David Donovan | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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David Donovan 

N.C. State Senate District 17

Full Legal Name: David Donovan

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: David Donovan

Office Sought/District: NC State Senate, District 17

Party: Democratic

Date of Birth: 9/24/81

Home & Mailing Address: 101 Faldo Cove, Raleigh NC 27603

Campaign Web Site: www.daviddonovanforsenate.com

Occupation & Employer: Attorney; Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice

Years lived in North Carolina: 15

Home & Work Phone: 919-636-1746

Email: david.donovan.nc@gmail.com

1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

The most important issues facing Wake County are the needs to create jobs and improve the economy. In order to do that, we need to attract businesses to Wake County that are going to create good, high-paying, knowledge-intensive jobs. The best way to attract those kinds of companies is by making sure Wake County remains a place where successful, educated people want to live and raise their families. My top priority for building strong communities in Wake County is to continue improving the quality of our public schools. This means attracting and retaining quality teachers and ensuring that class sizes are small enough that children can get the individualized attention they need to be successful. My wife and I could have chosen to live anywhere in the Triangle; we purposely chose to live in Wake County partly because of the quality schools. We want to ensure that Wake County continues to provide a great education to every child in every single school. Equally important is the need to preserve the strength of our universities and community colleges. They are crucial engines of economic growth in our state, and I want to make sure we continue to offer world-class education and that we stop hiking tuition every year and that we keep the cost of tuition within the means of working families. Our state constitution says that, as much as practical, university attendance in North Carolina should be free of charge. It's time for us to honor that compact with our citizens. My next priority would be investing in transportation, both highways and public transit, in southern Wake County. In particular, we need to accelerate completion of the I-540 loop. Investing in infrastructure will create jobs now, and it will also help Wake County meet the needs of businesses and residents throughout the coming years.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

I'm not an incumbent or a career politician. I've never run for public office before in my life, let alone held one. But I believe that right now we need new energy and new ideas in our state legislature. It's not easy to run as a Democrat in a Republican-leaning electoral year, in a legislative district drawn with the designed purpose of electing a Republican, against an entrenched Republican opponent who has the capability to lend his campaign $150,000 out of his own pocket. That's probably why the voters of the 17th District weren't presented with the choice of a challenger in either of the last two election cycles. I didn't think that was right for such an important seat to go uncontested, and so rather than lament the difficulty of the challenge, I stepped forward to volunteer to run for it. That's attitude that I plan to bring to the state legislature: the honesty to say that something isn't right and the determination to work at making it right, no matter the challenges or obstacles that might make it difficult. I am an attorney, a teacher, an Eagle Scout, a former college wrestler and a former journalist. I'm used to taking on daunting challenges, and frequently succeeding. I intend to apply the lessons of my own life experience to the work of the state legislature.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I think of myself as a pragmatic progressive. There is a movement afoot in this country that, no matter the issue, reflexively says that government should do less. I believe that the paramount responsibility of government is not to do more things or less things, but to do the right things, and to do them as well as possible. In the 20th century alone, the American people came together, through their elected servants, to lift millions of senior citizens out of poverty and help them access quality medical care through Social Security and Medicare. We protected our clean air, clean water and our national park land. Perhaps most importantly, we created laws in the tradition of our oldest moral codes that ended a system of insidious discrimination and protected the rights of people to vote and live in peace and pursue happiness regardless of the color of their skin. I want to serve the people by working to find solutions to the next generation of challenges. In the coming century, we need an economy that can compete with the dynamism of India, Brazil, Korea and China. We can only do that by working boldly to create the finest system of public education anywhere in the world. Our climate is threatened by the reality of man-induced climate change, and rather than electing legislators who deny the existence of a problem, we need leaders with the acuity and intellect to find solutions to a very intractable problem. More happily, Wake County is becoming more diverse than its ever been in our history; but we need leaders who will work to ensure that every citizen feels they're part of a community in Wake County, regardless of their color, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. My philosophy is that we need leaders who will work tirelessly to address these problems and create stronger communities for our citizens.

4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

I believe one of key foundations of a just society is universal access to quality education. Education is the ladder by which people can climb to the highest peaks that their talent and ambition can carry them, regardless of their circumstances of their birth. At a time when the legislature is debating laying off more teachers beyond the ones already let go, I'm running on a platform of hiring more teachers and giving teachers the salary increases they should have gotten over the last two years. I'm also personally opposed to the proposals by Wake County School Board's five-member majority to end our diversity policy. I believe this would create schools with high concentrations of student poverty and endanger our tradition of every school in Wake County being a good school. I believe that working hard to prevent these changes is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to further the goal of a just community.

5. 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'm sure there are plenty of stances I've taken in this survey that might cost me popularity with some people. Certainly my unwavering support for LGBT rights comes immediately to mind. But the equality of all people is something I view as a moral issue, and I'm proud to stand up for those rights even if it's off-putting to some people.

6. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:

a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?

Clearly, maintaining our commitment to provide a great public education to every child in every neighborhood is the foundation of our battle against poverty. Education is the most powerful tool we have to lift people out of childhood poverty and onto a path of self-sufficiency. Bringing more jobs to North Carolina is, of course, also very important. The current employment crisis has created a new danger in the unprecedented rise of long-term unemployment. The percentage of the unemployed who have been out of work for over a year has never been higher in this country. Long-term unemployment is especially destructive because workers' skills atrophy and companies are reluctant to hire the long-term unemployed, creating the serious risk that many Americans will be unable to escape a long descent into poverty. As Senator, I would like to explore ways of creating job-training programs open to those who have been laid off and seen their unemployment benefits expire--particularly those who have spent their lives working in industries whose jobs just aren't coming back--and create incentives for employers to hire graduates of those programs. Also, I'm deeply troubled by the persistent link in our country between poverty and obesity. In the last legislative session, Democrats proposed some promising anti-obesity measures that were watered down or defeated by Republicans. I'd like to help get some more of those ideas passed the next time around.

b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?

In my district, the single most important transportation need is the completion of the I-540 loop, and I intend to work as hard as possible to get that project accelerated and completed as quickly as possible to relieve traffic congestion. I also believe that public transportation is a crucial part of our long-term solution for traffic congestion. (My wife and I actually met on a public bus.) I will work to make public transit more effective and accessible for the residents of southern Wake County.

c. Job creation: What strategies should the state use to attract new business and lower the unemployment rate?

Wake County is already a real-world example of how local economies can grow from strategic cooperation between the public and private sectors. The creation of Research Triangle Park has created thousands of high-wage, high-tech jobs and helped the Triangle area increase its per capita income at a rate that far outpaces the national average. Today we need to continue on that tradition of wise investment by continuing to improve our public schools and our infrastructure and promoting a community of tolerance and diversity. This makes the Triangle area an attractive place for skilled workers to live and raise families. That helps companies in the Triangle attract those kinds of workers, and that encourages new businesses to locate here and bring good jobs with them.

d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?

The recent changes in health care laws provide states the opportunity to innovate ways to make health insurance more affordable and accessible. I'm excited about the changes that prevent insurers from denying coverage to patients because they have pre-existing conditions and may actually require health care. I hope to have the opportunity to work with the legislature to improve upon the existing reform and make insurance more affordable for people in these high-risk pools.

e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?

Unfortunately, many of the families losing their homes are losing them because of long-term unemployment. In a lot of ways, the single best thing we can do to stem the tide of foreclosures is to bring more jobs to North Carolina. I do think that stronger regulation of deceptive and confusing lending practices could have prevented some of these foreclosures, and I would like to see North Carolina laws amended to provide stronger protections to families.

f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it's a mess. Now what?

I believe that when we cordon off mental health care into its own little silo isolated from the rest of our social services, we set ourselves up for crises and we set ourselves up to fail the patients who need that care. I'd like our approach to mental health care to be more holistic. I believe mental health care should be more closely integrated with physical health care and that we should try to break down barriers to coordinating these types of care. I also think that our criminal justice system should have a stronger emphasis on connecting minor offenders and at-risk juveniles to mental health care before their problems spiral to the point that it becomes much more difficult to effectively treat those problems.

g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? Where else should the sales tax be applied? Should it be raised? What's your position on "combined reporting" for national corporations?

My platform does not call for any major changes in the tax code. I do think that we need to change the way we distribute the revenues from these taxes and direct more of them to our public schools.

h. Energy: What steps, if any, should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? What policies should be put in place to incentivize innovation in wind, solar and future energy sources?

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a large-scale problem that requires the cooperation not just of state governments here, but of national governments across the globe. One of the most important things we can do at the state level is to have a comprehensive forestation policy. Protecting forest land is one of the most cost-effective ways we can combat the effects of carbon dioxide emissions. As Senator, I would be committed to protecting our forested land. Another important step we can take is to continue providing tax incentives for investment in clean energy technology. This helps improve our environment, and also helps attract high-paying green energy jobs right here to North Carolina.

7. What local bills would you introduce and how closely will you work with local elected leaders in advancing their legislative agendas?

I plan to work very closely will local elected officials to advance policy ideas. Local concerns that are particularly important to me including completing the I-540 loop and improving public transportation in southern Wake County, supporting the diversity of Wake County public schools, providing more funding for Wake Technical Community College and NC State University and keeping all of our state employees who live and work and pay taxes right here in Wake County employed, and employed at a salary commensurate with the great work they do for our community.

8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.

I am a strong supporter of equal rights for all citizens and for ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. I would like to see our employment discrimination laws expanded to protect all people based on their sexual orientation, including in state personnel laws, and our housing discrimination laws expanded to ensure the same thing. I'd like to see the loopholes removed from our domestic violence laws that make it more difficult for gays and lesbians to seek protection against abuse. I strongly support the School Violence Prevention Act, which protects all children from bullying, including those bullied because they are perceived to be gay or lesbian. My opponent voted against this bill, and it escapes me how anyone could oppose a bill to prevent bullying. State legislators are also called upon to vote on amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and I would oppose any efforts to write bigotry or homophobia into our constitution.

9. Do you support women's reproductive rights, including the "right to choose" as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade? Given that North Carolina has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, do you support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control?

I do unambiguously support women's reproductive rights, including the right to choose under Roe v. Wade. I also strongly support the Healthy Youth Act, which actually does finally allow North Carolina public schools to teach medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control. I believe that law signified an important step forward for our state, given our high rate of teen pregnancies. My opponent opposed that bill.

10. What steps will you take to increase transparency and outreach to constituents, and root out corruption, not only personally but among other General Assembly members?

The most important thing we can do to root out corruption within the General Assembly is to end the corrosive revolving door between legislators and lobbyists. When special interests can influence lawmakers with the promise of lucrative lobbying jobs, it creates a destructive conflict between the interests of a lawmaker's constituents and the interests of his future career prospects. It makes it difficult for citizens to know that their representatives are on working on behalf of the people and not on behalf of their next employer. The sweeping ethics bill that passed in the last session originally called for extending the moratorium on legislators taking lobbying jobs from six months to one year. Under current law, legislators can resign their seats at the end of a session and take a lobbying job in the very next session. My opponent introduced the amendment that stripped this provision from the law, saying that chilled the ability of legislators to make a living. I'm worried about the jobs of regular North Carolinians, not lobbyists and legislators, which is why the first bill I would introduce as Senator would expand the ban beyond what the law originally called for and extend the ban for two years. To root out corruption in the budget, I would like to create more sunshine in the state's personnel records. Our records laws are among the strictest in the nation, and I believe that information should be made public to make it easier to detect corruption and abuse of power. As Senator, I would make outreach to constituents one of my main goals, and I hope to become known as one of the most accessible representatives in the legislature. I want to be someone voters can reach easily to share their concerns and have their voices heard.

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