Name as it appears on the ballot: Graig R. Meyer
Campaign website: www.graigmeyer.com
Phone number: 919-824-418
Years lived in the district: 18
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues North Carolina faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
The issue that is fundamental to all other issues is our electoral process. North Carolina’s Republican leadership has undermined the fundamental function of elections within our democracy through gerrymandering, restricting voter access, and changing the procedures for judicial elections. I am proud to have sponsored legislation that would create a non-partisan redistricting process, and I have voted against every bill that would have restricted voter access as well as every effort to politicize judicial elections. In the future, I would love to push for universal voter registration.
The issue that I am most passionate about is public education. As a former public school employee and the spouse of a teacher, I was originally motivated to run for the House by my desire to return North Carolina back to the position of being one of the strongest and most innovative states for public education. I have been a strong proponent for raising teacher pay. I have also been the leader of a statewide study group considering what we can do about persistently low-performing schools. As a national STEMx Policy Fellow, I have studied national best practices for STEM education that can prepare students for 21st century careers. I look forward to advancing policy issues on all of these issues.
I also care deeply about fighting for racial justice. I have been a sponsor of bills to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and that aim to eliminate discriminatory racial profiling. I have fought against race-based voter suppression and gerrymandering. I have advocated for public health initiatives that will address racial disparities in life expectancy. Over the last year, I have had conversations with citizen groups and police groups about how to address the distrust that has been growing over police-involved shootings.
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?
In my three years in the legislature, I have consistently fought the current Republican majority with my votes and my voice. I have voted against every major Republican hyper-partisan bill we have considered, including HB2, expansion of gun access, and restrictions on abortion access. I will continue to be a consistent voice for progressive priorities in the legislature.
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?
I was a primary sponsor of HB946, a bill that would have repealed HB2 in its entirety. HB2 is a moral affront to the idea of equality and directly discriminatory and harmful towards residents of our state. HB2 restricts the ability of local governments to implement ordinances that promote equality, employment opportunities for underrepresented groups, and supports for a living wage. Full repeal of HB2 is the only acceptable solution to the devastating economic impact of national boycotts of North Carolina. We must repeal HB2 in its entirety, and hopefully we can include statewide LGBTQ protections in all of North Carolina’s non-discrimination statutes.
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?
Yes, and yes. I will support all local efforts to raise the minimum wage. However, the most effective increase would come at the federal level and move all employers nationwide into an increased minimum wage so that no state could poach workers from a neighboring state based on pay.
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. There are multiple examples of the legislature intruding into local affairs in recent years, including redrawing the district lines for county and municipal elections. While there are plenty of legitimate reasons for the legislature to pass bills restricted to local impact, there are too many recent examples where partisan political interests or right-wing discriminatory ideology has driven local legislation against the desires of the local municipality. I have consistently voted against these bills, and worked in consultation with my municipal leaders to promote legislation that will benefit our region.
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?
Democrats have been arguing that we should bring teacher pay to the national average or more. I would push further to suggest that teacher pay should match the average pay of all professionals with bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina.
This would require funding teaching salaries at a much higher level than what we do today, but I believe that dramatically increasing teacher pay will help with recruiting and retaining the best teachers that we can find.
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.
I do agree with this decision, and I was glad to see the judges write an opinion that was so clear in its description of the racially discriminatory motivations behind the law. Our legislature has sought to restrict the ballot access of people of color in multiple ways, voter ID being only one such tool. I have been proud to vote against all of these efforts.
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?
No. The legislature has been too gentle on Duke Energy and has not provided enough protections to the residents of areas impacted by coal ash pond leaks. I have consistently maintained the position that Duke should not transfer the costs of cleanup to ratepayers, and that it is Duke’s responsibility to provide a clean water supply to every person living in a coal ash impacted area.
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?
Under Republican leadership, investments in environmental protection have been slashed, and the majority has rolled back our environmental policy infrastructure. The legislative approach has been to require no environmental protections or monitoring beyond the minimum required by Federal law. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had its name changed to the Department of Environmental Quality and was told that its top priority was to provide “customer service” to the industries that need its review and clearance.
Regarding Jordan and Falls Lake, both the legislature and the Governor’s administration have failed to take any meaningful steps to reduce pollutant build up that is jeopardizing the drinking water of the Triangle’s largest metropolitan areas. Clearly we are going to the wrong direction on all aspects of environmental protection.
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?
I do support expanding Medicaid. The most basic reason for the expansion is to increase coverage for North Carolinians. Expanding Medicaid also makes financial sense. Medicaid expansion would make it more likely that the health care insurance exchange would be sustainable, and insurers would be able to offer lower rates. Finally, expansion would create thousands of jobs and be a boon to the overall economy with a significant benefit to our state’s rural areas.
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?
Expanding Medicaid is the single most important thing we could do. I would also like to focus on improving out mental health care. We need to bolster community based mental health supports that keep mentally ill people out of emergency rooms and jails. Simultaneously, we need to increase the availability of mental health residential facilities so that people, who require temporary hospitalization, have specialized mental health care rather than being stuck in medical or penal facilities.
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.
Adjusting our tax burden should be the first change to our state budget. We should not be taxing corporations at a rate 40% lower than what individuals pay in income tax. We should not be increasing sales and use taxes and fees in order to provide a lower tax rate for corporations. I would hope that a more progressive tax code would also result in increased revenue. If that comes to pass, I would prioritize investments in public education and mental health care.
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.
Believe it or not, this happens regularly within the General Assembly. These occurrences are usually on issues that are not in the headlines. One example, for me, was on financial incentives for corporate investments. I truly wish that we didn’t have to offer tax breaks to lure major employers. After listening to legislators from rural areas about the possible community transformation that would come from landing a major corporate employer at a rural mega-site, I decided to support a bill that funded our state’s economic development incentive funds.