Meet the Candidates: North Carolina House of Representatives

Kaitlyn Potochnik and Mia Seligman

Election Day is Nov. 8 and with 19 candidates on the local ballot, Watauga voters have many decisions to make. The Appalachian has curated responses to questions on certain policy positions of candidates in local office.

The questions and responses below are curated from The Boone Chamber of Commerce’s  “Meet The Candidates” event held at the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Oct. 6.


The following questions were asked to Ben Massey and Ray Pickett, candidates running for District 93 in the North Carolina House: 

  • How do you intend to advocate for funding for NCDOT to ensure that the state has adequate money to operate and improve its roadways?

Ray Pickett:

Pickett discussed changing up the gas tax to ensure funding.

“We have asked them to look into mileage of actually how much you drive on the road because that’s what we’re going to have to look at with electric cars because they’re not actually burning fuel,” Pickett said. “So either that or we got to put something on a meter where it’s like a gas tax: be charged per watt, then they charge a car, we’ll get that tax money.”

  • What are your advocacy priorities for the workers of Watauga County?

Pickett emphasized the importance of giving state employees raises.

“Like it was in the last budget, we looked at getting all state employees a raise,” Pickett said. “We depend on them, ASU depends on them, we depend on them to work on our roads.”

  • Medicaid expansion seems to be a hot topic issue. What are your priorities for this issue and its impact on Watauga County residents?

In his response, Pickett discussed potential reform regarding the Certificate of Need.

“Now on the House side, we’re looking at maybe changing that a little bit,” Pickett said. “I had spoken with our hospital and they know that the Medicaid expansion would benefit them but the Certificate of Need would hurt them even more.”

  • What role does the state government play in addressing some of the housing concerns in North Carolina? How do you plan to advocate on behalf of Watauga County?

Pickett discussed the difficulties of housing in Watauga County.

“Our topography makes it more costly than it does in flat ground. It just cost more to build here,” Pickett said. “I know we’ve been tossing around up here for at least 20 years trying to come up with a solution. We’ll continue to work on it and I will help in any way I can to work on that solution.”

  • What can be done by the state to prioritize new workforce pipelines that can help ensure workforce participation does not fall further out of balance?

Pickett stressed the peoples’ opinions should be taken into consideration.

“The jobs that we’d look at that, that maybe we could get up here, they need to be higher paying jobs,” Pickett said. “But we have to look at it locally, of getting some help there, of what they need.”

  • What did the pandemic teach us about the role of public health?

Pickett discussed how the lack of funding during the pandemic has impacted mental health institutions.

“The health department definitely needs some more funding, including mental health. I mean, I’ve had conversations with our sheriffs. They’ve got people that are mentally ill that are in their jails that don’t belong in jail because they’re not criminals,” Pickett said. “We’re going to have to fund some of the stuff to get these people help.”

Ben Massey was not in attendance due to an injury. His spouse gave this brief statement on behalf of Massey: 

“I spent many a day at the state legislature in our Capitol Hill advocating for healthcare legislation. I saw first hand both parties working together for the good of the public. There was no polarization, no mud slinging, no name calling, legislation working together. Their goal was service, community and I am running with my goal to serve the community. As a physical therapist, it is important to me to listen to my patients. As a legislature, it will be important to me to listen to my constituents. Massey said reproductive choice and privacy, access to healthcare, social security provisions are all reasons why he chooses to run. The freedom of reproductive choice and privacy of healthcare decisions. The opportunity that comes from access to quality education and social support from childcare and eldercare that stabilize and advance our workforce. And the security that comes from affordable and accessible healthcare, and knowing that we have retirement security, and from knowing that a random gunman is not going to abruptly end our lives. 

During the last eight months, I have asked over 400 individuals and groups about their concerns. They consistently listed the following eight issues; 

  • Fix the housing shortage
  • Eliminate food insecurity
  • Halt climate change
  • Prioritize education
  • Stimulate economic development
  • Make healthcare accessible 
  • Supporting agriculture 
  • Provoke social justice

Massey said these issues are why he is choosing to run. Massey outlined his three reasons for running as choice, freedom, opportunity and security “for everyone.” These are also my issues, and my reasons for running. My campaign is about choice, freedom, opportunity and security for everyone.”