Voters in this month’s Republican primary will have a rather broad range of personalities to consider when they select their nominee for the state’s 63rd house district, which is currently in the hands of Democratic representative Ricky Hurtado.
With a one-time mayor of Burlington who preceded Hurtado as the 63rd’s state representative, a college professor who has traveled the world to spread the gospel of free-market capitalism, and an openly-gay native Floridian who made a previous bid for another state house seat, the field in this particular race is about as varied as any the GOP has previously mustered in Alamance County.
But the diversity of this trio isn’t just limited to their resumes and personal backgrounds. The three candidates also have opposing views on many key issues – while remaining well within the mainstream Republican philosophy on matters such as taxation, abortion, and the right to bear arms.
The positions of the three candidates are spelled out in their answers to a questionnaire that The Alamance News sent to each of them earlier this month. These responses ultimately reveal some commonalities among former state representative Stephen Ross, who served as Burlington’s mayor prior to his three-term, six-year tenure in the General Assembly; Ed Priola, an adjunct professor with the University of Maryland’s Global Campus; and Peter Boykin, who served as the GOP’s nominee in an unsuccessful bid for the state’s 58th house district in 2018.
The three contenders are in lockstep, for instance, when it comes to taxation. They agree that the state’s exactions are currently too high for personal incomes, retail sales, and corporate revenues. Ross even declares the reduction of taxes as the single most important issue that currently faces the state.
“Lowering the tax burden on the public [is necessary],” he argues, “so that people can better cope with inflation under President Biden.”
The candidates are also unanimous in their opposition to new restrictions on firearms, such as a potential assault weapons ban or a higher age limit for gun purchases. Another area of strong overlap is the promotion of charter schools, which each candidate sees as a way to broaden the public school curriculum and allow parents to be more involved in their children’s education.
The three candidates are also quite close in their views on abortion – although the particulars of their positions may be worth a closer look in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s apparent intent to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which would give state legislatures more of a say in this matter.
In their responses to the relevant questions, the three candidates all indicate their support of a state-level ban on “partial-birth” abortions and their opposition to taxpayer-subsidized abortions of any sort. Boykin and Priola also assert that they see no implied right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution, while Ross didn’t indicate a position either way.
When given the latitude to expound on their positions, all three of the candidates revealed strong objections to late-term abortions, although none of them indicated that they would outlaw abortion entirely.
“Partial birth abortion is abhorrent and should be banned in any civilized society,” Ross declared in one of his answers. “All-late term abortions should be prohibited [although] there should be reasonable abortion exceptions if the mother’s life is in danger.”
“I believe in the sanctity of life,” Priola concurred. “Abortions should occur very early, if at all. Afterwards, the only exception should be to save the life of the mother.”
“I support policies that respect the dignity of all human life,” Boykin insisted. “Abortion should be a rare procedure done only in a hospital environment (with set rules or exceptions in case of rape, incest or [the] possible death of the mother).”
Boykin’s positions nevertheless begin to diverge from the rest of the field when the three candidates are asked to weigh in on a number of other closely-watched national controversies.
An openly gay man who, in his bio, identifies himself as the leader of a group called Gays for Trump, Boykin is the only one of the three who indicates his support for legislation that would extend state anti-discrimination protection to sexual orientation.
“All people deserve to be protected under the Constitution,” he declares. “[We have to] ensure [that our] government [and our] people treat each other with equality…All lives matter.”
Ross, for his part, says he opposes anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals, while Priola avoids the question on account of its “ambiguity.”
“I would need to understand the context of the legislation before I could answer,” he added. “What does ‘anti-discrimination protection’ include?”
Boykin also shows himself somewhat less solicitous of corporate interests than his fellow Republicans. Although he, like his competitors, supports the “right to work” laws that have significantly hampered the ability of unions to organize in North Carolina, Boykin nevertheless breaks with the rest of the field in favoring an increase in the state’s minimum wage, which he says should be raised from $7.25 to $12.00 an hour. Boykin also insists that taxpayer-funded incentives should be reserved for companies that “benefit our citizens.”
“Companies shouldn’t be allowed to sell out people for profit,” he adds. “Businesses should be as loyal to workforce as they expect workers to be to them.”
A more trusting view of private enterprise is expressed by Priola who insists that wages, whether minimum or otherwise, “should be determined by the market” and that taxpayer-funded incentives should be offered to all companies, regardless of size.
“Incentives must be reasonably uniform,” he argues. “Big corporations should not benefit disproportionately relative to small businesses and family farms.”
Ross, meanwhile, concurs with the state’s current policy, which not only extends incentives to companies based on the number of jobs they add to the workforce but “claws back” the funds when the recipient fails to meet its employment objectives.
The three candidates also differ in their positions on the potential legalization of marijuana.
When asked about the potential legalization of cannabis, Boykin stresses that he personally doesn’t indulge in the drug but would support “regulation and taxation of marijuana” along the lines of recent legislation in Virginia. Priola, meanwhile, says he would “support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.” Ross, on the other hand, objects even to a limited allowance for medicinal use.
“I oppose marijuana legalization,” the former state representative states. “Medical use is more complicated than recreational, but I have yet to see how that could work in North Carolina.”
Ross nevertheless declares one of his campaign’s primary issues as the need to fight “government overreach into our lives.” The veteran state legislator also touts his desire to reduce the “tax and regulatory burden” and to expand “parental school choice.”
For Priola, the top issues include term limits on all elected officials, “including state legislators”; the passage of a parental bill of rights to increase parental control over education; and a steadfast defense of the Second Amendment, “including Constitutional carry.”
Meanwhile, Boykin extends this same concern to all “the rights granted to us in our founding document.” He also notes his focus on the integrity of elections and “school choice,” which he couples with “ending CRT [Critical Race Theory] and other dangerous teachings in schools.”
Responses to questionnaire: https://alamancenews.com/gop-state-house-district-63-primary-questionnaire/
Biographical backgrounds on the candidates: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-nc-state-house-republican-primary/
Full sample ballot HERE: