North Carolina State House and Senate Candidates
Name as it appears on the ballot: Wesley Knott
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: wesleyknott.com
Occupation & employer: Public Company Auditor (resigned to run for office)
Years lived in North Carolina: 4
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’m a mixed-race progressive who grew up in Mississippi. I know what it’s like to experience systemic inequality. I know what it’s like to work a minimum wage job and live paycheck to paycheck. I know what it’s like to be turned away from a clinic that doesn’t accept Medicaid, and I know what it’s like to have a government that wasn’t designed to work for you.
I know that, for many in District 66, that story is a shared story. When I talk to folks in my district, the experience they care most about is the shared experience of our stories, and that’s what qualifies me to represent District 66.
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?
1) Raising wages
We should raise the statewide minimum wage and establish an independent group of economists to adjust it annually for inflation so that wages always keep up with the cost of living. We should take the same approach for state employee wages, and we should incentivize local municipalities to increase the minimum wage in their jurisdictions when needed.
2) Investing in North Carolina
We must invest in green energy, fully fund our schools in accordance with the Leandro rulings, and invest in affordable housing.
3) Reforming our criminal justice system
End no-knock warrants. Legalize marijuana. Invest in other agencies that can better respond to 911 calls relating to mental health, addiction, homelessness, and a host of other crises that don’t require responses from armed officers.
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 think the state’s relationship with local municipalities should be similar to the federal government’s relationship to states: we should incentivize policy that helps build a greener, safer, more inclusive North Carolina where everyone has the tools they need to build better lives for themselves and their families.
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?
Yes. No one can make a living on $7.25/hr. I support raising the minimum wage to 2x the poverty line (that’d be $13.59/hr for 2022). That makes sense for a lot of reasons.
First, it reframes the minimum wage as primarily a question of morality, not of politics. “How close to poverty should someone working a full-time job live?”
Second, ensuring that families don’t have to spend every dollar they make on their most basic needs is a fundamental American ideal. We aren’t living up to our American ideals when we pay people a poverty wage. We have to give them the resources they need not just to live, but to build better lives for themselves and their families.
And lastly, the poverty line is adjusted regularly for cost of living. So, indexing the minimum wage to the poverty line ensures that wages are always sufficient to cover rising costs due to inflation. If prices for rent, childcare, gas, and groceries go up, wages will always keep pace.
But, there’s one other crucial factor. The Republican-controlled general assembly passed a law several years back that prevents local municipalities from increasing the minimum wage in their jurisdictions. In my district, I assure you that $13.59/hr is not a livable wage. Neither is $15/hr. We should be incentivizing cities and counties to ensure everyone is paid a livable wage in their jurisdictions, not holding them back.
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?
Affordable housing is tied intrinsically with fair, livable wages. So, it starts with raising wages, making a lot of currently unaffordable housing affordable. Then, we should disincentivize exclusionary zoning at the local levels to ensure affordable housing supply is meeting affordable housing demand. We should also provide more protections for renters, including guaranteed eviction representation and incentivizing landlords to include rights of first refusal in their lease agreements.
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.
We can start by developing compelling incentives for families and companies to invest in building weatherization, green energy production, and environmentally friendly vehicles.
We’ll need to start today designing and building a robust charging infrastructure to accommodate the electric vehicle future, and where practicable, we should also expand access to safe, convenient bicycle and pedestrian routes.
There are also larger-scale investment opportunities unique to our state. Our coastline is better situated for wind energy generation than anywhere in the country, and according to the DOE, North Carolina can add up to 20,000 jobs in wind manufacturing alone.
We can’t reverse global warming in our lifetime. But, we can stop contributing to it. We can leave the next generation with a planet that’s healing, and we can leave them with the tools they need to continue making progress. It isn’t too late to build a brighter future for our planet, and there isn’t a better time to get started than now, here in North Carolina.
7. Would you support an independent process for drawing new legislative and congressional districts?
Yes. We need an Independent. Redistricting. Commission.
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?
Education is supposed to be the great equalizer. And, in North Carolina, it’s not just a shared value – it’s a constitutional right.
Relative to the size of our economy, we invest less in public schools than virtually every other state in the nation. Last year we ranked 49th out of 50, investing 30% less than the national average. We’re past the stage where this might become a problem – our school systems, our teachers, our parents, and our students can all already feel the weight of this neglect, and the ripple effects will last for generations. We need change now.
We should invest in early childhood education and community learning programs for kids 5 and under so that all of them show up to their first day of kindergarten equipped for success. And, we should increase K-12 funding across the board, fully funding our schools in accordance with the Leandro rulings.
North Carolina has one of the largest economies in the United States, so there’s no reason our kids can’t be as well equipped, and our teachers and staff as well compensated, as any other state in the nation.
9. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a ruling this summer that guts, or even overturns, Roe v. Wade. As a state lawmaker, would you support legislation that limits or prohibits abortion in North Carolina, or punishes/criminalizes abortion providers or patients?
Safe, legal access to abortion has played an invaluable role in accelerating women’s rights around the world. Here in the US, it has been a constitutional right for nearly 50 years. Yet, for some reason, efforts to undermine this right are still ongoing across the nation and here in North Carolina.
I don’t know what’s unclear about this. Access to abortion is settled law, reproductive healthcare is healthcare, and healthcare is a human right. We’ve come a long way over the past 50 years, and we’re going to build on that progress here in North Carolina, not roll it back.
10. Should North Carolina expand Medicaid? Where do you stand on increasing the number of slots for the Innovations Waiver for special needs individuals?
Millions of North Carolinians are currently covered by Medicaid. It is a life saver. I know first hand. As a kid, I relied on government health insurance to stay healthy and get the care I needed.
We have the opportunity to expand Medicaid in North Carolina, extending coverage to over 600,000 folks currently uninsured, and pay just ten cents on the dollar for the cost. We should join the 38 other states that have already expanded Medicaid now.
Expanding access to the Innovations Waiver:
Providing equitable access to Medicaid waivers for families who need them is crucial. Defining what is and isn’t healthcare isn’t complicated until you involve insurance companies. We know that services for developmental disabilities are health care, and we shouldn’t have a years-long waitlist for folks to get the help they need.
11. Do you support reforming North Carolina’s marijuana laws? Do you support full legalization? Please explain your position.
Legalize it. All of it. Growing, processing, transporting, possessing, ingesting, smoking, or otherwise consuming – if it’s for personal use, it should be legal for adults.
In my lifetime, few laws, if any, have contributed more to mass criminalization than marijuana prohibition, disproportionately affecting Black and Brown people. It is past time to legalize marijuana.
But how we legalize it matters. We can’t let the same folks that criminalized marijuana in the first place make the rules and decide who gets to grow and who gets to sell. We have to engage our communities, listen to diverse voices, and get this right the first time.
Then, after it is legalized, we should ask the governor to pardon everyone serving a sentence for an offense that would be been legal under the new law, and we should expunge every related record — no exceptions — so folks can get their lives back with a clean slate.
Legalizing marijuana isn’t some novel, naive idea that young folks came up with. It is an opportunity to start repairing societal damage we’ve been causing for decades, and most North Carolinians support it.
— Legalizing marijuana is a matter of social justice.
In Wake County, Black and Brown people are 3x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
— Legalizing marijuana is a matter of economic justice.
There are thriving economies within our communities that have been suppressed for decades through marijuana prohibition.
— Legalizing marijuana is a matter of public health.
When not properly regulated, harmful additives can be introduced to what is an otherwise relatively safe drug with a host of medicinal benefits.
The War On Drugs has been a racist, devastating failure. We can take a step towards ending it in North Carolina by legalizing marijuana.
12. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
We need more focus on gun violence prevention from the General Assembly. From universal background checks to extreme risk protection orders, there are common sense steps we can take to make our communities safer that even a majority of gun owners in North Carolina support. We shouldn’t wait for the next catastrophe to act. We must strengthen our gun safety laws, ban high-capacity magazines, and enact universal background checks.