Three candidates are competing to represent the 47th state Senate District. Republican state Rep. Gregg Thompson, Democrat Joe Sam Queen and Libertarian Sherry Hill (of whose candidacy Thompson and Queen were unaware) are all vying to see who will represent the district, composed of Madison, Mitchell, Avery, McDowell, Yancey and most of Haywood counties.
Occupation: Assists husband in their home business, “Hill Kennel and Dog Supply,” but primarily sees herself as a wife and mother.
Education: Studied business administration at Haywood Community College.
Years in the community: 34
Political history: First run for public office
Joe Sam Queen
Occupation: Architect, farmer and businessman
Years in the community: 52
Education (formal and informal): N.C. State (B.A. & M.A., architecture); Leadership Haywood graduate.
Political history: First run
Home: Spruce Pine
Occupation: Owns three small businesses
Years in this community: 30
Education: Montreat College (A.A.), UNCA (B.A. in politcal science), plus graduate studies at Western Carolina University and N.C. State. Also a fellow of the American Council of Political Leadership and the N.C. Institute of Political Leadership.
Political history: Five terms in the N.C. House
Questions and answers
Mountain Xpress: Do you support a state lottery? Why or why not?
Sherry Hill: “I’m very much in support of it. I see the people of North Carolina wanting that just by the fact of how many people are going across the state lines to buy lottery tickets for other states. And the income generated from that — hopefully, it would be used for something like education, would stay inside the state of North Carolina, rather than going towards the budget of another state.”
Joe Sam Queen: “My position on the lottery is that the citizens should vote upon it, and I will support their vote.”
Gregg Thompson: “I do not support a state lottery … or a referendum on the state lottery … for several reasons. First, I’m one of those people who believes that a referendum is unconstitutional. … Elected officials are elected to make tough decisions, and I think that if a lottery were to be implemented in the state of North Carolina, then that should be a straight up or down vote in the legislature. … Being chairman of Appropriations, I see where there are places that tax dollars are wasted. … A lottery is projected to generate between $300 and $400 million … which, of course they want to spend on education. And in order to generate the $300 to $400 million, there would have to be $1 billion to $1.2 billion in lottery tickets sold, because the final figure that the state would see as revenue is one-third of the total cost of a lottery. I feel like until the waste in state government is done away with, then we don’t need to tax, and I feel like a lottery is a tax on the people who can least afford it.”
MX: Studies in other states have shown that for every 10 percent increase in tobacco taxes, the number of young smokers drops by 6 percent, and the number of cigarettes smoked by youth drops by 11 percent. The World Bank says that a 10 percent tax increase has cut the number of smokers by from 4 to 8 percent in every country studied. Given those figures, do you support the North Carolina Senate bill that would increase our state’s cigarette tax by 50 cents?
SH: “I don’t support any tax increase.”
JSQ: “I’m definitely considering it. I think it makes a lot of sense, for the reasons you’ve just said.”
MX: Boston is currently spending more than $1 billion to undo the transportation mistakes it has made in recent decades running wider and wider roads through the middle of the city. Can we learn from that city’s problems? Would you prefer to see transportation funds spent on widening highways or on alternative-transportation plans?
SH: “I would rather see more money spent on alternative-transportation plans, perhaps enhancing public transportation, which cuts down on the traffic on the highway, as well as the air pollution [and] bridge maintenance. … The increased traffic demands seem to increase the numbers in major vehicle accidents as well as environmental damage.”
JSQ: “I think we are going to have to build more roads and have alternate … we’re going to have to do a little of both. But we definitely need to make our urban areas work, because sprawl is not efficient, or effective or cost-effective [for] our citizens.”
GT: “I think that the state of North Carolina is going to have to probably do both. Our population is growing; there are more cars on the highways. I definitely think that we need to look at alternative transportation — trains, bus, whatever — but also, at the same time, in some of the cities that are really fast-growing cities we’re going to have to widen some of the highways and continue the plans with that. There are already plans in the works for widening major highways. I think we need to work on both of those approaches.”