October 04, 2012Everyone says that in this year's presidential election at least there is a clear choice. In fact the choice is so clear to most people it's hard for many to imagine how anyone can still be on the fence, but according to the polls a good percentage are.
But not only is it true that there is a real choice in the presidential race, the dramatic choice seems to go all the way down the ticket. Maybe not all the way down to soil and water conservation district supervisor, but at least as far as the North Carolina state House and state Senate.
At a forum for state legislative candidates at UNCG on Monday, Oct. 1, there was a pronounced difference between the answers of Republicans and Democrats. Democrats repeatedly said that more revenue and more government was the answer to just about every problem the state has, and Republicans saw less government and reducing spending as the answer.
The only Libertarian on the podium, Kent Wilsey, who is running against Republican District 62 state Rep. John Blust, kept talking about how he believed in less government and the Republicans kept agreeing with him, the Democrats did not.
The candidates for state Senate are: District 26, Democrat Bobby Stanley who was present and Republican state Sen. and president Pro-tem of the Senate Phillip Berger who did not attend; state Senate District 27, Democrat Myra Sloan who was present and Republican Greensboro City Councilmember Trudy Wade who did not attend; and state Senate District 28, Democrat state Sen. Gladys Robinson, who is unopposed, and was present.
The candidates for the state House are: District 58, Democrat state Rep. Alma Adams who was present and Republican Olga Morgan Wright who did not attend; District 59 Republican Jon Hardister who is unopposed; District 60, Democrat Rep. Marcus Brandon who is unopposed; District 61, Republican state Rep. John Faircloth and Democrat Ron Weatherford who were both present; and in District 62, state Rep. John Blust and Libertarian Kent Wilsey who were both present.
District 57 Democrat state Rep. Pricey Harrison who is running unopposed did not attend.
The moderator was Lee Kinard, and each candidate was given one minute to answer each question they were asked. Not all the questions were asked of all candidates.
The first question was about how to increase jobs in the triad, and Stanley who answered first said, "I would seriously consider sales taxes."
Sloan said, "Put a tax on the small business tax credit." She said that additional tax revenue could be used to hire teachers and teacher aides.
Robinson said the state needed to spend more on economic incentives and on community colleges.
Adams said that small businesses were important and the public private partnerships were needed to help small businesses as well as investing more in green energy.
Hardister said that helping bring jobs to the area "should start with tax reform." He said the state should "abolish corporate income tax to attract businesses from out of state and allow businesses already here to grow."
Hardister also suggested the state go to "zero based budgeting." Currently state budgets are based on the previous year's budget, with zero-based budgeting state departments start each budget with zero dollars and have to justify every dollar they are budgeted. It is an extremely tough sell because zero based budgeting is to professional bureaucrats what light is to a vampire.
Brandon had a completely different take. He said there were plenty of jobs available but that the area just didn't have people with the proper training to do them. He agreed with reforming the tax code but for a different reason. He said, "We definitely don't have a spending problem just a revenue problem."
Faircloth agreed the tax structure needed to be reformed and that was one of the tasks that would be before the next General Assembly.
His opponent, Weatherford, said that people need to be retrained and businesses need to help pay for their retraining.
Blust said, "Right off the bat we need to start being honest and not selling people on the idea that the government is going to be the solution to the job problem in this country."
Blust said that, given the freedom to, operate entrepreneurs would solve the job problem. But that if people were depending on the 170 state legislators to solve the unemployment problem it wasn't going to happen.
Wilsey said, "It's not surprising that this area has high unemployment. You have high employment across the board if there is a high tax rate."
That was the first question and it is pretty much how the forum went. The Democrats, regardless of the question, generally advocated for more taxes and saw government as the answer and the Republicans talked about tax cuts, and reducing the size and scope of government and allowing private enterprise to prosper. Wilsey said he did believe the government should build and maintain roads.
It was unfortunate that Faircloth and Weatherford, and Blust and Wilsey were the only pairs running against each other who were there. But since the Republicans and Democrats mostly fell in line with their answers, it wasn't hard to imagine what those who weren't there would likely have said.
The only real surprise was that Brandon and Hardister agreed on a few issues, but Brandon has proven to be a rare sort down in Raleigh. Brandon does not vote the Democratic Party line and as a result has had more success with some of the issues he has promoted than other Democrats.
It was unfortunate that Stanley and Wilsey, both challengers, sat on the ends, and one or the other got asked all the group questions first. Having some of those who had been down in Raleigh for a few years get first crack at a question would have likely resulted in a higher level of discussion. It is also unfair to those two candidates who had to answer half the group questions first and everybody else always had the opportunity to think and listen to an answer before they had to respond.