Name as it appears on the ballot: Denton Lee
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.dentonleenc.com
Occupation & employer: Exceptional Children’s Teacher, Johnston County Public Schools
Years lived in North Carolina: 44
1. What are your primary concerns for the State of North Carolina?
We have reached a point in our nation’s history where it is nearing pointless to continue fighting about the same issues year in and year out. Over the past 20 years, there isn’t a single major political issue that hasn’t gotten worse. Think about this list – healthcare, national debt, climate, voting rights, education, immigration, income inequality – and find one thing that’s gotten better. I don’t think you can. We are facing the need – finally – of systemic changes or else it will all continue to decline over the next 20 years, too. To point at something and say, “That’s the most important issue” is avoiding the cause of the problems, and the causes affect every issue. I have done extensive study on this, and it starts with weakening the duopoly, because it will continue to get stronger and stronger and it will continue to get more extreme unless we make changes. We need more competitive elections (with more unaffiliated candidates having an actual chance to compete.) We need to switch from the worst voting system in the world – plurality voting – to something like Approval Voting (look it up, you’ll love it.) We need all redistricting in the hands of independent commissions. Finally, we need term limits and we must reduce the amount and influence of money in our elections. Until then, none of our issues will actually get better.
2. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of this state effectively? What would you cite as your biggest career accomplishments?
One of our country’s most challenging issues is the place I go to work every day. I’ve been a math and special education teacher for nine years, and it’s arguably been the worst nine years for public education in this nation’s history. Having seen that from the inside, I have a unique perspective on what is, in my opinion, the most important service we offer in this country. There are too many issues to list in a questionnaire such as this, but public education is nearing a collapse unlike anything we’ve ever seen. When speaking of my biggest career accomplishment, however, it would not be found in my teaching career. The most satisfying achievement of my life was being the only unaffiliated candidate in the state of North Carolina (out of about 50 statewide that began the process) to get enough signatures to run for the General Assembly in 2020. It began this three year journey to give our country’s forgotten voters a voice. With the polarization of our politics and the weakening of our democracy at the hands of greed and a hunger for power, that will always be one of the best things I’ll ever try to do, even if I ultimately fail.
3. If elected, what three policies would you prioritize and how would you work across the aisle to enact those initiatives?
If I am anything, I am realistic, and I think November is going to be really bad for Democrats. If I’m lucky enough to be awarded this gig, that means I’d go to Washington with an uphill battle on anything I tried to do. In that scenario, I’d pull every bipartisan provision I could out of the Freedom to Vote Act and get anything we could passed. The entire Act will not get passed in that scenario, but what if anti-gerrymandering laws got passed or even a guarantee for ballot drop boxes. I would also prioritize some of the climate policy I discuss in one of the following questions, because it’s real, it’s happening, and it doesn’t care if we’re standing in the way when it gets too far gone to reverse. Lastly, I’d start building a coalition of people on both sides of the aisle that believe as I do about the goals I listed in the first question in this survey. I believe with all my heart that we will build a much stronger country when we weaken our duopoly, and those policies would help do exactly that.
4. What factors are fueling the country’s growing political polarization and how will you work to mend it?
First of all, most of what we see in the media and out of the mouths of our celebrity politicians is mostly their way of creating clickbait or staying in power. Only 6% of Facebook posts are political. Over 97% of all political Twitter posts are created by only 10% of users. Less than 2% of all Americans will watch a primetime show on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC tonight. The problem is that there is about 10% of the population creating 100% of the noise, and most of us just accept that we’re divided. I’ve been running for office for three years, and I have not had a single conversation with someone on either side of the aisle with whom I could not find common ground. In the first question I answered in this questionnaire, I mentioned the changes we need to make, and you would be amazed with how those changes – allowing more competition in elections, a move to approval voting, independent redistricting, and putting limits on terms and the influence of money – would have on literally every aspect of our government.
5. November’s general election race is expected to be close, regardless of who wins the party primaries. What makes you an attractive choice to centrist voters?
In my race, I am really the only choice to centrist voters because it’s been the basis of my entire three year effort to run for office, to give a voice to the forgotten and ignored “middle” of American politics. We are a group that hasn’t felt represented in decades, a group who always goes to the polls and votes for the lesser of two evils, a rational and realistic group who find the propaganda, hypocrisy, greed, and dishonesty to be so far below what our country is supposed to be. I simply cannot imagine a candidate in the entire country more capable of empathizing with those voters who are completely capable of acknowledging and accepting our differences and coexisting anyway. I am exactly like them. And we are the majority.
6. With rent, property taxes, and home sale prices all rising, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address this growing affordability crisis?
Everything is linked in our economy. And in the global economy. The price of door knobs (made wherever in the world) affects wages, and that means that maybe those workers can buy a better car or house, then demand for gas goes up, then the door knob made the door more expensive because shipping costs went up, and then the trim carpenter charged more to install them, and then the price of the house went up. Obviously this example is really simplistic, but this has become our normal. As our income inequality has gotten more defined between the haves and have nots, it’s starting to hurt a lot more on the lower end of that, from consumer goods to gas to car prices to what now has become an increasingly severe housing crisis. If you read my answer to the first question, I’d like for you to truly think about what those changes would mean. If we had more competitive elections with candidates from across the ideological spectrum, we’d have a more diverse legislative body. Right now, we have extreme right and extreme left and they are getting absolutely nothing done. The point I’m making is this: it will not get better, no matter who promises what, until we make systemic changes, because just as everything in the economy is linked, so to is everything linked to the competitiveness (and fairness) of our elections, the fairness of our districts, and a voting system that makes candidates from both sides truly earn your vote.
7. What specific policies or programs do you endorse or would pursue to combat inflation?
This is a very unique inflationary period unlike anything we’ve ever really seen, and since unemployment and most traditional economic indicators – with the exception of inflation – look good, I question whether or not we need to do anything substantial other than a small increase in Fed rates. Since the root cause was a pandemic, and our reaction was over $5 trillion of new money, inflation was inevitable. When the supply chain backed up and couldn’t keep up with demand and eventually bottlenecked, inflation went crazy. But supply chain issues and excess disposable income are both short-lived catalysts, so I think the smart thing to do is let both of those things self-correct, because they most likely will naturally. Combating untraditional inflation with traditional measures may not work, and it may make things worse. I am, however, very worried about the prices of consumer goods never retreating because of the influx of so much new money to our economy, and in that case, there is very little the US government can do other than accept the fact that they created the mess and have to suffer the political consequences.
8. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a ruling this summer that guts, or even overturns, Roe v. Wade. What must Congress do to protect abortion rights if that happens?
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, we truly have a political problem in the United States. If you look at poll data without health or trimester qualifiers, less than 20% of Americans want abortion to be illegal in ALL cases. Somewhere between 80 and 85% believe it needs to be legal in at least some cases. These people range from “legal at any time” to “legal in some cases” to “legal in first trimester only when the baby or mom’s life is in danger,” but the most significant number here is that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would mean that we are falling into a government run by a minority. I’ve never met a single person who is pro-abortion. Nobody likes abortion. It’s awful. But rational, realistic, and medical viewpoints must win here, and the majority says so. If it is overturned, we must change our elections and voting systems away from the straight red versus blue to a system where more moderate, anti-partisan candidates can have a say in our government. That means allowing unaffiliated candidates a chance to win, getting rid of plurality voting in exchange for a voting system that opens races up to more candidates, and putting all redistricting in the hands of independent commissions. I agree with those measures regardless, but they must be implemented if our political minorities begin creating our laws.
9. Do you believe Congress should pass the Freedom to Vote Act to guarantee free and fair elections for every American, limit the impact of money on elections, and restrict gerrymandering?
When you look at every single provision within the Freedom to Vote Act and ask yourself one very simple question, you are left searching for how and why this bill could ever be considered partisan. The question: “Would this provision be a good thing for the vast majority of Americans?” For example, in reference to gerrymandering laws, if you asked yourself, “Would this provision be a good thing for the vast majority of Americans,” the answer is a no-brainer because both parties are guilty of gerrymandering. If a provision in that bill creates a fairer, more democratic system of elections and creates easier access to the ballot box, you simply cannot find a way to make a partisan case for why it shouldn’t be done. Americans have become so disenfranchised with our government that primary elections have become an absolute joke. And they’re well aware that general elections are nothing but extreme versus extreme, 80% of elections are decided before a single vote is ever cast, and their vote is basically meaningless anyway because of the money involved. So yes, it is the most pro-America law sitting in Washington right now because it would make our country stronger, freer, and fairer.
10. Please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.
Whatever we can do to get to net zero in carbon emissions, we must do, and the only argument against that is greed. I think it must be addressed legislatively on an industry by industry basis in order to develop a strategy for the leaders in each industry to have both accountability of its completion and the leadership that goes with finding ways to monetize their involvement. If it amounted to a 100% net loss in helping to fix the problem, corporations would never help, and it would never get passed. That’s just being realistic. Think about it this way. With our current “pro corporation all the time” view of policy in Washington, how in the world can we expect a company like Exxon to essentially say, “Okay, we’ll work with you to put ourselves out of business by 2050.” That’s not happening. The second area I’d prioritize is research in carbon capture and storage technology, which is something I am researching now. To me, it seems like an entire industry may come from it and may be more realistic in the next quarter century than turning the flow of fossil fuels completely off. Lastly, this is more environmental than climate, but I truly wish we could find a climate friendly alternative to plastic before every shrimp I eat tastes like Tupperware.
11. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
I put up three billboards around the district recently that said, “To compete in the political game, you must join one of the big parties, even if you think both of them kinda suck.” There were three keywords highlighted on each billboard. That phrase within a phrase simply said, “Political parties suck.” Yeah, it’s generated a little buzz, but I believe in what it says wholeheartedly, mainly because they both care more about power than they do the health of this great nation. If they truly cared about our nation, would they put our children $25 trillion in debt in only 20 years? Would they ignore us for decades and not give us the term limits that 86% of us want? If they truly loved this country, wouldn’t they want to allow all Americans the opportunity to run for office instead of saying, “No, you must join us and follow us blindly in order to run?” Wouldn’t they care that they’ve pushed so many people away from them that 67% of us are now known as the “Exhausted Majority?” If they truly loved this country, would they be okay with the average turnout of the last eight midterm primary elections being only 15%? Political parties suck, and they’ve weakened our country. I’m not okay with that.