past year, several rural hospitals across the state have closed while many others have reduced their services. What is your plan to keep rural hospitals open and to have them maintain the services they now provide?

Brian Caskey: The simple answer is we have to expand Medicaid eligibility in North Carolina. UNC’s Rural Health Research Program tracks closures of rural hospitals around the country.

Since 2010, 53 rural hospitals have closed in 11 southern states. Texas leads with 15 rural hospital closures, followed closely by Tennessee (nine rural hospital closures) and Georgia (seven rural hospital closures). Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina round out the list with five rural hospital closures each.

What’s the common thread? In the states that were just mentioned, none of them have expanded Medicaid eligibility.

The majority party in Raleigh wants to impose work requirements on Medicaid expansion, but the fact is, if a person won’t work or can’t work, they already qualify for Medicaid. On the other hand, if someone is working hard and trying to provide for their family – maybe working two or three jobs in the process – they work themselves into what’s commonly called “the Medicaid gap,” where they don’t have coverage.

In total, if the 17 holdout states expanded Medicaid, researchers estimate that over 2 million people would be covered with affordable or no-cost health insurance.

For North Carolinians, the worst part is that we’re already paying for Medicaid expansion with our federal tax monies, but we’re not reaping the benefits. That money is going to other states, like California and New York.

We need to say, ‘Yes,’ to Medicaid expansion, and we need to get what we’re paying for. There is absolutely no doubt that Medicaid expansion positively affects the financial stability and viability of rural hospitals, in addition to helping rural residents access quality, affordable health care.

The state now provides vouchers for students to attend private schools. Should the state require any financial or educational accountability from those private schools or not?

Caskey: While school choice should always be up to the parent, the practice of providing vouchers and/or tax credits for students to attend private schools has raised many concerns. Many private schools display an astounding lack of academic and financial accountability. Also, we know that not all private schools are hiring certified teachers, and they are not held to the same standards as our public schools.

Parents should be able to compare course offerings, student achievement, teacher credentials and special needs services provided before evaluating which school would provide the best education for their student’s needs. Most private schools do not provide adequate levels of special education services. This causes students to be moved, mid-year, back into the public school system, which is mandated to provide the resources that all students need to be successful.

Unfortunately, the allotted per-pupil money does not follow these children back to the public school system, straining an already stretched budget. This could severely limit and impact student learning and achievement. By providing private school vouchers without accountability, we are pulling much needed money out of our public schools, starving a system that was long meant to provide fair and equitable education to all of North Carolina.

There have been concerns raised about expanding online lottery sales and the percentage of lottery proceeds that actually go to the schools. Are there any changes to the way in which the lottery is run and how funds are distributed that need to be changed?

Caskey: There will always be a temptation for many of us to play the lottery, especially when the stakes are huge.

Many players also believe that they are being good stewards of society by contributing to an “education lottery.” Despite the odds of striking it rich (about one in 300 million), people enjoy playing the lottery, and it’s become a fixture in our society.

However, there are fears that ‘digital instants’ – essentially the electronic equivalent of scratch-off tickets – represent a new danger to brick-and-mortar retailers, which depend on people buying other items when they come in to purchase tickets.

Additionally, this new technology looks an awful lot like illegal video sweepstakes games, which legislators and law enforcement have tried for years to root out of the state.

Let’s debunk some myths and misconceptions, though, regarding how much lottery money actually goes to our schools.

When the N.C. Education lottery was first introduced, 35 percent of the proceeds were earmarked for education. Two years after its inception, the legislature changed this mandate to a ‘guideline’ only. By law, lottery funds go to pay for school construction, need-based financial aid for college students, and pre-kindergarten for at-risk four year olds.

In 2020, North Carolina now spends less on education than it did when the lottery was introduced. In truth, lottery dollars do not increase education spending; rather, legislators allocate less to the education budget, allowing the lottery money to cover what was previously covered by state budgets. For online lottery sales to be expanded – and knowing that early literacy exposure creates students who outperform those who have not had the benefit of such opportunities – I would advocate for a much larger percentage of the pie to go toward our youngest learners. Currently, only 17 percent of the budget goes towards pre-kindergarten, and that’s shameful.

The state has gone through several lawsuits regarding gerrymandering. Should the state establish an independent commission to draw political districts? If not, what should the state do to avoid facing so many lawsuits in the future?

Caskey: The court-mandated redraw of gerrymandered maps – and let’s face it, State Senate District 48 was ruled an extreme partisan gerrymander – was at best a one-year fix. The Census takes place in 2020, and the North Carolina General Assembly will once again have the task of drawing congressional and legislative maps that reflect the new census results. If the majority party retains power in Raleigh, you can expect yet another set of gerrymandered maps and the lawsuits that will come right along behind them. Lawmakers have no business choosing their voters. It should be the other way around. If you look at some of these maps which have so clearly been gerrymandered to ‘pack’ and ‘crack’ voters into – or out of – certain districts, you very quickly begin to realize how ridiculous the maps are, and the level to which legislators will stoop to ensure that they remain in office.

Make no mistake, Chuck Edwards is in favor of tilting the maps in his favor.

He is on record as saying, “Legislatures are inherently political entities, and to make the argument that political considerations cannot be used at all in the redistricting process directly contradicts the intentions of our founding fathers.” Um, what?

Let’s get the maps away from these crooked legislators. My priority upon election will be the establishment of an independent, non-partisan, expert commission, which will be tasked with the drawing of legislative districts. I’m not someone who takes amendments to the state constitution lightly; but establishing an independent commission and protecting their work with a constitutional amendment will ensure that every single vote will count in North Carolina.

The state’s Read To Achieve program has not resulted in increased reading scores for students. What should the state do to improve students reading scores?

Caskey: When Read to Achieve was introduced by the majority party in Raleigh, intentions were for it to help our struggling readers show measurable growth by the time they were tested in third grade. My wife, Stacey, and I own an educational center. When Read to Achieve was introduced almost a decade ago, we predicted its failure. Many believe that one of the reasons Read to Achieve has floundered in North Carolina is that the supporting education structure around it has been insufficiently funded by the Republicans in the majority party.

The state’s third-grade reading proficiency hovers at 55 percent, down from 60.2 percent in 2013. This is the problem when legislators – and not educators – adopt new policies and programs. Great reading programs have been around forever. Fountas and Pinnell’s literacy program has been in existence for over 25 years and had proven results. A lot of money was invested in F&P leveled books and some area schools were showing proficiency rates over 70 percent before Phil Berger made the switch to Read to Achieve. Or actually, to not achieve, which arguably is Raleigh’s goal in every education decision that they make.

Improving reading scores has a very simple fix – provide pre-kindergarten services to all of our 4-year -olds. Students who attend pre-kindergarten out-perform their peers in every school subject by the third grade. Right now, North Carolina is funding a very small percentage of at-risk students. Parents who can afford pre-kindergarten are also sending their students. But the largest bubble is found in the group who is neither “at-risk” nor socioeconomically advantaged. If we want to see reading improvement, a core literacy program beginning at age four is the obvious solution.

Cristal Figueroa

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC Asheville

Occupation: Behavioral technician

In the past year, several rural hospitals across the state have closed while many others have reduced their services. What is your plan to keep rural hospitals open and to have them maintain the services they now provide?

Figueroa: A short-term solution is expanding Medicaid. In doing so we would be helping the hospitals pay the cost of operations. A long-term solution is recruiting and retaining professionals to practice in the area.

The state now provides vouchers for students to attend private schools. Should the state require any financial or educational accountability from those private schools or not?

Figueroa: First let me say that I do not believe that we should be taking funding away from public education to help fund private education. If this practice is to continue, then there should be both financial and educational accountability for the private institutions.

There have been concerns raised about expanding online lottery sales and the percentage of lottery proceeds that actually go to the schools. Are there any changes to the way in which the lottery is run and how funds are distributed that need to be changed?

Figueroa: We need to reinstate and safeguard 35 percent of the lottery money used for educational purposes.

The lottery should be used as supplementary funding not a substitution for a traditional educational budget.

The state has gone through several lawsuits regarding gerry-mandering. Should the state establish an independent commission to draw political districts? If not, what should the state do to avoid facing so many lawsuits in the future?

Figueroa: Yes, the state needs an independent commission.

The state’s Read To Achieve program has not resulted in increased reading scores for students. What should the state do to improve students reading scores?

Figueroa: Not only has Read To Achieve not produced increased reading scores, we’ve actually seen the scores decrease. There have been recent changes to the program introduced that seem promising, as well as some that are concerning. I think that we rely far too heavily on test scores. This keeps us from tailoring a child’s education based on their individual needs. Creating a reading plan for each child is a step in the right direction. We should also be involving and motivating the parents to engage with the student outside of the classroom. This is why I believe that the proposed Digital Children’s Reading Initiative is a great resource to invest in.

Najah Underwood

Education: Bachelor’s in communications, art and design and creative marketing from Lees-McRae College; and master’s in public policy and public administration at Liberty University

Occupation: Entrepreneur

In the past year, several rural hospitals across the state have closed while many others have reduced their services. What is your plan to keep rural hospitals open and to have them maintain the services they now provide?

Underwood: This can be fixed by expanding Medicare for all, but this is not a silver bullet.

Assessing and relocating budget costs on a state and federal level will have to happen. Part of the problem is that politicians can claim lower health care costs, but in all actuality, the long-term effect inflicts increasing taxes or insurance premiums through the government or private bureaucracies.

This results in added costs of providing medical treatment. We need voters to elect individuals in office who are fighting for the people.

The state now provides vouchers for students to attend private schools. Should the state require any financial or educational accountability from those private schools or not?

Underwood: For equal opportunities for students to expand their range of knowledge, there should not be educational and financial accountability.

We need better funding and freedom for teachers to make learning fun and effective. It is necessary to support deep-rooted long-lasting change in our communities to improve our public schools, which can’t be motivated by vouchers and for-profit charters. Revisions are needed at the moment. Poor funding pits one school against another, which creates segregation and ineffective learning.

There have been concerns raised about expanding online lottery sales and the percentage of lottery proceeds that actually go to the schools. Are there any changes to the way in which the lottery is run and how funds are distributed that need to be changed?

Underwood: There needs to be improvements and revisions made to the current way the lottery is being operated. Funding needs to be reallocated effectively to each program based on requirements, such as teacher pay, educational improvements, pre-k and bus drivers.

Then, excess revenue can be disturbed as bonuses or improvements for construction on leap years. Political parties shouldn’t be the only ones deciding where funding is being spent: city councils, educators and voters need to have a seat at the table also. Our youth’s knowledge is their power and protecting their education is vital because knowledge is something that cannot be taken away from you.

The state has gone through several lawsuits regarding gerrymandering. Should the state establish an independent commission to draw political districts? If not, what should the state do to avoid facing so many lawsuits in the future?

Underwood: Yes, we need an independent unbiased entity to draw political districts! We can utilize the help of experts on maps (cartographers) and experts on the human population (geographers), in addition to, technological advances to help draw reasonable districts without prejudice just from data.

The state’s Read To Achieve program has not resulted in increased reading scores for students. What should the state do to improve students reading scores?

Underwood: Education policy should be allocated and be represented by the teachers of North Carolina, by listening to our educators and getting their voices heard. This program was not created by teachers.

A school shouldn’t be graded on just test scores alone. The whole purpose of a teacher is to let them have creative mobility to create and manifest brilliant students in every avenue they believe will effectively expand their range of knowledge. Educational funding needs to be redistributed to ensure that public schools are not the victim of poor education and poor teacher pay because of poor budgeting skills.

U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 11

On the ballot in the Democratic Party primary are Gina Collias, Moe Davis, Michael O’Shea, Phillip Price and Steve Woodsmall. All five responded.

On the ballot in the Republican Primary are Chuck Archerd, Lynda Bennett, Matthew Burril, Madison Cawthorn, Jim Davis, Dan Driscoll, Steven Fekete Jr., Dillon Gentry, Wayne King, Joey Osborne, Vance Patterson and Albert Wiley Jr. Only Osborne and Patterson responded.

As previously reported, incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows announced he would not seek re-election.

Gina Collias

Family: Husband, Dean, and three children

Education: undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and law degree from Mercer University

Occupation: attorney

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Collias: To reduce the debt and deficit, we must first address the tax inequities. That means rolling back the tax cut of 2017’s give-away to big corporations and the 1 percent.

It is hard to believe that corporations such as Amazon, IBM and GM are able to avoid federal tax expenses – in essence, they are being subsidized by taxpayers. Corporations and the 1 percent must pay their fair share. As someone who believes in fiscal responsibility, I also am shocked with the recent deficit – the largest in our nation’s history. Yes, I am a Democrat concerned about the debt we are handing our children. Spending must be addressed. Here’s what I won’t do: I won’t support reductions or restrictions to Social Security and Medicare. While many Republicans talk about the need to “reform” (reign in) Social Security and Medicare (or privatize it), I would fight those efforts. These are benefits that were paid for through payroll taxes and those promises must be kept. I would also support increasing the Social Security cap from $137,700. I don’t think it is fair that those making $30,000 per year to have all of their earnings taxed for Social Security, while earnings over $137,700 for those making more, are not taxed at all. Raising the cap is fair and would go far in ensuring Social Security’s strength far into the future.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Collias: The U.S. should play a diplomatic role in the Middle East. That means getting trained professionals back to a State Department that has been gutted over the past three years. It also means drawing down our forces. We have our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East who were not born when we started fighting there. While I am not an isolationist, I do believe we can pull our soldiers off the front lines and get them out of direct fire.

It seems our current role in the Middle East is that of trash-talker/bully – talking brash, threatening Middle East countries and then acting alone. I believe we should be prioritizing diplomacy, working with our (non-authoritarian) Allies (NATO and others) to build coalitions, standing by those who fight at our side (Kurds) and ensuring that we are not acting alone when our security is threatened and actions are needed.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Collias: Student loans can frustrate a graduate’s ability to purchase a home, start a family or afford the things many Americans take for granted.

Programs that allow for repayment based on income or those that make allowances to encourage certain professions (i.e., teachers, nurses, etc.) to work in underserved areas must be encouraged.

They shouldn’t be difficult to obtain like they are today. In addition, the federal government should not be charging interest on student loans. The government should be investing in our future, encouraging our citizens – college, trade and tech school students, etc. – to improve themselves and be able to contribute to our democracy.

The government should not be in the business of being a loan shark or treating our people as cash cows.

What health care plan do you support?

Collias: Americans need universal health care. We should offer a Medicare public option to the ACA (Buttigieg’s “Medicare for all who want it plan”) and allow those who want to keep their own insurance to do so (like many European countries). A less expensive Medicare public option plan like this would make the remaining private plans (finally) financially competitive (or go out of business) and would have a greater chance to get through Congress to more quickly help our families. We also need to enact HR 3 that would reduce drug prices and help Medicare recipients.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Collias: While I respect the other candidates, I bring unique skills, experience and values that will enable us to bring N.C. 11 back to Blue. I have experience as an attorney and worked to expose electoral college abuses. Additionally, while progressive on social issues, I am fiscally responsible and – as a more moderate candidate – can appeal to our many unaffiliated voters. Unlike the other candidates, I won’t have to change my answers for the general election.

I believe in building bridges and bridging differences and finding common ground with those I may not agree with on policy issues. I also believe in listening, treating all people with respect and having civil discourse. There is no candidate who has traveled more, listened more and campaigned harder for your vote and your trust. I want to represent you and your values and become the first congresswoman in WNC.

Moe Davis

Family: Wife, Lisa, and one child

Education: Graduate of Appalachian State and N.C. Central School of Law

Occupation: Retired Air Force colonel

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Davis: Deficits were heading down under the Obama Administration. Now they are skyrocketing again because Republicans passed a tax cut for corporations and billionaires in 2017 that is creating a sugar high for our economy but is fiscally unsustainable.

The richest 400 people in America now pay lower taxes than the rest of us. This is what happens when the rich are allowed to buy our government. We can reduce the debt by reversing the tax cut and making billionaires and corporations pay their fair share. And then we must work to pass a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United so we can get dark money out of politics. That’s ultimately the best way to control debt – control the people who are buying our government officials to use our tax dollars as their piggy bank.

What else can we do to reduce debt? It’s simple: Vote for Democrats. We are the party of fiscal responsibility.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Davis: Endless wars have done nothing to make us more secure. Diplomacy has historically been our best option in the Middle East. The U.S. helped broker the historic Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty 40 years ago. The U.S. led negotiations on the Iran Nuclear Deal that was a deterrent to Iran building nuclear weapon capacity. It was foolish and childish of President Trump to walk away from that deal out of spite for President Obama.

Trump has made us less safe because of it. With a new president, we can re-engage Iran diplomatically to try to reverse the damage done by this administration.

However, if there is an imminent threat to national security then we have an inherent right to defend ourselves.

If a foreign government has expressed the intent to attack us and it is developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and all means short of an attack fail, then we have the right to use force. We have allowed both Democratic and Republican administrations to abuse what constitutes an imminent threat. Congress has the power to declare war and needs to reassert its authority rather than deferring to the Executive.

We need to invest in green energy and green technology so that we will no longer be reliant on foreign energy, thus aiding our national security.

What health care plan do you support?

Davis: I will always remember Mark Meadows standing in the Rose Garden next to Donald Trump and laughing as they celebrated the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act — laughing that they were going to toss millions of Americans off of medical coverage, including thousands of people in Western North Carolina. Make no mistake, that is the game-plan for Republicans in 2020 — they want to remove protection for pre-existing conditions and gut Medicare coverage for seniors. The Trump enabler who replaces Meadows on the Republican ticket will work to take your health care away because the GOP doesn’t believe health care is a fundamental right for the rest of us. I do. I support a single-payer plan — whether it is a buy-in to Medicare or called some other name — that recognizes access is a human right and puts affordable health care above corporate profits. Here’s why you should support a single-payer plan, too.

Right now, the per capita cost of health care is more than $10,000 per person in America. That’s in some cases double the cost per person compared to other developed countries, where every citizen has health care coverage. We’re paying too much, with some going bankrupt to pay medical bills. And we don’t even have full coverage in America – one out of 10 go without health care. In Western North Carolina, those uninsured rates are even higher.

A single-payer plan will ensure that every citizen has access to care. Once and for all.

Along with that, people should have the right to buy private insurance if they choose or maintain quality health care coverage negotiated by labor unions.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Davis: 1. No one in the race has my record of service to the country, including 25 years in the Air Force (retired as colonel).

During that time, I helped write legislation regarding military commissions at Guantanamo Bay where I served as chief prosecutor. I was a national security specialist for Congress and judge with the U.S. Department of Labor. My service will help me receive choice committee assignments right away, allowing me to make an impact as your Congressman from Day One.

2. I have a record of putting our country before party – a trait that is sorely lacking in Washington today. I’ve stood up to both Republican and Democratic administrations. When I was chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, I refused an order that came down from the Bush Administration to use evidence obtained through torture and resigned my post. After I retired from the military, I wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal critical of the Obama Administration’s handling of trials at Guantanamo. I was fired and took on the administration in a First Amendment free speech case and won.

3. I will fight for affordable access to health care for everyone, for green energy and technology that will lead to better paying jobs in Western North Carolina, for a living wage and investment in education so that our workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future. Yes, these policies are very similar to the other candidates in the race. But here’s the difference: I believe I have the best shot at winning in November. My military background and decades of service will help attract swing voters in a district that is still red-leaning. The other four candidates haven’t shown the ability to raise the kind of money needed to win a race against the GOP machine. I have. In fact, I’ve raised more in twelve weeks than the other four combined over the entire election cycle.

Michael O'Shea

Family: Wife, Jennifer

Education: Bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Western Carolina University

Occupation: musician and music producer

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Michael O’Shea: Since I’m a couple of decades younger than the rest of the candidates I like to point out that I'm going to have to live with the federal deficit a lot longer and it’s very important to me that we rein in irresponsible federal spending. We spend more on our military than the next eight countries combined and yet we don’t seem to have the money to properly take care of our veterans when they return home.

We let the ultra-rich and multinational corporations dodge taxes, and, yet, we haven’t addressed that one in five American children live in food insecure homes. The social cost of childhood poverty is over $1 trillion annually, yet we could pay for universal basic income for every adult citizen in the U.S. for just $539 billion annually and make huge strides in reducing poverty rates. Switching to Medicare for All would save us over $600 billion annually in unnecessary administrative costs that only serve to protect corporate profits for private health insurance companies. We must close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that the billionaire class is paying their fair share, and we must spend smarter. I believe that we can ensure that every American can live a financially secure life and be a productive member of society without raising taxes on the middle class and low-income people if we prioritize taking care of our community over protecting the obscene wealth of a few billionaires and corporations.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

O’Shea: We need to move towards a foreign policy that respects the sovereignty of foreign nations and considers military intervention only when every diplomatic channel has been exhausted and there is no alternative. The U.S. invaded Iraq over 17 years ago and has spent more than half my lifetime occupying this foreign nation. This year the Iraqi government asked the U.S. to withdraw troops, and the current administration is refusing. We do not need to be rushing to play world police and ignoring national sovereignty when we have so many dire problems to address at home. I fully understand that there are circumstances where military intervention is necessary, but we must do so only as a last resort and leave those nations to their own self-governance as soon as possible afterwards.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

O’Shea: My platform calls for student loan forgiveness and free public colleges and trade schools. In a recent economic study, they estimated that the GDP would be boosted by $86 billion to $108 billion per year with total loan forgiveness. Major industries like the housing market would see gains and every American would benefit from a stronger economy, not just people who have had their loans forgiven.

The average student loan debt is currently $31,172, and the cost of higher education has skyrocketed to completely unsustainable levels. My generation had to either choose to take on enormous student loan debt or be left behind and face a future with far less job prospects. I’m almost finished paying off my student loans, but I would rather see this burden removed and the entire economy do better than continue putting 18 year olds through this difficult decision. With economic studies showing this is good policy for the entire economy, I don’t see why we should not support this measure.

What health care plan do you support?

O’Shea: Medicare for All. Period. We will save over $600 billion annually in unnecessary administrative costs by switching to this system.

Almost 45,000 Americans die every year because of a lack of health insurance and many more go bankrupt. This is unconscionable, and we must prioritize ensuring that every single American has access to high-quality, affordable health care over keeping an inefficient system that only exists to protect corporate profits for private insurance companies. Medicare for All will greatly help rural communities by stopping the tide of rural hospital closures and increasing available jobs in the health care industry. Access to high-quality health care is a human right and we must pursue the most efficient and effective way to ensure that right, which is undoubtedly Medicare for All.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

O’Shea: We are living in historic times full of unprecedented problems. New problems are rarely solved by old ways of thinking and I bring a fresh perspective to politics and a willingness to push for bold, progressive change. This year millennials became the largest voting age demographic in America, and I can uniquely speak to my generation and represent them. I’m running as a progressive Democrat, but to me progressive doesn’t mean left or right but progress – moving forward. History has taught us that the road forward has always been paved with bold ideas.

Social Security was considered a radical, bold idea when FDR signed it into law during the New Deal era. Medicare for people over age 65 was considered bold too.

When JFK said we’d make it to the moon within the decade, plenty of people thought it was impossible. I am not afraid to fight for the bold economic policies that we need to save the American middle class and lift up the 40 million Americans who currently live in poverty.

I’m not afraid to fight for a Green New Deal and tackle our climate crisis. I am the only candidate who supports Universal Basic Income and is even talking about how to address the impact of automation and AI on our economy.

We can either view the problems we face with fear and cling to a status quo that isn’t working for a majority of Americans, or we can view these problems as opportunities to change our society for the better.

I have a vision for a future in which we value the good of the whole over the profit of a few, a future in which we have overcome climate change and economic inequality, and I have a road map for how to get there.

Phillip Price

Family: Wife, Michelle, and three children

Education: Attended Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College

Occupation: Small business owner focused on recycling wood products.

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Price: We can’t pay our bills if we cut our revenues, and that is what the recent tax law did. First step is tax reform; we have to repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; reduce and re-prioritize the military/defense budget; pass health care for all which will increase the tax base thereby increasing revenues; evaluate existing programs and be sure to modernize our priorities to ensure we are keeping America safe and feeding our communities first. We must also end the $50billion/year failing “war on drugs.”

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Price: We need to understand why we are so involved with the Middle East in the first place. Is it about terrorism or is it about oil? Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman is quoted to say, “More than half the defense budget is for the security of Persian Gulf oil.”

That is more than $300 billion/year we could save and use elsewhere by ending the tax payers’ obligations to the oil industry in the Middle East. We should continue to protect America, defend our interests and values, embrace our commitments to defend freedom and support human rights; however, after nearly 14 years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world.

Along with our allies and with greater diplomatic efforts, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, no just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous con-sequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Price: Stop the federal government from making a profit on student loans. Over the next decade, it has been estimated that the federal government will make a profit of over $110 billion on student loan programs. This is morally wrong and it is bad economics.

We need to prevent the federal government from profiteering on the backs of college students. We must also reverse the provision in the recently passed tax law that prohibits people from writing off the interest on their student loans. And, moving forward we need to provide tuition-free career training that would include trade schools, tech schools, and four-year state universities.

This could be fully paid for by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators. The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy nine years ago.

We can make public colleges and universities tuition free and debt free throughout the country. This would open up opportunities for so many who have been left out for far too long.

What health care plan do you support?

Price: Improved Medicare for All – Americans need a health care system that works for patients and providers.

We need to ensure a strong health care workforce in all communities now and in the future.

We need a system that doesn’t require that employers provide health care for employees. This will free up massive amounts of capital that can then be used to raise wages and invest in capital improvements.

This will initiate a tremendous surge of small business start-ups as people are freed to go out on their own without losing their health care.

Capitalism works best when there is diversity and competition in the marketplace.

Improved Medicare For All will ensure that all Americans can get the care they need to maintain and improve their health when they need it regardless of income, age or socioeconomic status. We need a system that works not just for millionaires and billionaires, but for all of us.

By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively.

It will also ensure the federal government can track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure communities can access the providers they need.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Price: I am running for this office to represent every single person in the 11th District.

The reason that I am the best choice for this task is because I have the most comprehensive under-standing of who the people are, how they live, and where they live because I am one of us.

Having lived in six counties of the district, including Transylvania County, for over 36 years and owning a small business for over 20 years, as well as being married for 23 years into a family that has roots throughout the district, I am a product of Western North Carolina.

I have friends who live in single-wide trailers and some who live in million-dollar homes, and I get along with all of them. To represent a group of people you must be one of them, and I am one of us.

I am not an outsider coming in to seize an opportunity to further my career as some seem to be. I am a hard-working business owner who has known what it is like to live without health insurance, and I understand the hardships and the rewards of owning and operating a business in WNC.

I love the beautiful scenic environment that we call home and I will stand tall to protect it.

I have worked alongside so many of the hard-working people in WNC and it is time to take their voices to Congress.

Steve Woodsmall

Family: Wife, BJ, and six children

Education: Master’s degree in business administration and a doctorate in organization and management

Occupation: retired from U.S. Air Force, held positions at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Aviation Administration, several corporate management positions, a community action agency, and has taught at several colleges and universities.

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Woodsmall: There are several things we could do immediately to attack this problem.

First, eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies, which are greater than the amount we spend on education in the U.S.

We also must fix the broken tax code that caters to the wealthy and corporations to ensure those groups pay their fair share. The cap on taxable income directed to the Social Security trust fund should be eliminated. Medicare must be allowed to negotiate prices on prescription drugs.

Finally, I would reduce the defense budget and reallocate much of that money toward other programs, and would redirect some of that budget away from weapons and focus on cybersecurity.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Woodsmall: The real question is why is America still in the Middle East without a mission?

In the mid-80s I spent a year in eastern Turkey, and we knew why we were there.

Now, the U.S. is taking sides in a civil war and risking American lives protecting the oil producing countries while the politicians are taking huge amounts of money from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

A former Egyptian foreign minister complained that U.S. Middle East policies don’t just shift gradually, they change on a daily basis – this creates a political vacuum and instability.

North Carolina historically has families that step up to serve America.

As a result, it historically loses more lives than the average state during deployment.

Fort Bragg Army base is in North Carolina, and many of our soldiers, including our son, are serving in the Middle East now. The impact of these decisions literally hits home for North Carolina families.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Woodsmall: At a minimum, student loans should be interest free, so that the cost of the education doesn’t outweigh the ability to find a suitable job that will allow repayment.

Graduates still need to pay for their loans and education.

Cancelling unreasonable debt for more than 95 percent of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt on a sliding scale is fair and helps the economy.

While a debt cancellation plan does have a short-term cost, the long-term gain of an economic stimulus outweighs the cost in the long run.

Numerous studies show that investments in higher education provide high return on investment and the costs would be covered by the “ultra-millionaire tax” on families with a net worth of $50 million or more.

I would support a plan to give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college tuition-free.

What health care plan do you support?

Woodsmall: I support a universal single-payer health care plan.

There is near consensus in the research that single-payer would save money, both in the first year of implementation and in the long term.

Of 22 studies reviewed by PLOS Medicine journal, 19 of them showed that health care costs would be reduced in the first year.

All showed savings within a decade.

The so-called “public option,” or “Medicare for all who want it,” are not viable approaches because the profit motive would still exist and a public plan in competition with private for-profit plans would result in the government plan absorbing families and individuals with higher than average health risks, and, therefore, costs.

Thirty two other countries have figured how to do this, and if people wanted to pay for additional supplemental care, on average they would have $7,000 a year to do this with the savings the single payer system would allow the average family.

I will also work to improve access to health care for WNC, especially in protecting rural hospitals.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Woodsmall: If you check all the candidates’ backgrounds, you’ll see that I clearly have the most comprehensive experience and education of any candidate in this race.

I’m a retired Air Force officer, have worked in government contracts with the FAA and SEC in Washington, D.C., served as a corporate executive, managed a not-for-profit community action agency, and was a college professor for both graduate and undergraduate programs.

I have a history of service and am the only candidate to announce before the district changed, leaving my teaching position in March 2019 to spend a full year to win this seat and bring true representation to WNC.

In addition, unlike my opponents, I have no baggage in my background that a general election opponent can use in a negative campaign, and you can be assured the others will try to run a negative campaign.

I’ve lived here for over seven years and work with diverse groups of people. My wife and I donate and volunteer locally for numerous nonprofits and are members of the NAACP.

I know the concerns of the district and will be accountable to the people who live here.

As a career problem-solver and leader, I know how to get things done and will bring solutions to Congress.

Joey Osborne

Family: wife, Tonya, and two children

Education: N/A

Occupation: CEO of Authority Franchise Systems, LLC

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Joey Osborne: Step 1) Reduce federal spending. I would seek to freeze increases to current discretionary spending and implement processes for reducing discretionary spending by 5 percent per year for five years.

Step 2) I would eliminate non-productive federal agencies like the Department of Education. Step 3) I would push for further incentives that serve to create more and better paying jobs.

Step 4) I support and advocate for Secure America’s Future Economy (SAFE) plan which leads to a balanced budget in 10 years.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Osborne: Support our allies. Maintain our strategic interests. Elim-inate terrorists.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Osborne: Constitutionally the federal government was to have never been involved in education in any form.

Of course, this includes lending and guaranteeing of loans using federal tax dollars.

Student loans are a big and complicated problem.

As a business man, I would take a business-oriented approach and look at a path that gets government out of the business of student loans and develop a plan to recoup as much of our investment as possible.

What health care plan do you support?

Osborne: I support a health care plan that incentivizes the private sector to produce solutions in a free-market manner. The role of federal government should be limited to oversight and formulating a smooth transition of services, so as not to negatively impact those with pre-existing conditions and other misfortune.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Osborne: As a principled, pragmatic businessman who is not a politician, I bring to Washington the ability to provide non-political solutions to America’s biggest problem.

Vance Patterson

Family: Wife, Mary Jo, and four children

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Hanover College

Occupation: Manufacturer

The national debt has now increased to more than $23 trillion. What would you do to reduce this historic debt?

Patterson: I would get on the Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for expenditures, one of my primary choices.

We do not have a revenue problem as tax revenue was up $133 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019, which means the tax cut paid for itself with a growing economy. (I know I paid more in taxes.) However, spending was up $339 billion mostly in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense and interest on the debt.

On the Appropriations Committee I know that in business when you want to cut expenditures you look at your overhead, at the variable expenses. You don’t cut budgets. You cut personnel. Most companies have unhappy people working for them, people who are underperforming because they’re not passionate about their work. Underperforming and unhappy people can be very wasteful in spending, especially when it isn’t their money.

Problems in a company are either the people, the process or the product. Without the right people working, the other two won’t matter. In my companies, when we cut our personnel the ones remaining were the best at what they do, had a passion for their work and wanted to make sure it was done correctly.

What happened was they changed the process in their department to make up for fewer personnel. The result was improved processes, new ideas, more production, lower costs and all happy personnel.

Those who left were often relieved because they didn’t like their work and now weren’t pressured to perform.

They did find other jobs in fields more to their liking. This is one right answer. There are others like eliminate empire building in administrations, but that is for another writing.

What role should the U.S. play in the Middle East?

Patterson: Stand for Israel and against any atrocities against humanity.

Student debt loan is now $1.6 trillion. What, if anything, should the government do to help reduce that figure?

Patterson: I owed the government over $50,000 in back taxes when I lost my business and house back in 1983.

I went into the federal building when summoned. I walked into this massive office area on the first floor, up to the counter and the lady from a metal desk in the fluorescent lit room called out to me, “Can I help you?” I said, “I’m here to see Ron Jones.”

It was like I’d dropped a stack of dishes – everyone in the room stopped what they were doing and looked at who was asking for Ron Jones. “Oh sir, Mr. Jones is on the 7th floor.” OK.

I got on the elevator and rode up to the 7th floor. The door opened and I was in a low-lit office complex with a lady sitting at a wooden executive desk. I asked to see Ron Jones. She paged him and in a few minutes out walks this guy who looks like Wilfred Brimley – white shirt, sleeves rolled up, tie and a serious look on his face.

We step into an office and he has my file. He looks up at me and he knows he’s looking at a “tomato” – no blood here. I’m broke. We started working on a payment plan and within five years I had the back taxes paid off. Done. This is what can be done with student loans – work it out and set up payments. But, first, let’s be real and fair.

Currently, the Labor rate, the rate banks pay for money to make loans, is about 2 percent.

And yet the government is charging students as much as 7 percent for student loans!

Why is the government making money on students? They shouldn’t. I believe they should work out a five-year payment plan to pay off the government. This plan should include the education institution that got the money as well. If the plan goes beyond the five years, a settlement should be made. Shame on all – student, institution, government and us, because we vote, it is our government and we let it happen. Indentured servitude is illegal, even to the government.

What health care plan do you support?

Patterson: Medicare for all must never happen. Medicare for all means less Medicare for those using it right now. I believe in a free market health care system where you or your employer can buy the insurance you need and pay for what you want outside of the insurance policy.

The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1944 should end. This will allow the free flow of insurance across state lines and allow competition to lower rates. Patent laws should be modified to prevent Big Pharma from just tweaking a needed medicine allowing the patent to be extended.

This will allow for more generic brands at lower costs.

Go invent something else and quit trying to live on legacy drugs.

Why do you believe you are the best candidate to represent your party in November?

Patterson: I am the candidate who is most like President Trump in business, entrepreneurship and experience. I’m a serial entrepreneur having started 21 companies and taught entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford in England. Twenty one companies – my wife calls it Fruit Loops Serial Entrepreneurship. I have negotiated and done manufacturing business in Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia. Two of the companies I operate make industrial fans for cooling employees. I am a proud American manufacturer.

Six years ago my wife and I started an Education Foundation – http://www.ChartersofFreedom.com – that gifts permanent displays of The Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights to communities across the country.

Mary Jo and I have gifted and dedicated 28 of these settings in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota and as far west as Carson City, Nev. Fourteen of these monuments are in WNC and we used no tax dollars.

These are not just for Republicans. They are for all the children, veterans and citizens of Western North Carolina.

I can run on that. I have announced I will donate my entire Congressional salary to fund training in schools for the trades, skills and crafts, so when students come out of high school, they are ready for college, the military or the better paying jobs in demand in Western North Carolina. This isn’t just for the Republican children. It is for all children of Western North Carolina.

I can run on that.

 
 

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