Chris Rey | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week
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Chris Rey 

U.S. Senate

Name as it appears on the ballot: Chris Rey
Campaign Website:
Phone number: 910-644-5900
Years lived in state: 30 years

1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues the United States faces? If elected, what would you do to address these issues? 
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The three most pressing issues facing the nation are national security, the economy and infrastructure. At 4.9%, the adjusted official nationwide unemployment rate in February 2016 is lower than the national average of 5.82% from 1948 to 2016. This presents the question of why 54% of Americans polled in October 2015 believed our nation’s economy was poor. First, the February 2016 unemployment rate of those who are totally unemployed, those who are unemployed but have stopped looking for work and those who want full-time employment but are working part-time jobs for economic reasons was close to 10%. Additionally, median household income has declined while the costs of child care, health care and education has increased. As Mayor of Spring Lake, we have seen 11% growth in our economy, more than 100 new businesses established during my tenure, and the implementation of jobs training programs for transitioning military families. We need a U.S. Senator committed to economic growth and innovative ideas.

Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling and is in need of maintenance, repair and replacement. From bridges collapsing in Minnesota to lead-poisoned water in Flint to overcrowded highways and interstates, we need to focus upon our infrastructure. While we may not be able to expend the estimated 3.6 trillion dollars initially to address all of the infrastructure needs, we cannot continue to do nothing.

Over the past fifteen years, the threats to our national security have arisen from terrorist organizations instead of state actors and cyber-warfare. Based upon my work in cybersecurity defense policy development and my service in the Middle East, I understand our nation’s strengths and vulnerabilities and I want to work to make improvements.

2. Name three senators, past or present, whom you look up to as role models. Explain why you have picked these three.

Ted Kennedy – He became a master of the senate rules and was a strong example of getting things done.  His ideas were big and bold.  His passion for the plight of everyday people was demonstrated by his constant engagement of challenging the system to make it better for everyone—especially in the area of healthcare. 
Carol Moseley Braun – She was the first female African-American United States Senator.  I admire her courage to challenge the institution and won.  She demonstrates what happens when you don’t give up and don’t give in.
Terry Sanford – His commitment to North Carolina was unmatched.  He was unafraid to take on big issues like education, poverty, and racial inequality.  He was a visionary that impacted the lives of every North Carolinian through his service then and now. 
3. 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? For both challengers and incumbents: In what ways would your election benefit the citizens of North Carolina?

As the next U.S. Senator, North Carolinians will benefit from having a Senator who understands the perspective of everyday Americans. As mayor of a town that has experienced 11% growth, a revitalized infrastructure and more efficient government under my tenure, I understand economic development and have to develop and implement programs that improve our citizens’ quality of life. As a veteran with more than fifteen years of military experience, I understand the needs and struggles of military families and veterans with visible and invisible wounds. North Carolina is home to more than one million veterans and has the military base that is home to the largest active duty military population. Our military needs to be adequately represented in Washington, D.C. And with my election, North Carolinians will have a Senator who understands the emerging threats against our nation. For more than four years, I helped develop our nation’s cybersecurity policy. As we deal with cyber-warfare, the Senate, and our nation, will benefit from my experience in this area. From my work on the Board of the North Carolina Public School Forum, the Fayetteville Tech Foundation and the Cumberland Partnership with Children, North Carolinians will benefit from my understanding of the education issues as federal education policy is developed. Finally, North Carolinians will benefit from a Senator who has a proven track record of working with individuals of other parties to solve problems in our communities.

I am disappointed in Richard Burr’s obstructionist stances regarding confirmations of judicial and cabinet nominations. Burr’s recent statements regarding the Justice Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court is concerning but not the first instance of his obstructionist positions. A judicial vacancy in the Eastern District of North Carolina has existed since December 31, 2005, more than ten years. In 2013, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker for the position. After initially recommending her in 2009, Senator Burr blocked her confirmation and the nomination died after 300 days. We must not allow such obstructionist behavior to continue.

I am also disappointed that Richard Burr did not support the Affordable Care Act and has participated in efforts to repeal the ACA. As Director of Cumberland HealthNet, I meet with individuals every day in need of critical medical treatment which they are unable to receive due to the lack of health insurance.

4. Candidates running for president this year have proposed wildly divergent tax plans. Both leading Democrats have proposed raising taxes on the wealthy, whereas some Republicans argue that we should do away with the graduated income tax altogether. What do you believe should be done about taxes? Are there any current proposals that you would support in Congress?

I believe neither party has made tax reform a major issue.  This idea of a graduated income tax was birthed during the progressive era in an effort to offset the excise taxes as well as regressive tariffs.  Progressive or graduated taxes showcase our nation’s effort to counterbalance.  The idea of that shared sacrifice is lost to today’s lawmakers.  While the current administration has had some success in 2013 on moving the tax rate up on the nation’s highest earners, a true review and overhaul may be necessary.   The 2013 provision makes our tax code the most progressive that it has been since 1979. While that seems like a positive step in the right direction, citizens must take two things into consideration 1) the large majority of pre-tax gains have gone to the wealthy and 2) the wealthy are wealthier than when the nation saw broad sweep progressive taxes through the 1940’s and 1970’s.  I would like to see more pre-tax gains for the middle class. With college tuition being so high and growing exponentially by the semester, why not make college tuition completely tax deductible.  As the next U.S. Senator, I would support tax policies which benefit America’s working class.

5. Since its inception, the Affordable Care Act has been polarizing, to say the least. Republicans have called for it to be repealed “root and branch,” but have not necessarily reached consensus on what a replacement would look like. Democrats, meanwhile, have been supportive of the ACA, and some, especially Sen. Bernie Sanders, have proposed moving to a Medicare-for-all system. What do you think should be done about health care in the United States? If you support repealing Obamacare, how would you propose structuring and funding its replacement? Do you support or oppose moving toward a single-payer system? Why or why not?

I support the Affordable Care Act. However, the Affordable Care Act should be improved. I currently serve as the Executive Director of Cumberland HealthNet, a not-for-profit organization that assists local uninsured residents with gaining access to health care for treatment of chronic conditions. We have assisted North Carolinians who do not earn enough to purchase health insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid—in several instances, only one or two dollars beyond the limit. It is imperative that North Carolina expand Medicaid coverage. Nationally, we need to expand the health care exchange to provide more cost-effective options for working families. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been challenging for small businesses, or employers with less than 50 employees. Whether through the provision of clarifying information or reform, we must address the trend to more part-time employees instead of offering full-time employment to avoid the requirements of the ACA. This adversely affects business productivity and, for employees, creates the necessity of working multiple part-time jobs to support their families. We should also consider eliminating fines levied against employers who choose to reimburse employees the premiums for purchasing their own insurance in lieu of employer-provided coverage. Finally, I support moving towards a single payer system.

6. In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, some politicians and pundits have called for blocking Syrian refugees from entering the United States. In December, presidential frontrunner Donald Trump proposed banning all Muslim travel to the United States. Do you support these calls to limit access to either Syrian refugees or Muslims generally? If so, are you worried that such a position may, as Democrats have claimed, play into the Islamic State’s portrayal of America as anti-Islam? If not, do you support any additional vetting processes for the refugees and Muslim travelers coming to this country, or do you believe the safeguards already in place are adequate?

The safety and security of the citizens of the US is our highest priority as elected officials. However, in our quest to protect our homeland we cannot employ discriminatory tactics. I do not support restricting access to our country based on religious, racial or ethnic discrimination. Having served in our military with deployments to the Middle East and having worked on our nation’s defense policies as a former Pentagon employee, I understand our national security risks and why it is critical to have a strong and effective vetting process to prevent a person coming into the country with the intent to do us harm.

Since September 11, 2001, 750,000 refugees have settled in the United States and none have committed acts of domestic terrorism. This is because our current screening and vetting process is effective. First, a refugee cannot be considered for admission into the United States unless he or she is initially referred from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This UN office conducts in-depth interviews, home country reference checks, biological screenings and weeds out military combatants. Upon referral to the United States, the refugee undergoes additional intensive screening in the United States which includes a review by nine U.S. government agencies and consideration of whether there is existing family in the United States and employment possibilities. Heightened scrutiny is given to certain potential refugees, including Syrian refugees, by our U.S. intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies. The entire process takes 18 months to two years. Over the last year, approximately 1800 Syrian refugees were admitted to the United States. Half of those individuals were children and another 25% were over the age of 60. Only 2% were single young adult males.

Our process works, but can be improved. Improved on-the-ground intelligence in Syria will add additional strength to our databases and knowledge base from which potential refugees are screened. While our nation’s intelligence, security and military agencies improve our on-the-ground intelligence development, we must continue to be vigilant and careful in our vetting process.

7. On a similar subject, concerns about terrorism and related unrest in the Middle East have been at the forefront lately. Do you believe the United States is doing enough to counter the threat posed by ISIS and other militant groups? Do you support President Obama’s call for a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS? Why or why not?

I do believe that the United States is doing enough to counter the threat posed by ISIS and other militant groups domestically. The federal employees that work for our agencies work around the clock to keep our nation safe from terrorist attacks. No system is perfect and we must continue to find the gaps in our defenses and fill them immediately. I would only support a resolution authorizing the use of force against ISIS if there is a creditable threat against America or Americans.

8. In terms of foreign policy, what do you believe are the best three things the Obama administration has done over the past seven years? What do you believe are the three biggest shortcomings or failures? What steps do you believe Congress should take with regard to these shortcomings or failures?

Best 4
The Obama Administration’s ordering of the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Obama Administration ending U.S. military involvement in the Iraq War.

The Obama Administration signed the New Start Treat with Russia reducing the number of nuclear missile launchers by half.

The Obama Administration promoted discussions that led to a global climate change provision, the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Not addressing the genocide in Dafur or the Congo

Not able to find common ground with leaders from Israel

Not able to address the currency manipulation of China on the world market.

9. Do you consider the Iran nuclear deal a success or failure? Explain why. Do you support engagement with the Iranian regime, or do you believe that the regime’s human rights record

I do consider the Iran nuclear deal a success. The deal has built international support and puts Iran on notice that more severe sanctions will be imposed if they violate the agreement. It is the responsibility of the administration to build diplomatic ties with other countries. Diplomacy must be sought initially before military action is considered.

10. Similarly, do you believe the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba is prudent? Why or why not?

President Obama’s decision to restore normal diplomatic relations with Cuba is a bold initiative that will mutually benefit both countries. As the President has indicated, over 50 years of sanctions have not accomplished what was initially intended. It is time for a different approach. By bringing Cuba into the modern era and establishing economic opportunities, the US will benefit from having another trade partner. Additionally, it is the only country in close geographical proximity that does not have a relationship with the US. Further, alienation of Cuba opens the door for other countries such as Russia to become allies with Cuba and be positioned in closer proximity in case of conflict.

11. One area where there seems to be an emerging bipartisan consensus related to criminal-justice reform, specifically as it relates to nonviolent drug offenses. How would you propose reforming drug policy? Do you believe marijuana should be either decriminalized or legalized under federal law? Do you believe the federal government should intervene where states have relaxed marijuana prohibitions contrary to federal law?

I support reforming our nation’s drug policies by (1) emphasizing treatment and intensive monitoring over incarceration for low-level nonviolent drug offenses, (2) reforming our sentencing guidelines to change mandatory penalties for certain drug crimes, and (3) implementing effective re-entry programs. By emphasizing treatment, intensive monitoring and implementing effective recidivism programs, we can break the cycle of addiction and recidivism which has turned our jails into a revolving door. Since 1995, North Carolina’s drug treatment courts have been an effective tool in breaking the cycle of addiction and low-level, non-violent, addiction-related crime for many individuals across our state. Additionally, the advent of specialized veteran courts in North Carolina have successfully assisted veterans in a cycle of low-level crime due to addiction and/or mental health issues arising from the stresses of war. Effective re-entry programs also help break the cycle of addiction and crime. As Mayor of Spring Lake, I am proud of our participation in “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative geared towards preventing drug use and a life of crime before it starts. But, it also includes re-entry initiatives to assist with providing second chances and breaking the recidivism cycle. After thirty years of the “War on Drugs,” the use of drugs by our nation’s citizens has not been affected. It is time for a different approach.

Additionally, I support the “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act,” which has bipartisan support and modifies our mandatory sentencing laws. Since the implementation of mandatory penalties in the 1980s, more than half of those incarcerated in federal prison are there for drug offenses. And, as stated, the drug usage rate has not been appreciably reduced. In regards to marijuana, I support the efforts to study our laws at the federal and state levels. Marijuana has positive uses for certain medical conditions and, currently, twenty-three states plus the District of Columbia have laws permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes. I also believe it is problematic that in 2012, there were 658,000 arrests for marijuana versus 256,000 arrests for cocaine, heroin or its derivatives. Our focus should be upon these more addictive drugs. I further believe our nation is moving towards decriminalization of marijuana. I believe a good approach is to permit our local and state governments to address decriminalization issues without federal intervention.

12. The recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership has been criticized by some corners of both the right and left, though Congress did vote last year to grant the president “fast-track” authority. Congress is expected to vote on the TPP sometime this year. In general, do you support or oppose the TPP? Why or why not? Do you believe that it does enough to protect American workers?

I do not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. First, I am troubled by the “fast-track” authority impeding Congress’ ability to address any problematic aspects of the treaty. This is especially concerning as the development of the TPP was conducted in a manner that many members of Congress and the general public are not familiar with many of the terms and conditions included in the agreement. Additionally, our economy has recently started to recover; but, many Americans believe our economy is poor due, in part, to the increasing number of people working part-time jobs because of the lack of full-time employment opportunities. The TPP will have the negatively impact the American job market due to the outsourcing of jobs to other countries. The fact that some of these countries do not have wage and hour protections, minimum wage laws, collective bargaining rights or workplace safety laws is of tremendous concern. Finally, I also believe it is problematic that the TPP includes a dispute resolution process that will permit corporations to challenge our domestic laws if it impacts expected future profits of the corporation. No, I do not believe the TPP does enough to protect American workers.

13. What do you believe is driving the polarization of and rancor in American politics? Is there anything you believe Congress can do about it? In what areas do you believe you could reach a compromise with members of the opposite political party?

The influx of cash into the political process and the increasing costs of elections has led to the politicians favoring ideology over constituent interests. Most Americans, and therefore most Congressional constituents, are not extremely polarized. With campaign finance reform, we should see less ideological polarization and more focus upon what is important to the electorate and not lobbyists or interest groups. As a Democrat, I believe we can reach compromise with Republicans on issues related to veterans, military families and infrastructure.
14. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I am a strong believer in online privacy but understand the need for government surveillance during this period of cyber warfare.  We have to figure out how to protect Americans from online attacks from cyber terrorists while protecting the personal information that is being transferred across the Internet.  I have government intrusion concerns and I will be strong defender of the online privacy of our citizens. But, having worked for the Department of Defense in the area of cyber-security policy development, I know and understand cyber-security threats and what is needed protect Americans. Many American citizens are rightfully concerned about government intrusion and privacy. Therefore, the positions taken in this area may cost me votes, but it is imperative that we have the right system in place.

15. The next president is likely to appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices. As a member of the U.S. Senate, you will have the opportunity to vote to confirm or reject these justices. What criteria will you use to evaluate nominees? Do you have any litmus-test issues—positions that would, in your view, automatically disqualify a nominee from earning your support?

The confirmation of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice is one of the greatest responsibilities of a U.S. Senator due to the significant impact these nine jurists have upon the fabric of our nation over the course of decades. In evaluating a nominee, I would consider the following: (1) what is their legal background and experience, (2) what is their theory of constitutional interpretation, (3) does the person have a reputation of high integrity and aptitude in the legal community, and (4) what is the person’s perspective regarding the role of the judge and the role of the Supreme Court. In evaluating the nominee, I would consider the person’s writings, prior opinions (if any), public statements, speeches and other exemplars from the person’s body of work to further assess the aforementioned criteria. While there are many “hot-button” issues that invoke the passions of many, my litmus test is not whether the person would vote yes or no on a particular issue. Rather, I want to assess the person’s judicial philosophy, foundation and aptitude as I believe it is the best predictor of determining what to expect from the person as a justice.
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