Name as it appears on the ballot: Susan P. Evans
Campaign website: SusanEvansNCSenate.com
Phone number: 919-230-1391
Years lived in the district: 24 years in the district, and 36 in Wake County
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues North Carolina faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
Education, the economy, and good government. I’m running to renew North Carolina’s promise of a high-quality public education; an economy that works for all, not just those at the top; and a government by and for the people.
We used to be a leader in public education, but decisions our state leaders have made in the last few years have gotten us off track. My Wake County School Board colleagues and I have done what we could to make up for budget cuts and leadership deficits. With increased county support, we’ve have raised our local teacher pay supplements―which are the highest in the state―and invested in support staff and innovative academic programs. However, our local taxpayers can only do so much. The state has to fulfill its responsibility to provide a sound basic education. We were at the national average in teacher pay just eight years ago, but we are now 41st, and our per-pupil investment in public education still lags pre-recession levels, even though revenues have rebounded. I’ll fight to improve teacher pay, support early childhood learning, provide adequate classroom materials, keep teaching assistants in primary grades, and make our public universities more affordable.
It’s critical that we move toward an economy that works for everyone. This General Assembly has balanced the budget on the backs of working families by raising taxes on the middle class in favor of tax giveaways for the wealthy and well-connected. On top of that, HB2 has damaged our reputation and repelled business and cultural investment from our state at staggering levels. I will work to repeal HB2 and roll back the new sales taxes which are over-burdening the middle class and small businesses.
Finally, just as I have on the school board, I will fight to restore good governance at the state level, so we have a government our people can believe in again. People are sick of political games, and our democracy is being threatened by extreme partisan gerrymandering, which polarizes our electorate and makes most races uncompetitive. I strongly support an independent process for drawing legislative district lines, and will work for transparency in legislative decision-making.
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 opponent voted for HB2, causing great economic losses for our state. She made damaging cuts to education, and voted to raise taxes on working families. She has been a rubber stamp for Sen. Phil Berger’s extreme agenda.
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?
HB2 should be repealed. As a member of a family of Tar Heel and Wolfpack grads, the NCAA and ACC decisions really drove home the devastating impact this law has had on all our citizens. HB2 has cost Cary alone at least $2.5 million from six NCAA tournaments, and Wake County at large tens of millions more dollars in lost tourism revenue―that we know of. It is another example of the meddling in local affairs, playing political games with our people, and the backwards priorities my opponent and her General Assembly allies have become known for. I’ll refocus our priorities on education and jobs.
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?
The state should consider raising its minimum wage. Nonetheless, I strongly support municipalities having the autonomy to set minimum wages within their jurisdictions according to the varying costs of living and needs of their people.
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?
One of the most frustrating things I have experienced during my time on the Wake County School Board is a constant interference from the General Assembly in what used to be local issues―redrawing local district lines for partisan reasons, constricting municipalities’ flexibility on aesthetic design regulations, taking over airports and water systems, and now hampering local governments’ ability to set their own minimum wages and antidiscrimination policies. I believe local elected officials know their communities best, and should have the autonomy to set local ordinances that go above and beyond standards set by the state.
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?
North Carolina’s average teacher pay currently ranks only 41st in the nation, approximately $10,000 less than the national average, even including the local supplements which counties like Wake generously offer. After decades of investment, we were nearly at the national average just eight years ago. We must refocus our priorities, improving salaries for all teachers―not just those in their early years―and reinstating the Teaching Fellows program, so that we can attract and retain our best and brightest in our classrooms.
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 support the court’s decision. As the court recognized through its examination of the evidence, including emails from legislators and legislative staff, the law was intended to make it more difficult for certain voters to exercise their right to cast a ballot. That is not only morally wrong but unconstitutional. One of the unfortunate side effects of the decision was it struck down perhaps the only good piece of the bill, a requirement that early voting hours be maintained in every county equal to those in the last similar election. That should be restored in corrective legislative next year.
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?
I tend to trust the scientists on public health and environmental matters. Unlike the DHHS and DEQ directors and Gov. McCrory’s spokesmen, they’re not political appointees, they’re qualified and should be empowered to make these decisions, and they do their work with the people’s interests at heart. Ensuring Duke Energy and other polluters are not poisoning our air and drinking water is among the government’s most important responsibilities. Unlike my opponent, I will fight to make sure the special interests don’t overrule science and that they don’t get to set public policy.
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?
Jordan Lake provides the drinking water for my entire district and more. It is vitally important that we not only clean up the existing pollution but prevent further sedimentation from upstream sources. A bipartisan group of legislators passed the Jordan Lake Rules in 2009, but my opponent and her allies in the General Assembly have spent the last several years continuing to delay the rules’ implementation at the behest of developers and special interests. Instead, they wasted millions of our taxpayer dollars on the ineffective “solar bees” boondoggle. I support working with experts to determine real solutions for dealing with pollutants that are threatening the quality of our water and air.
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 support expanding Medicaid by accepting federal funds we are already paying for with our tax dollars. Instead, those tax dollars―our money―are going to people in other states. Taking this step will not only save lives but money. It will help employers and employees alike by alleviating the cost of providing private insurance for those who are frequently more expensive to cover, and it will create thousands of jobs in our state.
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?
We should expand Medicaid and set up a state-based health insurance exchange. McCrory’s and the General Assembly’s refusal to do both was based purely on politics, not sound policy.
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.
I will work to end the $1 billion of our tax dollars going to private school vouchers, and reinvest that in our public schools, where it belongs. I will work to improve teacher pay and restore per-pupil spending to a level that provides for adequate textbooks, classroom supplies, and staffing in our K-12 classrooms. I will reverse the tax giveaways my opponent gave to the special interests, including $265 million to Duke Energy alone, and then roll back the new sales taxes on car repairs, movie tickets, power bills, and other goods and services, which are hurting the middle class.
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.
Throughout my time on the school board, I have worked with colleagues and staff to reach consensus on policy decisions. This always involves listening to others’ views, including input from the public, analyzing available data and then making the most appropriate and practical decision. At times, this has involved moving away from my own personal positions toward a compromise position that will stand the test of time.