Name as it appears on the ballot: Lisa Grafstein 

Age: 56

Party affiliation: Democratic

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer:  Civil rights attorney, Disability Rights NC

Years lived in North Carolina: 32

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?

As a civil rights lawyer for 27 years, I have seen that we need to make some fundamental changes if we want a healthier and more just society. I have experience working on some of the most important issues we face, including healthcare, voting rights, and economic and racial equity. I am running for the North Carolina Senate because I believe in public service, and that we are here to make a difference. I have spent my career trying to do just that – advocating for people with disabilities, for workers facing unfair treatment, and for people whose civil rights have been violated.

The three career accomplishments I am most proud of are: 1. Being a mentor to younger lawyers in my current position at Disability Rights NC and helping them develop into effective disability rights advocates who are making a difference for the disability community; 2. Winning cases that have made a difference in clients’ lives – from individual employment discrimination cases, to voting rights cases, to ensuring access to Medicaid for thousands of workers with disabilities; 3. Being respected by my peers for my integrity and hard work, including being elected to serve as president/chair of several statewide organizations, and being named among the top lawyers in the state.   

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 three priorities I have focused on in my campaign dovetail with some of the most pressing issues we face as a state. They are:

1. Economic Justice. We need fair tax policies that support public goods like education, affordable housing, public transit, and climate justice. We have relentlessly cut taxes instead of funding the public goods that our communities need to thrive. The move by the General Assembly to phase out the corporate income tax beginning in 2025 will cost us billions in lost revenue unless we stop it before then. Economic justice also requires that we have living wages, and an end to anti-union legislation.

2. Access to Healthcare. Medicaid Expansion. North Carolina has some of the best healthcare facilities in the country. But not everyone has access to healthcare. For years, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have refused to approve Medicaid expansion. As a result, 600,000 people have gone without affordable healthcare, the state has lost out on billions of dollars in federal funding, and too many hospitals and medical providers in rural areas have closed or have reduced capacity. Behavioral Healthcare. Improving healthcare includes addressing unmet needs in our state’s behavioral healthcare system for those with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or substance use disorders. My work as a disability rights attorney has included helping people access behavioral healthcare services and making sure they are able to live and work in their communities. Lack of access to behavioral healthcare keeps people out of the social and economic mainstream of the community. Reproductive Freedom. The promise of Roe was never fully realized for many women for whom geography or poverty made the choice illusory. But the Dobbs decision has made it clear that we must protect abortion rights at the state level in North Carolina in order to defend access for women across the southeast. Although many Republican candidates are adjusting their rhetoric and scrubbing their websites and social media, we know that they will pursue extreme restrictions in North Carolina. We must elect enough Democrats to sustain the Governor’s veto of anti-abortion bills.  

3. Voting Rights. Our democracy has been eroded by extreme gerrymandering and efforts to make it more difficult to vote. We need a non-partisan redistricting commission. All voters should have ample opportunities to vote, in person and by absentee ballot. Our electoral system must be equitably funded so that we have strong processes and adequate staffing at every level and in all locations. I have worked for voting rights for many years, including litigating voting access cases, registering voters, and serving as an Election Protection monitor. I have volunteered for and run campaigns for others under North Carolina’s short-lived publicly financed system and under its current privately funded system. My experience has given me an in-depth understanding of the state’s electoral system, which I would use to help shore up our elections system and ballot access. This is our only means of keeping our democracy alive.

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?

I support enabling local communities to act locally based on the best interests of their residents. This includes local ordinances banning discrimination, effectuating local emissions regulations, reforming local criminal justice and policing practices, and managing growth and housing affordability through regulation of development. We should reverse the politicized trend of stripping localities of the ability to enact progressive policies. We saw this happen with HB2, and we have seen it recently with issues around masking and extremist dog-whistle arguments about CRT and the teaching of gender concepts. The effort to centralize control is not based on principles of governance, but on principles of power and control.   

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 at least $15 per hour. But there are many other steps we can and should take, including other issues covered here, like addressing the housing crisis, providing access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion, and expanding access to reliable public transit. I also strongly support elimination of North Carolina’s so-called “right to work” law, which inhibits the ability of unions to organize; we know that the presence of a union reliably raises wages and improves working conditions and is ultimately good for business. Finally, Republican control of the General Assembly has resulted in a gutting of our unemployment benefits system, which is now among the worst in the country; unemployment benefits are critical when workers are between jobs, particularly those who are low-income and lack emergency funds.

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?

We have an affordable housing crisis AND a crisis of housing affordability. We need about 200,000 more affordable housing units statewide. We must do better in funding tools like the NC Housing Trust Fund, which provides support for affordable housing options, and we should rebuild community development programs, which have been gutted in recent years. The legislature should also consider allowing local options for zoning, giving local governments the ability to ensure new affordable housing units are built into growth. The problem of housing affordability, especially in Raleigh, is partly due to growth, which is managed at the local level. But it is also caused by investment firms buying up homes, by some estimates accounting for 1 in 5 sales in recent months. When investors own a significant part of the single-family housing stock, home buyers are quickly priced out of the market. We can pursue tax policies at the state level that discourage this practice by adjusting the tax code to make the hoarding of housing stock an unattractive investment. On the other side of the ledger, income has simply not kept pace with price increases. Wages are up slightly, but not enough to meet the nearly 30% increase in median home prices in the Raleigh area. For many people, access to housing depends on increasing wages. Finally, we can give local governments more ability to manage growth if we invest in high quality regional public transit.

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, of course state government must work to address climate change, adapting to the effects and working to slow the effects. We should be investing more in renewable energy, including making solar a greater energy source used by state and local governments, and we should incentivize the shift to solar in the private sector. We should reinstate the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit. I also support protecting our forests from being harvested for wood pellets. Finally, developing our public transit systems will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly if we invest in transit that is built on clean energy.

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

Yes, I support a non-partisan redistricting commission. Having constant change in districts, and ongoing litigation, causes people to disconnect from the process. Polarized districts make it harder for people to hold their representatives accountable, and make people believe that their vote doesn’t matter. I have worked on voting issues in various contexts for many years, including registering voters, serving as an Election Protection monitor, and litigating voting access cases. In all these contexts, it has been clear to me that people are much more engaged when we make participation in our democracy easier and more meaningful.

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?

Yes. Our system of separation of powers requires respect for all branches and is not a license for the General Assembly to thwart citizens’ constitutional rights. We have known since the 2002 appeal in the Leandro case that the state is violating students’ rights by not providing them with a sound, basic education. Our courts gave the state ample time to comply with the ruling, and our General Assembly repeatedly refused to take adequate actions. The original Leandro opinion in 1999 was clear that the legislative and executive branches should have a chance to do the right thing first, but that the courts are the arbiters of the rights protected by the North Carolina Constitution and would act if necessary. Governor Cooper is in agreement with the plan that the courts ordered to be implemented, but the General Assembly has refused. In 2021, the trial court once again said North Carolina is failing and ordered the state to provide $1.7 billion to schools from an available $6 billion surplus, but the Republicans in control of our legislature are refusing to comply. At this point, it is well within the scope of the role of the courts to order the use of surplus funds to provide every child in North Carolina with the education that they have a right to.

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 must address teacher pay and benefits, making a long-term commitment so that teachers are able to commit to the profession without fear that changing political winds will disrupt their career paths. We should reinstate pay for Masters degrees, restore retirement health benefits, and adequately fund and support professional development for educators. Teachers are working harder than ever and getting less respect. We have to equip our schools to meet students’ needs, and that includes treating and paying teachers like the professionals that they are.

Students also need access to school psychologists, counselors, social workers and school nurses. Many children served by the organization I work for (Disability Rights NC) face disciplinary or other consequences because they have not had access to these professionals, and are not able to get the support they need. We can and should make sure that children have a school environment in which they can thrive. Obviously, we have to fund these resources. That includes funding the Leandro plan, but also includes ensuring that we have a robust workforce in these professions. 

The Leandro plan is a roadmap designed to address the deficits noted in this question. And the most obvious action step is to fund the plan. Beyond that, we have to make a long-term commitment that is not dependent on litigation, but is grounded in the same rigorous analysis of needs and solutions that underlie the Leandro plan.

The greatest challenge is overcoming the refusal of those in power to treat public education as a public good, and to invest accordingly. Public education has been maligned as part of a political agenda. Resolving this problem will require nothing less than recasting the narrative about our schools and the role they play in our democracy. If elected, I will work to build public support for fully funding public education on a sustained basis.

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?

When it comes to abortion and other issues of bodily autonomy (e.g. birth control), the question is: who makes the decision? The state should not be involved in these deeply personal, individual healthcare and family planning decisions. Extremists have been relying on plainly inaccurate depictions of abortion and birth control in order to justify a role for the state in deciding whether and when people are allowed to make these decisions for themselves. If elected, I will resist these efforts to interfere with access to healthcare.

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

Medicaid Expansion. We must expand Medicaid to cover the approximately 600,000 people caught in the coverage gap. The lack of insurance can be devastating on an individual level but is also economically and socially harmful to our state. As the pandemic has shown us very clearly, individual health and community health are connected. People who cannot take care of their health cannot work and take care of their families. We have lost out on billions of dollars in federal funding, and too many hospitals and medical providers in rural areas have closed or have reduced capacity, further harming access to healthcare. My work as an advocate for people with disabilities has taught me about the very real consequences inherent in delaying action. We have to do this now.

Innovations Waiver Slots. Innovations Waiver slots are sorely needed for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), some of whom have been waiting over a decade for services. The waiting list has grown to over 16,000 people, which is more than the number of people currently being served by the Innovations Waiver. Although the NCGA approved some additional waiver slots, those additional slots will not even keep up with the growth in the waiting list, let alone reduce the waiting period. Services for people with I/DD, including those with autism, are critical and should be available as early in life as possible. The average waiting period is now at least 9.5 years, which is inhumane. It is also a waste of resources because it is more cost-efficient to provide people with the support they need than it is to address the consequences when people go without services, including unnecessary institutionalization.

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

I am in favor of legalization of marijuana for medical use and support the decriminalization of marijuana use by adults. There is little reason to continue criminalizing marijuana, and it is clear that making possession and use a crime has resulted in disproportionate harm to BIPOC communities.

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. We have to take steps to address gun violence – and the constant threat of it. There is no legitimate reason that individual citizens need access to assault weapons and bump stocks. Background checks are necessary. Most people agree on these types of measures, and we can achieve them if we are able to stop extremists from controlling our gun policies.   

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

Additional information about my positions and qualifications can be found at If readers have specific questions, I would welcome those. My email address is Thank you.

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