Both candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the 115th district are native to the region, and each has a record of participation in community affairs. There is at least one obvious difference in their approaches to politics: One candidate expects to spend about $500 on his campaign; the other projects spending $55,000. There are equally clear differences in the issues the two men see as crucial to our community. The winner of this contest will face Republican incumbent Mark Crawford in November.
Address: 137 Stonecrest Drive, Asheville
Date of birth: March 29, 1942
Occupation: General contractor, president of Goforth Builders Inc.
Years in this community: 49; has lived in the area his entire life, except for 11 years spent working in Alabama and Mississippi
Education (formal and informal): Reynolds High School, plus some courses at Gardener Webb College in and A-B Tech (no degree)
Political history: Has served two terms on the Buncombe County School Board and is president of the local Democratic Men’s Club. This is his first bid for state office.
Address: 501 Dennis St., Swannanoa
Date of birth: Dec. 17, 1953
Occupation: Self-employed in construction and house painting
Years in this community: Native
Education (formal and informal): Owen High School, UNCA (bachelor’s degree in mass communications, 1996). Currently working on a social psychology degree at UNCA
Political history: This is his second bid for state office
Mountain Xpress: What measures would you support to improve transportation in WNC?
Bruce Goforth: “I think one of the critical things right now is we need to get more service for our airport, so we can get more industry. I think that’s the key to the industry in the area. I think we ought to review the rail system out of Charlotte. But from the information I’ve got so far, it’s real expensive to get it started for very low payback. I support the widening on I-240. It gives more access. The longer these cars are tied up sitting still, the more sulfur dioxide goes in the air. I’m for anything that will expedite the traffic in the Asheville area.”
Michael Morgan: “Mass transit. Instead of widening I-240 to four lanes (which is really five lanes), I would say let’s compromise and go with three lanes, and all this money that you’ve already allocated for the fourth and fifth lanes, put all that money into mass transit. That provides jobs and gives people a system whereby they can then park their cars. You’ve got to have a mass-transit system in place before you can start encouraging or demanding that people use it. And if you go ahead and do the three lanes and it gets all jammed up, they’ll be willing to use mass transit. I’d like to see the light-rail service get implemented between here and Raleigh. The other thing that I’ve been instrumental in … starting [through participation in the Asheville-Buncombe Vision process] is they now have a bus line from Asheville to Black Mountain. They’ve got one from Asheville going toward Hendersonville. We need one that goes from Asheville to Weaverville. Then, you could run another bus from Weaverville to Mars Hill, from Mars Hill to Marshall and from Marshall back to Weaverville. … We’ve just got to plan and implement some of this stuff, and then the people will use it.”
Xpress: What tax measures would you support in light of the budget crisis?
Goforth: “One of the things that I think is critical is session limits. It costs the state about $65,000 a day [for the legislature to conduct business], and based on 17 days a month, they spent five additional months last year, which is $5.5 million that it costs the taxpayer. I also think that we’d be better off to have term limits. And I think we’d be better off to have four-year terms; it would cut the costs tremendously for the elections.”
Morgan: “I think more taxes are absolutely unnecessary. What we need to do is take all the money that we waste locking people in prison for marijuana.
“All the investigation, prosecution, judicial costs, probation and parole and incarceration — all this money that we spend locking people up for drugs — take all that law-enforcement and judicial money and put that into education. You don’t have to raise taxes, just reallocate your money. You can put seven people in a drug-rehab program for what it costs to put one person in prison. I think we have enough taxation already. We’re taking in enough tax revenue. They’re just wasting it on absurd things, and the drug thing is the biggest waste.”
Xpress: Would you support a menu of options for local governments?
Goforth: “Yes, I would. I think the sales tax is the only other option [the county] has got. I don’t think we need to be increasing any property taxes. And the sales tax appears to be the fairest to me, because everybody pays it, not just the people who own property. I think the property taxes are too high, with the 30-percent increase in valuation. But I think that the key is the state needs to deal with those problems, instead of putting it back on the Buncombe County commissioners. I think we’ve got to do everything to cut wasteful spending out so we can target the absolutely necessary programs.”
Morgan: “No. I just don’t think we need more taxes on the people. We’re in a recession, and people are having a hard time. They’re taxed enough. We need to reallocate the taxes that we’re taking in now. See, it’s not right for the people to have to shoulder the responsibility and the financial burden of some idiots in the legislature. It’s not the local people, the taxpayers, who got us in this mess. They shouldn’t have to be the ones to shoulder the responsibility to get us out of it.”
Xpress: Give us a concrete example of what you’ll do to bring better paying jobs to WNC.
Goforth: “I think one of the things is that you’ve got to have a city that’s also for corporations, to choose us over South Carolina. I think we’ve got to be competitive with our neighboring states [and have] incentive programs to attract new business. I think the other thing is we need to build industrial parks, with infrastructure in place, so that it makes it more attractive. People look at the mountains [and think] that it’s too much dirt-moving to really get involved in building large plants in this area. So I think we need to take on industrial-park projects with the proper infrastructure.”
Morgan: “I don’t think biogenetics, they’re talking about doing some of that … I’m sort of skeptical about bioengineering. … If we go into this bioengineering and develop a strand of corn and a certain disease wipes it out, then where are we? So I’m a little skeptical of people putting too much faith in biogenetics. I’m more optimistic about this broad-band Internet that’s coming through, and technology things. I think that’s our best bet. I would like to see us raise the minimum wage. If you’ve got a guy in Burger King flipping hamburgers, he can’t live on $5.15 an hour. … We’ve got to raise our minimum wage, and if that means we have to sell a hamburger for $7, so be it. If you want to come to our mountains and eat a hamburger on Patton Avenue, then, by God, you’re going to pay $7. Somehow, we’ve got to get our minimum wage up to a living wage.
Xpress: If elected, what is the first piece of legislation that you plan to introduce in the next legislative session?
Goforth: I would propose session limits. I think so many people are not running for public office anymore because they don’t know the time involved. Last year, it was 11 months. If we can identify the time that people are going to be away from their jobs, I think more people would be committed to run for public office. And I think the gridlock in Raleigh is the big issue. They’re having a hard time making a decision on what they’re going to do. And if we have session limits, I think that will eliminate some of the gridlock.
Morgan: It would have something to do with watershed preservation. To preserve watersheds for future drinking-water purposes. Start something now. I’d put in a bill to implement a program that would preserve watersheds. Another one that I would promote would be [that] all new construction must have solar panels on the roof, so that all new construction is pretty much self-sufficient. You don’t need more power plants built if you have solar power on the roof. And right behind that, I’d do another bill that would start mass transit, that would really push and promote mass transit. Those are the three major things.”
Xpress: Would you support a lottery? If yes, under what conditions?
Goforth: “I would support a referendum for a state lottery and let the people make the decision. I’m concerned about building a budget based on gambling income, because it appears to fluctuate. I think we need to look at some neighboring states and see what they’ve done and get some models and see what works best. Georgia has probably done the best job, from an education standpoint, with their lottery.”
Morgan: “I personally oppose the lottery, but I would support giving a referendum vote to the people. If they want a lottery, let them have it. Invariably, states start trying to hijack money to other purposes. This money [from a lottery] should not be to replace our education budget. It should be solely to supplement the education budget, forever. … The only thing I would ever be willing to subvert it to would be to start a conservancy fund, where you could buy these watersheds I’m talking about. … But I’d say education first until we get our education up to standards.”
Xpress: What activist organizations have you belonged to or do you support?
Goforth: “None. I have not supported any activists. I have not been involved in any activist groups.”
Morgan: “I did attend and support some of the cannabis-legalization things they had here in Asheville. There were a couple of different groups that were trying to legalize cannabis. I went to meetings of local groups that were trying to promote mass transportation. One of them grew out of the [Asheville-Buncombe] Vision process and another was run by the DOT.”
Xpress: Which endorsement are you proudest of?
Goforth: At the time of this interview, Goforth said he had not yet received any official endorsements.
Morgan: “The environmentalist groups. It’s mostly the individual people in the groups that are supporting me. It’s more of a grassroots thing. On my Web site, there’s a place that says, ‘Of these organizations, who would most likely support you?’ And I made a statement at the bottom that said: ‘Actually, I don’t expect support from any of these groups of people. My support comes from people.’ I’m not about support from corporations, because I don’t look to them for contributions. I don’t want their contributions.”
Xpress: Name three political allies.
Goforth: In a primary, you know, some of the people who support me are not supposed to be supporting anybody until after the primary, because they’re Democrats. So I don’t think I should do that, because that would tend to split the party.”
Morgan: “Rep. Marge Carpenter; Will Kennedy, a town alderman of Black Mountain.”
Xpress: What, if anything, have you ever been convicted of?
Goforth: “Speeding.” [Goforth was also convicted of not wearing a seat belt when he received his speeding conviction last November.]
Morgan: “Yes, I had a manslaughter conviction in 1984.” [Morgan was acquitted of a manslaughter charge by a regional court in 1984 but was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a federal court later that year. He served 70 months of a 10-year sentence.]
Xpress: Have you ever used drugs that are illegal in the United States?
Goforth: “No, none.”
Morgan: “Yes. Let me expand on that: My experience with marijuana is that it is the least harmful of the drugs. I think it is less harmful than cigarettes or alcohol. From my limited experience with the white powders of any kind — I’ve never done heroin — the white powders are bad for you. To me, cocaine was death. I quit that stuff quick. I know some people can’t do that, but I do think that the white powders are very detrimental to your health.”
Xpress: How much do you plan on spending on your race?
Goforth: “Probably $50,000 to $60,000.”
Morgan: “I’ll probably spend between $400 and $600, counting the $207 to file to run for office.”
Xpress: How much did you spend in your last bid for elected office?
Goforth: “About $3,000 for each of the two times for school board.”
Morgan: “I spent $192 when I ran in 2000. That’s not counting the filing fee.” [Morgan ran for a seat in state House District 51 two years ago.]
Xpress: What’s your take on what happened at the Department of Motor Vehicles? What, if anything, needs to be done?
Goforth: “I think if it’s wrong, it should be corrected, and I think whatever actions are necessary to correct the problem should be done. I firmly think that putting it all under the Highway Patrol is the proper way to go. It will be a cost-saver.”
Morgan: “I think it’s refreshing that the scandal and corruption has finally come to the light of day. It’s about time. And I think it’s ironic that another radical independent [former Woodfin Police Chief Pete Bradley] is the one who exposed it. I think there’s more of this that could be exposed. I’m sure there’s more stuff going on in state government. …
I think it’s a good idea to merge the DMV and state Highway Patrol, because it will cut down on some of this bureaucracy, which is [costing] taxpayer dollars.”
Xpress: Do you have any plans to introduce legislation regarding the transportation of nuclear material in North Carolina?
Goforth: “I think all the safety measures should be in place, but I don’t know of any safer transportation now than trucking. I think [transportation workers] would have to handle it less than if it was by rail or another way. I would have to look at the way the law is written before I would make a statement on whether I would [propose such legislation].”
Morgan: “Yes. I’ve already tried to become involved in that. … I am extremely opposed to moving this stuff around the country. You generated it right there, you keep it right there. It’s OK where it’s at. Any time you move it, there’s potential for disaster. I would like to see — and I would participate in it, if I was to find out that they were bringing it from Oak Ridge, Tenn., on Interstate 40 into Asheville to go to the Savannah Nuclear Power Plant — I’d like to see a whole bunch of us park our vehicles in the first tunnel on I-40 and stop all traffic, including that nuclear material.”