This week’s edition of The Alamance News focuses on issues that have come, or may come, before the North Carolina General Assembly. The newspaper submitted a questionnaire to each incumbent and challenger in the three races involving Alamance County representatives.
[See their responses HERE.] The candidates were also asked for biographical information, which is reprinted in this week’s edition [See information here: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-n-c-general-assembly/.]
State senator Amy Scott Galey, a Republican first elected in 2020, is being challenged by Sean C. Ewing, a Democrat who is also a member of the non-partisan Mebane city council.
In district 63, on the eastern side of the county, the matchup features a rematch of 2020, but on the opposite sides of incumbency. State representative Ricky Hurtado, a Democrat who beat Republican Steve Ross in 2020, now faces the former incumbent again in 2022.
In district 64, incumbent Republican Dennis Riddell is being challenged by Democrat Ron Osborne.
All of the incumbents and challengers, except Osborne, participated in responding to the newspaper’s questionnaire. [See story on page 14 for Osborne’s explanation of why he decided not to respond.]
The newspaper has grouped the candidate’s responses (HERE) according to the races: Ewing and Galey on the left side of the questions for the State Senate District 25 contest; Hurtado and Ross, House District 63, immediately to the right of the questions; and Osborne and Riddell on the far right-hand side of the page, for House District 64.
Many of the answers break down in fairly predictable, partisan divides, but on some others, there are areas of agreement. And in some cases there are cross-currents where the Republican incumbent senator and Democratic candidates agree.
Levels of taxation
For instance, Ewing, Galey, and Hurtado say that, in general, North Carolina’s taxes are “about right.” Riddell and Ross both say that taxes are “too high.”
Hurtado favors raising corporate tax rates, which his opponent, Ross, thinks should be lowered. Ross says he supports reductions in the state income tax, sales tax, and corporate tax rates.
Riddell focuses on the need to lower income tax rates.
Ewing, Galey, and Hurtado say that spending on education is “too little,” while Riddell and Ross say it is “about right.”
Ewing and Hurtado say the state’s minimum wage should be increased, with both specifying a preferred level of $15.00 per hour (Hurtado) or “at least” that amount (Ewing).
Galey and Riddell oppose an increase, with Riddell adding, “Wage determination should be made by the employer”
All five candidates differ markedly on what they think would do the most to improve the state’s economy.
Ewing says he thinks the state should support electric vehicle technologies and jobs; and reducing costs for EV components will make vehicles more affordable, adding “No reason for gas profits to go overseas.”
Incumbent Galey focuses on “workforce development and having native workers ready to take their place in the economy instead of relying on people moving here from other places.”
Hurtado says, “For today: fair compensation for workers, support for small businesses, more affordable housing. For the future, invest in education and job training.”
Riddell says he believes the state should “continue to reduce the personal income tax rate,” continue to pay down debt, and balance the state budget.
Ross says the state needs to rein in inflation. “We have to do everything in our power to increase take home pay for families [including] lowering the tax burden on the public so that people can better cope with inflation.”
New gun laws was one area of divergence among the candidates. Hurtado was the most direct in favoring new measures: “Rising gun violence in Alamance County puts our community’s safety at risk. I favor common-sense measures such as requiring background checks on all purchases, raising the minimum age to purchase a gun, and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people who pose a threat to themselves or others.”
Hurtado says he would support a ban on assault-style weapons, raising the minimum age for gun puraches in the state, and expanding the gun permit laws to apply to weapons beyond handguns.
Ewing focuses on safe and secure storage. “One of the most important actions we can implement is to support safe and secure storage of our firearms. We’re seeing an epidemic of stolen firearms due to inappropriate storage. We must work better in Raleigh to provide education on the impact of poor firearm storage.”
Galey responds directly to what she considers the misperception about gun laws. “ I think gun laws are not the problem with gun violence – mental health issues are the problem.
People talk about banning assault-style weapons but fail to define what they mean. Assault weapons are already banned.
Ross says, “North Carolina’s current gun laws are sufficient. I oppose new laws that restrict lawful gun ownership.”
Riddell says, “The Second Amendment is still in effect.”
Galey, Riddell, and Ross say they would oppose efforts to ban assault-style weapons or to raise the minimum age for gun purchases. Galey and Riddell say they would also oppose expanding the permit laws beyond handguns; Ross did not respond to that question.
The candidates also split along party lines about whether they think the Confederate monument outside of the Historic Court House in Graham should be removed or relocated.
Republicans Galey, Riddell, and Ross said they oppose any effort to remove it or move it to another location. Riddell adds, “This is an issue that should be decided by Alamance County NOT outside interests.”
The Republicans also say they would oppose legislation to allow the removal of Confederate statutes across the state.
Democratic incumbent Hurtado on the other hand says he would support legislation allowing the removal – reversing legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2015 to protect any “object of remembrance.”
Ewing said he supports removal of the monument in Graham but did not answer whether he would support legislation allowing removal of Confederate statues across the state.
All five candidates who responded to the newspaper’s issues questionnaire voiced support legalizing marijuana for medical use.
Ewing says he supports legalizing marijuana for “personal use”; Hurtado does not specify whether he favors legalization for both medical and personal (or recreational) use.
The Republican candidates said they support legalization for medical, but not recreational, marijuana.
Says Ewing, “At [the] very least, we must move forward on…legalization. North Carolinians have said they would like to see full legalization of marijuana for personal use and regulating and taxing the industry would provide a great benefit to the State of North Carolina.”
Hurtado adds, “I support legalizing cannabis in North Carolina…we’ve seen benefits of regulated, legalized marijuana, including health benefits for veterans, reduced crime, new economy, and increased tax revenue for communities.”
Incumbent Republican senator Galey says, “I voted for the medical marijuana bill because it provided potential relief to people who are terminally ill or seriously suffering.”
However, Galey said she opposes legalization of marijuana for recreational use, which she says “has been shown to be so bad for the brain of a growing teenager.”
Riddell says he would support legalization for “a demonstrable medical need,” but only when issued through a pharmacy or other licensed provider; he opposes legalization for recreational use.
Similarly, Ross also says he opposes “recreational marijuana” but is open to legalizing it for medical use, for “very limited health conditions” but with strict restrictions and enforcement.
Other pressing issues
The candidates also vary on what they perceive as the most pressing issues for the state to address.
Ewing, the Democratic challenger for state senate district 25, says “Fully funding our Public Schools will be critical in regards [to] bringing more good paying jobs and technological transformation to our County.”
Incumbent senator Galey says the single issue most critical for the state to address is “workforce development and education quality.
“Who is going to fill all the jobs we have created in the last 5 years,” Galey adds.
Incumbent Hurtado says, “The state can improve life for working families by increasing the minimum wage, providing access to affordable health care and housing, and investing in education.”
Ross sees the economy and inflation as the most pressing issue that the state needs to address.
Incumbent representative Riddell sees other looming challenges.
“Fatherlessness,” says Riddell. “This drives so many of the other problems in our state, whether it is juvenile delinquency, drug addition, youth crime. The most prevalent common denominator is fatherlessness.”
The full text of the questions and the candidates’ responses are printed HERE.
Their biographical information can be found here: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-n-c-general-assembly/.
Below are the candidates’ responses to where they believe they are misunderstood or misrepresented: