People are hungry to be heard, said Dr. Kyle Horton.
They are hungry to have someone ask them about their concerns -- that they cannot afford their health care, that families are still struggling paycheck to paycheck and are being left behind in an economy that only rewards hoarded wealth instead of hard work, she said.
Horton, of Carolina Beach, is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House District 7 seat. She will face off against Grayson Parker of Goldsboro in the Tuesday, May 8, Democratic primary.
The winner will challenge incumbent Republican Rep. David Rouzer in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election.
Horton's core issues fall into three intertwined categories -- economic health, physical health and environmental health.
As a physician, Horton said she believes that health should be a right, and that no one should have to choose between their medications and food.
But far too many Americans, and especially seniors, are having to make just that choice, she said.
"When it comes to the mood, there's a mix," she said. "A lot of people seem to be extremely frustrated that they were hoping things were going to change in Washington and on Capitol Hill, but they are dismayed at continued efforts that put party over country and that have left hard-working families here in eastern North Carolina behind."
At a recent forum one of the themes was people who are deeply concerned about Trump's new tariffs and the possibility of a trade war.
That concern is based on the fact that poultry and soybeans in particular are heavily dependent on the Asian markets -- hence a trade war with China will have real and lasting implications particularly for small farmers, in eastern North Carolina, she said.
"So I think people have every right to be frustrated when they are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, and now it is looking like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid will be on the chopping block because of the deficits that are going to be driven up by the tax bill," she said.
People are tired as well of polarized, partisan politics, she said.
"I think they are tired, too, of leaders who just rubber stamp an extremist agenda and that includes my opponent in the general election who consistently will put party over country and, basically, has been rubber stamping a party agenda since he was first elected."
She said she is deeply committed to reviving the American dream the way it was envisioned.
"That means I would prioritize a major investment in infrastructure to bring good-paying jobs, and that includes building internet infrastructure throughout our district so we can loop everyone in because -- let's face it -- reliable internet is basically a requirement in the 21st century," she said.
In the past, the country has grown its economy from the middle and working class out through market investments in infrastructure and creating good-paying jobs, she said.
Health care, with an emphasis on Medicare and Medicaid in particular, is a major concern, she said.
"There are far too many individuals, even if they can afford a plan, it is a high-deductible, high out-of-pocket costs, and they are having a hard time even finding providers who will take some of their plans," Horton said.
People are being left behind not being able to afford their prescription medications, too, she said.
Also, they are not able to get access to basic preventive health care because they are putting off getting help because of the hefty out-of-pocket costs, Horton said.
"What we are seeing, too, with health care is unfortunately because we didn't expand Medicaid in North Carolina. There is insufficient competition in the marketplace," she said. "I think we should immediately lower the Medicaid eligibility age to age 50, which gives a lot of individuals at a time when they are most at risk for diabetes and heart disease and cancers coverage that is guaranteed.
"Then we can move toward creating a public option and covering every single American in this country instead of allowing big pharma and insurance lobbyists to trample all over our health care."
Horton said she thinks it is incredibly misleading for Republicans to paint Medicare and Social Security as entitlement programs.
These are programs that hard-working people in eastern North Carolina have paid into their entire lives, she said.
"I am deeply concerned now, with the tax bill in particular, that we are looking at at least $1.7 to $1.8 trillion added to the deficit directly," Horton said. "They are already using this as an excuse to claim that they need to cut Medicare and Medicaid.
"Well, I am sick and tired of career politicians balancing budgets on the backs of the vulnerable Americans. The simple fact is that if everyone, including the wealthiest corporations, paid their fair share that we could afford to protect programs for seniors, and we would be protecting those benefits that hard-working residents have earned with their Medicare and Social Security."
It is telling that tax cuts for the wealthy were made permanent, while tax cuts for middle and working class families are only temporary, Horton said.
The GOP is pretending the tax will benefit small businesses and help grow the economy from the middle class out, but research indicates that 8 cents on the dollar would be reinvested in American workers and major capital investments, while 14 cents and 22 cents on average would be spent on stock buybacks and dividends, respectively, Horton said.
"We deserve an economy that works for hard-working families and instead what the tax bill does is move us further from achieving an economy that rewards hard work," she said.
Also, attempts by the GOP to defund and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency and a lack of research about environmental issues are huge problems themselves, she said.
Horton said she opposes fracking and off-shore drilling and had rather see the focus shift to cleaner fuel sources such as solar, to wean away from the country's "dirty addiction" to fossil fuels.
That includes not subsidizing the oil and gas industry to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars annually, she said.
Gun control is another area of concern.
Horton said that as a doctor she is committed to public health and believes that gun violence has become a public health crisis.
She said she supports the Second Amendment and is a licensed gun owner who trained and qualified marksman on the M-16 and handgun at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
"So I am not anti-gun," she said. "But what I am is anti-politicians who put the gun manufacturers and their lobbyists over the health and safety of our kids."
Like many others, including NRA members, Horton said she supports background checks.
The country needs to address the fact that weapons that have been designed for combat, to basically tear flesh off of bone, and create maximum fatalities, are not for sport and have no business in the hands of civilians, she said.
There is a need to address bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets and weapons designed to be used in warfare, Horton said.
Her district includes Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
She said she supports the military and veterans and that generations of her family served in the military.
Also, a large portion of medical career has been spent caring for veterans, she said.
"The things that concern me the most right now, we are both war weary in the Middle East, and I am concerned about misuse of military resources at a time when a lot of military families and veterans are being left behind," she said. "By that I mean military families and veterans need more than flag pins, promises and parades.
"The use of the National Guard at the southern border, the commitment of resources to a parade for no apparent reason other than to show off concerns me."
In eastern North Carolina there have been some of the longest waits in the entire country for veterans to receive care, she said.
Also, there have been issues with Tricare, as well as access to care for both active duty military and veterans, she said.
Many budgetary excuses are given as to why the country cannot afford to treat its military families and veterans the way they should be treated, Horton said.
"I am very much concerned about the tide of federal policies that are coming out that really aren't putting our families first either on the DOD (Department of Defense) side or when it comes to the Veterans Administration," she said
As for immigration, Horton said she feels that politicians are using immigration to stoke misinformation and to divide Americans.
The country needs common-sense immigration policies that protect industries like agriculture particularly in North Carolina where farmers are dependent on H-2A migrant labor, she said.
"What we know, that is actually true, is that immigration, illegal migration across the southern border just hit a 46-year low," she said.
"So why we would be making major investments in our troops ... to police the southern border at this particular juncture? I think the issue with DACA and the dreamers is really a moral issue about what country we live in and what vision the Founding Fathers had for our great nation."
The U.S. is a nation of immigrants and dreamers are part of the American dream, she said.
"I feel like we need to have comprehensive immigration reform that incorporates our dreamers as contributing and hard-working individuals in our economy," Horton said.