Name as it appears on the ballot: Wiley Nickel
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.WileyNickelforCongress.com
Occupation & employer: North Carolina State Senator and Attorney
Years lived in North Carolina: 13
1. What are your primary concerns for the State of North Carolina?
In my two terms as a State Senator, serving Raleigh and Cary, it’s been my mission to tackle the issues that working families talk about most around the kitchen table. The reality is that working families don’t have a fair shot right now. They’re paying more than their fair share of the tax burden and are struggling to make ends meet. Seniors around our state are struggling with the high cost of housing, and even have to choose between paying their healthcare bills or putting food on the table. Working people are being left behind. Because our state has chronically underfunded our public schools, our kids aren’t reaching their full potential. As I knock on doors across the district to talk to voters, they’re worried about the rising cost of goods and services. There is more we can, and must do to help uplift folks who are struggling. We can shift the tax burden away from working families and ensure corporations pay their fair share so that we can invest in our public schools and our infrastructure. We can pass legislation to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and promote investments in affordable housing. I’m running for Congress to help level the playing field for working families, and look forward to the opportunity to talk about those issues with the voters ahead of the May 17th Democratic primary election.
2. What in your background qualifies you to represent the people of this state effectively? What would you cite as your biggest career accomplishments?
I worked for President Obama during some of his toughest fights to deliver healthcare and quality education to our country, and have continued that fight as a State Senator representing Cary and Raleigh. We’re bringing that message of hope and change to this campaign as we fight for voting rights and an economy that works for everyone. My constituents in Cary and Raleigh know me as someone they can always count on and who will never quit on them. I’m proud of my record throughout my two terms in the State Senate, where I authored bills to put a nurse in every public school, shift the state tax burden away from working families, raise wages, and uplift workers. Because of that work, I’ve built a strong coalition of support that features public servants from all areas of this district: people of all walks of life, diverse backgrounds, and of all ages. Our campaign has been endorsed by teachers with NCAE, workers with AFLCIO, and elected officials from rural areas, suburban areas, and urban areas of the district. It’s that kind of coalition that we will need to deliver real change in Congress for North Carolina families.
3. If elected, what three policies would you prioritize and how would you work across the aisle to enact those initiatives?
In Congress, I’m going to continue fighting for the same things I’ve spent my career fighting for as a staffer for President Obama, as an Attorney and as a State Senator. Number one: Voting Rights. In the State Senate, I serve on the Redistricting and Elections Committee, where I fought for fair Congressional maps – and now we’ve got them. We need to rebuild trust in our electoral process, and ensure every American has the access they need to cast their votes and make their voices heard. In the State Senate, I fought a bill that would have led to thousands of legitimate absentee votes being thrown in the trash. In Congress, I’ll fight to put a stop to gerrymandering, make Election Day a federal holiday, and expand early voting access.
Number two: North Carolinians deserve a fair economy that truly works for everyone, where corporations pay their fair share. Right now, working families are paying more than their fair share in taxes. In the State Senate, I authored a bill that would fix the system, which disadvantages the middle class. Teachers and Firefighters should not pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than CEOs in the top 1%. In Congress, I’ll fight for fair tax reform and for raising wages for working families in our state.
Number three: Strong, high quality public education to set our kids up for success and give teachers the resources they need to help our kids succeed. I’ve voted time and time again to make long overdue and needed investments in public education. I’ve authored legislation to put a full-time nurse in every school and to guarantee funding for a TA in every classroom K-3. We need to make public education a real priority in our state, and in Congress, I’ll fight to provide the funding needed to pay our teachers and invest in our kids.
4. What factors are fueling the country’s growing political polarization and how will you work to mend it?
I’ve fought hard as a state Senator to end gerrymandering, which effectively allows politicians to pick their voters and give themselves an advantage in elections. Gerrymandering creates safe seats: safe Republican seats, and safe Democratic seats. Safe seats don’t encourage competition for the best ideas, and don’t encourage our elected officials to work across the aisle to get results. Ending gerrymandering and restoring the Voting Rights Act by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act will help encourage competition at the ballot box and lead to more compromise and bipartisanship.
5. November’s general election race is expected to be close, regardless of who wins the party primaries. What makes you an attractive choice to centrist voters?
In the State Senate, and working for President Obama and Vice President Al Gore before him, I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to build coalitions to get things done. My focus as an elected official has been, and always will be working families, not big corporations or special interests. I’m proud of my record in the State Senate, where I stood up on behalf of my constituents when bills came up like the Duke power bill that will raise their energy rates or bills that would restrict their access to vote. The issues I’m focused on aren’t partisan issues: the right to vote, a strong economy that works for everyone, and giving working people a fair shot.
6. With rent, property taxes, and home sale prices all rising, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address this growing affordability crisis?
As I’ve knocked doors across the district, housing affordability is a critical top-of-mind issue for so many families. While wages in our region have only gone up about 5%, housing prices have increased 20%. Even 30% in some areas. That’s just unsustainable. Our region is experiencing tremendous growth and while that has its benefits – we also have to address and accommodate the issues that arise like affordable housing and the infrastructure to support it. To start, we need to expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to incentivize and increase the supply of affordable homes in the communities that need them. The LIHTC program also helps to spur the renovation of affordable homes already built. We can also help incentivize owner-occupant financing to address the problem of big investors coming into our area and buying up dozens of affordable properties to turn around and rent them out at high costs.
7. What specific policies or programs do you endorse or would pursue to combat inflation?
Inflation is another top of mind priority I hear about as I knock doors and talk to my constituents. It’s a problem that really hits working families in our state when they head to the grocery store or to fill up their gas tanks. The inflation we’re seeing right now is a direct result of the widespread supply chain issues we experienced during the pandemic. Manufacturers are not only struggling to produce goods, they’re struggling to transport them too. First, we need to boost our US manufacturing by investing in programs like Manufacturing USA which enhance public-private partnerships in innovation. We also need to invest in our workforce with workforce development programs and support expanded apprenticeship opportunities around the country to help get manufacturing back on track. On the other side, we also need to crack down on price gouging and anti-competitive behaviors that allow big companies to jack up prices. I’m committed to doing everything I can in Washington to help folks make ends meet and combat the inflation making that harder.
8. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a ruling this summer that guts, or even overturns, Roe v. Wade. What must Congress do to protect abortion rights if that happens?
I support legislation that would codify Roe v Wade into law. I believe that family planning decisions belong between a woman and her doctor, not the government, and I will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.
9. Do you believe Congress should pass the Freedom to Vote Act to guarantee free and fair elections for every American, limit the impact of money on elections, and restrict gerrymandering?
Yes. The reality on the ground in this district and around the country is that folks are concerned about our elections on both sides of the aisle. It’s hard for people to trust in the process when they’ve voted year after year and still struggle. We need to rebuild trust in our democracy. To do that, we need to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and get dark money out of politics, and return power to the people where it belongs. We need to end gerrymandering and guarantee that every American has access to the ballot. As a State Senator, I serve on the Redistricting and Elections committee where I’ve fought against voter suppression, worked to make Election Day a holiday, expand access to early voting and end partisan gerrymandering. I’m committed to continuing the fight to protect our Democracy.
10. Please state three specific policies you support to address climate change.
When I worked for then-Vice President Al Gore, I saw firsthand even then what our legislators could do to tackle the climate crisis. And we need to tackle it now. As a State Senator, I cosponsored “Polluter Pays” legislation that will ensure corporations that pollute our air and water are stuck with the bill to clean it up, not ratepayers. I have two young kids that deserve, like yours, to grow up and raise families of their own on a healthy planet. I will also support federal funds that are directed toward investments in clean energy transportation infrastructure like low-emission buses, high speed rail, and expanded bike lanes. In the State Senate, I also authored the first Carbon Tax bill in the south, which economists agree is the best way to get the forces of the free market behind real investments in clean energy. I’d support similar legislation that incentivizes the private sector to make real moves toward a more sustainable future.
11. Are there any issues this questionnaire has not addressed that you would like to address?
I’m proud of my record of fighting for working North Carolina families, which is why I’ve earned the support and endorsement of organizations and elected officials that are committed to doing that same work. Our campaign has been endorsed by:
● NCAE and NEA
● Sierra Club
● Voter Protection Project
● Network for Public Education
● Wake County Voter Education Coalition
● Ironworkers Local 848
● UFCW Local 1208
● United Rural Democrats
● Equality NC
● NC SMART Transportation Division A full list of our endorsements can be found at www.wileynickelforcongress.com/endorsements.