Raymond Smith said that investing a vote in him for N.C. House District 21 is investing a vote for Wayne and Sampson counties

"One of the reasons that I am in this race to begin with is because I am a product of this community," he said. "I was born here. I was educated here. My parents were born here, educated here."

Smith said he would work to make sure that Wayne and Sampson counties are not left out when it comes to legislative mandates and disbursements of funds.

Smith, 54, will face Eugene Pearsall of Faison in the May 8 Democratic primary.

The winner will meet 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, Sampson and Duplin 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.

Smith currently is serving the second year of a four-year term as the at-large member of the Wayne County Board of Education, a position he will have to surrender if elected in November.

"There has been no conflict at all. I have been able to attend all of my meetings as they relate to the school board," Smith said. "I might be campaigning, but my job is Wayne County Public Schools, and that is what I am focused on."

Smith said he has known Bell for many years, and that he stands for the same things Bell does.

Also, Smith said he already is an elected official working in the community and has worked in the community for his entire life.

Smith said when he left the state Department of Transportation to return home it was because he wanted to do something in the community that raised him.

He became the first executive director of GATEWAY that serves the needs of the community, particularly the "least of us" and those who choose to ride on transit, Smith said.

Smith left GATEWAY to work in other areas of transportation before becoming director of transportation of Wayne County Public Schools in 2004, remaining for 10 years.

"Transportation is the impetus on which jobs and opportunities are created," he said.

Transportation also provides access to health care and events in the community, Smith said.

Smith said people he is talking to are concerned about teacher pay, an issue he wants to address if elected.

"One thing I would like to work one is restoring the 40 percent lottery proceeds that were originally earmarked for education that is down below 20 percent now," he said. "That was not what people were told ... when we came out in support of the lottery.

"I would work hard to have that restored. I would like to look at statewide school bond referendums for school construction."

Also as a "transportation guy," Smith said he wants to address infrastructure issues to ensure that efforts that led to the new U.S. 70 Goldsboro Bypass continue.

People also are talking about coal ash and environmental issues and the K-3 classroom size legislation as well, he said.

"They are talking about the economy, and while it looks good at this particular point in time, people are concerned about tomorrow," he said. "They are concerned about the fact that a lot of the decisions being made in the legislature are not necessarily for the mass public.

"They typically believe the decisions are for the elite. The tax cuts are for the individuals who are the wealthiest in our community, and the least of us are not being looked after."

The average person who works hard every day does not necessarily see a big difference in receiving tax cuts, Smith said.

The reason for taxes is not to upset people, but rather to have the money to provide the services people need on a daily basis -- police and fire departments, social services, health department, Smith said.

People have to have these services because they cannot afford to pay for them independently, he said.

Taxes help level the paying field between the haves and the have-nots, he said.

"But as to how these tax cuts are affecting the average person, the average person is not benefiting from that," he said.

Smith supports state expansion of Medicaid -- a service needed by individuals who cannot afford to pay for their health care out of their own pocket.

People should not be subject to no health care or poor health care and should not have to choose between eating and taking their medicine, he said.

Those are situations created by bad tax laws -- laws that are hurting the people who need the help the most, Smith said.

"So Medicaid is definitely something that would need to be enhanced, protected and made available to the most needy of us," he said. "The areas that are being attacked are health care and education.

"Those are the lifeblood of existence -- good health and a good solid education so that you can go and make a good living for yourself and family."

School safety is also at the forefront of discussions, he said.

A civil conversation about gun control is what the country needs, he said.

Smith said he believes in the Second Amendment and an individual's right to bear arms.

"However, one individual's rights do not preclude another individual's rights," Smith said. "Other individuals have a right to live in a society free from violence, free from the fear of violence."

As such, sensible gun laws need to be enacted that prohibit access to guns by certain individuals, he said. For example, psychological assessments are used every day and could be used to help make that determination, he said.

Smith said he is absolutely against arming teachers.

There are already issues at schools regarding access to weapons, and it does not need to be exacerbated by adding more guns, Smith said.

"More guns is not the solution to our problem," he said. "More understanding, more training, more research. All of those are good ways to approach this issue. But to throw guns into people's hands and say, 'hey now we are even,' that's not a solution."

That is not well-thought-out plan, just as some of the other legislation coming out of Raleigh is not well-thought out, he said.

People also are concerned about their future, the lack of jobs and economic development, Smith said.

Economic development/jobs are at the top of his priority list, Smith said.

While Goldsboro is considered somewhat of a retirement community, there is still a need to attract younger people here to work and raise their families, he said.

That is the tax base that will be needed to maintain the community, Smith said.

Residents are concerned as well about the dominance of one party in the General Assembly that prevents good solid legislation, he said.

When that happens, legislation is not for the masses, but only for certain special interests, Smith said.

Having a super-majority party in the General Assembly does not make for good government, and people are tired of the ultra-partisanship that has been part of the legislation coming out of Raleigh in recent years, he said.

"I think a balanced government is what most people want," he said. "They want both sides to talk to one another and work out good, solid legislation."