North Carolina State Senate District 48

The candidates are Tom Apodaca, Republican, and Matthew C. Rogers, Democrat.


Tom Apodaca

Age: 46
Address: 214 N. King St., Hendersonville
Occupation: Small-business owner
Years in WNC: 27
Education: B.S. in finance, Western Carolina University
Political party: Republican
Political experience: State senator since 2002

1. What sets you apart from your opponent?

“I would have to say experience. Two years under my belt, being involved with legislation and all aspects of it really has changed me from when I came in as a novice. And already having the groundwork laid with current senators to work together to get things done.”

2. What’s the biggest problem facing the state? What would you do about it?

“The No. 1 problem we have right now is economic development; jobs. We are lagging behind the other states in the recovery. There are many reasons for that. I was appointed to the Select Committee on Economic Development to delve into the problems of North Carolina and what we can do. And a lot of things came out of that. No. 1, we have one of the highest tax systems in the Southeast when you combine our business taxes together. It scares off a lot of different industries. We’re getting walloped by South Carolina on recruitment of industry. That being said, they’re going after the big fish. My personal philosophy is, we’ve got to pay more attention to small business, because that’s going to be where our growth comes from. We need to revisit our tax code and make it less restrictive. Because most small-business people pass through their income to their personal income. And we do have the highest personal-income-tax rate; that scares off a lot of our entrepreneurs and business people. We need to get it a little more in line with the Southeast.”

Also would reform the permit process. “I’ve had people say it takes anywhere from six months to two years to get all of the necessary permits they need to open a business. [We need] a one-stop process so we move quicker in getting these industries in.”

3. I-26 Connector: Six lanes or eight? Why?

“We need at least six; I don’t know if eight’s the answer. I’ve always believed we’ve needed it. I can’t understand how people can say we do not need it, because all they need to do is drive over to Asheville and get caught in that traffic snarl at 40.”

4. Should electronic voting machines in N.C. be required to provide a paper trail?

“I think we definitely need some backup system until everything is perfected and shown to be perfected. I definitely think a paper backup is needed.”

5. Do you support spending limits for local elections?

“We’ve got to look at something [covering] local through statewide elections. It’s gotten ridiculous what it costs to run an election. But I don’t know if spending limits are the answer, and I don’t know the answer. We looked at a bill last session where Carrboro wanted to put in restrictions on the amount a particular candidate could spend and even looked at some possible public-matching financing. But as we delved into it, there were some legalities involved that may not allow that to happen. Right now, it’s an issue that’s got to be decided in the courts first, before we go any further.”

6. Apart from judicial races, do you support voter-financed state elections?

“Something’s got to be done, because we’re finding the average races for state Senate are over $200,000, which is just ridiculous. It’s almost impossible for an average man to run for state office now, but I don’t know the answer there. One thing we need to look at is the term of the office. The House is two years and the Senate is two years, so you’re always running. You’re always out trying to raise money for the next election.”

7. How much money do you plan to spend in the general election?

“$15,000 to $25,000.”

8. What’s the first legislation you would propose or support if elected?

“Last session, I became the ‘king of testing’ in North Carolina. I put forth a bill that would limit the amount of days that we could test students, to five to 10 days a year. I still feel there is a great need for that. One [school] system said they are testing 75 to 80 days a year. It’s getting to the point where the teachers are spending more time testing than they have time to teach. That’s something I’m not going to let down on.” Would also like to develop economic-delivery zones to bring in business and industry.

9. Do you favor a death-penalty moratorium? Why or why not?

“I do not. As a matter of fact, in the North Carolina Senate, we’ve already had that before us. It was the most incredible debate I’ve been involved in since being in the Senate. And I come from the perspective of the victims: In my family, on my wife’s side of the family, we have been victims of somebody being murdered. I have seen what it does to the family. That being said, all of the death-penalty problems we’ve had — and it got very little publicity — but we corrected the biggest problem. That was this past session. We passed legislation that was signed into law that deals with the discovery process on evidence: what has to be turned over by both sides to let the other side know what evidence is there. We tied up that major loophole. It was a good piece of legislation, and the Gale case would have never happened. No one has showed, in North Carolina, where we have killed an innocent person. The argument on the other side is, ‘Well, we could have.’ Well, the answer is, we didn’t; we stopped it before it happened with the Gale case. We’ve increased spending to our DNA laboratories; we’ve increased the funding for rape kits. But the moratorium, with the evidence being presented, I didn’t see it as being needed.”

10. How would you highlight WNC issues at the state level?

“We’ve formed a Western North Carolina coalition of legislators. We’ve pretty well held to together on things, regardless of party. It’s been wonderful. Like yesterday, we were all together in Asheville for an emergency meeting on the flood damage, and we are committed to each other to work together to get the neccessary funding to help the people in Western North Carolina. It was nice to see partisanship laid aside. As our numbers grow, we will have more legislators, but we are going to have to stay together as a group to have more power and say [in] what comes to Western North Carolina. And I think one of the greatest things that could happen for Western North Carolina is to have a governor who knows where we are.”

11. What WNC funding priorities will you push for?

“No. 1 on the list would have to be roads. It is more expensive to build roads in Western North Carolina; with that said, we still get less dollars than any section of the state. I’d like to see a little more funding to higher education in Western North Carolina. My motto is, ‘Let’s think otuside the Triangle,’ because we have a tendency to really look after our universities from Raleigh to Winston-Salem and somewhat neglect those west of there. We’re going to have to find ways for our local school boards to have more funding for construction, statewide. I would not mind seeing a half-cent sales tax to give to the counties to put towards building more schools.”

12. Do you support “pop the cap” legislation? Why or why not? [Editor’s note: The legislation would eliminate North Carolina’s requirement that beer contain less than 6 percent alcohol by volume.]

“I can’t really say, because this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

13. What should the General Assembly do, if anything, about rising medical-malpractice-insurance rates?

“I was placed on the select committee to deal with the rising costs of medical malpractice. I think North Carolina needs a cap somewhere between 250 [thousand] and 750 [thousand]. I think we need to put in a collateral-source rule, so if someone has already received payments, the jury is notified of those payments, so they don’t think that this person has not received anything. I think our medical malpractice in North Carolina has to be totally redone. We are headed to not having any OBGYNs in this state. We have lost our only neurosurgeon in Henderson County, because he could not afford to pay his medical-malpractice-insurance premiuims. And we’ve got to stop the spiraling costs. It’s going up — some people are getting hit 100 percent over two years. We’re going to be in a real mess. No one is saying that any restriction should be put on actual damages; a person should be paid for all damages and all health care. What we’re proposing is some caps for non-economic damages, which is known as pain and suffering. That’s where things get a little crazy. I think you’ll see something on that in the next two years. If not, there’s going to be no one to deliver babies.”

14. What’s your position on lowering the tax rate on corporate profits?

“I think North Carolina’s corporate tax rate is 6.9 percent; South Carolina is down to 5.9. I think we should be down to 5.9 percent. But let me say this: I’m not concerned about Duke Power or Progress Energy or Bank of America getting a tax break. I’m concerned with ABC plumbing, the little guys. I would like to see us give a tax credit on the first amount of dollars brought in by a small business. We’re going to have to reduce the 8-1/4 [percent] personal tax rate. It needs to be down around seven. Because that will spur growth, and the one thing that solves all of our problems is jobs.”

15. What changes, if any, would you propose to the state’s economic-development-incentives policy?

“I would love the federal government to outlaw incentives paid by states and local governments. What you find is, you get into a bidding war. We’ve lost two or three bidding wars in the last six months for larger companies to come in. I do not favor mass incentives to large corporations to relocate. I don’t see that as our growth potential in North Carolina. We’re going to grow and become stable on the 10-to-100-employee company. I would like to see us find a way to help the small-business people. It is inherently unfair to see ABC widgets, who has been in Henderson County for 100 years , been a good corporate citizen and all that, and we give money to XYZ widgets to move in and compete against him.”

16. The Canary Coalition is pushing for reform of the state Division of Air Quality. What’s your position?

“I have a position on the air quality of Western North Carolina being degraded by other states polluting our air. We unanimously passed clean-air legislation a couple of years ago. But we need to go to the next step. The major part of our air problem is not from North Carolina but from Tennessee. Let’s just call a spade a spade. And something’s going to have to be done on the federal level to tighten the standards.”


Matthew C. Rogers

Age: 45
Address: 736 English Heiffer Cove, Flat Rock
Occupation: Restaurant owner
Years in WNC: 17
Education: B.A. in American history, University of Florida
Political party: Democrat
Political experience:None

1. What sets you apart from your opponent?

“He wants smaller government, he wants to lower taxes. He certainly doesn’t want to fund, say, the Wellness and Health Center, which is is so important to North Carolina and in a region that has so many senior citizens and so many health issues. [As for] education, I refer to him as ‘Senator No,’ because he voted against so many things that I would have voted for: teacher-salary increases, lowering the classroom size, health and human services and clean water. He voted no against the Clean Water Act. The death-penalty moratorium? He said no to it. I think it’s clear that we needed to look at it; we didn’t want to put anybody to death who was innocent. I felt very stongly about that. Studying his voting record, mine would be different.”

Rogers has promised not to take money from special-interest groups, either while running or as a senator.

2. What’s the biggest problem facing the state? What would you do about it?

“Balancing the budget, and the jobs issue. The part of the budget that keeps increasing is health and human services. We need to to have the funds there to make sure that they stay properly funded, so that the future of Western North Carolina will be as bright as when we got here.

“We’re going to have to keep everything in line and grow at the same time. But spending money, we shouldn’t be afraid to, in the right areas. Close corporate loopholes, and make sure we don’t have that kind of waste in our state budget.”

3. I-26 Connector: Six lanes or eight? Why?

“Six lanes. And I also realize that I am no expert on this, and it is really going to take some research and some understanding of the issue from the DOT and the public. I do think you need to be open-minded and listen to experts as well as the public as to what’s going on in the future. We want our highways to be safe, but I don’t think we should jump and say exactly that this is going to be the best solution. That’s an issue that I would step back and make sure I got more information from many different areas and didn’t just say, ‘This is in black and white.'”

4. Should electronic voting machines in N.C. be required to provide a paper trail?

“Yes. It still is so amazing, looking at the television and not knowing what happened for a month [in the 2000 election] here in America. Everything should be done so that if there are any questions, here it is for us all to see. Any kind of suspicion in government tends to really turn people off and make them upset. And it should; maybe that’s why some people don’t vote. But we learned four years ago that we can never let this happen.”

5. Do you support spending limits for local elections?

“Yes. The election should be about issues and that alone. It shouldn’t be about who can raise more money. When I went to Raleigh and listened to the Senate caucus talking about the average Senate campaign like mine costing $250,000, I was like, ‘I’m out of my league.’ I’ve been absolutely amazed at the small contributions I have received. I have had fund-raisers, but I’ve never liked saying, ‘It’s $25 a person.’ You know, bring five, bring some desserts. Politics should be about grassroots; it shouldn’t be about money. Everything ought to be disclosed, too.”

6. Apart from judicial races, do you support voter-financed state elections?

“Yes, I do. It helps make elections fair. It’s good common sense.”

7. How much money do you plan to spend in the general election?

“About $10,000.”

8. What’s the first legislation you would propose or support if elected?

“Getting control of credit-card rates in this state. It’s absolutely ludicrous that we allow companies to charge rates up to 32 percent to hard-working people for their money. To me, it’s like we’re allowing legalized loansharking, to be able to go around and charge rates that are just out of control. A reasonable amount of business would be fair. It’s the hardest-working, it’s the poorest, it’s the middle class that can’t afford it. Government can have a positive role in this.

“[As governor of Arkansas], Clinton introduced this legislation that went with a reasonable rate of 9 percent, and the state grew financially. It helped bring it out of the poor 49th ranking. We regulate insurance rates, we regulate power; we need to do the same with credit.”

9. Do you favor a death-penalty moratorium? Why or why not?

“Absolutely. The poor, again, are suffering. They don’t have the best representation availabe to them. I met a man who came to my church, who was on death row for 15 years, and he wasn’t guilty. And DNA could have been introduced, but there was a prosecutor who was holding back evidence. [This man] went around talking to people, saying, ‘You may agree or disagree with the death penalty, but let’s make sure that we don’t put any innocent people to death.’

“That’s what I agree with. Some crimes are horrible, and I’m going to leave it up to the judicial branch to get it right, but I’m going to make sure that what we’re doing is the right thing — and we can stop and investigate.”

10. How would you highlight WNC issues at the state level?

“The Health and Wellness Center needs to be funded. This is a win/win situation for our hospitals. It’s money well spent. It’s truly going to be a health mecca and make Western North Carolina a better area.”

11. What WNC funding priorities will you push for?

“Roads, because of the increase in traffic; jobs, because of the amount of factories that have closed. How we can get health care to small businesses — they need to have health care. We need to be able to find a way that is affordable to them.”

12. Do you support “pop the cap” legislation? Why or why not? [Editor’s note: The legislation would eliminate North Carolina’s requirement that beer contain less than 6 percent alcohol by volume.]

“I actually haven’t even heard about it, and one has to be careful. I’d love to look at the whole issue and what the medical [situation is] versus what the industry itself [wants]. You know, get the facts. As a good history major, we didn’t just say, ‘OK let me just listen to this side of the story.’ We went around and made sure we gathered all the facts.”

13. What should the General Assembly do, if anything, about rising medical-malpractice-insurance rates?

“Well, it is the insurance company that’s at fault, and we need to have a serious discussion and implement what would be reasonable. There are those that have said that we need to look at frivolous lawsuits. I tend to think that, already, a jury of our peers is deciding what’s fair. It’s not by [a] judge, it’s by a jury of our peers that decides pain and suffering. I don’t want to see a limit on that.”

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