The Transylvania Times -

U.S. Senate Candidate Makes Sunday Visit To County

 

Last updated 7/26/2021 at 4:22pm

Jeremiah Reed

Jeff Jackson was in Transylvania County Sunday as part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

At a town hall gathering Sunday, a group of roughly 50 people came to meet and listen to Jeff Jackson, a Democratic nominee running for the North Carolina U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Richard Burr, who is retiring.

The event was held at the depot on Railroad Avenue in Brevard and was part of Jackson's 100 county campaign that has him visiting all 100 counties in the state over a 100-day period. His visit to Transylvania marked the 54th stop on the tour.

Jackson, 38, has served as a N.C. state senator since 2014, representing Meck-lenburg County.

He previously served as a prosecutor, having graduated from law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is also a former member of the United States Army Reserve and currently serves as a captain in the National Guard.

Jackson touched on many topics during his visit, from issues facing rural counties to statewide Medicaid expan-sion.

The common theme he brought to the table was the desire to be a different kind of politician in an era where divisiveness and obfuscation has become commonplace.

"I aim for this to be the most transparent campaign in the history of the state... You all deserve so much better than you've had from your U.S. senators, and I want to start now," he said.

In discussing Medicaid expansion, Jackson said the state's failure to accept those federal tax dollars has been "the biggest unforced error" over the past decade.

That failure has hit rural areas particularly hard. Jackson said North Carolina has the second-highest rural population in the nation, behind Texas; and added that five of the most endangered hospitals in the nation are in North Carolina.

Reaching out to rural counties has been an important part of Jackson's 100 county tour. In speaking to constituents east of I-95 or west of Asheville, Jackson said the main thing he hears is "don't forget about us."

Another important issue Jackson discussed was ending gerrymandering, which he called, "the biggest racial equity matter in the state." Jackson said when he arrived at the state house in 2014, the first bill he filed was to put an end to gerrymandering. That bill, he said, was sent to the legislature's Ways and Means Committee –– a group which hasn't convened since 1995.

"We have four months to end gerrymandering, or we catch it again for another decade," Jackson told the audience.

If elected, Jackson said ending gerrymandering would be one of his top priorities, along with passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, as well as the Disclose Act, which is a federal campaign finance reform bill aimed at getting "dark money" –– of which $1 billion was spent during the 2020 election, according to Jackson –– out of campaigns.

One of the earliest decisions Jackson and his staff made after deciding to run was not to accept any corporate funding from political PACs.

That decision, he said, is symbolic of how he wants people to view him as a candidate.

"The idea is that you can expect people to govern the way they campaign and this is the way I campaign," he said.

Along with his campaign strategy, Jackson said his legislating style is also different, as he wants to get away from partisan politics and work for the greater good with his colleagues across the aisle. That being said, a major part of walking that line is establishing relationships with the understanding that both parties are truly working to get things done.

"One of my jobs would be to recognize the difference between good faith negotiation and bad faith obstructionism," Jackson said.

After speaking, and fielding questions from the audience, Jackson spoke briefly with The Transylvania Times to give an update on how the campaign is going and what the next steps are.

"(The campaign) is going really well. I'm learning a lot and attendance is really picking up... This is our second event in Transylvania County, and we had double the turnout of the first event. So, folks are starting to see what we're doing and they're connecting," he said.

When asked what is the biggest issue facing rural counties in the state, Jackson wasted little time in responding that it is broadband internet access, which he called "the most important piece of infrastructure" in North Carolina.

"I think there is a heightened sense of (broadband) coming through the pandemic given how much harder life became for people who didn't have high-speed internet and the stories that we read about students who didn't have it and the hurdles they had to jump through to do their classwork," Jackson said, adding that, particularly in Western counties, the topic of broadband is discussed with a "certain emphasis."

While Jackson is a popular figure in the Charlotte area, for those who don't follow state politics, he was relatively unknown in the far corners of the state. However, given his ambitious campaign strategy, along with a strong following on social media, he's quickly becoming one of the faces of Democratic Party.

"I think folks are starting to get the idea behind this campaign and see that it actually is different," he said. "In the beginning we realized that you couldn't just tell people you were going to be different because they don't believe what candidates say anymore. You have to show them the real difference and we've done that for enough months now that people are seeing that it's real and that's really satisfying for our team."

With the 100 county tour just over its halfway point, Jackson said the goal moving forward is to wrap things up by the end of August.

Once that is complete, Jackson's campaign will target colleges and community colleges across the state before hitting the road once again for another round of town halls.

"This doesn't end, this is the opening act. The idea is to meet as many people as we possibly can. If I had to sum up the campaign in one sentence, that's it," he said.

 
 

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