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MossColumn: Mining for nuggets in candidate responses

Reading candidates’ responses to our campaign questions I learned that a House candidate and his wife have two rescue cats, that a School Board member who is running for re-election volunteers in a second grade classroom so he can see what a teacher does and that — at least among candidates who responded to the Lightning’s questions on the campaign — the issue of masks and vaccines is no longer top of mind as campaign fodder.

Although candidates can be long-winded, we try to make the Q&A’s reader friendly by limiting answers to 100 words. As editor, I read them all, several times, and found quite a few insightful statements and even a couple of fun nuggets.

School Board

School Board candidates’ responses to our Q&A contained some interesting ideas.

“I will continue working on a school calendar change,” said Jay Egolf, one of two incumbents, along with Dot Case, running for re-election. “Our current school calendar has students finishing the fall semester in January, not December, unlike most postsecondary education institutions. If you graduate high school in the fall semester, you must wait until the fall semester of the next year to begin your postsecondary education. This doesn’t make sense.”

Only trouble is the calendar issue is not up to local school boards. The state Legislature would have to change the law or grant an exemption to make Egolf’s idea a reality.

There was only one mention of critical race theory and none of masks or vaccinations.

In a memoir published in August, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson wrote that “we don’t need to be teaching social studies,” in elementary schools. “We don’t need to be teaching science. We surely don’t need to be talking about equity and social justice.” We asked candidates whether they agreed.

Case based her response on decades in the classroom, where she was known as a tough but compassionate taskmaster.

“As a social studies teacher of 47 years, I know that social studies is important because students need to know about their government and their country,” she said. “Knowing this will help them become intelligent voters and decision-makers for the future. We should teach science because advancements are made due to scientific research and children need a background to spark their interest for the future. Our Constitution was set up on the basis of justice and promoting the general welfare for all. Our students need to learn these basic principles to help them be successful throughout their lives in our diverse country.”

Although she has fewer years in the classroom, candidate Heather Ray also cited her personal experience in endorsing social studies.

“As a former teacher, my favorite teaching moments happened while teaching social studies and science,” she said.

Aaron Purcell said history and science should be taught. “But what I do not agree with is the progressive movements that includes CRT (critical race theory) and SEL (social and emotional learning) that should not be allowed in our schools,” he said. “This creates division among students and staff as well as thoughts of selfishness and perversion that must be kept from entering the schoolhouse doors.”

Although School Board has plenty of longtime teacher/administrators — four out of seven —  Egolf is not one of them. But he revealed in one of his responses what he does to try do his elected job better. He volunteers weekly in the second grade at Clear Creek Elementary “so I can personally see classroom learning and get ideas for improvement.”


Abortion responses somewhat nuanced

On abortion, the answers from pro-life and pro-choice candidates were slightly more nuanced than I would have expected — certainly more modulated than you’d find in either party’s primary or before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Explaining his support for abortion rights, O’Shea delivered a strong, somewhat unsettling image: “There’s just not room in your doctor’s office for you, your doctor and the N.C. General Assembly.”

“The simple truth,” he of the rescue cat household said, “is that you cannot ban abortion — just safe abortion.”

Although Republican candidates as expected expressed strong anti-abortion views, state Senate candidate Tim Moffitt, currently a House member, delivered a response that was news to me.

“I do not anticipate any legislation moving forward next session that will fundamentally change North Carolina’s laws on abortion,” he said. “That said, I have a 100 percent pro-life voting record and have been proudly endorsed by the good folks at North Carolina Right to Life.”

That answer made me wonder whether the Republican leaders of the Legislature — House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President pro tem Phil Berger — are thinking of the state’s highly ranked business climate — No. 1 according to CBNC’s study — as much as they’re thinking of how their Republican caucuses would poll on the subject.

The calm after the storm

Although they’re obviously poles apart on the issues, congressional candidates Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Chuck Edwards suggested in their responses that our newest representative will be more constituent-focused than the last two — conservative firebrands and Trump cheerleaders Mark Meadows and Madison Cawthorn.

“I am running to serve all the people of WNC — not just those who vote for me,” Beach-Ferrara said. I know. Every candidate says that. But if you were to ask progressive or even middle-of-the-road folks whether Meadows and Cawthorn served them, I bet they’d say no.

In his response to our question on the subject of high-profile partisanship, Edwards time-traveled back to Charles Taylor, the low-key 11th District rep who served eight terms until Heath Shuler ousted him in 2006. Edwards said he was proud when a supporter at a campaign event told him he sounded like Taylor.

“At the conclusion of my term, like Rep. Taylor, I want to be remembered for having done things to help improve the lives of citizens,” he said. “Besides, I don’t have good enough hair for TV.”