Name as it appears on the ballot: Jay J. Chaudhuri
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: jayfornc.com
Occupation & employer: Attorney, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll
1. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of North Carolina 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 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 played a key role in uncovering alleged wrongdoing that led to eight investment managers paying the pension fund back $15 million and tougher, cutting-edge ethical standards for these managers and Department of State Treasurer employees, including the most restrictive revolving door policy in state government.
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. That recruitment means one of the largest job announcements in the state this past decade.
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 stop the coronavirus so we can restart the economy. Now more than ever, we must expand access to health care for every North Carolinian. To stop COVID-19, we must expand Medicaid so that everyone can afford testing and treatment for the virus. Second, we must support frontline workers and small businesses hit by the pandemic rather than more tax breaks for big corporations. Finally, we must focus on strong public schools for our children, with higher teacher pay and more resources for the classroom.
3. Do you believe the Republican tax cuts over the last decade have been effective in stimulating the state’s economy? If given the choice, are there any tax cuts you would rescind or any new taxes you would enact? If so, what would you put the additional revenue toward?
I believe the evidence is clear the General Assembly’s tax code favors the wealthy and big corporations and burdens working- and middle-class families. That’s due to the elimination of credits and deductions like the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families and child-care expenses.
I believe we should eliminate some of the past tax breaks for the wealthiest and big corporations so they can pay their fair share of taxes. As part of this reform, I would push for legislation that requires “combined” reporting that would close dozens of loopholes for large multi-state corporations. As General Counsel & Senior Policy Advisor to State Treasurer Janet Cowell, I helped propose the same idea as part of Treasurer Cowell’s tax reform plan. Three commission on modernizing our states finances have made a similar recommendation for mandatory “combined” reporting. I believe such reform would level the playing field on taxes between small businesses and large, out-of-state corporations.
I believe such additional revenue should go towards public education and building a stronger safety net.
4. North Carolina’s minimum wage is among the lowest in the country. Do you support raising the 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 man or woman 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 the 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. Housing affordability is rapidly becoming an issue in the major metros like Charlotte and Raleigh and pushing low-income families further from their jobs. What policies would you support to ensure North Carolinians can live near where they work?
I witness the gentrification in my Senate district when I used to drop my daughter off to middle 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. Scientists say the increased threat of hurricanes and the resulting coastal devastation is only expected to worsen in the coming years due to climate change. Please state three specific policies you support to reduce carbon emissions and safeguard the environment in North Carolina.
An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change is real, and humans are the primary cause of it. In 2011, our General Assembly literally passed a law that outlawed climate change science. If our State fails to act now, we will find parts of our treasured coast underwater.
To protect our environment, I support three main policies. First, I believe we should authorize the Environmental Management Commission to adopt rules to decarbonize the electricity sector by 70 percent by 2030, similar to the Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Energy Plan. Second, I believe we should improve access to the grid, reduce cost of interconnecting to the grid, and increase clean energy research and development to create tens of thousands of new green economy jobs. Finally, I believe we must protect our coast by opposing offshore oil drilling. I believe such drilling forgets the economic, environmental, and public health disaster of the BP Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico that cost those communities more than $100 billion in losses. Second,
7. Do you believe assault weapons should be commercially available in North Carolina? Do you support universal background checks for all gun purchases? What policies do you support to address gun violence?
Yes. During my first term, 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. That’s why I’ve been endorsed as a Mom’s Demand Action Gun Sense candidate.
8. Do you support the Black Lives Matter Movement? What steps would you take to address racial equity in North Carolina?
Yes, I believe Black Lives Matter. I believe we must address racial equity in different areas. At the economic level, we must restore the State’s Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most powerful and proven tools to combat poverty. We must also restore child-care subsidies. At the educational level, we must work quickly to implement the recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education that provides well-trained teachers, well-trained principals, and resources necessary to support the educational need of all children, including at-risk children. Finally, at the criminal justice level, we must empower citizen oversight boards, ban chokeholds, prohibit racial profiling, and require more transparency about the use of force.
9. One of BLM’s key demands is police accountability, however, municipalities have struggled to enact oversight boards with teeth as police records are safeguarded by state statute. Would you support bills that would make public certain police records, such as internal investigations after use of force incidents, body camera footage, and personnel files?
I believe an oversight board should be a part of police reform. I believe it can build trust. I believe it can improve relationships between law enforcement and the community, increase public understanding of the nature of the police work, promote community policing, and reassure a skeptical public that the department investigates a complaint fairly and thoroughly.
As a general rule, I would support making certain evidence public. However, I believe the best way to do so is to make sure that an oversight board is professional, has support staff that understands both the community and law enforcement, and complies with proper legal standards for such proceedings and evidence.
10. The battle over gerrymandering has stalled out in the courts. What do you believe needs to happen with the state’s district maps? 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 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.
11. Republicans boast to have increased school funding during their tenure controlling the legislature. Do you believe the state’s public schools are adequately funded? If not, would you support a tax increase to pay for it?
As a product of Fayetteville public schools and father to two children who attend Wake County public schools, I believe we must do much more for our public schools. This Republican General Assembly decided to put a priority on a billion-dollar tax cut, but they didn’t put a priority on renovating crumbling schools, purchasing much-need classroom supplies, and helping students who can’t afford to pay for lunch
How do we pay for more investment in our schools? First, we should increase the income tax rate on millionaires. Second, we can push for legislation that requires “combined” reporting that would close dozens of loopholes for large multi-state corporations. As former General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor to State Treasurer Cowell, I helped propose the same idea as part of Treasurer Cowell’s tax reform plan in 2011. Three other commissions on modernizing our state’s finances have made a similar recommendation for mandatory “combined” reporting.
12. Research suggests the state’s charter school system is increasing segregation in the schools. Do you support the expansion of charter schools? Why or why not?
At this moment, I do not believe we should expand charter schools. That’s because our state budget for charter schools has grown from $16 million in 1997 to $580 million in 2017. Yet, to date, we have not studied the innovation in teachings from such schools or understood how such public dollars are spent.
That’s why I’ve sponsored a bill to establish a legislative study committee on the impact of charter schools on local school administrative units, the extent to which charter schools successfully serve underserved populations, and overall academic performance. It would also stop an expansion of charter schools until the study is completed (Senate Bill 247).
13. More than 3,000 North Carolinians have died from COVID-10 since the onset of the pandemic and thousands more left with crippling medical debt. Do you believe the state needs to invest in an expansion of Medicaid? How would you address healthcare affordability for North Carolinians?
Yes, I believe the expansion of Medicaid should be our number one priority, especially during a pandemic. It’s clear now, more than ever, that we must expand healthcare for every North Carolinian. To stop the virus and to prevent future public health crisis, we should expand Medicaid so everyone can afford testing and treatment for the virus. The latest data suggests that we have more than 650,000 citizens without health care coverage. We are now just one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid. Such expansion would create 40,000 new jobs, too. In addition, we must reduce the cost of prescription drugs and guarantee coverage for preexisting conditions.
14. The state’s Voter ID law, which has been criticized as targeted to disenfranchise African American voters, is temporarily blocked by the court. After the election, would you support repealing this law? Why or why not?
I would absolutely support repealing the state’s Voter ID law. I believe support for this law was not about electoral integrity. As I stated on the Senate floor, this law disproportionately impacts African-Americans, Hispanics, seniors, young people, and disable voters.
15. North Carolina has not executed anyone since 2006, and challenges to the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty continue. Would you support the repeal of the death penalty in North Carolina? If not, do you believe the legislature should change the law to restart executions?
Based on several conversations and readings over the years, I believe our current administration of the death penalty is racially biased. That’s why I do not support restarting executions in our state. That’s also why I support restoring the Racial Justice Act that the General Assembly repealed in 2013. This law allowed defendants to use statistics to challenge a death sentence if they proved race was a factor in imposing the death penalty.
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