10/26/06 — Kaiser, Tucker will try to capture District 4 N.C. House seat

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Kaiser, Tucker will try to capture District 4 N.C. House seat

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 26, 2006 2:31 PM

Richard Kaiser, a first-time Republican candidate, is challenging Democrat Russell Tucker for his District 4 seat in the North Carolina state House.

"I have never held elected office and I have never worked in a direct line where I was paid by a municipality or a government entity, but I have a lot of experience working with government, especially the military, so I'm very familiar with various aspects of government," said Kaiser, president of two Duplin County technology companies -- SoftDev Inc. and R2 Wireless.

His focus this fall is the government's integrity.

"The performance of the government regarding integrity is pretty much the top of the pyramid. Without it, a lot of these other issues don't make sense to bring up," the 46-year-old candidate said.

Tucker, 63, a former Duplin County finance officer and county mananger, is relying on his experience and his record to propel him past Kaiser as he runs for his fourth term.

He also said that many of the questions that had begun to crop up regarding the legislature's integrity have been corrected.

"I think there was an attitude that we needed to change," he said. "We addressed those issues."

In Kaiser's mind, though, improving the state's integrity begins with the state's finances.

"There's never been a good audit. There needs to be a sense of transparency so individual taxpayers have (a sense that) government is operating in their best interests, and right now, that's not happening," he said.

With his business background, he continued, he can work to improve the legislature's role in the process.

"We need more understanding about what's going on. I don't believe the Democrat power structure in the legislature has been efficient. They're leaning more toward delivering the money rather than making sure that it's being spent properly," he said.

Tucker, however, explained that there already is a system of checks in place through the Office of State Auditor to make sure state funds are being properly spent. When they aren't, those funds are withheld from that agency.

"That's our control," he said.

But Kaiser has other concerns as well.

Among those that he shares with Tucker is the issue of Medicaid.

"North Carolina is the last state to require the counties to pay any portion of Medicaid," Tucker said. "I think the state should pay for all of Medicaid."

The problem, Kaiser said, is that the money's not there right now.

And that, he continued, "is a structural problem with the state's finances," but one that should not be corrected with tax increases.

Another concern expressed by Kaiser is the "inefficient" use of discretionary dollars for economic development, such as the governor's One North Carolina Fund.

The problem, he said, is that too much of the money is being directed toward businesses locating in the already wealthy urban areas of the state, while counties such as Duplin in the eastern part of the state aren't seeing the benefits.

Tucker, however, is focused more on the small businesses of Eastern North Carolina.

"We need additional jobs, but it appears we're not going to be able to attract the large manufacturing companies so we need to help the small businesses," he said.

But both men agree that one of the best ways to spread the benefits of economic development is to improve education.

"In North Carolina our students need a good education. Education is the top priority," Tucker said. "We were able, this past session, to do some good things for education, and I would continue to work toward educational issues."

Among those recent accomplishments, he said, are the increases in low-wealth funding, which helps counties such as Duplin; the restoration of district's discretionary funds; the increases in teacher pay; and the reduction of class sizes.

Another area that the two candidates find common ground, with one large exception, is illegal immigration.

Both believe that the influx of illegal immigrants is putting too heavy a strain on the state's resources.

During this summer's session, Tucker helped to pass legislation requiring a vaid Social Security number or a valid visa when applying for a driver's license, as well as legislation requiring the state government to use a federal database to ensure all hires are legal residents.

In addition, the House passed a resolution urging action from Congress, while establishing a local immigration court in Charlotte and allowing local law enforcement to work with federal agencies to deport illegal immigrants arrested for drunken driving or other offenses.

But, Kaiser said, there was one other piece of legislation that was approved that he strongly disagrees with -- a bill co-sponsored by Tucker to allow illegal immigrants to attend state colleges at the in-state tution rate as long as they are working or plan on working toward citizenship.

"It flies in the face of duty and responsibility," he said, adding that such legislation offends him even more with his son serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. "It's not like there's a lot of gray between right and wrong on these issues."

It's that view of right and wrong that the Faison resident believes sets him apart.

"I will purposely avoid doing things that are inappropriate," Kaiser said. "But it's all talk until the government starts acting with a character. That's when what the government is doing is actually worthwhile."

But for Tucker, who's currently working as a funeral director in Pink Hill, experience and familiarity with the district is the key.

"I think I would be the best candidate because of six years of service in the General Assembly and my 28 years of service as the Duplin County finance officer and county manager," the Duplin County native said. "I have listened to the citizens' wants and needs for the past 34 years."