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GOP House candidates no fans of Ecusta Trail

The two candidates running for the 113th state House District are both young Republicans who serve in the military and call economic development their highest priority. They even have the same first name, though spelled differently.

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The candidates, Cody Henson and Coty Ferguson, both said they saw an opportunity for political service with Rep. Chris Whitmire's unexpected announcement that he would not seek a third term in the House. And neither supports the proposed Ecusta Trail. Advocates in Hendersonville tout the proposed 20-mile greenway that as a recreational and tourism boom while many Transylvania leaders oppose it.

Henson opposes the trail outright — saying the rail line might be needed for industry — and Ferguson said he would favor the trail only if all property owners along the corridor supported it.

Here are the candidates' backgrounds and positions:

Cody Henson

Henson, a Rosman native and 23-year-old corporal in the Marine Corps Reserves, says jobs are his highest priority if he were to win a seat in the state House.

"I'm running because as a native of Transylvania County with a family that goes back generations in Transylvania and Henderson counties I want to see this area thrive once again,” he said. “I’ve had family that worked at the Ecusta and DuPont plants for years and I’ve seen the struggle first-hand when those jobs left. As a result of having no jobs here, I have to drive 45 minutes to work.” He commutes to Arden, where he’s a supervisor for a call center.
“Particularly in Transylvania, I think there’s a lot that can be done on the local level in terms of improving and upgrading some of the infrastructure,” he said. “I want to work with local officials and do my part at the state level to get some of these done so the area looks better for potential businesses coming in.”
He counts the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad, owned by a Kansas-based shortline rail freight company, as an asset to potentially attract industry. For that reason he opposes the Ecusta Trail, a proposed Hendersonville-to-Brevard greenway along the tracks.
“I think that we need to leave the rails in place,” he said. “That’s going to be something that business is going to look at. If they have to build a new rail line they’re going to go somewhere that already has one. I don’t think the rail-to-trails is a good idea from a property rights standpoint either. The trail is going to run right through people’s front yards. Because of that I’m opposed to rails-to-trails.”
A 23-year-old graduate of Rosman High School, Henson is married with a 4-month-old.
“I’m a non-career politician and I think that’s exactly what we need in Raleigh at this point,” he said. “I think experience (of career politicians) has moved us in the wrong direction for several years now,” adding he was referring to “people that come in and stay in for 20 or 30 years.”

 

Coty Ferguson

 

Fisher PhotoCoty FergusonA graduate of Brevard College in business and wilderness leadership, Ferguson is currently working on a masters degree from the University of Central Florida. A staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, Ferguson returned in September from a deployment guarding the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He is a voter outreach and grassroots coordinator for John Kasich campaign and a Realtor.

“I’ve been politically active for some time now,” he said. “I serve on the city of Brevard Planning Board and I’ve been active with the party. We are seeing statewide that these conservative policies are working but Western North Carolina is missing out on the econonic gains the rest of state is seeing. I’d be a strong advocate to fight on behalf on the district.”

In city government he’s noticed that North Carolina gives too little power to local government.

“I was shocked to find out the city did not control tax rates, like the hotel tax,” he said. “The counties have little to no control over incentives for economic development.”

Although, like Henson, he would be serving in his first elective position, Ferguson says his experience on the Brevard Planning Board and on the Kasich campaign has prepared him.

“Going to the Legislature is not going to overwhelm me,” he said. “I’m not in any special club. I don’t have anybody to answer to except the people of the 113th District.”

As for the Ecusta Trail, he would defer to property owners along the rail line.

“The Ecusta Trail is a tricky business,” he said. “We’ve seen that the Swamp Rabbit Trail has really helped the folks down in South Carolina. It has the potential to be an economic boost but you have a large group of landowners that don’t want to give up their property and their rights have to be respected. It’s kind of a moot point because the railroad has not said they’re going to abandon the line.”

Even if Blue Ridge did agreed to railbank the line, Ferguson said he’d resist forcing the trail through property if the owner objected.

“Landowners always come first,” he said. “We have to respect property owners’ rights.”

"When my wife, Sarah, and I decided to make Western North Carolina our home and raise our daughter here we did so because it is one of the rare places where community still exists," he said in a campaign announcement. "People know their neighbors. Our children can still walk unescorted downtown to play at O.P. Taylors. Most of all, the people in this part of the state are doers, who sacrifice for their families and the things they believe in. All of those things have drawn me to the area, and they are the reasons that I am offering myself as a Republican candidate for the 113th House District.

"As a soldier I have served multiple deployments in Iraq, and have had the privilege of advising the U.S. Ambassador, Generals, and Congressmen on combating Islamic terrorism. Through those efforts, and my discussion with Senator Thom Tillis during his visit to Baghdad, I was asked work on (the Kasich) presidential committee. ...

"We have made serious improvements to the state economy, but Western North Carolina has not benefited from many of the gains," he added. "Many of our counties are facing negative population growth, our young talent is leaving, and our workforce is aging. Significant improvements need to be made in the areas of economic and workforce development."