Hackney pledges focus on schools
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 30, 2008 1:46 PM
With the 2008 May primaries growing closer, state House Speaker Joe Hackney visited Wayne County Tuesday night to give his fellow Democrats a few words of encouragement and to promise to continue the legislature's work on education.
"We're all Democrats," he said, after a quick dinner at Wilber's Barbecue. "At the end of the day, we all have to come together."
There shouldn't be, he continued, any difference between urban and rural Democrats, eastern and western Democrats or rich or poor Democrats -- especially not in this election year.
"I really think things are going our way," he said. "We have had a string of Democratic terms of governor that have been good for North Carolina. And while we (in the Democratic-controlled) legislature don't always do what the governor wants, we do sit down and talk to the governor and try to work it out."
One area they have worked particularly well together is education -- from pre-kindergarten programs like Smart Start, to high school programs like Learn and Earn.
That's why, Hackney told the partisan crowd, the North Carolina Democratic Party has been so successful lately.
"I believe the public understands we're in a global economy and the way to compete is to have excellence in education and well-funded education all the way up the line," he said.
Mentioning efforts like the $7 million that were recently doled out for dropout prevention programs across the state, the raises given to teachers last year and the increased ability of high school students to access community colleges, Hackney pledged that the Democrats and the legislature would continue to do more of the same.
And, while he admitted that election years are always more of a challenge, he expects that work to continue during the upcoming short session in May.
"It's always harder in an election year because when we show up for the short session, we will have just had the primaries and will be starting into the first week of the general election," Hackney said. "You get a lot more posturing and a lot more speeches and a lot more bills just for show, but that's just democracy, and we'll work through it."
He does not plan on any sort of special rules to help control it.
"I believe in pretty open debate. I believe in just letting it go," he said. "But we want to have a good education year, because we believe in education.
"We believe it brings everybody up. We believe it solves a lot of societal problems."
And even though he said he thinks the Democratic Party is, more often than not, the right one, he still plans to run the House in a bi-partisan manner.
"I have made it a priority because I thought it had gone too far the other direction," he said. "When you have a majority in your party, you need to be able to advance your agenda, but the other side needs to be included in debate, and I've tried to provide that."
Still, when it comes to the November elections, those bi-partisan feelings won't be anywhere to be found.
"We have the opportunity for a seat pickup here, and we're excited about that," Hackney said.
He was referring to the seat being vacated by Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, who has decided to run for retiring Sen. John Kerr's spot.
Currently declaring their intention to run for that office are Republican Efton Sager and Democrat Ronnie Griffin.
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