Candidates for N.C. House of Representatives District 117, 2018 general election voter guide

Gayle Kemp

Democrat
Website: gaylekemp.com
Occupation: Retired attorney
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: AFL-CIO, EqualityNC, Moms Demand Action
Amount of money raised: Approximately $17,000
Top three donors: My campaign is a grassroots campaign, and the individual donations are from $2 to $1,000. Audrey Stelloh, Princess I. Ferguson, Daniel M. Fowler

Why are you running for the N.C. House of Representatives?

I am running for office because there is an attempt by the party in power in the General Assembly to take over the three branches of our government and to suppress the vote of those who are not of their party. I fear for our democracy.

What state and local concerns are top of mind for voters in your district, and how do you plan to address them?

Concerns include funding education, our water system, living wages and career training, and fair elections. The highest concern is health care and the cost of insurance premiums. Republicans voted not to set up insurance exchanges and expand Medicaid. Close to 500,000 North Carolinians would be covered by expanded Medicaid. Meanwhile, hospitals and other health care providers would be reimbursed. Medical workers lost their jobs and rural facilities shut down because the party in power rejected the Affordable Care Act.

In a report released in January, Education Week ranks North Carolina 38th in the nation for student achievement and 45th for school finance. With per-pupil spending lower than pre-Great Recession levels, how will you approach education funding?

First, we must value and prioritize our schools, teachers and children. Just by returning the corporate taxes to 2017 levels, we can fully fund schools, including universal pre-K. Also, we need a school bond for rebuilding and refurbishing our schools. Finally, funding private and religious schools is not a function of our government and not our constitutional mandate. Nearly $11 million/year is being siphoned off from the public schools to pay for vouchers. That money could raise the standards of education.

Federal judges have deemed a number of North Carolina’s electoral districts illegal. How would you propose districts be drawn so that they are fair?

I support an independent commission, chosen by the executive and legislative branches and made up of representatives of parties recognized in our state. All members would have to agree on what is best for voters.

While both parties have gerrymandered, the current maps are racially discriminatory and extremely partisan. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted defending unconstitutional maps. The maps call into question the legitimacy of the General Assembly majority and congressional elections. Voters have become cynical about voting for this reason.

Would you support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage above federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour)? If so, to what level? Additionally, do you support cities and/or counties being able to craft legislation to set a minimum or living wage?

The minimum wage would exceed $15/hour, had it been raised matching economic growth. That’s a living wage in Henderson County for a parent with a child. We need to get there incrementally so that businesses are not hurt.

We must also recognize the inequity between workers and owners of capital has grown and needs correction. Workers should be able to live on what they earn, like my father.

Cities and counties should be able to decide what’s best for their citizens.

Which of the proposed state constitutional amendments that will appear on this year’s ballots do you support, and which do you oppose? Why? For the sake of brevity, you may key your answers with the following letters:

A.Right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife

B.Strengthen protections for crime victims

C.Change appointment process of the state Elections Board

D.Change appointment process for judicial vacancies between elections

E.Lower state income tax cap from 10 percent to 7 percent

F.Require photo ID for in-person voting

I oppose all six amendments. Amending the Constitution shouldn’t be done without time for citizens to consider the consequences. Rushing these amendments onto the ballot is a partisan stunt to get out the Republican vote. The amendments are not necessary and the proposed amendments do not tell the voter what the enabling legislation will be. In essence, the voter is signing a blank check. 

C. and D., I oppose the changes in the appointment process. Gov. Pat McCrory joined four other governors to oppose this attack on our system of checks and balances. The party in power has made no bones about stripping executive and judicial power.

I am against requiring photo ID. The legislation passed by the party in power has been tested in the courts and soundly rejected. Taxpayers wasted millions of dollars in lawyer’s fees. The idea that there is a problem with voting, that’s fixable through legislation, is a false narrative. Our elections were audited when McCrory lost, and out of over 4 million votes, only one case was found that could conceivably be considered “voter fraud.” We need to encourage voting, not suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities, the disabled and women.


Chuck McGrady

Incumbent, Republican
Website: chuckmcgrady.org
Occupation: Summer camp owner/director and attorney (retired), legislator
Previous candidacy or offices held: State representative (2011-present); Henderson County commissioner (2004-2010); Flat Rock Council member (1997-2001)
Key endorsements: State Employees Association of North Carolina, N.C. League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club
Amount of money raised: Approximately $76,000
Top three donors: Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Kathleen McGrady, Michael McGrady

Why are you running for re-election to the N.C. House of Representatives?

I’m running for re-election primarily to finish work on a number of issues. For example, the legislature passed the Raise-the-Age law to keep 16- and 17-year-olds out of the criminal justice system — treating them as juveniles. Now we must fund the change in the law by providing more funding to the juvenile justice system. Securing funding for the WNC medical school, to upgrade the WNC Farmers Market and continue making improvements at DuPont State Recreational Forest are also high priorities.

What state and local concerns are top of mind for voters in your district, and how do you plan to address them?

Education and health care are the top concerns. Teachers have gotten over a 19 percent raise since 2014, but we need to continue to increase teacher and principal salaries. Expansion of health insurance options is a priority for many in Western North Carolina, and I’ll co-sponsor and push for passage of the Carolina Cares legislation, currently HB662, which will expand health care coverage for more uninsured North Carolina residents.

In a report released in January, Education Week ranks North Carolina 38th in the nation for student achievement and 45th for school finance. With per-pupil spending lower than pre-Great Recession levels, how will you approach education funding?

While the ranking for school finance does not take into account the significant increase in funding for schools in the last year, we have to continue to increase education funding, including teacher pay, principal pay and textbooks. Our state is in excellent fiscal shape, so the budget should be able to prioritize education funding.

Federal judges have deemed a number of North Carolina’s electoral districts illegal. How would you propose districts be drawn so that they are fair?

I’m the lead sponsor of HB200, the bill to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission. My belief is that redistricting should be done in the same way it has been done in Iowa for decades. Legislators shouldn’t pick their constituents; the constituents should pick their legislators.

Would you support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage above federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour)? If so, to what level? Additionally, do you support cities and/or counties being able to craft legislation to set a minimum or living wage?

No and no.

Which of the proposed state constitutional amendments that will appear on this year’s ballots do you support, and which do you oppose? Why? For the sake of brevity, you may key your answers with the following letters:

A.Right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife

B.Strengthen protections for crime victims

C.Change appointment process of the state Elections Board

D.Change appointment process for judicial vacancies between elections

E.Lower state income tax cap from 10 percent to 7 percent

F.Require photo ID for in-person voting

While I supported putting these amendments on the ballot for a vote, that doesn’t mean that I personally support each amendment. I opposed the original version of C. for the reasons it was thrown out by a court, but support the amendment since it was revised to comply with the court decision.

I also opposed the original version of E., but voted to put it on the ballot only when the cap was moved from 5 percent to 7 percent. While the state constitution already has a state income tax cap, I’m not inclined to support e. because I just don’t believe in artificial caps.

Amendments A. and B. would actually not change North Carolina law, so the voters need to decide whether they are so important as statements of our values that they should be written into the constitution.

While ambivalent about D., I will vote for F. since it is strongly supported by the voters in my district. My hope is that voters will look at the amendments individually and not vote for or against them as a bloc.

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