$24 min. salary, hack chinese websites, free pre-K
HENDERSONVILLE — Together for the first time since the poll was set for the U.S. House race in western North Carolina, Democrats have proposed minimum wage increases, a student loan forgiveness and ideas for tackling opioids — including the hacking of Chinese websites — in their bids to reach the general election.
Four of the six Democrats, who registered for the 11th District primary, participated in the March 23 forum hosted by Henderson County Young Democrats, which included a mock poll. Katie Dean won the poll with 31 votes, followed by Jasmine Beach-Ferrara with 17 votes, Jay Carey with 13 and Bo Hess with 6.
Marco Gutierrez, who was absent, got one vote, while Bynum M. Lunsford, who was also not present at the forum, got no votes.
The winner of the May 17 primary will face the top runner-up in the eight-vote Republican primary, an opponent who multiple candidates say is incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Donald Trump-aligned congressman whose rhetoric has sparked anger from the left.
“It’s a winnable race to beat Madison Cawthorn,” said Beach-Ferrara, Buncombe County Commissioner and the Democrats’ top fundraiser.
In front of an audience of 81 people standing, the candidates answered questions on affordable housingwhat would be their first choice of House committee, student loan debt and other topics.
Dean, an environmental engineer and small business owner, said the housing problem required a “multifaceted, multidisciplinary approach” that would include working against private equity firms that were buying large numbers of homes.
Carey, a retired Army veteran, said raising the minimum wage to $24 an hour would be one of the most effective ways to help people afford housing on booming markets, such as WNC.
“Are we going to get there tomorrow? No,” Carey said. “But we have to work in this direction.”
Hess, a clinical social worker, agreed, saying Florida businesses were buying up rentals and raising rents by double digits. Increasing federal housing bonds and subsidizing and incentivizing affordable construction with lower interest rates was part of the formula, he said.
Halfway houses should be regulated more strictly to make it harder to deport people, he said, “to really make sure that if they got any money from the government, they were with that person and they keep her housed”.
Beach-Ferrara, a nationally recognized LGBTQ activist, also called for local, state and federal assistance to encourage affordable construction and obtain vouchers for poorer residents. She called housing a “basic human right” and highlighted her work as a county elected official to increase affordability. This included “high-access” homeless shelters, “an essential part of the journey to get homeless people back into housing,” she said.
Asked which House committee she would like, Beach-Ferrara said Education and Labor and that the first legislation she would ask for would be universal pre-kindergarten “because it will be so game-changing in children’s lives.”
Dean named Transportation and Infrastructure where she could work on issues such as eliminating lead pipes to prevent WNC cities from becoming “the next Flint, Michigan.”
She promised to bring taxpayers’ money back to the region through recently passed infrastructure legislation to rebuild roads and bridges.
“Because there’s nothing more American-made than American infrastructure,” she said.
Carey said his military experience led him to want to be part of the veterans and armed services, where he would seek to reduce the military budget “without reducing our readiness”, instead spending the money in areas such as than health care for single parents.
Hess said he was interested in the subcommittee on health and human services and national security out of concern for the country’s “authoritarian tendencies” and the hopes of Russia and China to increase their influence.
“I really see this election here as a real fight for our democracy,” he said.
Student loan debt
The candidates proposed varying levels of debt forgiveness, with Hess suggesting forgiveness of up to $50,000 in student loan debt.
He and others, like Beach-Ferrara, said community college should be free, while Carey said four-year state colleges should also be free.
Dean called much of the loans “predatory” and said teachers’ loan debt should be forgiven.
Carey said the many existing organizations could cope with the outbreak, if they were better funded.
Beach Ferrara said programs, such as those supported by the Buncombe County government, could help, including community paramedics, drug treatment to prevent withdrawal problems and not criminalize low-level drug use. . She touted her work as a state-level body appointee to create a plan to use money earned from lawsuits against prescription opioid manufacturers.
Hess supported similar ideas and spoke of providing safe pharmaceutical-grade heroin and supervised injection sites. He said that the current llocal spike in fentanyl consumption should be treated as a public health issue and that much of it came from China. The United States, he said, should consider hacking Chinese websites to disrupt the flow of fentanyl into the country.
Dean said the problem was complex and the solution largely came down to funding and who would be best positioned to redirect federal aid to the district.
Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at [email protected], 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this kind of journalism with a subscription at the Citizen Times.