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VOTER GUIDE: House 117 Q&A

The N.C. House 117 primary election features a first-time candidate, a second-time candidate and a nine-time candidate vying to fill the seat that Rep. Tim Moffitt vacated to run for the state Senate.

Dennis Justice, 51, often points to his personal life to illustrate a variety of topics he’d like to pursue in Raleigh. He advocates for obesity prevention because obesity was a factor in the death of his wife. The father of five children, Justice points to his son’s mental health struggle to underscore the need for more state mental hospitals and intervention. Keenly interested in sports betting, Justice rips apart proposed bills that he thinks are structured unwisely. By his count he has run for office nine times — from School Board to the Legislature — and announced then dropped out two other times.
Chelsea Walsh, who resigned as Henderson County Republican Party chair to run for the Hendersonville City Council last year, she sells life and health insurance and retirement products in her day job and declares that she will devote maximum energy to legislating if she’s elected to the state House.
“I have the time. I have the heart. I have the energy and I’m ready to go now,” she says.

Like Justice, Jennifer Capps Balkcom, 43, has an asset that often matters in Henderson County elections. If all the distant Capps and Ward cousins voted for her, she’d be off to a head start.
“As a seventh-generation native, I grew up on our family’s farm and I have lived in Henderson County my entire life,” she says. “I’m the grateful daughter of Kathy Ward and Ronnie Capps and the lucky stepdaughter of Dickie King.” A mortgage lender, Balkcom and her husband have two children.

Why are you running for the N.C. House?

Balkcom: “I want to be a responsive voice in the General Assembly for the citizens of Henderson County. I am inspired by our long legacy of effective representation in the both the state Legislature and on the Board of Commissioners, and I will rely on their wisdom and counsel if I am fortunate to be elected. For more than 20 years, I’ve served in leadership positions, building partnerships and working closely with others to achieve positive outcomes for Henderson County. And I believe that my long record of community service and public policy experience will serve our community well in Raleigh.”

Justice: “I offer my 30 years of experience fighting on the front lines for the taxpayers of Henderson County, hoping to represent your interests as State Representative of District 117. I am greatly concerned with wrong-headed expansion of gambling in North Carolina without a true North Carolina Gaming Commission and insufficient recreation resources. I fear our internet infrastructure is completely lacking compared to big cities, which could cause young people to move to those cities (and take one guess how they’d vote). I simply represent working class and independent-minded voters way better than my opponents can possibly claim.”


Walsh: “Henderson County is my home. It’s where I was raised. It’s where I want to raise a family. And it’s where I want to retire. I’ve seen the changes that have trickled in from Asheville which is why I tagged the slogan “Don’t Asheville My Hendersonville.” Henderson County deserves someone who engages with the community, makes an effort to fight for the rights of the constituents, and has the enthusiasm and heart to do it. I have the time. I have the heart. I have the energy and I’m ready to go NOW.”



What priorities do you have if you are elected?

Walsh: “I would like to prioritize our first responders, especially our firefighters who deserve to have cancer recognized as a work related illness. I would also like to work with our federal representatives to work towards our county firefighters to receive state retirement. In addition to this, we need to focus on our opioid and mental illness epidemic. There’s over $750 million dollars coming to North Carolina and we need to fight to make sure Henderson County gets their fair share.”

Justice: “I will seek to completely overhaul existing gaming laws under a real gaming commission before we attempt to expand any gambling in this state. I will push for a ‘Rural Fiber Initiative’ with the goal of 90 percent of rural homes with gigabyte upload speed in ten years. I will push for “hard” district lines in County Commission races and primaries for non-partisan Board of Education races. I will also seek to make it far easier for unaffiliated voters to run for office without a petition requirement. I will push for pay-as-you-go approaches for more mental health facilities and group homes.”


Balkcom: “My first priority will always be the citizens of Henderson County. To achieve that, my goals are twofold: 1) to provide Henderson County with the best constituent service in the General Assembly, and 2) to guarantee that Henderson County always has the most effective representation in the State House. As Senators Apodaca and Edwards and Representatives McGrady and Moffitt have demonstrated so well over the years, Henderson County’s interests have been best served by working closely, collaboratively, and often behind-the-scenes with others to get the job done. I will work hard every day to continue in that tradition.”


The Ecusta Trail will soon be under construction in Henderson County. Do you support the Ecusta Trail? Why or why not? If you support the trail what if anything would you expect to be able to do in Raleigh to get construction funding?

Justice: “According to, North Carolina has a shocking 33% adult obesity rate. I support this project for that reason alone. But this is far from everything we need. We don’t have a recreation center in Fletcher. Need pickleball and futsal courts, etc. We should maximize existing property and provide more funding for staffing and programming. To that end, I will propose that most of the tax revenue from sports betting (or any other gaming expansion) go directly to local parks and recreation departments (or to Hendersonville public works) directed for recreation, not a ‘sport tourism fund’ like the current bill.”


Balkcom: “I support the Ecusta Trail 100 percent. It’s a win-win for everyone: it takes 20 miles of unused railway and transforms it into a new way to connect Hendersonville and Brevard. This greenway will promote health, well-being and an enhanced quality of life. It will also be a draw for visitors to our area — a net positive for our local economy. To guarantee the Ecusta Trail’s ongoing funding needs, I look forward to working hand-in-glove with Senator Tim Moffitt to continue the pioneering work that was started in the legislature by Rep. McGrady and Sen. Edwards.”

Walsh: “I’m not going to lie. I don’t like the way this question is worded. This makes it sound like our current representatives haven’t planned for this project, yet they’ve been working on it for over 12 years. Anything we can do to increase revenue for our business owners and community as a whole I will get behind. It will keep people here and active. It will promote healthy lifestyles and add jobs to our community.”


Republican leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper have cracked the door on a possible compromise to allow for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina. Do you support or oppose expansion?

Walsh: “As a Republican the hard answer is no. But I would like to see a reallocation in existing funds. We need to do an audit on the programs funded now and make sure we are allocating money properly. Many people don’t know there are different levels of Medicaid, from prescription costs, to childbirth, and other health issues. This isn’t a black and white answer and needs more than 100 words to answer. We have a high prescription cost issue and overly medicated society for which I think needs to be addressed.”

Justice: “Medicaid is a broken system that changes so much, and it would be highly unwise for North Carolina Republicans to trust Washington. As the John Locke Foundation pointed out in the Carolina Journal, in 2019, the GOP offered H.B. 655 with limited work requirements and a co-pay, which would not be allowed today by the Biden Administration. I do favor some assistance to those who are starting up businesses for up to two years, providing proof of active business. I have doubts Washington would allow even that.”


Balkcom: “I oppose expanding Medicaid. Medicaid was designed to provide health insurance and health services to our most vulnerable citizens. It makes no sense to add tens of millions of able-bodied adults, which is what expansion entails. I agree with State Auditor Beth Wood, who said, ‘You just can’t keep putting a bunch of people into a system that is already broken.’ The result is substandard care for those folks who need it the most. And Medicaid spending is projected to grow exponentially. Where are all those billions of dollars going to come from to pay for it?”


If elected, what committees will you seek to serve on?

Balkcom: “Given my skill set, I would like to serve on the House Finance Committee. It is their job to make sure that the state is operating with the financial resources it needs to provide programs and services by overseeing all of North Carolina’s finance policies. This includes taxes and other revenue sources (e.g. fees), and cash and debt management. As a mom, I would like to sit on the Education Committee. And as a Henderson County farm girl, it would be an honor to sit on the House Agriculture Committee.”

Justice: “As I’m seeking to create a North Carolina Gaming Commission before we attempt any gaming expansion, I obviously want to be on a House Gaming Committee yet to be formed to write rational laws. ‘Big Gaming’ interests already have too much influence. You need impartial but knowledgeable lawmakers. I also want to be on a telecommunications committee (due to my proposed Rural Fiber Initiative, I’m very tech-savvy), as well as election and recreation-based committees. My Masters in Sports Management and 30+ years volunteering for local sports teams and recreation programs creates valuable experience. Thank you for your consideration. Vote Justice!”

Walsh: “Agriculture, Appropriations, Energy and Public Utilities, Ethics, Family, Children and Aging Policy, Finance, Health, Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs, Insurance, Pensions and Retirement, Rules, Wildlife Resources.”