As a small business owner, Eugene Pearsall says the state needs to focus more time and resources on small businesses instead of rolling back taxes and regulations to court large companies.

Just because a company is large does not mean that it will be a good, or safe, fit for a community, said Pearsall, Democratic candidate for state House District 21.

Also, education and school safety are concerns for the owner of Eugene's Trucking, Faison.

Pearsall, 65, who lives on the Sampson County side of Faison, will face Raymond Smith of Goldsboro in the May 8 Democratic primary.

Smith is the at-large member on the Wayne County Board of Education.

The winner will square off against Republican Robert E. Freeman of Goldsboro in the Nov. 6 general election.

The seat is currently held by longtime Democratic Rep. Larry Bell of Clinton, who did not seek re-election. The district includes parts of Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties.

One-stop voting for the primary will run from April 19 to May 5 at the Wayne County Board of Elections office, 209 S. William St.

Pearsall has served as first vice chair of the Work Force Development board and as a member of the board of Sampson County Chamber of Commerce.

Pearsall said he has been going door-to-door to talk with people.

"I go into neighborhoods, and we bring the hot dog truck in," he said. "We give away hot dogs, talk to people and try to get them registered to vote."

Pearsall said he plans to do a lot of that in Wayne County where he is not as well known.

What are people concerned about?

"Donald Trump," he said. "People are really concerned about kids and their safety. Safety is a big issue. That is the most important thing I think at this point -- the safety of our children."

Pearsall said his volunteer work in Sampson County schools over the past 18 years prompted him to run. He also is a past president, council member and chairman of the Sampson County's Head Start program.

"I went to Washington, D.C., we got some good grants," he said. "I moved on from there to the (Clinton) high school where I was on the advisory board for eight years and chaired the board for four years.

"Over the years I saw the need for teachers, pay raises, longevity pay."

Pearsall said he wants to ensure that lottery process are going to the right places.

"We have those funds coming into the county, but I don't know how it is being distributed," he said. "A lot of people complain about 'where is the lottery money?' So I see a need, and I think I can get some of these things done being that I have been doing it in the past.

"That is why I really want to run. I have kids in school. I have one in the seventh grade. I have one in the 10th grade. I have one who has graduated in the Hobbton district, and all of these years I have been working with the school system so I have seen all of their needs."

But the No. 1 thing that the state has got to do now is try keep its children safe, he said.

"As far as guns, so the first thing that I think we need to put in place is metal detectors to keep guns out of the schools," he said.

Pearsall said that for now that he does not support arming teachers.

"I saw in the news last night where a teacher assaulted a kid," he said. "I am not going to say that we don't need to look at these things -- maybe later on look at (arming) principals, coaches.

"I think the citizens have got to make that decision. We need to talk to the people and see how they feel. But I am not one for putting guns in the schools right away. We can keep the guns out by putting those metal detectors up so that they can't get in."

Pearsall said he also is concerned about classroom size.

The emphasis has been on kindergarten through third grade, he said. But Pearsall said he would like to see the other grades get a look.

"If we don't, there are going to be 30 to 40 kids in those classrooms next year," he said. "One, two, three, we are good for the next four years. Schools, right now we have 150 schools that need to be replaced in the next four or five years -- 50 need to be replaced right now.

"So I see a need to figure out some way to raise some funds to be able to make sure our kids are safe, and we definitely have to get the teachers more money. We have teachers leaving every day for other counties because we don't attract them for some reason. We have to find some way to attract teachers to come to our district and teach."

Pearsall said he is concerned about the number of teachers and assistants positions that have been cut over the past several years.

"One way, and I know Republicans don't like to raise taxes, but as far as taxes go, we are always raising property taxes," he said.

"I'd like to do things a little different than what has been done. Why don't we raise sales taxes? In Sampson County if we did half a cent, it would generate three and half million dollars a year in sales tax."

Pearsall said if taxes have to be raised then he favors doing so through sales taxes because that way everybody pays -- "drug dealers, illegals, everybody."

"That is one of the reasons I am running because I feel like I can get some of these things done," he said. "I am a businessman. Taxes, if you are middle class, you just don't have a chance anymore. It looks as if you have either got to be poor or very well off the way it is set.

"My theory is raise sales taxes. Sales taxes, you reach everybody not just us working folks."

He supports expansion of Medicaid and disagrees with the Republicans for not doing so.

"I don't like that," he said. "I mean we have got to take care of our elders. That needs to be looked at.

"We need to try and get that changed because if we don't look out for our kids and elders, where are we going?"

Pearsall said he does not have all of the answers, but his goal is to get in the House and find them.

Legislators need to focus less on partisan politics, he said.

"We are wasting a lot of taxpayers money," Pearsall said. "The governor, you know, he has tried.

"But that is why the Democrats, and I stress this, have to get out and vote so we can have some control. If we don't get out there and vote, we are beating our heads against the wall."

Pearsall said he works hard and wants to bring that and integrity to the General Assembly.

Pearsall said he is not afraid to ask questions and makes his own decisions.

He said he did not ask for money when he decided to run because when people give money they are looking for favors, he said.

"At this point if the Democrats don't get out and vote, the Republicans very well could win this seat," he said. "We have to get out and vote. This way we can change some things. That is the only way.

"I don't like it, what they (Republicans) are doing. But there is not much that can do about it. You have to vote them out -- that is the only way. You have got to make that vote count. We need to do our part."