Norm Bossert, Democrat
Place of residence: Pisgah Forest
Occupation: Principal, Black Mountain Elementary School
Political experience: Former chairman, Transylvania County Democratic Party; current secretary, 11th Congressional District Democratic Party; candidate for N.C. House two years ago; candidate for Transylvania School Board six years ago.
Endorsements: AFL-CIO; Equality NC; Planned Parenthood
Amount of money raised: approx. $16,000
Top three donors and amount contributed: I loaned my campaign $2,400; Clay Eddelman, $500; N.C. Sen. Terry Van Duyn, $500
Why are you running for office?
As a career educator, I’ve watched support for public schools drying up in order to support vouchers and development of charter schools. I am not opposed to school choice. I am opposed to spending practices that have reduced per-pupil funding by some $600. This is an abandonment of our constitutional obligation to serve the people of North Carolina with a well-funded and well-rounded education system. Morale is down. Potential teachers are choosing other professions. Textbook funds are way down. Teachers have lost career status, which protected them from egregious firings and employment actions. Support for preschool education has been halved; support for our greatest economic engine, our community colleges, has been cut, as well as support to our university system.
Federal judges have deemed a number of N.C.’s House and Senate districts illegal. How would you propose districts be drawn so that they are fair?
I propose establishing a nonpartisan commission to redistrict North Carolina in districts that truly represent the people our state.
Are you in favor of using economic development incentives? If so, what kind? If not, why?
I am in favor of using competitive incentives to bring good-paying jobs to our region and state. They could be tax incentives, employment support, etc. We want to be competitive, but not ‘give away the farm,’ so to speak.
Is HB2 protecting the residents of your district? Why or why not?
HB2 protects no one. It upsets me that it is trivialized as a bathroom bill. It does, after all, deny a class of people equal protection under the law. It also invasively denies local communities the right to pass lawful ordinances. It does deny counties and cities the right to set a wage above the minimum, for example, that might be a living wage. We are a Dillon’s Rule state, but we need to restore a sense that local governments can pass lawful ordinances without the interference of the General Assembly.
Should Asheville City Council elections be held by district? Why or why not? Should it be decided by Raleigh or a city referendum?
The people of Asheville should decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be divided into districts. This should not be imposed by an outside legislative body … and certainly not the General Assembly in Raleigh.
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?
Our greatest economic engine is our schools: K-12, university, community colleges. After speaking and listening to bankers, I have learned that when businesspeople are in the process of deciding whether or not to move to this community, they first want to know about the quality of our educational system. People want to go where they can find a good workforce and a good place for their employees to send their children for an education. Good schools equal good jobs.
What state-run service needs the most improvement and how would you address it?
Roads and rail. Our roads need to be better serviced and need infrastructure improvements to account for overcrowding (as in South Buncombe today). Statewide rail service needs to be modernized and passenger rail service (high speed) needs to be brought to this and other regions of the state. If we build it, people will use it. I also believe education [needs improvement]. There are openings in different parts of our state for thousands of engineers, for example. Here is a high-paying career for which we have too few job applicants. Good schools — statewide and locally — will help us produce the kind of employees ready to have great careers.
What is the most important issue facing the state and how do you plan on addressing it?
We need to restore a sense of justice in North Carolina. We need to bring Medicaid to our poorest citizens. Not just because it would bring good-paying jobs to some 380,000 people, not just because it would create some 23,000 good-paying jobs, not just because it would bring $2 billion a year back into our economy from the return of our own tax dollars; but because it would improve the quality of life for so many struggling neighbors.
How do you represent a constituency with varied political ideologies?
I can represent almost everyone because I know how to listen to people. I respect differences and have no ideology that would make me forget that a senator represents all the people, not just those who voted for you.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
I am more qualified than my opponent because 56 percent of our state budget is dedicated to education. Only 1 percent of our legislators are educators. It’s time for the leadership of an educator in the legislature. I am not trapped by right-wing or left-wing ideology. I respect one and all and understand that we need to end Raleigh overreach into our local decision-making practices.