IndyWeek - (Editorial) Add Democrats to the House
The most obvious reason to venture to the polls and cast a vote for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is that she is not Thom Tillis. North Carolina is one of a handful of states that will determine which party commands the majority in the U.S. Senate, and Hagan is one of the few bulwarks protecting the country against two years of Obama obstructionism.
While Sen. Hagan is a business-friendly Democrat whose Most Moderate Senator campaign moniker elicits groans from the state's progressive base, she has proven herself an able—if overly cautious—politician.
Hagan has attacked Tillis while distancing herself from Moral Monday protests, an attempt to avoid scarring off swing voters and the undecided. Her poll numbers seem to show that North Carolina is more purple than red these days.
Throughout the race she has hammered Tillis over his unpopular General Assembly legislation. As Speaker of the N.C. House, Tillis has overseen a drastic socially conservative agenda that the state will be untangling for decades: His pledge to keep North Carolina the least unionized state in the country, the blocking of Medicaid expansion, passage of discriminatory voter ID laws and abortion restrictions, his war against Moral Monday protests, his push for school privatization and unconstitutional voucher schemes, and his mansplainy-performance in the debates. Tillis has proven himself to be a committed ideologue who only appears moderate by portraying himself as tempering the more frothing members of the General Assembly.
Even with all of the state's financial cuts, Tillis and Senate Pro Temp Phil Berger still didn't even manage that most sublime and guilt-assuaging of Republican goals—the balancing of the budget. In an attempt to protect the bulk of their unpopular, and maybe unconstitutional legislation, Tillis and his minions have altered North Carolina's judiciary to ensure judiciary panels of Republican judges decide the constitutionality of Republican legislation.
Hagan is a reliable vote for Obama's economic agenda, such as raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, care for senior citizens and investment in a crumbling infrastructure. While we take issue with her positions on immigration reform, poultry workers' rights and the Keystone XL pipeline, she is a known quantity who may come into her own when she feels she is no longer an endangered junior senator.
A vote for Hagan is a vote for the Affordable Care Act and an opportunity to allow Obama to accomplish more domestically in his last two years. This might be the year that Republicans win the Senate, but even if they do, the victory will likely be short-lived. The Senate class of 2016 is positioned to be overwhelmingly Democratic—presidential election years typically swing Democrat. No matter what we may think of Hagan, we recommend you do your part to keep Tillis in the farm leagues. While we admire Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh for his hutzpah and his party's anti-war viewpoints, we can't get behind his anti-regulatory stances.
U.S. House, District 1
National races, such as the one in U.S. House District 1, are run on big issues. And Democratic incumbent G.K. Butterfield is right on the big issues. A supporter of raising the minimum wage and workers' right to organize, he's the consummate labor-friendly Democrat. He excels on social issues as well, advocating for workplace equality for women and protections for gay and lesbians. And, at a time when GOP leaders are relying increasingly on little more than snuff-out-the-vote campaigns, Butterfield made his mark in his native Wilson as a successful attorney defending voting rights.
Meanwhile, as far as Republicans go in 2014, you could do worse than Butterfield's opponent, Sampson County accountant Arthur Rich. Unlike many of his GOP colleagues—who prefer to pound voters with fundamentalist-baiting social rallies—Rich is running on the economy. Rightly so. Many of the counties in District 1 continue to struggle with high unemployment. But he has disconcerting opinions outside of the economy, suggesting that there's a "50-50" debate on global warming. There isn't. Butterfield is our choice.
U.S. House, District 2
Renee Ellmers is a problem. The hawkish, self-described Tea Party Republican g is committed to repealing Obamacare, rolling back women's rights and deploying the young men and women of Fort Bragg to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. She is an NRA-endorsed Islamophobe, and while the rest of her party cedes gay marriage as inevitable, just two weeks ago she held fast to the now-outdated "one man and one woman" talking point.
Congress is gridlocked and ethically compromised. Washington is filled with freshmen Representatives who show up with big dreams to accomplish something but are quickly ground down by the quid pro quo machinery. Clay Aiken seems to understand this and to have really thought about it—perhaps there is a chance that this knowledge will vaccinate him from the seemingly inevitable. Aiken has built his campaign on his desire to not just become another rank-and-file Democrat; with no ambitions as a career politician, perhaps he can remain independent of the party apparatus and beholden only to his constituents.
If anyone can do it, Aiken can. He already has a name and a fortune. He seems to view political office as a form of public service, not a job. This gives him a leg up on many other House Democrats. His nuanced and humane positions would also be a breath of fresh air in a room of dull Democrats. Aiken supports the Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, and has been out front on workers' rights, venturing out to rural Tar Heel, N.C. to meet with a union attempting to get representation in their poultry plant. He understands that the Affordable Care Act has issues, but is for tweaking it rather than repealing. As a high net worth individual, he understands that the one percent have to pay their fair share and shouldn't get special tax breaks. Aiken also gets disability advocacy. His non-profit National Inclusion Project is at the forefront of disability issues, bypassing many older nonprofits, as it seeks to integrate the disabled with the non-disabled. With his heartfelt, earnest Progressivism, forged in personal experience, Aiken would be a unique and welcome addition in the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives.
U.S. House District 4
Republican Paul Wright, a GOP gubernatorial hopeful when Pat McCrory crested in 2012, seems bound for another losing campaign. A former judge on the N.C. Superior Court, Wright is qualified. And his moderate platform, which largely centers on bolstering an ever-shrinking middle class, is admirable. But some of his right-wing positions—repealing Obamacare and opposition to gay marriage—simply will not fly in the liberal stronghold of House District 4, where our choice, Democrat David Price has held sway since the late 1980s. We can’t see a reason to make a change now. Price is a solid, pro-choice liberal, reflective of his district.
U.S. House, District 6
This isn't a tough decision. We endorse Laura Fjeld, the vice president and attorney for the UNC system. Fjeld is a strong candidate for Democrats. The daughter of two public school teachers, she's an education-first candidate at a time when North Carolina's public schools are under siege by right-wingers with a penchant for charter and private schools. The state's schools would have a strong advocate in Washington with Fjeld. She's also a supporter of raising the minimum wage. Considering inflation, this is a no-brainer and a must for many thousands of low-income North Carolinians, many of them women supporting a family.
Fjeld's pro-choice, and she promises to stand against legislative pushes to restore the nation's backwards health care system, long run by number-crunching insurance companies bent on profiting from medical ailments.
You won't hear that message from the GOP candidate, Greensboro minister Mark Walker. Walker wants to restore the nation's lost morality—um, right— and seems bent on clearing away EPA regulations. With fracking bound for North Carolina, this is a non-starter. Also consider that Walker seems to be reading from a well-worn Republican script. To Walker, our country is suffering from a dearth of go-getters. Entitlement racks the land and our government, which can do no good, spends with abandon. We've heard this before. Mark, the 700,000 North Carolinians who work many hours a week for minimum wage are justified in feeling entitled to eat every day and see a doctor every now and then.