Name as it appears on the ballot: Jay J. Chaudhuri
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.jayfornc.com
Occupation & employer: Attorney, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll
Years lived in North Carolina: 50
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?
I’ve spent my career fighting for and working on behalf of the people of North Carolina. For two and a half decades, I’ve worked at the highest levels of all three branches in state government, including serving as senior counsel to former Attorney General Roy Cooper and State Treasurer Janet Cowell. I’m running for the State Senate again so I can continue fighting for the people and this state I so deeply love.
My three biggest accomplishments: First, as Special Counsel to Attorney General Cooper, I led an investigation on behalf of 50 Attorneys General that resulted in a landmark agreement with two leading social networking sites, MySpace and Facebook, to better protect children from Internet predators. For my effort, the National Association of Attorneys General honored me with the Marvin Award, given to an individual who furthers the association’s goal.
Second, as General Counsel to former State Treasurer Cowell, I helped recover almost $100 million back to the pension and unclaimed property funds. I also led the effort to establish the first-ever Innovation Fund, a $230 million fund dedicated to support and invest in businesses with significant operations in North Carolina.
Finally, as a State Senator, I played the lead role in recruiting a global information technology company to establish an Innovation Hub that will create 2,000 new jobs and pay $72,000 a year, above the Wake County median salary.
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?
I believe the pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of our state and reminds us of our important priorities. First, we must focus on strong public schools for our children. That’s why we need to raise teacher pay to the national average and fund a comprehensive remedial plan under the Leandro decision so every child receives “a sound, basic education.” Second, we must cover more than a half million North Carolinians who don’t have health insurance. That’s why I support the expansion of Medicaid. Finally, with the recent United States Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, we must protect a woman’s reproductive freedom. Today, we remain one of the few Southern states where abortion remains legal. That’s why I’ve sponsored legislation to codify Roe v. Wade (see below).
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?
As a general rule, I believe local government should make such decisions provided such government properly reflects the will of the people, complies with state and federal laws, and follows a transparent and deliberative process.
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?
A North Carolinian earning $7.25 per hour and working full-time can be expected to make $14,500 a year, $4,000 below the federal poverty level for a family of three. That’s unacceptable. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 so we can pull thousands of parents with children out of poverty and even help close the gender pay gap. That’s why I’ve been supported by the Triangle Labor Council.
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?
I witness the gentrification in my Senate district when I used to drop my daughter off to high school every day. I believe our General Assembly can play a key role. That’s why I’ve sponsored legislation to double our affordable housing budget, and that’s why I’ve sponsored homestead exemption legislation to reduce or freeze property taxes for long-term eligible homeowners to promote neighborhood stability and preserve character.
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. That’s why I supported the bipartisan Energy Solutions for North Carolina legislation that sets out three specific policies to address climate change. First, the bill authorizes the Utilities Commission to take steps to achieve a 70 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electric public utilities by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Second, the bill will retire some coal-fired power plants that will be replaced with renewable energy sources. Finally, the bill requires utility companies to buy 45 percent of their solar power from smaller solar producers.
7. Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?
I believe we should establish an Independent Redistricting Commission, a body comprised of citizens, not politicians, that draws our legislative districts. That’s why I’ve served as a primary sponsor of a bill to establish a Nonpartisan Independent Redistricting Commission. I also believe such a commission would save our state millions of dollars in litigation, better reflect the voters’ will, and give voters confidence in our political system.
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?
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?
As a product of Fayetteville public schools and father to two children who attend Wake County public schools, I’ve watched my daughter’s high school teacher leave for Colorado because Colorado pays teachers more with a master’s degree. I’ve also witnessed the Richmond County Public Schools from Virginia put up billboards in my Senate district to recruit our unpaid teachers.
That’s why we need to raise teacher pay to the national average. That’s also why we need to fund the comprehensive remedial plan under the Leandro decision (see above). In Wake County, this plan alone would provide more than $300 million, a 28 percent increase, including 1,064 more teachers, 835 more teacher assistants, 119 psychologists, 354 counselors, 166 more nurses, and $134 more per student for supplies, texts, and technology support.
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?
I believe the 20-week cutoff is too restrictive, and I do not support legislation that would punish/criminalize abortion providers or patients. I believe such a decision is best left to a woman and her doctor without interference from politicians.
I serve as the primary sponsor of the Codify Roe and Casey Protections bill that ensures the nearly 50-year legal precedent setin Roe that prohibits states from creating arbitrary restrictions or outright banning abortion will still be in place in North Carolina.
11. Should North Carolina expand Medicaid? Where do you stand on increasing the number of slots for the Innovations Waiver for special needs individuals?
I support the expansion of Medicaid because it will create more than 40,000 new jobs and cover more than a half million North Carolinians who don’t have access to health insurance. I also support increasing the number of slots for Innovations Waiver because the waitlist for special needs services is over a decade long.
12. Do you support reforming North Carolina’s marijuana laws? Do you support full legalization? Please explain your position.
Yes. As the primary sponsor of the Marijuana Justice and Reinvestment Act, I support the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana for three reasons. First, there’s popular support for this idea. A recent poll found that 73 percent and 54 percent of North Carolinians support legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, respectively. Second, it’s about restorative justice. Our current marijuana laws have resulted in prosecutions that disproportionately impact communities of color. Finally, it’s about creating a new tax base, and it’s about creating jobs. According to one estimate, by the seventh year, sales would exceed $2.7 billion and produce $642 million in state and local taxes.
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.
Yes. During my time in the Senate, I led the fight in the State Senate on reducing gun violence in our schools. I served as the primary sponsor of the Safer Schools, Healthier Kids Act, a bill that authorizes extreme risk protection orders to temporarily restrict firearms if a person poses danger of physical harm to themselves or others. This bill also requires a permit to purchase assault-style firearms and long guns, raises the age of sale of these firearms, and bans instruments such as bump stocks and trigger cranks. Finally, this bill allocates $65 million for building improvements; $40 million in flexible funding for school nurses, psychologists, and social workers; and $7 million to fund school resource officers. Because of my work on reducing gun violence, I’ve been asked to speak at several Wake County student walkouts. I was also the only State Senator to speak at the March for Your Lives rally in Raleigh in 2018. That’s why I’ve been endorsed as a Mom’s Demand Action Gun Sense candidate.
14. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
As Senate Democratic Whip, my number one job is to shield and protect our Senate Democrats so we can stop a Republican supermajority and protect a woman’s reproductive freedom. A Republican supermajority would ruin the progress we’ve made since breaking the supermajority in 2018, progress that includes being named the best state to do business in the country.
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