The Observer asked the candidates for the N.C. Senate and House to answer the following:
1. What are the crucial challenges facing eastern North Carolina and what can the General Assembly do that can help?
2. How well is the COVID-19 pandemic being handled on the state level and what can be done to reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths caused by this virus?
3. Many people are distraught that many members of political parties have shown little interest in working with the opposition to the benefit of all North Carolinians. Would you be willing to find common ground and seek bipartisan support? If so, on what issues?
4. Do you support or oppose offshore drilling?
NC House of Representatives District 6 candidates respond below.
Bobby Hanig (R-Powells Point; incumbent):
1. A couple of the challenges facing eastern North Carolina are healthcare and rural broadband. COVID-19 has magnified the need to expand rural broadband. The General Assembly has allocated $56 million to rural broadband just this year. We also signed into law the GREAT act, which allocates $150 million over 10 years. This number must increase next year when we begin budget discussions.
Telemedicine and Tele psychiatry are going to play a vital role in helping with some of our remote healthcare issues.
2. COVID-19 is a real disease and yes it does affect many people. The governor and secretary Cohen have done an extremely poor job in managing this disease. They have continually moved the bar for the reopening process and have caused unnecessary and irreparable harm primarily to our children who need to be in school and need to have structure. They have also caused undue and irreparable harm to thousands of businesses across the state. We can do these things safely and effectively.
3.The perception primarily due to the media that says issues in the General assembly are not negotiated in a bipartisan way. Over 92% of the bills passed in the 2019–20 session were bipartisan. The COVID-19 funding committees were bipartisan committees and the funding was voted on unanimously in those committees.
4.I have been very vocal about my opposition to offshore drilling. I firmly believe that our energy independence in the United States is vital to a strong economy and keeping our country safe! With that said we are currently a net exporter of fossil fuels. When the time comes that we need it we can go get it. I believe the technology will improve in the future and will make it much safer when the time comes.
Tommy Fulcher (D-Southern Shores; challenger):
1. Eastern North Carolina has been poorly represented and underserved by the General Assembly in the last 10 years. The gap between urban and rural communities for job opportunities, infrastructure and public schools has widened under their leadership. Since the Republican takeover in 2010 we have witnessed a shrinking commitment to our public schools as funding hasn’t kept up with rising enrollments and increasing costs.
The state should accept federal money to expand Medicaid like they accepted federal CARES Act money to offset the adverse impacts of the pandemic. If elected, I will work to create jobs, save rural hospitals and lower health care costs by expanding Medicaid.
The GOP leadership has enacted irresponsible income tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations while raising fees and sales taxes that impact working people. So, working people were conned into thinking they got a tax cut but in reality are paying more in overall taxes.
2. It’s been over 100 years since our country has experienced a deadly pandemic. The ongoing spread of the COVID-19 virus has resulted in over 200,00 deaths and counting. This public health crisis has also resulted in historic job losses and decimated our economy. There is no way to fully revive our economy until we are able to control the spread of the virus.
Gov. Cooper has done an outstanding job of limiting the spread of the virus while phasing in the re-start of our economy. His decisions have been guided by science and the recommendations of public health experts.
The GOP leadership has downplayed the threat of the virus and recommended that everything return to normal – without regard to the public health consequences from not wearing a mask, not social distancing and not gathering in large crowds. We are fortunate Gov. Cooper is in charge and not the GOP. Enough said.
3. The current legislature is broken. Since the current majority took control in 2010 all the power in the General Assembly is concentrated in the GOP leadership – just a handful of elected members all of whom are elected from gerrymandered districts. They dismiss any input from the minority party and their own GOP members. All major decisions are made by the leadership behind closed doors without public comment. Once they have made their decisions, they tell their GOP members how to vote — including my opponent. He works for his bosses in Raleigh not for you.
This broken system has made voters more cynical and apathetic about politics and government. It has also resulted in extreme legislation that is out of step with the beliefs and views of most voters. Legislation that comes from both parties working together and where neither side gets everything they want results in the best legislation and will be supported by the most voters.
4. I am vehemently opposed to offshore drilling. If elected I will work to put a permanent ban in place by statute that will prohibit seismic testing and offshore drilling. The recently proposed moratorium is not sufficient. Republican legislative leaders — both state and federal — still support oil and gas exploration. We can’t trust their leadership because they accept millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
Another difference between me and my opponent is I don’t support weakening the National Environmental Policy Act. Republican leadership — local, state and federal — supported these rollbacks which ultimately leaves the door open to offshore drilling for oil.
Offshore drilling and seismic testing make no sense because the future of energy production is moving away from fossil fuels. Our fishing, farming and tourism industries are too important to be destroyed by this reckless scheme. That’s all there is to it.