Name as it appears on the ballot: Wiley Nickel
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: wileynickelfornc.com
Occupation & employer: lawyer
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 former Obama White House Staffer, Attorney and Small Business owner in my first term in the North Carolina Senate. My three biggest career accomplishments: (1) marrying my wonderful wife Caroline and having two amazing kids, (2) getting elected to the North Carolina Senate as one of the six seats needed to break the Republican super-majority in 2018 and (3) fighting to ensure that Governor Cooper did not have a single veto overridden in my first term in the NC Senate.
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?
We need to pass Medicaid expansion, make long overdue and needed investments in one system of public education, and establish a non-partisan independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandering.
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?
We’ve lost close to $4 billion a year in North Carolina from Republican tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy. If we move the state corporate income tax from 2.5% to 5% we will still have the lowest corporate tax rates in the South. RIght now, we have an upside down tax code where middle and low-income taxpayers pay almost DOUBLE the state and local taxes as what is paid by the top 1% (as a percentage of their income).I support rolling back Republican tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy to make long overdue and needed investments in public education, infrastructure, and environmental protections. We can offer tax relief to 95% of our state and restore the Earned Income Tax Credit (SB 50 – a bill I co-sponsored) and still increase revenue for needed investments in our state.
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?
We need to raise the minimum wage from the current starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. I authored Senate Bill 291 to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Phil Berger and Senate Republicans buried the bill and never allowed it to receive a vote. If I’m re-elected, I will re-file the bill in 2021 and keep fighting to provide big structural change and a real living wage for North Carolina.
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?
As our overall property value rises, we cannot leave behind the working class community. I support building affordable high density units around areas where middle and low-income families commonly work. I also support state level tax credits to help make housing more affordable in our large metropolitan areas.We need to put more cash in the hands of our workers as well so they can afford to live in the Triangle. We need to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. We also need to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit.
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.
We must fight the climate crisis. I’m a former Al Gore staffer and member of the Climate Reality Project. I authored SB 513, which would get North Carolina to 100% renewable energy by 2050. I co-sponsored SB 744 which would hold corporate polluters accountable by making them pay to clean up their mess. I support a carbon tax and a Green New Deal in order to make immediate and significant progress in fighting the climate crisis.
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?
Gun laws save lives. I support a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks on ALL gun sales. I co-sponsored SB 565, a bill to provide Extreme Risk Prevention Orders/Red Flag Laws. I support increased funding for school counselors, psychologists and nurses to combat gun violence in our schools. We should join states like Colorado that prohibit large capacity magazines.
8. Do you support the Black Lives Matter Movement? What steps would you take to address racial equity in North Carolina?
Black Lives Matter. We need to address police reform in a comprehensive manner. I support legislation that requires police to exhaust all mechanisms before the use of deadly force. I support a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds. I support funding for de-escalation training, implicit bias training, and mental health crisis training. I support requirements for officers to intervene when they see another officer using excessive force.
We need countless reforms to address racial equity in North Carolina. We must eliminate cash bail. We must further decriminalize marijuana and release nonviolent drug offenders. We must roll back the Jim-Crow era prohibition on public sector collective bargaining. We must repeal Voter ID laws. We must end gerrymandering so that Republicans can’t pack minority voters into only a few districts.
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?
Police should serve to protect their communities, not be at odds with them. I will support data transparency legislation that requires the speedy release of information regarding traffic stops, pedestrian stops, searches of residence and business, and incidents of force. Body camera footage should also be released to the public in a timely manner. This data should allow the public to better track the records of their local police. Investigations into policing malpractice shouldn’t just be handled within police departments. That is why I support legislation that requires special prosecutors for each case involving use of excessive force and police-related civilian death.
Furthermore, I will support legislation that requires de-escalation training, implicit bias training, restrictions on chokeholds and strangleholds, demilitarization of local police, public oversight boards, and funding for first responders who are not police officers for mental health related calls.
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?
Voters should choose politicians, not the other way around. I co-sponsored SB 673. It is a bill that would amend the North Carolina Constitution to establish the North Carolina Citizens Redistricting Commission. I support a non-partisan independent redistricting commission and prefer the California model as the best way to ensure Fair Maps for North Carolina.
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?
Republicans have done very little for public education in the NC General Assembly. When you adjust for inflation Republicans have not given teachers a meaningful raise. North Carolina ranks 40th in spending per student and that’s totally unacceptable. We need to invest in our kids rather than giving more tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. By raising the state corporate tax rate from 2.5% to 5%, we can pay for needed investments in public education.
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?
I support having just one system of public education for all of our children. I authored SB 583 to freeze funding for private school vouchers. I co-sponsored SB 247 to put a moratorium on charter school growth. We spend over half a billion dollars funding charter schools while our public schools are suffering.
13. More than 3,000 North Carolinians have died from COVID-19 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?
We must pass Medicaid Expansion now and join the 39 other states that have already done so. Medicaid expansion would provide health care to over 500,000 North Carolinians. It would also lower premiums for all North Carolinians by up to 7% when over half a million people get into the system.
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 support a repeal of the Voter ID law that was passed by a lame duck Republican General Assembly. The courts have appropriately rejected Republican attempts to create Voter ID laws because they “targeted African-American voters with almost surgical precision.” The current law was designed to disenfranchise minority voters. We can make voting safe and secure in a way that does not disenfranchise minority 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?
I support a repeal of the death penalty in North Carolina.
16. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
- I authored SB 792 to increase North Carolina unemployment insurance benefits. North Carolina has one of the worst Unemployment Insurance programs in the country. My bill would raise weekly benefits from $350 to $450 and increase the minimum number of weeks receiving benefits from 12 to 26. We have close to $3 Billion in our Unemployment Insurance Trust fund and can afford to increase benefits.
- I authored SB 104: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. We need to get rid of the Electoral College and ensure that the President is the one who receives the most votes.
- I authored SB 329 the K-3 Reading Improvement Act. It would require grades K-3 to have a full-time teaching assistant in every classroom. Republicans have gutted funding for these positions since they came into power.
- I authored SB 850, a bill that would require a full time nurse in every public school in North Carolina. We should have one nurse for every 750 students. In Wake County we have well more than double that number of students for every nurse.
- I authored SB 575, a bill that would repeal the Jim Crow era prohibition against public sector collective bargaining rights for public employees.
- I sponsored the T.R.U.M.P. Act which would require candidates for President and Vice President to release their tax returns to the public if they want to appear on the ballot in North Carolina.
- I authored SB 759, a bill that would allow NCAA student athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness.
- I co-sponsored SB 464, a bill that would fully repeal HB2, one of the worst laws infringing on LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
- All of these bills were buried by Phil Berger and Republicans in the State Senate and never allowed to come up for a vote.
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