Name as it appears on the ballot: Laurel Deegan-Fricke
Campaign website: Laurel4NC.com
Phone number: 919-633-3680
Years lived in the district: 14
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 number one most pressing issue has to be the impending crisis for our public education system. The Republican leadership in the Capitol has led our public schools down the wrong track for far too long, cutting our per-pupil expenditures, wrestling control of the classroom away from teachers, and adding insult to injury by claiming the most severe cut to longevity benefits in decades as a salary increase for teachers. My first priority in office is getting our schools headed back in the right direction, starting by giving our teachers the pay they deserve for the tireless work they put in.
Second, we need to focus on our state’s economy, which lagged behind in recovery from the recession. We need to do more to attract more businesses to the area, starting by repealing nonsensical, regressive laws like HB2, and reinvesting in clean energy, small businesses, and other sources of jobs in the future economy. We must also make sure the gains of our stronger economy are enjoyed by all people. This means repealing the increases to the sales and gas taxes, putting in place a more progressive, common-sense income tax, and reinstating the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for working families.
Finally, we must do more to protect the environment for future generations. We cannot allow those who would pollute our water and air to get away with no repercussions for their dangerous negligence. We also have to unfreeze our investments in clean energy to begin to combat the climate change that threatens our way of life.
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?
John Alexander has had a brief tenure as State Senator, but since he has voted in lockstep with Pat McCrory and Phil Berger there is no shortage of mistakes and poor decisions to highlight. While I could talk about his votes for regressive tax hikes or repeated attacks on our teachers, I’d like to just focus on the most glaring mistake of the last two years: House Bill 2.
John Alexander’s support of House Bill 2 helped usher in one of the most disastrous periods in North Carolina’s recent economic history, which has seen companies withdrawing thousands of jobs and cost hard-working North Carolinians billions in lost revenue. Recently, even Alexander himself realized how incredibly devastating the outcomes of his vote have become and put forward a half-hearted call for HB2’s repeal. But this statement completely failed to apologize for the economic impact his hateful, indefensible vote had wrought on his constituents, and was drenched in the same homophobic, transphobic thinking which birthed this horrible law in the first place. The only way to prevent another disaster like HB2 from happening is to vote out every politician who supported it, starting with John Alexander.
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?
This law has provided nothing to North Carolina other than economic despair and national ridicule. It has to be completely repealed as soon as it possibly can be, and we have to hold accountable every politician who voted for this hateful and ruinous bill. Furthermore, Charlotte should not be forced to repeal their anti-discrimination laws just to cover for the mistakes of Pat McCrory and the Republicans in the General Assembly.
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?
Anyone who is working full-time should be able to afford the necessities of life and be given a livable wage. Right now our minimum wage simply does not do that, and needs to be raised to a higher level. However, cost of living varies between the different areas of this state, and so the municipalities should have the power to raise the minimum wage beyond the state’s initial baseline. Finally, we can’t allow our minimum wage to remain stagnant for years and years as they have in the past. I propose tying our minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index, so that as the cost of living becomes higher, our workers will not see their wages fall behind.
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. The General Assembly has worked tirelessly to strip towns and counties in North Carolina of their autonomy, redrawing voting districts, striking down local laws, and taking away rights and responsibilities of local governments. We have to respect the rights of local governments and give them the ability to reflect the views of their citizens.
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?
We absolutely must pay our teachers a living wage, and right now we simply are failing to do so. It doesn’t help that Republicans are lying about the compensation teachers are actually receiving, thinking that if they can keep the public misinformed, they can continue to mortgage our children’s future to afford tax cuts for the rich. If I had to give a number, I would say that our teachers should start with a salary of ______.
To afford this increase I would start by cutting vouchers for private schools. We should not subsidize the education of wealthier families at the expense of our most needy students. I would also implement a progressive income tax, so that our wealthiest taxpayers contribute their fair share towards the system that enables their prosperity.
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 agree with this decision completely. These voter ID laws are motivated purely by political motives, a solution to a nonexistent problem that serves only to disenfranchise poorer and minority voters to keep Republicans in office. We need to make it easier for people to vote, not harder. I would support measures to expand early voting hours, make it simpler to register to vote, and obtain an absentee ballot.
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?
We have not been diligent enough in protecting our environment and natural resources, especially our drinking water. We must have stricter regulations to prevent companies from polluting our water, but more than that we have to start holding companies like Duke Energy accountable when they threaten our environment, not show leniency to court campaign contributions.
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?
These criticisms are completely warranted. We have to do more to protect our environment, including unfreezing our investments in clean energy, better policing the pollutants that have been dumped in our air and water, holding those polluters accountable, and responding faster to environmental crises around the state. But the most important thing for our state to do is to start trusting the scientific community again in these matters. We cannot deny the problems happening in our own backyards any longer if we want to have any chance of preserving this beautiful state for future generations.
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?
This should not even be a debate. Of course we should expand Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act. Not only would this provide health coverage to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, it would not even cost our state a dime since the funds are provided by the federal government. The only reason to oppose this expansion is a purely partisan grudge against President Obama and a desire to see his signature healthcare law fail.
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?
I think the number one thing we can do is expand Medicaid coverage as provided for by the ACA. Bringing healthcare to hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens will help all of North Carolina. I also think we cannot underestimate the role the environment plays in protecting our public health. We have to do everything we can to prevent companies from polluting our air and water and poisoning our families.
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.
Number one would be investing more money into public education. We have to increase per-pupil expenditures and teacher salaries to keep our public schools strong and give the next generation a chance of competing in a global economy. While this will cost our state some money now, investments in education will pay dividends in the future.
My second priority would be to fix our tax system so that we are no longer placing an undue burden on the poor and working-class families in North Carolina. We can’t continue to place the wishes of the wealthiest citizens over the wellbeing of those less fortunate, and so I would move to repeal our regressive Sales and Gas Tax increases in favor of a more progressive income tax in which everyone paid their fair share. I would also reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit, to provide relief to our most vulnerable families. Since our state budget is constitutionally mandated to be balanced, this change in revenue would allow us to provide the vital services we need to move forward.
Finally, I want to invest in businesses that will grow our economy for years to come. While there are many ways to do this, including providing tax credits for small business owners, investing in infrastructure, and setting up technical education for our workers, my priority would be unfreezing our investments in clean energy. The move to freeze these investments not only cost our state hundreds of high-paying clean energy jobs, it scared away tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, costing our state untold thousands in lost business. Recommitting to clean energy employers will go a long way in helping our state become the pioneer in business I know we can be in the next part of the 21st century.
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.