Rep. Patsy Keever and her Republican Challenger, Mark Crawford. Photo by Michael Muller
Republican challenger Mark Crawford says he and Democratic incumbent Patsy Keever are "diametrically opposed" on the political spectrum, but both stress the need to beef up the educational system and bring in jobs.
Crawford — a substitute teacher and soccer coach for the Buncombe County schools for 12 years and an adjunct political science teacher at Western Carolina University for the last five — is opposing Keever in the race for Buncombe's 115th District state House seat. Keever, who retired after a quarter-century in the classroom, was recently appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Bruce Goforth, who stepped down soon after Keever beat him in the May primary.
"There are some teachers out there who are worth their weight in gold, but there are so many systemic problems that need to be fixed," Crawford asserts. "The fact that I've taught in 75 percent of the regular county schools in my district gives me a lead over any candidate statewide."
Keever, meanwhile — noting that more than half of North Carolina's $19 billion budget goes to education — also says her classroom experience will guide her legislative agenda.
Her campaign website voices support for early childhood and arts programs, as well as creating a required ninth-grade course that would teach "financial literacy, pertinent sex education, child development and civic responsibility."
"There are currently excellent courses which are being taught to some students, but if it were a required course for all ninth-graders, it would save the state money in the long run by reducing the dropout rate, teenage pregnancy and domestic violence," the website states.
Although Keever was sworn in Sept. 15, the General Assembly won’t re-convene until January, so unless she wins in November, she’ll have no chance for hands-on legislative activity. In the meantime, Keever says her newly acquired incumbent status hasn't affected her campaign.
"The things that we were working for before are the same things that we're working on now," she reports. "We want to bring jobs to our area and the whole state; we want to … get the budget balanced; we want to be sure that our children get the best education they possibly can and that our gorgeous mountains are protected."
Ironically, Crawford was also appointed to the state House back in 2001, serving for about a year before Goforth unseated him to claim the newly redistricted 115th, which now covers much of east and south Buncombe. A West Point graduate and 10-year Army veteran, Crawford mounted unsuccessful General Assembly bids both before and after his brief appointed tenure. If given another chance to serve, he says creating jobs will be a top priority.
"I want to produce bigger and better jobs," Crawford declares. "This region and this state are hurting; some of our counties are still at greater than 15 percent unemployment. Buncombe County is happily below 10 percent, but that still means that almost one out of every 10 workers has no work right now."
To address this, Crawford favors easing restrictions on businesses.
“Why is it that we’ve been only giving incentives to limited companies statewide, rather than economic incentives for everybody?” he asked during a recent League of Women Voters candidate forum. “I would love nothing more than to see the state of North Carolina do a five-year moratorium on any more business regulations.”
Keever, a 12-year Buncombe County commissioner who mounted an unsuccessful 2004 campaign against U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, also stresses the importance of jobs.
"We all need to do whatever we can to bring jobs to this county and this state," she asserts. "And it can't be done just by the General Assembly, or just by private enterprise or just by the public; it's something we've got to collaborate on."
The candidates’ campaign websites are: patsykeever.com and crawfordnchouse.com.
— Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.