Brian Turner (I), Democrat, running unopposed
Place of Residence: Buncombe County
Occupation: Commercial real estate broker
Political Experience: Representative for NC House District 116, 2015-present
Endorsements: Sierra Club; Equality NC; N.C. Association of Educators; State Employees Association of N.C.; Buncombe County Association of Educators; N.C. League of Conservation Voters; Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of N.C.
Amount of money raised: $250,000
Top three donors and amount contributed: While I have had a number of strong supporters, my campaign has been supported by over 1,200 individual donors, and I am proud to say I’ve never accepted a check from a special interest group or PAC.
Why are you running?
Representing the people of District 116 for the past two years has been a true honor, and I am excited about returning to Raleigh to continue working to improve our public schools, protect our environment and encourage economic growth by supporting our area’s growing businesses.
Federal judges have deemed a number of North Carolina’s House and Senate districts illegal. How would you propose districts be drawn so that they are fair?
Gerrymandered districts are not in the best interest of the people of North Carolina. In my first term I co-sponsored legislation (HB49 and HB92) to have districts drawn by an independent commission. I believe creating a nonpartisan redistricting commission is an important step in restoring and preserving confidence in our political system.
Are you in favor of using economic development incentives? If so, what kind? If not, why?
Economic incentives are critical to bringing and keeping good-paying jobs in North Carolina. These incentives have been used successfully in WNC to bring new jobs like GE Aviation, expansion at Jacob Holm and keeping jobs at Evergeen. North Carolina’s incentive programs like JDIG and JMAC are structured to reward businesses only after they produce the economic gains promised, an important piece to making sure that the taxpayers of North Carolina are protected. Small businesses also need help, and we need to recognize their important role in our local economies, which is why I was the primary sponsor of HB320, titled “Small Business New Job Creation Incentive.”
Is HB2 protecting the residents of your district? Why or why not?
I voted against HB2, and have called for a full and unconditional repeal. HB2 is a bad law that was rushed through the legislative process, and the results have been disastrous for our state.
Should Asheville City Council elections be held by district? Why or why not? Should it be decided by Raleigh or a city referendum?
I think diversity in experience and perspective are important for all levels of government; ultimately, though, it’s the voters in the city of Asheville, and not the politicians in Raleigh, who should decide whether or not it is appropriate to elect the City Council from districts, or continue to elect them at-large. Whichever direction the voters choose, I think it’s important for city leaders to continue to discuss and understand the issues that are most important to voters from all parts of the city, and to discuss the ways that those issues might be different for some voters who are farthest away from downtown.
What is an underrated, underfunded economic engine that could help attract jobs to Western North Carolina outside of the service and tourism industries? And how would you recommend utilizing this untapped potential?
The lack of access to broadband in rural areas, not only in Buncombe County, but across North Carolina, is a major challenge to providing economic development opportunities to communities and hundreds of thousands of people. We can do better. It is not acceptable that in order to fill out an online job application, many people in our state have to drive to a library or community center; or that the lack of internet access keeps many small businesses from competing in the larger economy. I have been working with officials from the county level to the federal level to find ways to improve access. We cannot move forward as a state if we are leaving our rural communities behind.
What state-run service needs the most improvement and how would you address it?
One of the largest challenges that is unseen by many is the failure of the N.C. Tracks Medicaid payment system. Recently I met with a group of pediatricians who are still struggling to get reimbursed more than six months after providing services. DHHS needs to get a handle on this software failure and figure out a fix, otherwise many of the small practices in the mountains will be faced with either shutting their doors or denying services to Medicaid patients, both of which are unacceptable. I have brought this issue to the attention of the chair of the Health and Human Services committee and will work with them to find a way to reduce this backlog.
What is the most important issue facing the state and how do you plan on addressing it?
Having a strong and well-supported public education system is critical to the future not only of our children but our state. While we have made incremental progress, we still have much to do as our per pupil expenditures are still below 2008 levels. We need to invest more in the classroom by improving funding for textbooks and digital learning, and we must not ignore the compensation for not only our teachers, but also our principals (where we are currently ranked 50 out of 51).
How do you represent a constituency with varied political ideologies?
While my constituents do have varied political ideologies, they have the same mountain values at their core. Whether conservative or liberal, my constituents believe that we should be working together to make sure that our kids aren’t hungry and that they’re getting a good education. They believe that we should be doing everything we can to make sure we bring good-paying jobs here to Buncombe County. They value our mountains and rivers and want to make sure we protect them for future generations. It’s those shared values that I’m advocating in Raleigh.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
I grew up in Buncombe County, and my family has been here for generations, so I have a deep love for this state and this community. I want to be sure that Buncombe County has a strong voice in Raleigh, one that understands the unique challenges that our mountain communities face and is looking out for folks who feel like Raleigh has ignored their concerns.