Name as it appears on the ballot: Kevin D. Griffin
Campaign Website: www.GoWithGriffin.org
Phone number: (866) 249-4462 Email: Kevin@gowithgriffin.org
Years lived in state: 44
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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?
Income Inequality. We must achieve a living wage that reflects the minimum income needed for a worker to meet their basic needs in their community without public assistance. Also, the economic activity that derives from employees earning a livable wage is a primary generator of the overall economic growth of the nation. I will work to raise the Federal minimum wage to a responsible level; one that will allow our hardworking men and women to meet these needs while not putting small businesses and economically-disadvantaged communities in greater hardship.
Student Loan Reform. College education should not be free; it is something to strive for and a proud accomplishment for a student. My plan to improve the Student Loan Program and offer an incentive for students to graduate will lock college loans at the current market rate at date of issue. They will then remain at the market rate until the student has graduated. Upon graduation, the interest rate for the loan will drop to 0.0%, provided the individual enrolls in, and stays current with, an automatic payment program for the loan repayment.
Medicaid Expansion. Many people claim they don't want Medicaid expanded, because they see economic freedom and universal healthcare as mutually exclusive. To put it bluntly, that is not true. The United States is currently 12th on the list of countries with the most economic freedom, of the 11 countries ahead of us, 10 have achieved universal healthcare. Instead of being mutually exclusive, economic freedom and universal healthcare go hand-and-hand. We must work to expand Medicaid in all the states, so we can offer coverage to those people who earn too much to be covered by Medicaid, yet not enough to receive the subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act. We need to make sure that EVERYONE has access to affordable healthcare.
2. Name three senators, past or present, whom you look up to as role models. Explain why you have picked these three.
Ted Kennedy. Senator Ted Kennedy championed health care reform legislation for decades before finally having the opportunity to see the Affordable Care Act signed into law. His devotion to duty and his perseverance as the "Lion of the Senate" are personally inspiring to me.
Frank Church. Church gained national prominence during his service in the Senate through his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities from 1975 through 1976, more commonly known as the "Church Committee". This committee conducted extensive hearings investigating extra-legal FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering and covert operations and investigated CIA drug smuggling activities in the Golden Triangle and secret U.S.-backed wars in Third World countries. Together with Senator Sam Ervin's committee inquiries, the Church Committee hearings laid the groundwork for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. In today's age of growing technology, we need more public officials, like Senator Church, who value this kind of transparency.
Elizabeth Warren. Prior to running for public office, Elizabeth Warren voted as a Republican for many years, saying, "I was a Republican because I thought that those were the people who best supported markets". According to Warren, she began to vote Democratic in 1995 because she no longer believed that to be true, but stated that she had voted for both parties because she believed that neither party should dominate. Since being elected to the U.S. Senate, she has taken up the cause of income inequality with a passion. It's this kind of integrity and leadership that endears me to the Senator from Massachusetts.
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?
Senator Burr has failed to lead the way on any major issues facing North Carolinians, and that is exactly the problem. We need a representative who actually listens to the people and one who will work collaboratively to solve problems, not another partisan 'YES MAN'. Rather than the obstructionist brand of politics that Burr and his GOP colleagues have used to divide this country, I pledge to bring people together again by solving problems and putting the will of my constituents first.
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?
Our tax code is broken. Someone's tax liability should not be determined by the amount of money they can use to pay some CPA whose sole job is to identify tax loopholes for their clients to take advantage of. The system must be reset to a clear, concise program that requires all people to pay their fair share. I am reviewing both the 'Fair Tax' and the 'Flat Tax' in comparison with our current graduated structure. There are positive aspects and drawbacks for each of the plans. But regardless of the chosen plan, the loopholes and special interest favoritism must be eliminated to allow for an easier tax process.
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 believe that it is a moral imperative to make sure that all people have access to quality affordable healthcare. This being said, I believe we should work to improve our health care system by taking the following steps:
Cease our political infighting over the need for comprehensive healthcare. We are a world-wide leader in many areas, unfortunately health-care is not one of those. It is time that all politicians understand the universal health care coverage should be considered a right, and not an option. Politicians are elected to represent the needs of their constituents, and every person needs to have access to affordable health care.
We must work with the states who have not yet adopted the Affordable Care Act. North Carolina included. This way we can make sure to cover the unfortunate gap between the individuals who don’t make enough for the subsidies, but too much for the current Medicaid system.
Make the Affordable Care Act more business-friendly. As the owner of a small business I know how confusing, convoluted, and continually changing the system is. While the content contained within the plan is good, we must work to create a simple and straight-forward process of adoption for businesses of any size.
While the current Affordable Care Act is unwieldy and has its kinks, it is a necessary part of a North Carolina and the U.S. taking good care of her people. We need to work hard to both iron out any issues within the current system, as well as push all states to join in. We cannot stop until all people have access to affordable and quality health care.
Though I'm open to a single-payer system as a final destination on this path, it is not a feasible single leap at this time. One way to move in that direction would be to allow for early buy-in to the Medicare 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?
Perhaps the most hotly contested issue between Democrats and Republicans currently is immigration reform. This is a deeply personal issue to many North Carolina residents because around 8% of our population was born outside of the United States. Throughout my campaign for U.S. Senate, I have stated that I believe that all people deserve a voice and to be treated equally; those who immigrate to this great nation are no different.
We must treat all people equally. We are defined both by how we treat those in need and the fairness and equality with which we acted. I see no difference in a refugee whether they come from Syria, Southeast Asia, Europe or South America. It is our duty as good humans to help those in need. It is also our responsibility to protect our nation, and to do that, we must have a robust, thorough and constantly evolving background screening program as a diligent attempt to ferret out any travelers with mal intent.
In this vain, I believe in allowing those immigrants who are already here an opportunity to stay. But I believe in fairness as well, so they must contribute and become a functioning part of our economy and government. All must be a part of the system, and a part of society. Whether they are here as students, tourists, refugees, asylum-seekers or guest workers, the vetting process must be thorough and consistent.
All currently present undocumented immigrants must register for work. This will allow for them to become legally employed as a guest worker, which in turn brings them into the tax system. This creates additional inflows supporting social security and the health care system. As long as there are no employment gaps longer than 6 months they and their immediate family can stay in place. While participating in this system, immigrants can become eligible for social benefits. Benefits such as education, health, and safety are reasonable expectations for anyone participating in our society. They will also be allowed to apply for citizenship through regular channels, but there should be no preferential treatment based on already being resident in the United States.
Deportation, when needed, must be streamlined and humane. Examples of situations where deportation would happen include criminal infractions and non-employment for more than 6 months. In the case of the non-employment they would be allowed to voluntarily leave and then reapply for an approved status without penalty.
The goal of my immigration program is to treat all that are involved with both consistency and fairness. To view each person as a fellow human that is pursuing what is best for them and their family. America was built on the hard-working backs of immigrants, I see no reason why allowing their ingenuity and diligence will not continue to benefit North Carolina and the United States.
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?
ISIS and Iran both appear to be championing a militant branch of Islam by carving a path of destruction and oppression. One thing is certain: they are enemies of peace, enemies of the United States, and of civilized countries all over the globe. This is why we must continually reach out to the nations of the world, to stay engaged and involved, allowing us and our international partners to react quickly to any terrorist threats that may arise.
I support President Obama and the use of military force against ISIS via bipartisan authorization. The so-called Islamic State poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security interests. As such, we must act appropriately to eliminate the threat, and allow the people of the region to determine their own future outside the reins of oppression.
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?
I believe President Obama's greatest accomplishments center around his willingness to normalize relations with Cuba, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and his commitment to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.
Shortcoming on the part of President Obama's administration reside mostly with some questionable foreign policy decisions. Failing to take the threat of ISIS seriously from the very beginning has proved disastrous. Likewise, I believe that a stronger response was needed to challenge Russian expansion in Crimea and Syria. And finally, setting a red line on Syria's use or transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups, rather than investigating any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within the country, was a weak course of action for a threat level of this kind.
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 [question cut off?]
Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terror and is racing toward nuclear weapons capability. Through its proxy armies of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Iranian regime is supporting terrorists that have carried out attacks on American troops and Israeli civilians. Plain and simple: American policy must seek to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. A nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel and would arm the world's leading sponsor of terrorism with the ultimate weapon. The United States and Israel must stand fast to block Iran from gaining these weapons.
I agree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that no deal with Iran is better than a bad deal with Iran. However, the U.S. must do everything in its power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which would make it far more dangerous and would give it scope for even greater action in the region. I believe that engagement and outreach that allows for greater monitoring is a key factor in preventing access to nuclear weapons.
10. Similarly, do you believe the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba is prudent? Why or why not?
Yes. The isolationism practiced in respect to Cuba for over 50 years simply hasn’t worked. We need to engage this country, that resides only ninety miles off our shores, and its people in order to foster the internal ground swell movement toward individual freedom and self determination.
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?
Criminal justice reform and addressing the skyrocketing incarceration rates are important issues that are far too often neglected by political candidates from Democrat and Republican parties. In North Carolina alone over $1,000,000,000 is spent annually on just housing, feeding, and keeping its prison population. As part of my candidacy, I am focusing on reducing the incarceration rates, first in North Carolina and then throughout the rest of United States.
What most people in trouble need is help, treatment, and aid; not incarceration. In order to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans and boost the economy with a greater workforce, we must:
Remove Mandatory Sentencing Guidelines. Sentencing should be based upon proportionality of the crime as well as utilizing the sentence to promote social justice in the individual and community.
Create Transition Programs. Such as job skills training programs in conjunction with state and federal departments.
Expand Drug Treatment Programs. This is important because we need to realize that incarceration is not a treatment for addiction.
Reclassify Marijuana. In 23 states doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to patients, but cannot legally study how it would affect their illnesses. We need to authorize the CDC to study medical marijuana and potential for decriminalizing marijuana completely.
Change Employment Screening Guidelines. It is necessary to change background checks for employment and potential discrimination and liability. Me must also work to join over a dozen other states who have approved “ban the box” policies that forbid employers from asking applicants about criminal backgrounds
There is no excuse for why the United States has 5% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s prison population. That is unacceptable. It is about time that America and her government begins to aid all of the citizens of this great nation, which includes helping those stuck in the vicious incarceration cycle of bad policies and procedures.
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 TPP due in large part to the following:
Competition in the U.S. Marketplace. If the United States is not heavily involved in the agreements and organization of global trade, the odds can easily become stacked against our country’s economy. A lot of the goods we buy are based on the prices of suppliers from Pacific Rim countries. This causes a potentially severe problem if a trading partner has violations under the TPP. Because we would be required to cease trade with that country, our economy would face potentially severe product shortages and price increases.
Potential Degradation of Industries. I grew up as NAFTA was being implemented, and I watched as North Carolina’s textile and furniture industries were decimated by the wave of low cost competitors across the border. I believe that offering incentives to Pacific Rim countries according to the TPP guidelines will once again allow unfair competition and will degrade other NC industries at a time where we need to be focusing on creating employment growth in our own country.
Manipulations in the Value of a Country’s Currency. The opportunity for a country to artificially manipulate its currency to slant the playing field is too great under the TPP. This practice can easily lead to the destabilization of industries and economies, and the TPP does not contain adequate protections against this potentially devastating practice.
I believe we must continually act to strengthen the free and open marketplace in the world, and the TPP was originally intended to move us all in that direction. Unfortunately, I believe that because the structure of the agreement is flawed, the TPP fails to reach its goal. As a candidate in the 2016 US Senate race, I am AGAINST the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) due to the issues and potential for abuse.
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?
I believe the current problems and inability to work together stems from an overuse of the pipeline of career politicians who have been indoctrinated into a party's agenda, and who are more loyal to the party than to the people they are supposed to represent. This pipeline, along with the exorbitant amounts of money required to be considered a viable candidate for races, serves to eliminate the potential for free thought. Our representatives must be focused on solving the problems we face. Right now it seems they are only interested in getting re-elected, and stopping the other party from accomplishing anything. We must elect a new generation of representatives that will serve the people, develop the country, and then clear the way for the next generation to step in and lead.
This new approach, built on complete transparency, is exactly what I will bring to the U.S. Senate when I am elected. As a Senator, I will:
Publish a position paper, for every vote taken, that shows what I believe is good and bad about the issue, how I came to my decision, and why I’m voting the way I am.
Post my detailed schedule on the web so that everyone will know where I am, who I’m meeting with, and what we’re discussing.
Reach out to the entire Senate, inviting them to form a ‘Common-Sense Caucus’ that is based on clear and open discussion of the issues, where both sides of the aisle are invited to participate, and all meetings/hearings/discussions are conducted completely open to the public.
Push for term limits for all members of congress just as we have for the president. 2 terms for senate, 6 terms for house. This will force the turnover that will constantly refresh the debate, viewpoint and experience present in the legislature.
Only through this dedicated effort at openness and transparency can the government regain the respect of the people. We need to follow the example of Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT), and her push for single subject legislation and requiring that all amendments must be germane. That method allows for clear discussion and debate of individual ideas, rather than 5000 page omnibus bills that include everything but the kitchen sink. It’s exactly this type of approach that allows for open discussion and compromise on the issues that are important to the people and the prosperity of our nation. This is how we will move past the fighting and actually get things done.
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.
Each of my stances are the product of considerable principle and forethought. My positions on gun control, reproductive rights, equality, immigration, and the environment are all issues that some would take issue with.
Full details of all my stances are currently viewable at: www.gowithgriffin.org.
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?
My litmus tests would be as follows:
Will they understand the impact of their decisions on the individual and adjudicate in a way that honors the individual first?
Will they protect reproductive rights?
Will they ensure equal recognition and treatment for all?