In such an atypical presidential election year, it’s easy to miss what’s going on locally.
It’s easy for me to peg the moment I tuned in to our state-level politics. A short two days after returning from a long overdue vacation, I come home to watch North Carolina’s lawmakers pass HB2, after only eleven hours of consideration. Suddenly, my adoptive home state was thrust into national headlines for passing one of the most discriminatory bills in the country. How embarrassing. What a disgrace.
Of course, none of this would be possible without Rep. Jonathan Jordan, who sponsored HB2, and Governor Pat McCrory, who signed it into law. Despite campaign promises to govern from the same moderate position he was known for as the mayor of Charlotte, McCrory has done anything but that.
HB2 has already cost the state’s economy north of $200 million. Jordan didn’t just vote for this horrendous bill, he sponsored it. Vote against HB2. Vote for a new voice in the governor’s mansion and new representation in the North Carolina House. Vote for Roy Cooper and vote for Sue Counts.
One of the other issues that pushed me to get involved in this election cycle was the deliberate attempt by the county’s Republican leadership to disenfranchise students. Make no mistake, the Republican-dominated Watauga County Board of Elections has repeatedly tried to torpedo student voting over the last four years. This should come as no surprise when you have county commissioners like David Blust who in 2006 said, “I don’t like college students voting in local elections.” Unfortunately for Blust, this issue was settled by the Supreme Court in 1979 with Symm vs. US.
On the subject of county commissioners, it’s important to note that the Republican members of the commission have done absolutely nothing to stop the Maymead asphalt plant from being built on the scenic byway.
Despite protests from not only those neighboring the site of this plant, but from all over the county, Blust and Perry Yates have allowed this project to move forward. The new asphalt plant will spout toxic chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide and promises to be an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful stretch of the county. To add insult to injury, this particular asphalt plant is being built for use on projects in Ashe County and will employ folks from Tennessee. I fail to see how this benefits anyone in Watauga County. Vote against the asphalt plant. Vote for Larry Turnbow, Diane Blanks and John Welch for Watauga County Commission.
In the vein of issues that affect students directly, we could also use new representation in Congress. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and Senator Richard Burr are both part of a Republican caucus that intends to cut funding for Pell Grants and is against Democratic efforts to help those burdened by serious levels of student debt.
On the other hand, Senate candidate Deborah Ross intends to increase funding for Pell Grants, cap the interest rates on student loans, help students refinance current loans to lower rates, and offer a debt-free route for community college students. US House candidate Josh Brannon also wants to see debt-free higher education, and in general seeks opportunity for all, not just the one percent. Vote for affordable higher education. Vote for Deborah Ross and Josh Brannon.
The choices in this election year are clear and the stakes are high. Vote for progressive policies such as equal rights for all, increasing voter rights, protecting the environment and making higher education affordable for all. Vote for hope. Vote for a brighter future. Vote Democratic. But most importantly, vote local.
Story by: Craig Bailey, Canvassing Director for Watauga Democratic Party