Name as it appears on the ballot: Maria Cervania 

Age: 54

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website: https://mariafornc.com/

Occupation & employer: County Commissioner – Wake County

Years lived in North Carolina: 8 years

1. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of your North Carolina district effectively? What would you cite as your three biggest career accomplishments?

North Carolina needs a representative with real-life, relevant experience that directly aligns with District 41’s priorities. It also needs someone who has a proven record serving the area.

As a Wake County Commissioner, I have been a voice for all people and a public servant who has already made a positive change. It has been essential to listen to the community’s needs, work towards solutions, and successfully get things done. My three most significant career accomplishments as a Commissioner include:

  • – Keeping Wake County and North Carolina healthy by protecting our community from COVID-19 with one of the most robust pandemic responses in the country. Also, addressing the need to provide integrative healthcare — physical and behavioral together —  including crisis services and substance use treatment.
  • – Developing an economic environment for the future by investing in our current and future workforce to provide them with the tools needed to succeed (including education, job training, and a thriving wage), supporting the growth of small businesses, and bringing companies such as Apple, Fujifilm, and Amgen to our state.
  • – Building the highest quality of life by having balanced growth; affordable housing; a multi-modal public transportation system; broadband for all; food security; public safety; equality and equity; and sustainability for all people in North Carolina.

My background is the specific experience needed to help our residents stay safe and healthy, achieve the highest quality of life, and create a North Carolina for All.

2. What do you believe to be the three most pressing issues facing the next General Assembly? What steps do you believe the state should take to address them?

The most critical issues in this race and my top policy/legislative priorities are to —

  1. Ensure that individual rights — including reproductive healthcare, contraception access, marriage equality, and voting — are protected and maintained.
  2. Improve access to quality healthcare, close the healthcare coverage gap in physical and behavioral health, and protect personal choice in medical decisions.
  3. Fully fund and support public education from pre-K to university graduate programs.

Realistically, this will be a long, strategic process through relationship building and finding common ground among all in the General Assembly. At the same time, we must do all we can to elect like-minded people to enact these legislative priorities and protections, especially in these rapidly changing times.

3. To what extent do you support municipalities exerting local control over issues such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions, criminal justice reforms and police oversight, and passing development-regulating ordinances?

Local governments know their communities’ needs and provide services that affect them in their daily lives. Although we are in a Dillon state, we must trust our municipalities to inform us of what they see are the priorities for their people and growth.

Ultimately, we must bring the law of local government authority in North Carolina more in line with expressed legislative intent and improve the ability of municipalities to carry out the functions and responsibilities they have been delegated. Specifically, we should promote flexibility, efficiency, and predictability for municipalities in carrying out the authority and responsibility the legislature has entrusted them under current law.

4. Do you support raising North Carolina’s minimum wage, and if so by how much? If not, what other initiatives would you take to support low-income families in North Carolina?

I support increasing the minimum wage to not just a living wage but a thriving one. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, the minimum wage in Wake County should be at least $18.95 an hour for a person without children. A solid argument can be made that it should be higher.

Raising the minimum wage strengthens workers’ purchasing power and, in turn, boosts the overall economy. Raising the minimum wage would also help close the racial wealth gap at historic levels.

I also support adjusting the tipped minimum wage to equal a thriving wage across other industries. Jobs based on tips are massively employed by women who need to support their families. Eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped employees, especially women, would let servers take home more, have more reliable pay, and work a living wage for themselves and their loved ones.

5. With rent, property taxes, and home sale prices all rising, what, if anything, should the state legislature do to address this growing affordability crisis?

The North Carolina General Assembly must guide all counties and municipalities in supporting affordability. Specifically, we must be more proactive in what we want to achieve for the next five years and the future in terms of housing affordability, property tax relief, public transit, public schools, food security, and access to healthcare.

If elected as a legislator,  I will:

– prioritize our initiatives surrounding social determinants of health, especially with housing affordability and preservation, thriving wage/income equity, multi-modal transportation, food security, integrative healthcare, broadband for all, and environmental quality (e.g., air, water, soil, etc.).

– work with our municipalities to understand their current Land Use Ordinance regarding infrastructure, connectivity, open space, and mixed land use to help in decision-making.

– collaborate in the implementation and planning of regional transportation initiatives with Federal, State, and local leaders.

– mobilize the neighborhoods to provide input regarding transit, traffic, and road improvements.

– propose property tax relief aligned to Annual Median Income by county (instead of an annual salary averaged throughout the state).

– develop better lines of communication between our government entities and community so that they may voice their opinion.

6. Do you believe that the state government has an obligation to prevent the impacts of climate change? If so, please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.

Yes, the state government is obliged to prevent climate change impacts. As a legislator, we need to pass and maintain laws that support Governor Roy Cooper’s goals that align with North Carolina’s commitment to addressing Climate Change by eliminating pollution and practices that are warming the Earth by 2025.  The three specific policies I support to address climate change are:

  1. Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels.
  2. Increase the number of registered, zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to at least 80,000.
  3. Provide incentives and legislate for the sole use of clean energy, particularly from the sun and the wind. We need to commit to a zero-carbon goal.

7. Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?

I most definitely support the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission to draw electoral maps, efforts to end gerrymandering, and fair and expanded ballot access. The independent, nonpartisan commission should comprise of an interdisciplinary team with demographers, constituents, and voting experts led by citizens. As in Arizona and California, they should be wholly divorced from the state legislature and, therefore, able to produce maps without the pressure to further or hinder the electoral fortunes of representatives or parties. The hope is that commission-drawn maps will set the stage for fairer and more competitive elections and tend to avoid legal challenges.

8. Does the General Assembly have a constitutional obligation to comply with the state Supreme Court order in the Leandro case to fully fund public schools and give every child in North Carolina a sound basic education?

The North Carolina State Legislature (NCGA) continues to underfund public education. Even after the Leandro ruling, it is not committed to fully funding its responsibilities. In the Fiscal Year 2021-22, the NCGA is only willing to fund 17% and 48% of the needed funds to implement the plan, and even less in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 at 13% and 32%, respectively. The NCGA has put surplus money in the state’s rainy-day fund/ savings reserves accounts beyond what is required by state law and should be redirected to fund the rest of the remedial plan set by the Leandro ruling.

Ultimately, we must have the assurance of a sound, high-quality education. Public education is not only for our children but also an asset to our economic development and community well-being. From multinational to small businesses, one of the first questions asked is about the quality of our public school system. We must fully invest in public education because it is our legal and moral obligation.

9. When it comes to teacher pay, North Carolina is one of the lowest-paying states in the nation. Schools across the state are facing shortages of educators, support staff, and other key personnel. Do you support raising teacher pay to at least the national average? What else can the General Assembly do to improve working conditions for teachers and make the teaching profession more attractive to potential future educators?

We educate North Carolinians to be the most educated and dedicated educators. Because of their treatment and compensation, teachers must move and teach in other states to make enough money to pay bills and to live; this cannot continue.

Yes, I support increasing educator pay in the public school system. The increase in educator pay is primarily the responsibility of the North Carolina Legislature. The NC Legislature must:

  • Treat teachers as professionals and compensate them with that respect.
  • Restore Master’s Pay and Education-Based Salary Supplements for Teachers, and Instructional Support Personnel need to be reinstated.
  • Recruit, retain, and support North Carolina’s educator workforce, including expanding the Teaching Fellows program, helping new teachers, recruiting and retaining teachers of color, and supporting the “Grow Your Own” teacher cadet program.
  • Support professional development for teachers and school leaders, including funding the cost of obtaining National Board Certification.
  • Invest in Classroom Learning by funding textbooks, digital resources, and instructional supplies instead of having teachers pay out of pocket.
  • Eliminate teachers’ paying for their own substitutes and allow teachers to use their personal leave days as needed.
  • Open up Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program to include full-time educators who teach for five complete and consecutive academic years in ANY school or educational service agency and meet other qualifications.

10. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling this spring that overturned Roe v. Wade. The legal cutoff for abortion in North Carolina is now 20 weeks. Do you believe the 20-week cutoff is too restrictive, not restrictive enough, or just right? As a state lawmaker, would you support legislation that further limits or prohibits abortion in North Carolina, or punishes/criminalizes abortion providers or patients?

There should be no restrictions on abortion.

The issue is about taking away individual reproductive rights and removing the ability to control one’s reproductive healthcare and freedom. Individuals with their medical health professionals should make these decisions under the protection and right to privacy.

It is now on each state if women can have those rights. I will always protect women’s rights and essential health care. I will always fight against government interference with intensely personal medical decisions.

11. Should North Carolina expand Medicaid?  Where do you stand on increasing the number of slots for the Innovations Waiver for special needs individuals?

Yes, I support Medicaid Expansion. When health care is tied to a person’s quality of life and life itself, health care is a fundamental human right and an issue of humanity. We need to restore North Carolina’s humanity towards healthcare by expanding Medicaid.

  • People are dying because they do not have access to health care, especially those uninsured and diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
  • People need health care. In North Carolina, there are about one million nonelderly uninsured people. That is about the same amount of people in Wake or Mecklenburg County.
  • People need us to close the gap. You do not qualify for Marketplace subsidies until you earn $21,000 a year. You cannot get coverage if you make between $7,300 and $21,000 a year. The reality is that most uninsured people are working; they are our working poor.
  • People need Medicaid Expansion. If the state expanded Medicaid, between 400,000 and 626,000 people would become eligible for coverage. That is about the same amount as all the people that live in Raleigh.
  • Overall, the community benefits from Medicaid Expansion by being a job creator and strengthening its economy, especially in the existing healthcare industry and new business activities associated with health care.

As a public health professional who previously worked in the Medicaid and Disability space and currently serving on the Alliance Health Board of Directors, I believe in maximizing the availability of Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services. Suppose a person (and their family) who may have Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities believes that their highest quality of life is fulfilled at home rather than in an institutional setting. In that case, we have the opportunity to serve them best through the N.C. Innovations Waiver. I support increasing the number of slots as our community identifies the need.

12. Do you support reforming North Carolina’s marijuana laws? Do you support full legalization? Please explain your position.

I support the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana in North Carolina with some added public health guidance. Marijuana legalization boosts the economy and creates thousands of needed jobs, especially in agricultural states like North Carolina. In states where marijuana is legal, it brings more tax revenue than alcohol, which supports critical public programs. Crime goes down when marijuana is legalized and phases out black markets, which takes money away from drug cartels, organized crime, and street gangs. It would end the costly enforcement of marijuana laws and free up police resources.

From a public health standpoint, marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, which are already legal, and legal marijuana can be regulated for consumer safety. But, there is still much research on its effects on physical and mental health.  People need to understand what is known about both the adverse health effects and the potential therapeutic benefits linked to marijuana.

13. Do you support strengthening gun safety regulations such as expanding background checks, banning bump stocks, and raising the age to buy or otherwise regulating the sales of assault-style weapons? Please explain.

I support strengthening gun safety regulations by —

1. Having sensible gun laws, including strengthening universal background checks and raising the age to buy to 21.

2. Reducing firearm access to youth and individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.

3. Requiring safe and secure gun storage.

4. Engaging with responsible gun dealers and owners in solutions.

5. Establishing a culture of gun safety.

Refusing to enforce and dedicate tax-funded resources to implement state gun safety measures has no legal weight and exacerbates fear. We want to have safety for our families, especially our children. Opposing gun control measures does not help encourage a culture of responsible gun ownership; it perpetuates the inaccurate belief that common-sense gun safety laws are unconstitutional.

14. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?

My community, professional, and life experience have prepared me to be the best choice in this race. I have:

– worked to improve access to quality healthcare and close the healthcare coverage gap.

– taught in the classroom and always supported public education, including educators, administration, school health providers, staff (especially our bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and building managers), and, most importantly, students.

– served government entities during economic downturns and brought forward record economic development in Wake County with more new jobs and corporate and small business investment.

– campaigned and endorsed bond funding for parks, open space, and greenways and rallied for much-needed transportation, transit, and traffic improvements.

– passed the Wake County Non-Discrimination Ordinance and advocated for ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment.

– actively advocated and created policies for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, especially in Inclusive Communication/Language Access and community engagement.

– built relationships between law enforcement and our community (especially those who are minorities and immigrants) to ensure trust and commitment to all people’s safety.

– made significant gains in affordable housing, balanced growth, environment/sustainability, employment/income equity, and other social determinants of health to reach the highest quality of life for Wake County.

If elected to the North Carolina General Assembly, I will defend our democracy, fight for our rights and freedoms, and strive for the highest quality of life for all North Carolinians.


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