Name as it appears on the ballot: Natalie Murdock
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: natalie-murdock.com
Occupation & employer: Principal Strategist at Attal Strategies and Murdock Anderson Consulting
What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of North Carolina effectively? What would you cite as your three biggest career accomplishments?
When I entered the General Assembly, I was the youngest Black woman to serve. I am one of five Black women in the NC Senate. I serve Durham County in NC District 20; the majority of registered voters in my district are women and people of color, but we have not had a woman to serve our district in 12 years.
As a legislator, you must be a quick study and speak to a wide array of issues. I have worked in various fields that include but are not limited to: criminal justice, early childhood education, transportation, economic development, urban planning, transit planning, public engagement, small business, politics, nonprofits, agriculture, and the environment. These are all issues that I am deeply engaged with and look forward to establishing progressive policies around these issues. I am unique in that I am young but ready to hit the ground running as a result of my professional and personal background.
I have worked in urban and rural communities and had opportunities to work with individuals from various political ideologies. I am a renter that founded her own businesses from the ground up. I have experienced the health care system in various ways from caregiving for my father to not having health care insurance like so many North Carolinians. I have experienced discriminatory policies and practices as a Black woman. And I have been in North Carolina all of my life, stemming inspiration from my family of changemakers and freedom fighters. I will legislate from my lived experience and can relate to those I serve.
Three of my biggest accomplishments include my work as Durham’s Soil and Water District Supervisor, Deputy Director of Communications for the North Carolina Department of Justice, and as Regional Transportation Planner for the Land-of-Sky Region Council. I also take great pride in being a small business owner.
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?
Public education. We need to increase teacher pay, staff schools with social services and instructional support, end the school-to-prison pipeline, and ensure students have access to fresh, healthy food served with sustainable, plastic-free plates and utensils. In this age of COVID-19, students need access to broadband internet to connect virtually to their classes. We need to use every policy lever available to fulfill the criteria laid out in the Leandro decision, so that every child in NC receives a sound, basic education.
Healthcare. We need to expand Medicaid, but we need to work towards Medicare for All NC as quickly as possible. As Senator, I will not wait for Congress to ensure that my constituents are covered and in good health.
Transportation. We need carbon-neutral and accessible public transportation across the state as quickly as possible. This is vital to ensure the environmental health of our state, but it is also instrumental to economic opportunity and equity. In the short term, massive infrastructure projects like public transportation present unprecedented opportunities for employment and job training. In the long term, efficient and accessible public transportation increases the flow of human and economic capital between cities, without increasing traffic congestion or pollution.
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?
The Republican tax cuts have not been effective. Any growth in NC’s domestic product follows national trends, and leading economists from UC Berkeley to Duke agree that another market crash is imminent as a result of new, unchecked speculation methods and a systematic erosion of the social safety net.
At the state level, we need to work fast to enact progressive taxes which would help produce the revenue streams we need to equitably push resources to people living in poverty in this state. In addition to expanding Medicaid, we need to enact progressive taxes which would help fulfill the criteria laid out by the Leandro decision for our public schools. By relying on local supplements, we are using policy to exacerbate achievement gaps across several criteria. In my district, academic and health outcomes for students of color are lower than those of their white classmates, but these disparities pale in comparison to those between counties. When I advocate for better public schools in Durham, it is as part of a larger plan to ensure that students in places like Hoke County and Swain County receive adequate, equitable funding in addition to experienced teachers and behavioral therapists.
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?
The General Assembly needs to reduce its preemption stranglehold on municipalities, particularly when cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, and Durham elect leaders who push progressive policies that will benefit working people, women, and people of color. Not only do I support municipal efforts to increase minimum wage, I intend to pass these policies at the state level. I intend to follow the lead of municipalities that try to improve the quality of life of its residents, not preempt them from doing so.
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?
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing will permeate every aspect of our lives for years to come. Those that are most vulnerable, working on the frontlines each day, will need long-term support. Eviction moratoriums have held off a massive crisis, but it’s a ticking time bomb. Nationwide, over 40 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes. Our state, local leaders, and organizations will need to provide long-term support for the most basic of needs: housing and food. Since 2010, the cost of buying a home in Durham County has risen by 40%. Further, a modest two bedroom apartment in Durham County costs an average of $990 per month. For that to be considered affordable, a resident would need to make at least $39,600 per year – much more than the average salary for our local jobs in food preparation and service, child care, sales, and construction. And across our District, people that have lived in their neighborhoods for decades are struggling to keep their homes.
I will work to remove legislative barriers that prevent local communities from utilizing the creative and innovative tools that neighboring states are using to fight gentrification and keep people in their homes. We can work to expand public-private partnerships, incentivize homeowners to stay in their homes, and provide tax credits to communities that need help with home repairs to maintain the value of their homes. Renters need additional rights and support; I will push to fund eviction diversion programs.
It’s imperative that residents have a fair living wage in order to continue renting or owning homes, especially near their places of work. As the cost of living rises, wages remain stagnant. I support raising the state minimum wage and providing living wages. I would support a bill that would raise the minimum wage comparable to local cost of living adjustments.
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.
We all have a right to clean air and water. We need legislators that know climate change is real and are willing to do something about it. Studies show that even a fraction of offshore wind energy resources could help meet North Carolina’s energy needs by 20%. A 2019 Emissions Gap Report from the United Nations states that mass transportation is necessary to curb emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change. I am committed to implementing evidence-based solutions to address our gaps in air and water quality, and will increase state investment in renewable energy and programs that preserve and conserve our water.
100% renewable energy by 2050. The North Carolina legislature needs to commit to funding projects necessary to reach Governor Cooper’s goal of producing 100% renewable energy by 2050, including funding Cooper’s offshore wind farm job study in full.
Higher water treatment standards. While the Federal Administration rolls back regulations on coal ash disposal, North Carolina must lead the nation in continuing to uphold Obama-era standards, as well as moving toward proactive, higher standards for our air and water with clear consequences and means of enforcement. This includes reevaluating state water treatment processes to ensure that in cases of water contamination, contaminants are properly removed or inactivated.
Expand mass transit. The General Assembly must commit to expanding mass transit across the state, with an emphasis on low-cost or free public transit systems. This will drastically reduce emissions polluting our air and help reduce the effects of climate change.
Greater energy efficiency. The state legislature needs to implement energy efficient building code and appliance regulations. Companies need to internalize the negative externality created by carbon emissions through 1) environmental taxes on unsustainable production and 2) cap and trade policies for companies over 50 employees.
Repeal harmful policies. In the NC Farm Act of 2018 and House Bill 56, “Amend Environmental Laws” has the potential to allow for more pollutants and contaminants in North Carolina air and water. It’s time to review and amend these laws and commit to higher environmental standards.
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?
At the core, we have too many guns on the street and gun sales continue to rise. Assault weapons should not be commercially available in North Carolina. I also support universal background checks for all gun purchases. So many other countries have reduced gun violence with gun buyback programs and common sense gun laws. We must get the rapid rise in gun sales under control.
We have reams of data that demonstrate a direct correlation between access to guns and gun-related deaths. We are missing consistent leadership at the federal and state level willing to modify and change policies that make it far too easy to have access to guns. The North Carolina legislature has not passed any significant gun control legislation since 2015. I remain hopeful that we have reached a pivotal point where students and community organizations continue to organize, stand up to the NRA, and apply pressure for real reforms. Local and national organizations are working overtime, but our federal and state leaders have to step up to the plate and take action.
I look forward to working with Rep. Morey from the Durham delegation, who has been a state-wide leader on this issue, supporting HB 454, HB 86, HB 842, and HB 816. This collection of bills: provide extreme risk protection, require permits for long guns, registration of all assault-style weapons, reporting lost firearms, and clarify how to store weapons in vehicles. Democratic leaders stepped up and filled a discharge petition requesting that proposed gun law legislation be seriously considered and debated – not remain submerged in committees to die (Charlotte Observer).
Do you support the Black Lives Matter Movement? What steps would you take to address racial equity in North Carolina?
Black Lives Matter. There is systemic racism in North Carolina that touches all facets of our lives from our education system, justice system, health care, to the environment. I propose and support policies that address institutional racism.
I support legislation that addresses environmental racism such as water contamination, air pollution, and climate change.
I support policies that address access to health care and overall health, especially where we see racial inequities. We need to expand Medicaid, improve equitable data collection, as well as address the inequity in primary, mental/behavioral, and dental health care providers across the state. We know that restrictions on reproductive health care target Black and Latinx people who are more likely to have low incomes and for whom basic health care has always remained out of reach because of historic and continued underinvestment in access to affordable care. The General Assembly must fund doula programs for Black women and other people at higher risk of dying in childbirth and restore the state abortion fund.
We must end the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects our students of color. I will fight for a mandatory implicit bias and restorative practice training for all members of school communities, regular audits of NC school disciplinary procedures, and research-based alternative education programs.
In Durham County, women ages 25-34 are most likely to live in poverty, and Black and Brown residents are more likely to live in poverty than white residents. We have to raise the minimum wage, consider small businesses in our plans, protect all workers, and provide employees with benefits and paid time off.
Our district is in the midst of a criminal justice renaissance. More funds are needed to support the grassroots work of organizations right here in Durham that are working to implement needed reforms. I will support and fund our North Carolina Reentry Council, fund money bail reforms, support criminal record expungement programs, strengthen domestic violence laws, support common sense gun laws, stand up for our immigrant community, and stop imprisoning people for nonviolent and minor drug offenses. We also need to reform police policies that enable the use of force and violence.
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 support these bills that make certain police records public.
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?
To guarantee residents of North Carolina have free and fair elections that adhere to the one person one vote standard, the General Assembly must change the state Constitution to put a stop to partisan and racial gerrymandering of legislative, congressional, judicial, and other districts.
North Carolina needs an independent commission that will fairly draw legislative and congressional districts. Such a commission must remove all partisanship from setting up legislative and congressional districts. Further, all districts must be compact, have equal population as much as possible, and represent communities of common interest. The work of such a commission can be reviewed by the court to ensure fairness and compliance to the state and federal constitution. Such a commission can also set up judicial and other districts to ensure partisan and racial gerrymandering ends at all levels of government.
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?
Let’s be clear: we have chronically defunded schools in North Carolina due to regressive policies by Republicans, led primarily by Governor McCrory. So, more precisely, we will not be spending more on K-12 education – we will be making amends for letting the spending sink to such abysmal levels. Having said that, even once we reach national standards in funding, staffing, and academic outcomes, I believe it is imperative that NC push even more to become a leader in public education once again. Conservative estimates say that for every dollar that goes into public education, a government will reap societal returns of four dollars over ten years. More rigorous research by people like Dr. Sunny Ladd at Duke University demonstrates that for every dollar invested in public education, a government can expect to see at least a 12 dollar return over ten years. In sum, I do support tax increases for school funding, but I also believe there are other sources of money that we can use to fund our public schools.
To start, we need to increase teacher pay dramatically. A beginning teacher’s salary should start at $50,000 a year. Investments in teacher pay combined with improved teacher certification programs and supports provide the greatest benefits to our students. Teacher support would entail staffing every school with social services and behavioral therapists, as well as providing funding for school supplies so that teachers are not forced to spend portions of their own income on supplies for their students.
Secondly, we need to ensure that we spend enough on education to provide various educational opportunities in all of our public schools, so that we can beat privatization advocates at their own game of “offering choice.” Various public magnet schools throughout the state have repeatedly been listed in the top 50 public schools in the country – these magnet programs should not be the exception, but the rule. We need to fund education to the point that programs like these can be offered in multiple schools, with other schools offering programs like Montessori, information technology, and arts programs.
Third, we need to invest heavily in research and evaluation methods to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. In Durham, students of color are ten times more likely to be suspended than white students. This is an example of a pattern that takes place across the state. In addition to staffing social workers and behavioral therapists, we need to take the lead on research for how curriculum, school schedules, extracurriculars, and broader community factors can be altered in order to reduce disciplinary rates and end the school-to-prison pipeline.
Fourth, we have precious little funding for our public schools – and Republicans want to funnel more money out of public schools and into private school vouchers. This money can be used to support our public schools. We can use the millions of dollars of unspent “opportunity scholarships” which are typically overfunded at the end of the year to support teacher bonuses and school initiatives. I support Governor Cooper’s COVID-19 relief funding that allocates $132 million to support K-12 public schools.
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?
Charter schools are increasing segregation while simultaneously siphoning money out of the public school system. They cannot be held accountable like every other public school, which results in mismanagement, neglect, and lower performance outcomes for students who do not have the opportunity to leave a public school. Our first step should be to halt all public finance for charter schools.
From there, we can go in two directions. On one hand, we could work to integrate the charter schools into the public school system. Ideally, charter schools would be reformed into schools that charters claim to exemplify: Communities in Schools models. Durham has launched an exemplary Communities in Schools pilot in several schools, already showing positive outcomes a year after its inception. Charter schools, which have in many ways degraded communities, should necessarily be remade in a community-based model. These schools are already reliant on the state for funding, so auditing the administrative processes in order to bring the charters into public accountability like other public schools would not be very difficult logistically.
Politically, however, there will likely be strong resistance from school privatizers, of whom there are many in NC politics. Therefore, on the other hand, we would have to relocate students in charters to their original schools. In doing so, however, we should take care to listen to parents and students as they explain why they chose to enroll in a charter school and leave the public school system in the first place. The concerns heard in these transitions should be prioritized as students are relocated to their original schools – we cannot fight to keep students in public schools while simultaneously ignoring their valid concerns about the public school system. This paradox is the crux on which school privatizers base their “school-choice” argument that has worked to such great, devastating effect in NC.
However, halting funding to charter schools will likely be strongly opposed by Republicans, and without a strong majority in the GA, the above proposals will be difficult to achieve. If charters are to continue operating, we need to introduce strong oversight and accountability measures. In this instance, we particularly have to focus on making sure charters are participants in district and state-wide efforts to achieve representative integration in all schools.
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?
COVID-19 has served as the ultimate stress test for all systems but has had a severe impact on healthcare in particular. As more people are losing their employer provided health care, we must expand Medicaid. This will also grow our state budget by creating more jobs.
At this moment, we are experiencing a record number of Americans and North Carolinians without healthcare. One in five North Carolina adults are living without healthcare insurance, and many of them as a direct result of job losses from the pandemic.
Medicaid, which is largely from federal funding, can provide hope for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, especially in times of uncertainty and fear. There are only 12 states blocking legislation for Medicaid expansion, and we’re one of them. At this point, to not provide that critical healthcare to North Carolinians struggling, it’s just heartless and cruel. With our still increasing cases of COVID-19, we can’t turn our backs on our neighbors.
Republicans in NC have historically blocked Medicaid expansion, and with newly elected Democratic senators, we have a chance of passing this legislation.
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?
The only case of serious voter fraud in NC since this amendment was passed has involved Republicans rigging elections for their own benefit. Once again, the Republican-held GA has demonstrated their lack of shame and their commitment to gas-lighting North Carolinians. In-person voter fraud is not a serious threat, and voter ID laws will only hurt those who come from histories of giving their blood, sweat, tears, and lives for the right to vote. If we want to improve election security, we need to invest in the Board of Elections to ensure that we have adequate staffing to count and triple-check paper ballots. While electronic systems are attractive for environmental and convenience reasons, they have been proven to malfunction and sewn distrust among the electorate across the country. This is mainly due to the fact that BOEs do not have the funding and capacity to maintain these systems over time nor do they have the technological means to prevent cyber infiltration and fraud. This is why we should stick to the analog ways of the past which can be clearly and objectively verified by employed people rather than malfunctioning machines.
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?
We should absolutely repeal the death penalty. It is inhumane, unethical, and a shameful practice for a modern democracy to participate in.
Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
I want to reiterate my commitment to combating climate change. Similar to healthcare, we cannot wait on federal legislation to begin protecting the residents of our state. We need to invest heavily in a Green New Deal-type program for North Carolina, building clean energy facilities, carbon neutral transportation, and LEED-certified buildings. In doing so, we need to employ women and people of color, preferably through unionized work, small businesses, and worker cooperatives so that we ensure a just transition from fossil fuels.
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