10/18/12 — State hopefuls present positions at forum

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State hopefuls present positions at forum

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on October 18, 2012 1:46 PM

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State Senate candidate Don Davis, center, talks to Wayne Community College President Kay Albertson before a legislative candidates' forum at the college Wednesday. Davis, a Democrat, faces no opponent in the race for the District 5 seat.

Protecting the military's presence in eastern North Carolina, creating jobs and being willing to cross partisan lines to achieve goals were the chief topics raised at a legislative candidates' forum Wednesday at Wayne Community College.

The forum, held by the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, included eight candidates seeking election to the various state House and Senate seats that include portions of Wayne County.

Louis Pate, a Republican who faces no opposition in his bid for the District 7 seat in the state Senate, said local officials have been right in joining the opposition to a wind farm near the coast, which would threaten the training mission of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. The windmills are tall enough to interfere with low-level flights near the Dare County Bombing Range, which are vital to Seymour Johnson's training. Pate said that as a member of the Senate, he would fight the wind farm tooth and nail.

"It's the mission of people who got to the General Assembly from this area to be united against the location for this wind farm," Pate said. "I'm all for renewable energy, but this is not the place where it needs to be."

Pate said he believes officials who gave the wind farm the go ahead weren't looking down the road.

"I don't think the state realized the impact it would have. If this becomes a deterrent, why does the Defense Department need Seymour Johnson Air Force Base?"

Don Davis, a Democrat who also faces no opponent in his run for the District 5 seat in the state Senate, is a former captain in the Air Force. He also said he would fight to protect the base.

"Without a doubt, our first priority economically is securing the future of Seymour Johnson," Davis said. Davis added that the military presence in eastern North Carolina can help boost the region economically and pointed to the training available at schools such as Wayne Community College as a key to raising the quality of life for many people east of Interstate 95. He also said the state should find more ways to connect local contractors in all fields with the military.

Davis said too many legislators refuse to budge when it comes to the cooperating with colleagues on the other side of the aisle and that the people of the state suffered as a result.

"Our politics are getting out of control," he said. "We need to be about the business of the people."

Davis and Pate are locks for the District 5 and District 7 seats. The new districts were carved out as part of the latest round of redrawing district lines, which is mandated by the Constitution every 10 years.

And Larry Bell is a lock for the 21st District in the state House. He will soon start serving his seventh term in office and has seldom faced opposition at election time.

Bell, who has served on agriculture, education and military committees during his time in Raleigh, said he sees immigration as a key issue for lawmakers to address. It really is an educational issue, Bell said. The state cannot afford not to help the children of immigrants not to have a fair chance at a good education, he said.

The latest district lines are the most convoluted, at least in regard to Wayne County, of any since districts were first created as a way to balance the racial scales in Raleigh in the late 1980s.

For example, House District 10 touches the Sampson County line in the Grantham and runs nearly 60 miles to rub the outskirts of New Bern. It might be the most irregularly shaped district in the state. And House District 4 includes Grantham, Rosewood and Seven Springs, but not Goldsboro, forming a horseshoe shaped wedge of land across Wayne that then stretches all the way through Duplin County to the Pender County line.

Running for the District 4 seat in the House are incumbent Republican Jimmy Dixon, Democrat Rebecca Judge and Libertarian Kevin Hayes.

Dixon, a Duplin County farmer, spent much of his allotted time talking about the need for lawmakers to get back to the ideals of the Founding Fathers. But he also addressed the need to secure Seymour Johnson.

"We must elect individuals who will not allow a wind farm to interfere with the technology we need to protect our freedom," he said. "We need to elect people who are going to enhance the military in eastern North Carolina."

Mrs. Judge is a newcomer to politics. A former nurse, she said she is especially interested in early childhood education and health care. She also said she would be willing to cross party lines to make things happen.

"I want to push past partisanship," she said.

Hayes noted that he the only one of the three running for the seat who lives in Wayne. He addressed a wide range of issues, including immigration and education, and said if elected he would propose the elimination of the state income tax. Other states that have done so have reaped the economic rewards of keeping that money in the public sector, he said.

"It would create a boom that this state has never seen before," Hayes said.

The 10th District includes Rosewood, Pikeville and Fremont and most of southern Lenoir County.

Running for the seat are Republican John Bell IV and Jim "Babe" Hardison.

Bell, who has not run for office before but who has advised several other candidates in their campaigns, spoke about the need to create jobs and said the first step is for lawmakers to reduce regulations on small businesses.

"We need to protect existing businesses," he said, "and to protect the agricultural industry. And we need to work together to reduce laws that hurt business development."

He said that what hurts when companies from out of state take a look at North Carolina are the state's corporate tax rate and its infrastructure. The tax rate needs to be lowered and the infrastructure improved, he said.

Bell called the air base a "jewel" in the East and noted that "We have to do everything we can to protect Seymour Johnson Air Force Base."

He also mentioned the need for Republicans and Democrats to start working together more.

"We need leadership," he said. "It's not about politics."

Hardison, a former finance officer with the Wayne County Schools, cited his military experience and said he, too, understands the importance of Seymour Johnson to the region's economy. He said the people elected in November need to be ready to lobby hard for the military before the next round of base closings and added that as a legislator he would work closely with local elected officials to secure the base's stability.

Hardison said he believes both Democrats and Republicans have too much at stake to put politics first.

"I'm ready to work to find solutions and they won't be found by one particular party," he said.

Presenting sponsor for the event was The Goldsboro News-Argus. Other sponsors included Franklin Baking Co., Krispy Kreme, the Pate-Dawson Co. and Piedmont Natural Gas Co.