Every year, millions of North Carolinians enroll their children in our schools with the trust that they will be well educated, well cared for, and well prepared for the future. I spent sixteen years working in public schools, and my wife Jennifer is still a fifth grade teacher.
Our future prosperity depends on supporting North Carolinians’ need for lifelong learning. We must ensure that all of our children have access to high-quality early childhood education. We must also invest in excellent public schools for our K-12 students to prepare our children for entering a globally competitive workforce. Additionally, we must provide our adult population with access to an affordable, flexible, and highly effective system of community colleges and universities so that our workers are prepared for a rapidly changing economy.
We must value, not vilify our hard-working public school teachers. North Carolina needs a concrete plan to raise teacher pay to the national average as a baseline and then raise the bar to once again become a leader in teacher compensation. We must also restore incentives for our teachers to earn advanced degrees, ensuring that our students benefit from this added expertise.
North Carolinians value our countryside. Even in our biggest cities, we still remember our roots. Nevertheless, we are struggling to support rural economies after the collapse of our manufacturing base. Graig believes that the best opportunities for job creation and economic development in rural areas are through expanding markets for existing small businesses and providing incentives for businesses that will invest in our small towns.
Small businesses have found a home in the country, taking advantage of technology and transportation resources that allow them to move products to worldwide markets. These individual endeavors have developed a people-driven, community-oriented movement creating local jobs and helping small towns.
This type of economy depends on highly motivated and innovative individuals. People who have knowledge and skills that are fostered by investments in the public libraries, schools and universities. Graig knows that our state needs to maintain its commitment to supporting farms and businesses that are owned and operated by hard-working North Carolinians dedicated to making their communities better.
Government’s role is to create and maintain a level playing field so that all citizens can have the access and opportunity to obtain gainful employment and to support both small and large businesses so that they can grow and create jobs. Our current government is failing at meeting this responsibility.
North Carolina deserves better. Over twenty percent of our state’s children live in poverty and less than forty percent of the adult working population holds an associate degree or higher. Investing in people to prepare them for a knowledge-based economy is the lynchpin of our future prosperity.
At the same time we invest in people, we need to invest in both rural and urban development to connect individuals to the resources they need to succeed in the ever-changing 21st century economy. A commitment to research, technology and innovation will provide the foundation of a stable economy that provides the environment to create jobs in our rural, suburban and urban communities.
I will make sound decisions when it comes to economic policy, balancing short and long-term prospects as well as the benefits and costs that legislation will have on all citizens. My goal is to give individuals, families and businesses in District 50 a fair chance, and not to support policies that favor a select few. We need to provide the framework and resources for individuals to build their own future.
To have a truly prosperous state, we must also ensure a healthy environment. In many cases economic development depends on environmental conservation. I am particularly concerned about protection of our water resources. No one wants to live near polluted streams or with the threat of flash flooding. Wise development includes generous stream buffers, greenways and conservation areas that moderate and cleanse water flows.
We can balance social, environmental, and economic goals by being thoughtful about how we seek growth and development. Every day we are seeing advances in sustainable development that protects our communities from environmental degradation. Part of that is having goals for watershed protection and sticking to those goals by finding development partners who respect the environment and have track records to indicate such. It also means holding those development partners accountable. This complementary approach requires a regional vision rather than piecemeal decision making. If this is done right then our children and future generations will have both clean water and a prosperous community.
The coming years will bring the threat of water shortages and massive costs associated with cleaning up our reservoirs, rivers and streams in order to ensure drinkable water. These are the unintended negative consequences of lax accountability standards and a lack of regional governance that properly balances economic and environmental needs.
Throughout our history, people have fought and died for the right of every eligible citizen, regardless of race, gender, or status, to vote in free and fair elections. Our electoral environment must be a reflection of those courageous efforts: an expansion of voting opportunity, ease of accessibility, and inclusiveness of all voters.
Unfortunately, rather than being a shining example of voting progress, North Carolina Republicans enacted the most restrictive voting law in the country and sent our state back to an embarrassing era of restriction and discrimination. Further, they used gerrymandering to create legislative majorities that do not reflect our population and disenfranchise millions of voters. Thankfully, the courts have ruled these Republican restrictions unconstitutional.
I will fight to take us in the opposite direction. I will push for universal voter registration, expanded opportunities to vote by mail, and for a non-partisan redistricting process. This fight is not borne out of ambition or a legislative agenda. It is borne out of the belief that a healthy democracy is more important than any political party.
Under our current Republican leadership in North Carolina, we have seen the rapid erosion of a woman’s right to choose. Politicians don’t make great doctors, and politics has no place in a private and deeply personal decision between a woman, her faith, her family, and her doctor. I will fight to uphold a woman’s constitutional right to exercise her right to choose.
Women should have control over their own healthcare decisions, and the legislature should be more concerned with ensuring increased access to health care rather than restricting it.
I will also fight Republican efforts to restrict access to birth control. Birth control is a fundamental preventive health benefit. Increased access to birth control has decreased the rate of unwanted pregnancies, while increasing infant and maternal health. Access to birth control is essential in leveling the playing field for women enabling women to fulfill an increasingly diverse range of educational, professional, social and political aspirations.
Because I want to live in an inclusive North Carolina, I believe LGBTQ citizens deserve equal rights under the law. I have consistently opposed Republican attempts to limit these rights. I voted against the bill allowing magistrates to exempt themselves from performing gay marriages. I voted against HB2 and was a primary sponsor of a bill to repeal HB2. In the future, I will push for statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens.
Accordingly, women deserve to be paid equally for equal work. As an economic driver of the New South and a hub of education and higher learning, North Carolina is uniquely poised to educate and employ a new generation of both male and female business leaders. By paying women what they deserve, we can fully capitalize on their talent and maximize the economic benefit to all North Carolinians.
There is no fight more important to me than the ongoing struggle for racial justice. I have spent my career working to ensure educational opportunity for students of color. In the legislature, I am fully committed to working on ending disparities in educational, health care, and criminal justice.
All North Carolinians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, without exception.