Statehouse candidates debate: Turner vs. Moffitt

Democratic challenger Brian Turner (left) and Republican Statehouse Rep. Tim Moffitt. Photo by Alicia Funderburk.
Democratic challenger Brian Turner (left) and Republican Statehouse Rep. Tim Moffitt. Photo by Alicia Funderburk.

After months of sparring through media interviews and attack ads, Republican N.C. House Rep. Tim Moffitt  and Democratic challenger Brian Turner met face to face Aug. 29 at their first forum of the year.

The two businessmen are vying to represent District 116, which includes a wide swath of Buncombe County, from Sandy Mush down through Enka-Candler and Arden. The forum was hosted by the Council of Independent Business Owners.

In his introductory remarks, Moffitt made the case that he’s been a key player in the Republican Statehouse majority since it succeeded Democrats’ long reign in 2010.

“When I went to Raleigh our state was in shambles after essentially being run by one party for 140 years. … A lot of problems were before us,” said Moffitt. “We have taken bold steps forward to get our state on the right path and the results are before you.” He cited a lower unemployment rate and lower taxes as evidence of success.

But Turner, a newcomer to politics who previously helped run his family business, Mills Manufacturing, and served as the Assistant Chancellor of UNC Asheville, said GOP policies have “shifted [the state] out of balance.”

“When we have public schools where kids are sharing text books that are 10 years old, we’re out of balance,” he said. “When major corporations like Duke Energy are getting quarter-billion dollar tax cuts while small businesses are seeing tax increases, that’s out of balance.”

However, he was quick to tell those attending the forum hosted by the Council of Independent Business Owners that he doesn’t align himself with the left wing of his party. “There are those out there who try to paint me as some far-left, progressive liberal, … but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

The district leans Republican and has catapulted Moffitt into office for the last two elections.  He has often angered Asheville Democrats with controversial legislative actions, such as attempting to transfer the city’s water system to a regional entity.

Asked about another topic that riled some city officials a few years back, Moffitt said he was proud of taking action to end involuntary annexation “to reign in the overreach of our cities.”

In response, Turner seemed to support the move. “Cities and other municipalities are not and should not be allowed to just unilaterally annex neighboring areas,” Turner said. “I think the annexation laws are good.”

Asked whether they support closing Duke Energy’s power plant at Lake Julian near Asheville, as some local environmental advocates call for, they both said they didn’t support that step “in the near future.”

They diverged on education spending, however, with Moffitt placing blame for inadequacies squarely on his Democratic predecessors for cuts that took place before he took office. Since then, “the General Assembly has done a great job in regards to bringing funding back to public education and doing the things that are necessary to make public education better,” he declared.

Turner countered: “There’s a lot of numbers floating around out there. … But the fact of the matter is when you go into the classrooms, it seems they’re larger than ever. They’re insufficient for giving our kids the education they need. He added: “Working at UNC Asheville, I saw firsthand the impact that the cuts had to our public university system. We are undermining the economic future of this state.”

Moffitt took a subtle swipe at Turner for attending private school as a kid, saying: “As someone who actually went to public school, the classes are decidedly less in size than they were when I was in public school.”

The state highway system also proved to be a contentious topic, as the candidates were asked how they favor replacing revenue lost from dwindling gas taxes.

Moffitt said he’s looking at plans to add lanes to existing highways for drivers wanting “a more expeditious ride to work” in exchange for paying a toll. Such driving polls have been a hotly debated topic across the state, as a stretch of Interstate 77 through Charlotte is being considered for them. For that project, the state plans to partner with a private company to operate the toll system — a step Turner said he doesn’t want repeated elsewhere.  “If that’s the route we’re going to go down, we need to make sure that’s in control of the state and not private contractors,” Turner said.

Moffitt noted that the General Assembly is still mulling its options and “has not made a commitment” to expanding the idea across the state.

UPDATE: In an email to Xpress later that day Moffitt states: “On the issue of toll roads, personally, I do not support them nor do I accept the notion that dynamic toll lanes are a solution to the problems we face moving forward with transportation. With my answer being cut short due to my running out of time, my point was not fully explained.  I was simply stating that alternatives were being discussed in Raleigh and that one of the options was toll lanes.”

Republican Rep. Nathan Ramsey and Democratic challenger John Ager also debated: Read a report about that here.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

26 thoughts on “Statehouse candidates debate: Turner vs. Moffitt

  1. bsummers

    Moffitt said he’s looking at plans to add lanes to existing highways for drivers wanting “a more expeditious ride to work” in exchange for paying a toll.

    There you have it. Vote for Rep. Moffitt, see privatized “Lexus Lanes” jammed onto I-26.

  2. [ahem]

    CIBO Candidate Forum
    http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/52020286
    Time mark 00:29:07

    REPRESENTATIVE TIM MOFFITT: “One of the first things that needs to take place at the federal level is, they need to stop diverting federal highway dollars away from what its intended use is. And I think what we’re seeing right now at the federal level and the state level is the money collected for infrastructure has been diverted and now the cost to bring that infrasturcture back up to what we would consider standards that we have grown accustomed to is exponentially more expensive. When it comes to the I-26 Connector, one of the most amazing things to me is the fact that we have agreed as a community to what the community wanted literally 16 or 18 years ago, but it’s [now]going to cost us $140 million dollars to get it done. So we really need to get our financial house in order. We need to protect the revenues that come from the use taxes that we currently charge, and, again, we need to look at all of the options. But hopefully, by getting our financial house in order, we don’t need to go down the path of dynamic toll lanes and we can really protect the infrastructure and the process of bringing it back up to speed.”

    • bsummers

      Nice obfuscation. When asked earlier, the only alternative funding method he cited for highway construction was privatized toll lanes. When the question came up a second time from the audience, as the only issue that the CIBO moderator decided was crucial enough to ask for clarification, Rep. Moffitt gave this more slippery “Blame the Feds, we hope we don’t have to use to toll lanes…” answer.

      CIBO is pretty much the friendliest audience he is ever going to talk to – and they have a way of politely pointing out the answers they don’t like. In this case, he’s clearly on very thin ice suggesting that local commuters on I-26 will soon have to pay to use “Lexus Lanes”. The fact that in the face of a demand for “clarification”, he was not willing to rule them out – well, the people who have been fighting these toll lanes on I-77 for the past two years have a word: BOHICA.

  3. CIBO Candidate Forum
    Post-forum comments with Jake Frankel and Clarke Morrison:

    REPRESENTATIVE TIM MOFFITT: “On the issue of toll roads, personally, I do not support them, nor do I accept the notion that dynamic toll lanes are a solution to the problems we face moving forward with transportation. Alternatives are being discussed in Raleigh and one of the options was toll lanes. But, from my point of view, I would prefer to allow our new fiscal policies to ripen in order to determine the extent of our potential shortfall when it comes to transportation funding. By protecting the integrity of the money collected from the gas tax, by not allowing it to be diverted for other purposes, and coupling that with the economic measures we implemented over the last three and a half years, it would be premature to predict what our needs will be or what additional solutions, if any, would be required.”

    • bsummers

      On the issue of toll roads, personally, I do not support them, nor do I accept the notion that dynamic toll lanes are a solution

      Interesting. ‘Cause just earlier, he said: “We are looking at all options that we need to look at that have worked in other states. We have discounted a number of those options. One of the things that we have looked at is potentially adding lanes to existing highways, and use a dynamic tolling mechanism for those who choose to have a more expeditious ride to work or through the state, they would actually pay a toll for that…”

      Sounds like he’s trying to have it both ways. When the question first came up, “Dynamic tolling” was the only option he threw out there as still being considered. By the end of the event, it was clear that this was not what the CIBO audience wanted to hear, so his message changed. Which sounds remarkably like Thom Tillis and I-77. And what was the “option” that they finally jammed on the population there? Privatized toll lanes. Sorry. No other “option” wound up being the solution.

      Which is mighty convenient, since Moffitt and Tillis are both ALEC Board members, and boy, is ALEC all about the privatized toll lanes:

      1. [insert state here] supports tolling of single passenger vehicles in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

      Across the country, states are implementing High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes. These lanes give consumers greater choice in transportation and generate additional revenues.
      http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/alec-statement-of-principles-on-toll-roads/

      ALEC Corporate member Cintra, the Spanish company, is on track to get that gravy train of a contract to add toll lanes to I-77, in Tillis’ back yard. I wonder who will win out when it comes time for Rep. Moffitt to recommend a “solution” on I-26: his recently-discovered distaste for toll lanes, or the prospect of another ALEC Corporate member getting a giant P3 contract in his district?

      • bsummers

        “On the issue of toll roads, personally, I do not support them, nor do I accept the notion that dynamic toll lanes are a solution to the problems we face moving forward with transportation.:

        Somebody needs to tell the Board of the American Legislative Exchange Council that one of their fellow Directors is publicly disavowing one of their official positions in order to get elected:

        ” [insert state here] supports the use of tolling for the addition of new highway capacity.”
        http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/alec-statement-of-principles-on-toll-roads/

        Oh, but wait: he left himself an out. “…it would be premature to predict what our needs will be or what additional solutions, if any, would be required.”

        Meaning, “My earlier refusal to “accept” privatized toll lanes will have no bearing on whether I “accept” them after I am re-elected.”

    • Jake Frankel

      These comments from Rep. Moffitt came to me in the form of an email sent later in the day following the forum. I have subsequently updated the post with an excerpt from the comments to help clarify his position.

  4. “After months of sparring through media interviews and attack ads, Republican N.C. House Rep. Tim Moffitt… ”

    I don’t recall the attack ads that Representative Tim Moffitt employed. Do you?

  5. James L. Duncan

    Something is wrong , Tim Moffitt claims to be a respectful man but cant give respect to the highest position in our nation when referring to our President. it’s President Obama Mr. Moffitt!

  6. bsummers

    Let’s recap. Rep. Moffitt was asked repeatedly about highway funding, and how to fill the gap left by falling gas revenue. Follow along on his “evolving” answer:

    1) “One of the things that we have looked at is potentially adding lanes to existing highways, and use a dynamic tolling mechanism for those who choose to have a more expeditious ride to work or through the state, they would actually pay a toll for that…”

    2) “We need to protect the revenues that come from the use taxes that we currently charge, and, again, we need to look at all of the options. But hopefully, by getting our financial house in order, we don’t need to go down the path of dynamic toll lanes…”

    3) “On the issue of toll roads, personally, I do not support them, nor do I accept the notion that dynamic toll lanes are a solution to the problems we face moving forward with transportation.”

    Mind you, those three quotes happened 1-2-3, in the space of an hour. He went from being the guy who was citing toll lanes as the only viable option that he could think of when asked, to the guy who sadly hoped that we wouldn’t have to go with toll lanes, to the guy who stubbornly refused to accept the toll lanes that were being forced down on him by someone else. That 180 degree flip-flop happened in in front of a conservative business crowd that was clearly not happy about the prospect of toll lanes on I-26.

    Did they buy it?

    • I love recapping.

      You make fanciful claims that reflect a predetermined picture you have and then when the man’s own words contradict your wishful thinking in text, video and audio, you simply say that he is a two-faced liar. Problem solved. The man lied, you say. How could he possibly tell the truth. When he tells the truth, it’s a lie. When he’s a nice guy, he’s simply fooling people. If he passes legislation, it must be evil. He can’t do a good thing. How could he? If it appears that he is honest and good, it’s a ruse. And you’re all too stupid and blind if you can’t see what I see.

      A self-serving rationalization that makes for a most interesting psychological study in denial and demonization.

      • bsummers

        There are no fanciful claims – I’m simply quoting the man, and pointing out the inconsistencies that are apparent. He was asked three different times, and his answer changed each time.

        Point out specifically where I’ve said anything untrue (minus the vitriol, please).

      • bsummers

        It’s telling that in the hour since I asked Mr. Peck to point out anything untrue in my statements, he can’t provide anything, but he’s been on the twitter calling me “delusional”. I think he’s proved my case, or at the very least bowed out of the discussion without disproving it:

        Rep. Moffitt started out the discussion floating the notion of toll lanes like the ones being forced onto the users of I-77, but when it was clear that that was not welcomed by the audience, he softened support for them and then finally turned 180 degrees to flatly claim that he opposes them – all in the space of an hour.

        Which answer do we believe he’ll go with on I-26 if he’s re-elected?

    • bsummers

      “Just another oily politician.”

      Radio ads scheduled to start running soon: “Thank you Rep. Moffitt!… Paid for by the American Petroleum Institute”:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P7YS2RYmOY

      “API is a powerful lobby, spending around $7.3 million on lobbying each year in 2010 and 2009, and spending $6.3 million in 2011. [1]

      It is also a major political spender, and has created numerous front groups to advance its political agenda. It also funds groups like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

      Despite being called the American Petroleum Institute, its 2012 directors included Tofiq Al-Gabsani, a Saudi Arabian national who heads the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco) subsidiary, the state-run oil company that also helps finance API.
      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Petroleum_Institute

      “Thank you, Rep. Moffitt. Come on out for a visit. What happens in a tent outside Dubhai, stays in a tent outside Dubhai…”

      • Your make-believe ad falls flat given that it is the oil industry that is financing the anti-fracking hysteria being pushed by gullible progressives. LOL.

        http://nchouse116.com/fracking-awesome/#followthemoney

        “According to a new report by the Capital Research center entitled The Environmental Movement vs. the Marcellus Shale, the anti-fracking movement uses its ideological allies in Hollywood and a vast network of well-funded, full-time activists to push its “progressive” agenda. And in the case of Mr. Damon’s film, CNN discovered that the movie’s chief financier was a public relations company wholly owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates; the UAE is an OPEC member and the world’s third-largest oil exporter. The name of the company is Abu Dhabi Media and the budget for Promised Land was $15 million. (For what it’s worth, according to the Venezuelan Ministry of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs, a representative of Hugo Chavez’s government was a “production assistant” on Mr. Fox’s Gasland film. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Venezuela — a founding member of OPEC — consistently ranks as one of the top suppliers of crude oil to the United States.)”

        • bsummers

          My “make-believe ad”? Bwahahahahahahaha.

          Natural gas industry counters anti-fracking ad campaign
          http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/08/27/4100514_natural-gas-industry-counters.html?rh=1

          The natural gas industry is striking back at recent TV ads by environmental groups attacking a handful of North Carolina legislators for their support of fracking. The radio spots began airing this week promoting the benefits of hydraulic fracturing and thanking seven lawmakers – six of whom face challengers in the November election.

          Most of the lawmakers were part of what was dubbed “The Fracking Crew” in ads that accused them of protecting polluters not people. The campaign – which reportedly cost more than $600,000 — was mostly paid for by a national environmental advocacy group with help from several North Carolina groups.

          In response, the American Petroleum Institute has launched five radio spots touting fracking’s safety record and economic benefits that will help pay for education, public safety and other services. “Thousands of new high-paying jobs are on the way,” the spot says.

          Each of the spots ends with a big thank-you to one or two lawmakers: Republican senators Chad Barefoot (representing parts of Wake and Franklin counties), Ronald Rabin (Harnett, Johnston and Lee); Wesley Meredith (Cumberland), and Michele Presnell (Haywood, Madison and Yancey); and representatives Jamie Boles (Moore County), Tim Moffitt (Buncombe), and Mike Stone (Harnett and Lee). All but Boles have Democratic challengers in the general election.

          Fail to grasp the facts much?

  7. Moffitt’s opponent: “There are those out there who try to paint me as some far-left, progressive liberal, … but nothing could be further from the truth.”

    Sounds like Asheville supporters of Moffitt’s opponent are a little miffed because they’re slowly beginning to understand that Turner is trying to have it both ways on a number of things in front of the CIBO crowd and is actually agreeing with Representative Tim Moffitt on a range of issues: slamming Asheville on the practice of forced annexation, not wanting to close the Duke Energy plant, saying that the teacher raises were a good start, repudiating the far-left progressive agenda, and even asking which of Moffitt’s initiatives he should carry forward in the unlikely event of a win. I don’t doubt that Moffitt’s opponent would even support regional representation for the water system.

    It must sting to know that so much far-left progressive Asheville money has gone to fund Moffitt’s opponent and yet Moffitt’s opponent seems to be throwing them all under the bus. That’s gonna leave a mark.

    Oily. Sleazy. Creepy. Sneaky. Glib. Traitor to his Asheville base. Sounds like a Wiener—I mean winner.

    • bsummers

      Lose another argument, change the subject… Yes, after yesterday it’s not surprising that the Moffitt surrogates are freaking out, attacking Brian Turner. I was in the room, and saw the CIBO crowd warming to him, and more than a few times saw Rep. Moffitt standing alone, looking around for anyone who wanted to talk to him. As I’ve said, I like Tim, but I wish him well in whatever he does after he leaves office.

      Is Brian Turner the perfect candidate for me? No, but then I don’t live in the 116th. He may be from the moderate/conservative branch of the Democratic party, but I know that he’ll focus on serving the people of that district far better than Rep. Tim “I AM Corporate America” Moffitt.

      https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/108366839/I_am_corporate_America.mp3

      • “I was in the room, and saw the CIBO crowd warming to him”

        You were in the room alright. In your drum circle best attire.

        http://goo.gl/39eSTk

        And CIBO warming up to what? Moffitt-lite in an empty suit? Why go for a faux conservative when you can have the real thing? Besides, most of the people at the forum were progressive seat-warmers who think that sheer numbers can make up for abject impotence. Some of them even tried to harass the representative from District 116 into a ‘gotcha’ quote for his bottom-of-the-barrel progressive radio show. (I’m sure all six listeners would have been impressed.)

        Face it, as a know-nothing back-bencher in the legislature relegated to the role of coffee-boy, Representative Tim Moffitt’s opponent, hand-picked by Asheville’s loony left flank, would be about as effective as nun at Mardi Gras. You don’t have to be the Long Island Medium to see that Representative Tim Moffitt’s opponent would have no ‘warmed-up’ friends in a Republican-majority General Assembly with serious work to do and no time for a Susan Fisher wannabe. Just who would take a call from that elitist phone-call-recording creep anyway?

        The question now is: why would Asheville progressives continue throwing good money after bad?

        • bsummers

          Wow, ad hominem attack. Why didn’t I think of that? According to the rules, I guess you win again.

          Enough hate for one day… back to reality.

          • bsummers

            Nope, you won. Everyone can see you won. You ran rings round me logically. I’m switching off and throwing my computer in the lake in penance for losing so badly.

            All hail, you.

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