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VOTER GUIDE: NC House District 117

Henderson County has two open seats for the Legislature thanks to incumbents’ decisions to attempt a move up.

State Sen. Chuck Edwards created an opening when he filed to run for Congress, prompting state Rep. Tim Moffitt to file for the senior chamber of the General Assembly. That created an open state House District 117 seat. The candidates are Jennifer Capps Balkcom, who won a three-way primary in May to capture the Republican nomination, and Michael Greer O’Shea, a music producer and real estate agent from Mills River.

Balkcom, 43, is married with two boys. A seventh-generation native of Henderson County,  she grew up on the family farm and has lived here all her life. She describes herself as “the grateful daughter of Kathy Ward and Ronnie Capps and the lucky stepdaughter of Dickie King.” A mortgage lender, she also manages the family’s home building business. Balkcom has served on numerous community boards, including currently on the Henderson County Planning Board. The family lives in Naples and belongs to Hendersonville First Baptist Church.

O’Shea, 35, lives in his hometown of Mills River with his wife, Jennifer, and their two rescue cats. He has spent most of his career in the music and film industries as a producer and audio engineer, and also has a background in real estate as an investor and licensed real estate broker. O’Shea graduated from Western Carolina University in 2009.

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

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.

O’Shea: I am running because we need representatives who will prioritize the needs of regular folks over corporate special interests. I believe in common sense solutions that work for working families. I’m tired of politicians sowing division between neighbors and a General Assembly that passes extremist policies against the wishes of a majority of North Carolinians. We need representatives who will focus on pragmatic solutions to the problems we face and put people over parties.

There is a lot of talk locally about preservation of farmland and natural open land areas. What if anything do you think the Legislature can do to protect such lands?

O’Shea: Growing up in Henderson County I’ve watched too many greenspaces and family farms turn into sprawling housing developments over the years. The General Assembly needs to use economic incentives to promote the conservation of greenspaces and create incentives and regulatory pathways for housing development that uses high-density best practices so we preserve our open spaces. I also believe it is time the state legalizes cannabis and does this in a way that prioritizes small growers for permits so that its cultivation is the new cash crop that saves North Carolina’s many family farms instead of being another handout to big agriculture.

Balkcom: I know first-hand how important family farms are to our food production and our food security. Sadly, we’re losing too many of them to commercial, industrial, and residential over-development. Farmland preservation is very important to me. Rep. Tim Moffitt is working on an innovative solution that will address this problem by establishing a trust fund to purchase development rights without any cost to the taxpayer. This will maintain the land for agricultural purposes, free from the financial pressures to develop it. I support that effort and look forward to working with Tim Moffitt next year to pass it.


The Dobbs case overturning Roe v. Wade has opened the door for state legislatures to outlaw or impose restrictions on abortion. What changes to North Carolina’s laws on abortion if any would you support?

Balkcom: I am pro-life and I will vote accordingly if I am elected.


O’Shea: I believe that your health decisions should be made by you and your doctor. There's just not room in your doctor's office for you, your doctor, and the N.C. General Assembly. The simple truth is that you cannot ban abortion — just safe abortion. No one wants to be faced with this extremely difficult decision but in many instances this is a life-saving medical procedure and if we’re serious about respecting personal liberty, politicians need to trust the people and their health care professionals to make health care decisions.

In 2021 the N.C. Senate passed the Government Transparency Act to improve the state’s Open Records Law in cases of terminations and/or demotions of public employees? Do you favor the act?

O’Shea: In general I believe that more transparency in government is good for democracy. The North Carolina Press Association and North Carolina Association of Broadcasters have voiced their support for this bill and I am inclined to follow their lead on this issue. Due to the potentially sensitive nature of the information that would be made public, we need to follow the issue and ensure that there are protections for employees and an appeals process is in place in case managers are using these disclosures slanderously.

Balkcom: Yes.