Dr. Kyle Horton of Kure Beach says she has been able to live out her version of the American dream because of a country that invested in middle and working class families like hers.
Returning the country to making those kinds of investments is what she will work toward if elected to the 7th Congressional District seat, she said.
Ms. Horton, a Democratic candidate for the seat now held by Republican David Rouzer, was in Goldsboro Thursday afternoon to introduce herself and visit with the party faithful at the Wayne County Democratic party headquarters downtown.
Ms. Horton is a native of Ohio, but said that like many families in eastern North Carolina she comes from humble roots.
"But I had access to a sound, quality public education," she said. "We had student loans that could cover me through medical school. These are policies that invest in families and what you can become, what your career might look like so that you can live our version of the American dream that fits your story and what you want to accomplish.
"I am really motivated to try to deal with those pocketbook things that affect the hard-working families of eastern North Carolina that deserve to live out their version of the American dream."
But there is now a tide of corporate giveaways at the expense of working class families, she said.
People are struggling to find good jobs that pay a living wage and now piled on top of that they are struggling with health care access especially if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a viable replacement, she said.
Ms. Horton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and had started medical school at Wake Forest, but moved back home after her grandfather, a World War II veteran, became ill.
She received her medical degree from Wright State University, where she also worked on and received her master's degree in business administration at the same time.
She moved back to North Carolina in 2012. But before that she was a physician in the Department of Veterans Affairs in Richmond. She helped train doctors about veterans care and served as part of a special post-deployment team to care for Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veterans.
"Which is how I first got interested in politics," she said.
While there the VA experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in patient load, but only a 9 percent increase in medical staff.
She said she saw firsthand the delays veterans experienced in getting health care including access to mental health.
"I figured that as I stepped out of service with the VA, and was moving back down here with my family, if I didn't step up and try and change things for the VA and to improve veterans' care, who would?" Ms. Horton said. "So I started teaching myself politics."
She made several trips to the Capitol to talk with committee staff and worked on trying to formulate legislation in particular on veterans' access to mental health. She stayed engaged in veterans' politics and health care and environmental issues primarily.
"That is my road to here," she said. "I have been fighting for veterans, patients and our way of life here in eastern North Carolina for a few years. I finally decided to throw my hat into the ring as a first-time candidate to fight for eastern North Carolina."
Politics today are "horribly divisive," and that is sad because there is more that people share as values than what divides them, she said.
Rouzer has over a 96 percent Trump score, meaning that he has aligned with the Trump administration's "extremist policies," the "vast majority" of the time, Ms. Horton said.
"I think people are hungry for people who want to unify and bring people together around a message of hope instead of fixating on differences or trying to forward some partisan or extreme agenda," she said. "We have seen unprecedented attempts to misinform the public coming from the White House.
"We have also seen very poor transparency from the White House administration in terms of availability on press conferences, restricting video access to White House correspondents. That is essentially unprecedented. In the modern era we have never had that."
To overcome those barriers, the Democratic Party needs to be recruiting really strong candidates who have a great story, who care about fundamental economic opportunity issues for all and who really reflect the unified patriotic values in this county, she said.
"I think I do that," Ms. Horton said. "I have been fighting for veterans. I have been fighting for patients. I have been fighting for economic opportunity and quality of life in eastern North Carolina.
"So I think I am someone who can help transcend some of that divide, and that is the case that I want to make to the voters."
People want to know about jobs and what her plan is to bring in good jobs and ensure people have a living wage, she said. People are worried, too, about access to clean air and water, pocketbook issues, high health insurance premiums for older people and access to health care.
Ms. Horton said she thinks that some of the divisiveness that fixates on immigration is being perpetuated by partisan politics.
She said that when she talks to people on a day-to-day basis immigration is not usually one of the first things mentioned.
During a recent recess that would have been a district work session Rouzer was checking out the border wall, she said
"So instead of working for families right here in eastern North Carolina he was worried about checking out the border wall," she said. "I think that people are trying to divide us.
"We are a nation of immigrants, and that is a heritage that I think we should respect, and instead of trying to be divisive I try to have an open and honest conversation about things like immigration that are complicated issues."
The $1.6 billion being discussed to pay for the wall would be better spent covering people with Affordable Care Act health care plans, she said. It is also close to what is needed to bring up the level on the nation's structurally deficient bridges.
It could provide better health care for veterans, access to mental health care and address the opioid crisis, she said.
Ms. Horton said that as a doctor she believes that health care access is a basic human right and that everyone should have access to basic, quality health care.
There are problems with the Affordable Care Act, she said.
One is there has been a lack of competition among insurance providers in eastern North Carolina.
Some of that was because of the "extreme" refusal to expand Medicaid, she said. The expansion would have brought other competitors into the marketplace, reduced rates and approved access to care, Ms. Horton said.
Looking at the list of the top districts that would be affected by repealing the Affordable Care Act without having a good replacement plan, the 7th District is in the top five nationwide where people might lose insurance coverage, she said.
Ms. Horton said that if she was in Congress now that she would be working to bring in more insurance competition, lower taxes, ensure access to affordable medications and allow senior citizens to remain covered through Medicare.
She said she also would work against cutting Medicaid. Cuts will impact the elderly, disabled and veterans, she said. Also, about 50 percent of rural children in the county are on Medicaid, she added.
The plan put forth by the U.S. House and other legislation that would cut Medicaid are the "worst kind of extremism" and the "worst" kind of policies to grant tax relief at the expense of the working class family, she said.
"I would be fighting that agenda," Ms. Horton said.
The nation's corporate income tax is probably too high, she said. However, it is far too low when you take a closer look at the effective tax rate and what corporations actually pay because of all of the loopholes, inversion schemes and things like that, she said.
"Now what they are looking at doing with tax reform, it is really tax cuts for the superrich and for big corporate special interests like the pharmaceutical and insurance companies at the expense of the rest of us," Ms. Horton said. "That is unacceptable to me. Middle and working class families should not be picking up the tax bill to cut taxes for major corporations and for the wealthiest one percent.
"I think a fair tax system would be one that brings taxes down for middle and working class people in eastern North Carolina and puts more of that burden on corporations. But that burden would be in the form of a much simpler tax structure that keeps companies here, but that does away with some of these loopholes and things that allow them not to pay their fair share."