10/08/06 — House District 10 candidates ready to do battle

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House District 10 candidates ready to do battle

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on October 8, 2006 2:06 AM

After months of uncertainty, the candidates are set for the North Carolina House of Representatives District 10 race in November.

Kinston City Council member Van Braxton spent most of the summer out of the headlines as Rep. Stephen LaRoque and Willie Ray Starling battled through two primaries to decide who would face their Democratic opponent on the November ballot.

As Election Day nears, Braxton said he wants residents in District 10, which consists of parts of Wayne and Lenoir counties and all of Greene County, to know how he would work for his constituents in Raleigh.

"I think about how to do something better at less of a cost while becoming more effective. Let's do that at the state level," Braxton said.

Starling said he realizes he's not perfect, but he added that he wants the chance to put his strengths to work in Raleigh for District 10 residents.

"I want people to know that I'll work as hard once I get up there as I worked to get up there," Starling said.

After receiving a computer science degree from Troy State, Starling worked for 37 years in the United States Air Force, Navy Reserves and other civil services specializing in information systems and data processing technology.

During that time, he worked as a director of information management in Wiesbaden, Germany, and in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Information Management for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Ft. Bragg.

Starling said it was his responsibility to manage a large-scale information system and a multi-million dollar budget and to deal with the inner politics of the military as a director of information systems. Starling said that meant compromise -- getting all parties involved to work together to find the best and most cost-effective solution, he added.

Those are the same skills he would take to Raleigh if given the opportunity, Starling said.

"Ten percent of the people in Raleigh are there for the right reason. They aren't there for (the money) or for their buddies. We have to work for what is best for the people in the state," Starling said.

If given the opportunity to go to Raleigh, Braxton said he wants to work with other eastern North Carolina legislators and to bring a regional perspective to the capitol.

"Urban areas like Raleigh and Greensboro continue to grow. So there are more and more legislators in urban area and less in the rural areas of the state. If we can work together with all of them, then we can get a fair share of the pot," Braxton said.

Working as a region could also show the potential for cooperation among District 10 counties, Braxton said. For example, Pitt Memorial Hospital has the capabilities to serve patients across the region and Kinston has an airport with an 11,000-foot runway that can support corporate and commercial aircraft. Both of those assets could be pluses for other counties looking to attract new business and investment.

Starling said the region could grow economically if all of eastern North Carolina's legislators worked toward the same goal and improved the assets available in each county. For example, if the Morehead City port was converted to a deep sea port, then it would be more feasible to build a railroad switch board at the Global TransPark in Kinston.

Cargo that comes to the Global TransPark via rail, road or plane, could be transported anywhere in the country with better interstate-quality roads to I-40 and I-95, Starling said. Improving the transportation infrastructure would recruit more industries thereby creating more jobs for the entire region, he added.

"Legislators who look after small businesses and the working man -- they are the ones that make a difference," Starling said.

But before businesses can help improve regions economically, Starling said state officials must improve North Carolina's economy by balancing the state budget or implementing a zero-based budget for which state departments must justify each allocated dollar.

"(During the previous state budget session) we used non-recurring funds to pay for teacher salary increases and other recurring costs. If the economy declines, then we'll have to increase taxes or some will steal even more from the state's trust funds. All along, we should have reduced spending," Starling said.

Braxton said positioning a region for economic development is an important factor for growth. That's how District 10 can thrive like its counterparts west of I-95.

"Goldsboro, Kinston and Greene are almost in a void zone. West of us is the high-tech Piedmont area and east of us is the coast and tourism, which leaves us in the middle. We need to identify ourselves," Braxton said.

Industrial parks in Wayne and Lenoir, along with an emerging one in Greene, could sustain an increased focus in manufacturing plants, Braxton said. But those industrial parks and the Global TransPark in Kinston could also have a future in high-tech industries, he added.

"Jobs is a major, major issue we need to work on. If I get the chance to go to Raleigh, the people in the Department of Commerce will know me well," Braxton said.

To prepare young adults for the workforce, Braxton said the state and local governments will continue to provide for area community colleges, but those governments must also be willing to provide economic development incentives to help an industry train its workforce and begin operations.

Although Starling doesn't believe in the economic development incentives and tax exemptions that drive businesses to the state, he said "the jewel of North Carolina is the community college system."

"Community colleges can help train for any industry that comes in," Starling said.

Education is also an important factor for the future of the region and the state, Braxton said. But, he added, the state's secondary schools have not provided the best education for students.

"I don't know the answer (about how to fix the problem), but we need to think outside of the box. I think we need to sit down with teachers, parents and principals and hear what they have to say. We need to listen to the people in the schools and not the people in Raleigh that aren't in the schools," Braxton said.

Starling said he also believes the state's public schools have failed, but for a different reason.

"I've asked retired teachers if they would go back and teach for a larger salary. All of them said no, because the children have a lack of discipline," he said.

The problems with public schools can only partially be solved with money. The other problems must be solved by enforcing discipline in the classrooms, which will provide a better classroom environment for students, Starling said.

Other issues Braxton said he would like to tackle in Raleigh include health care and Medicaid costs.

Braxton said too many children and adults are living without any form of health care, and he said he would like to implement a plan so every North Carolinian can receive affordable health care. Braxton said he has gained an understanding of people's medical insurance needs during the past four years as a long-term care and supplemental health insurance agent.

Braxton said his 11 years as a Kinston City Council member help him understand how Medicaid costs are affecting counties.

Many North Carolina counties are paying more for Medicaid costs than for schools each year, including Lenoir County, Braxton said. While larger counties pay a smaller percentage of their budgets for Medicaid costs, the price is continuing to climb for many other, smaller, areas.

"North Carolina has become a state of have and have nots. We're in the have nots, but I will fight to give District 10 more of what it deserves," Braxton said.

But the only way for districts to prosper is if legislators from both political parties work together, Braxton said.

"From the outside looking in, the House and the Senate need to work better together. There's too much partisanship in Raleigh. Everyone is trying to one-up each other. They should all be there for the people of North Carolina and to help their own districts," Braxton said.

Starling said a major problem he would like to fix is the influx of illegal immigrants into the nation and state. In North Carolina, officials can start by eliminating the benefits that keep illegal immigrants in the country, such as free medical care and easy access to driver's licenses.

Also, the state should identify the businesses and industries that hire illegal immigrants, Starling said.

"I think it's illegal and un-American that businesses are doing this," he said.

State officials should also work toward a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a sacred bond between a man and a woman and protecting the lives of unborn children, Starling said.

To learn more about each candidate and his beliefs, visit www.braxtonnchouse.com and www.willieray.com.

The final registration day before the November election is Oct. 13. One-stop absentee voting will begin on Oct. 19 for the Nov. 7 general election.

For more information on voter registration and voting locations, call the Wayne County Board of Elections at 731-1411.