Candidates for Alamance County state legislative districts provided their responses this week to a range of issues that they may encounter in the General Assembly.
The Alamance News sought responses from all six candidates – two who are running for the state senate district that includes all of Alamance County and a portion of eastern Guilford County, as well as two state house districts which bi-sect Alamance County.
The state house districts are currently represented by Steve Ross (in district #63, which encompasses the central and eastern stretches of the county) and Dennis Riddell (whose district #64 covers largely western and southern Alamance County). They are facing first-time challengers, Democrats Ricky Hurtado of Mebane and Eric Henry of Snow Camp.
For the state senate seat, incumbent Republican Rick Gunn did not seek re-election. Instead, Alamance County board of commissioners chairman Amy S. Galey, a Republican, is facing off against Gunn’s 2018 challenger, Democrat J.D. Wooten of McLeansville.
Both the district #63 and state senate seats are high priorities for Democrats attempting to “flip” some of what they see as the most competitive districts, in hopes of ending what has been a 10-year stretch of the Republican majority in both houses in Raleigh. The focus on those two seats is evident from the large sums pouring into the Democratic coffers [see separate story this edition, beginning on page 7].
As noted elsewhere [see separate story on page 4] the three Democrats refused to participate or respond to the newspaper’s issues questionnaire, and none of the three provided any biographical information about themselves or their campaigns.
The newspaper was forced to scour their campaign websites, which often have very general statements of their platforms or visions, as well as social media posts, in order to decipher where the Democrats stand on various policy issues. Those positions are annotated in the election “grid” on pages 5 and 6.
Additionally, the newspaper has included information on certain groups that have endorsed and/or contributed to the Democrats, which may represent a proxy, of sorts, for how those groups believe the candidates stand on their particular special interests.
For instance, candidates were asked about their views on the state’s right-to-work law, which allows workers to work at a company without having to belong to a union.
Galey, Ross, and Riddell all support the current law and maintaining the law.
While none of the Democrats responded to the issue, all three are endorsed by the state’s AFL-CIO, which has as one of its top priorities the repeal of the right-to-work law.
Similarly, the labor organization also voices support for raising the state’s minimum wage, now $7.25, to $15.00, consistent with a national push by a coalition of liberal and labor groups.
For their part, Galey and Riddell oppose raising the state’s minimum wage. Ross says he favors an increase, but believes that the correct level is to be “determined by the free market.”
One of the areas where social media posts revealed the Democrats’ policy preference was with respect to North Carolina’s Medicaid program. The Democrats were relatively vocal on their view that North Carolina should expand its Medicaid program, something the Republicans generally oppose. Ross and Riddell point to changes already made in the state’s administration of the Medicaid program which has resulted in greater participation but with certain cost controls.
Galey says she would not to see Medicaid expanded, but “not to the extent required to get matching funds under Obamacare.”
Galey also makes explicit that she disagrees with “expanding Medicaid to undocumented immigrants or able-bodied adults.”
The Republicans do not always agree among themselves.
Candidates were asked their views on several potential measures for “putting teeth” in the state’s public records and open meetings law, including the possibility of adding criminal penalties for public officials who violate the law.
Riddell and Ross favor adding the thrust of the open government laws into the state constitution, a provision Ross has sponsored in the past.
But Galey is opposed to that idea and each of the other three potential approaches listed in the newspaper’s questionnaire.
Meanwhile, both Ross and Riddell are not enamored of the possibility of adding criminal penalties for violations of either open government statute, with Riddell adding, “unless the violation can be proven to be intentionally harmful.”
Turn to pages 5 and 6 to see the full list of questions and the responses of the candidates. Their biographical information can be found on page 4.