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⚡️ VOTER GUIDE: House District 117 Q&A

Candidates for House District 117 are Democrat Gayle Kemp, 63, of Fletcher, and incumbent Chuck McGrady, 65, of Hendersonville, a Republican.


Why are you running for the North Carolina Legislature?

Kemp: I am running because I love North Carolina and I couldn’t stand by any longer without working to shift the direction our state has taken. I love our children too much to sit still. New ideas, new blood, and a balanced representation of the people needs to happen before big business and lobbyists control everything we do and all that we stand for. I want a future that is filled with opportunities for all the people of North Carolina, and I want representation in our state house that listens to and reflects the needs of all our citizens.


McGrady: I’m running to complete my work on a wide range of issues for the people of Henderson County and Western North Carolina — issues I’m proud to say that I’ve already made tremendous progress on. And as a House budget chair, I’m privileged to be in a unique position to secure funding for projects here in Henderson County, WNC, and all across the state.


There are six constitutional amendments on the ballot. Which ones do you favor and which ones do you oppose and why?

McGrady: Groups on the right are urging voters to vote for all of the amendments, and groups on the far left are urging voters to vote against all of them. I hope my constituents will ignore those calls and consider each proposed amendment on its own merits. I support the proposed Voter ID amendment, which 70% of people across the political spectrum do as well. As for the proposed “Rights of Victims of Crime” (also known as “Marsy’s Law”) and the “Right to Hunt, Fish, and Harvest Wildlife” amendments, one could support their intentions but also think they need not be included in the text of the state constitution. I’ll likely vote for the first but I’m still undecided on the second. As far as the proposed “Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement” amendment, a balanced, bipartisan, eight-member board would be a better way to make sure that our elections and ethics systems are administered in a fair manner, so I’m supporting this amendment. The proposed amendment for “Selection for Judicial Vacancies” may be the most controversial; that’s because it would fundamentally change the appointments process. My inclination is to vote against this particular amendment.

Kemp: First, I oppose all six amendments. Amending the Constitution should not be done without time for citizens to consider the consequences of their votes. Rushing these amendments onto the ballot is a partisan stunt to get out the vote for the party in power. Second, the amendments are not necessary. Third, the proposed amendments do not tell the voter what the enabling legislation will be. In essence, the voter is signing a blank check. Specifically, I oppose the changes in the appointment process. Even Gov. McCrory joined four other governors to oppose this attack on our system of checks and balances. The party in power has made no bones about stripping executive and judicial power. That is just wrong. Furthermore, I am against requiring photo ID. The legislation passed by the party in power has been tested in the courts and has been soundly rejected. Taxpayers wasted millions of dollars in lawyer’s fees. The idea that there is a problem with voting that an amendment or legislation would fix is a false narrative. Our elections were audited when Governor McCrory lost and it was proven that there is not a problem that voter ID needs to fix.



Are you in favor of or opposed to expanding Medicaid in North Carolina to provide health care to more people? Why?

Kemp: I’m in favor of expanding Medicaid for two reasons. If Medicaid is expanded, it’s estimated that up to 500,000 more people would have access to healthcare and an estimated 1,000 people per year would not die for lack of it. We are unable to fund care for those addicted to opioids without expansion. Secondly, we’ve lost millions of North Carolina income tax dollars to other states. Those unclaimed tax dollars could’ve been used to not only support our poorer citizens’ healthcare, but they could’ve helped grow well-paying healthcare jobs, increased hospital reimbursements, and supported rural health care facilities.



McGrady: Yes. If I am re-elected, I will co-sponsor legislation next year that improves access to quality healthcare by providing an option to lower-income working residents of North Carolina in a new health insurance product called “Carolina Cares.” It establishes a program for residents who are not currently eligible for Medicaid and have been left out of Obamacare. The program would not require the use of any existing state funds or impose any new tax increases, using a mix of premium payments and federal funds which the State can draw from to fund coverage for our uninsured population.

The Republican leadership of the Legislature touts its record on teacher pay and smaller class sizes. “The average base salary for a teacher in North Carolina increased by $8,700, or nearly 20 percent, since the 2014 school year,” Senate leader Phil Berger said on Aug. 30. “More than 40,000 teachers – close to half of all public school teachers in the state – will have received at least a $10,000 pay raise by the 2018-19 school year. In fact, over a 30-year career, a teacher will earn $237,200 more on the 2018-19 salary schedule than he or she would have earned under the old Democrat plan.” Is the record Berger cites deserving of voters’ endorsement? Why or why not?

McGrady: Yes. We’re in a much better place now than where we were before I was first elected. We’ve been able to pay teachers more because we first took strong measures to improve our state’s economy. Conservative fiscal policies (including tax reform) have led to record revenues, record employment, and record reserves. You can’t pay teachers more if you don’t have the money; thanks to what we’ve done, and what we will continue to do, I look forward to doing even more for them. I am very proud of my record on education, and I remain committed to doing even more.

Kemp: I oppose Berger’s statement regarding education because it is, at best, misleading. Politifact rated it “mostly false.” The Legislature has not made up for teacher pay that was frozen during the great recession. Average teacher pay is still not as high as it was before the recession and is $10,000 less than the national average. This state still ranks 37th in teacher pay. Berger’s figures include local funding supplements which vary across the state. There has been no pay raise for experienced teachers. Bonuses cannot compensate for the inadequacy of teacher pay. 



What specifically are your highest priorities in the Legislature for serving your district?

Kemp: Health care has become a luxury that many can’t afford. Insurance premiums in our state are in the top ten highest in the country. I will fight to bring down the cost of health care and to make sure that paying for a health care emergency doesn’t lead to bankruptcy for working families. I want to see pre-K through high school public education fully funded, and I’m going to fight for additional funding for students who wish to continue in community and technical colleges. Raising teacher pay, providing teacher assistants, and school safety are at the top of the list of priorities.


McGrady: I have and always will put the needs of the people of Henderson County first: I believe my experience as a local elected official and in other leadership roles gives me a special understanding of our area’s needs. Some of the projects I’ve already secured major funding for will continue to have my attention. These include: 1) The WNC Medical School, 2) upgrading the Farmer’s Market, 3) improvements to the DuPont State Recreational Forest (which, along with Headwaters Site Forest, I helped make a reality), 4) continued Hemlock restoration efforts, and 5) Muddy Sneakers, an outdoor educational program for children.

What other major priorities do you have for your district and the state?

McGrady: In terms of statewide issues, a few priorities jump to mind. Last year, the legislature included my “Raise-the-Age” bill in the state budget, and I will continue my work to fully-fund the juvenile justice system. After my initial success in securing insurance coverage for children with autism, I will both push to expand that coverage to apply to a greater number of employers and to lift the annual cap in the state’s health plan. I’m also committed to breaking NC’s prohibition-era monopoly on alcohol sales and distribution. And I’ll continue to make independent redistricting a priority.

Kemp: Protecting our environment is pivotal. It is also vital to our economy. Corporations that harm the environment should be held accountable. We need to stop giving them a free pass for polluting with toxins such as coal ash, while consumers suffer and pay for the cleanup. I support independent redistricting so that the practice of partisan and illegal racial gerrymandering comes to an end. I would also support laws that encourage citizens to vote rather than what’s happening now with various forms of voter suppression like closing polling stations, limiting hours and creating other obstacles such as voter identification.