Brad Hessel - State Senate District 15 | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Brad Hessel - State Senate District 15 

Name as it appears on the ballot: Brad Hessel

Campaign website:

Phone number: (919) 278-7395


Years lived in the district: 24…well, not positive I’ve been in this same district all that time due to redistricting, but I have not moved since 1992

1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues North Carolina faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues? 

Electoral Reform—modern I/T tools have elevated partisan-driven gerrymandering to record heights of effectiveness while creating district maps that typically ignore existing communities and city and county borders. As a result, 30%-to-40% of all NCGA races are uncontested each November because they are too uncompetitive. This is poisonous to democracy in two respects: first it limits discussion of important issues  (which obviously does not occur in districts which are uncontested) and secondly it results in the election of highly partisan candidates in those districts (as their only competition is in the primary elections dominated by highly motivated party activists who look askance at any sign of cooperation with the “enemy”). We need a non-partisan process for redistricting that will respect existing borders and communities in drawing more compact and organic district maps much more likely to be competitive. On that same general topic, we need to address the unfair treatment of unaffiliated voters in North Carolina. The number of independent voters—now 30% of the electorate—is growing faster than the number of registered Democrats or Republicans…indeed there are already more unaffiliated voters than either Democrats or Republicans in seven NC counties and by 2018 there will be more independents statewide than Republicans. Yet of the 305 individuals who serve on the county and state boards of election, 203 are registered Republicans and 102 are registered Democrats: there is no representation for unaffiliated voters whatsoever. Furthermore, to run for an NCGA seat, a registered Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian merely has to visit her or his county Board of Elections office and pay a $207 fee. But a registered independent has to first garner thousands of signatures on a petition and file it with the Board of Elections, even to be allowed to pay that fee: patently unfair.

“Jobless” Future—Sushi restaurants in Tokyo where the only humans are the customers. Driverless Uber cars in Pittsburgh. Robot surgeons in Norwalk, Connecticut. It seems every day or so brings news of another application of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics tech that performs some task formerly done by humans better, faster, and cheaper. Where will it end? Hopefully, it will relieve most of us from drudge work and enable us to spend our time doing what we want to…but there is a fly in that ointment: if you need a paycheck to afford your groceries and rent/mortgage, how is that going to work when anything you can do, robots can do better/faster/cheaper? I don’t claim to have the answer—enhanced sharing economy opportunities? stepped up charitable works (e.g., providing free food to anyone who wants it)? a basic minimum income for everyone?—but clearly this is a development that will impact the capability of the citizens of North Carolina to pursue rewarding and enriching lives…and as such, it needs to be a topic of discussion.

Marijuana Legalization—it is past time to end the racist “drug war” that blights the lives of thousands of mostly low income non-white North Carolinians by incarcerating them and rendering them all-but unemployable with a “criminal record” for peacefully ingesting a “controlled substance.” (Richer and whiter “offenders” who can afford high-priced legal talent usually dodge this bullet.) Keeping marijuana illegal also is a huge boon to drug cartels who leverage their distribution networks to market dangerous drugs here and use the proceeds of their North Carolina “business” to fund heinous acts of evil south of our border. And it denies material medical benefits to cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, inflammatory bowel syndrome, arthritis, and PTSD sufferers. And it promotes disrespect for law and order, turning otherwise law-abiding citizens into “criminals.” Not to mention the potential revenue the state would enjoy from taxing the legal sale of marijuana-based products.

2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term? 

My incumbent opponent is first-term Republican John Alexander. He brings some positives to the Senate: a businessman who runs a trucking company as opposed to the usual lawyer or accountant…I voted for him in 2014. However, he does not agree with any of my three main issues, and on top of that is tone deaf on most social issues. He thinks it was a fine idea to spend tens of thousands of our taxpayer dollars to fund a special session of the legislature for the express purpose of instructing the citizens of Charlotte as to where they could and could not go to the bathroom…a decision that predictably lead to the loss of millions of dollars of revenue for Wake County, not to mention incalculable losses due to companies deciding not to relocate or expand here. Why take a Charlotte problem and expand it into a North Carolina problem?

3.  The most contentious issue of this year—and this election—has been HB 2, especially in light of the NCAA’s decision to pull its championships from the Tar Heel state. Do you believe that the law has provided any benefits to North Carolina? Do you believe it should be repealed root and branch? If not, in what ways would you like to alter it? 

It should be repealed root and branch. I did not agree with the original Charlotte ordinance, but I don’t live there and if the citizenry think their lives will be improved by micromanaging the bathroom policies (and other aspects) of private companies, that should be their decision to make. The proper way to address that kind of governmental overreach is through local political action and/or legal challenges in court.

4. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage—or, alternatively, give municipalities the ability to raise minimum wages within their jurisdictions? 

There should be no state-mandated minimum wage in North Carolina; it limits the availability of entre-level jobs for young people and engenders an artificial incentive to businesses to speed up the process of automation which is already occurring faster than we can comfortably adjust to. However, again, if a locality thinks life will be better by eliminating low-end job opportunities for their citizenry, that should be left up to them.

5. In a similar vein: beyond the bathroom issue, HB 2 also overrode local antidiscrimination ordinances, which has become something of a pattern in recent years, with the legislature preempting local governments from passing laws it doesn’t like. Do you believe the state too often intrudes into local affairs? Why or why not? 

Yes. Again, these decisions are best left to the people directly affected. If a local government oversteps, the appropriate remedies are local political action and/or legal challenges.

6. What, in your view, is an ideal salary for a beginning teacher? If it is more than the $35,000 currently being earned by beginning teachers in North Carolina, how would you work with your colleagues to increase teacher pay?

Salaries must be competitive to ensure we will attract and retain our share of sufficiently talented teachers.

7. A federal appeals court struck down the state law requiring voter ID and containing other voting restrictions. Do you agree or disagree with that decision? Please explain your position. 

Yes. There is no evidence of material voter fraud on the retail level. We should be much more concerned about the potential for wholesale fraud via tampering with electronic vote tabulation data.

8. In recent months, two public servants in the Department of Health and Human Services have accused administration officials of minimizing the risks that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds pose to nearby water wells. Do you believe the state has taken the proper safeguards to protect drinking water? 

The state should be testing water and reporting the results purely based on science, not politics. But it is up to the companies and people involved to take proper safeguards.

9. The current administration has been frequently criticized by environmental advocates over things like, for instance, the cleanup of Jordan Lake. Do you believe these criticisms are warranted? In what ways do you believe the state’s current environmental policies have succeeded or failed? What would you like to improve?

Would prefer to see the state move away from trying to micromanage the actions of companies and individuals using regulatory standards that are often strongly influenced by the companies they are supposed to be regulating and instead move to enable affected parties to hold individual owners and managers responsible for any damage their actions (or reckless inaction) causes. If we better align the interests of companies and our citizenry, we will get better results.

10. Democrats have called for an expansion of Medicaid, which would provide health coverage for 244,000 North Carolinians. Would you support such a move? Why or why not?

Oppose expansion of Medicaid. Strategically, would prefer to move to a system where individuals are responsible for paying for their own regular health care expenses, and the function of insurance is to cover catastrophic illness expenses, and propose providing tax-free health savings accounts to help folks pay for their health care. Tactically, would consider contributing to HSAs of low income North Carolinians who cannot afford to fully fund these themselves.

11. Similarly, in recent months two large insurers have decided not to issue policies on North Carolina’s Affordable Care Act exchange, which puts those on the individual market in something of a precarious situation. What do you believe the state can or should do to improve its citizens’ health care? 

See previous answer. In addition, we should remove regulations that restrict competition among health care providers, thus promoting better deals for consumers.

12. Name three things you would change in the current state budget and, if your changes would free up money, what your spending priorities would be.

The only change I am sure of at this point would be the elimination of corporate welfare/subsidies. All companies should be competing on a level playing field without government tilting it one way or another. If there are organic issues affecting our ability to compete for companies deciding where to locate or relocate (e.g., taxes too high), we need to address those shortcomings directly.

13. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.

Heh, my political career is only a few months old and my two opponents have not paid any attention to the issues I am raising, let alone made any attempt to get me to change my positions. I do keep an open mind and when I get new information, if appropriate I will change my opinion. For example at a recent political event, the hosts conducted a corn hole competition, and Mr. Alexander scored more points than our Democratic opponent and me combined. I carefully observed his technique and plan to ditch mine in favor of his should the opportunity arise again.

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