Name as it appears on the ballot: Eric L. Mansfield
Date of birth: December 4, 1964
Campaign website: www.ericmansfieldnc.com
Occupation & employer: Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor; Cape Fear Otolaryngology
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
The biggest current challenges facing North Carolina are jobs and education. The papers tell us that the economy is improving, but for far too many North Carolinians that is not true. We say we care about education, but every two years the politicians in Raleigh have partisan fights over band-aid solutions.
I believe the Lt Governor can play an important role in economic development and attracting new jobs to North Carolina. During these tough times especially, we cannot simply abandon those most affected. Job creation should be our top focus, but we need to continue to support extended unemployment benefits and do what we can within budgetary constraints to help retrain workers for the new jobs. One of the things we must do is expand cooperative efforts between employers and our community college system.
State government continues to apply short-term fixes to serious problems. We need to reform the tax code, to return fairness and provide sustained funding for our schools, and avoid the every other year scramble to find temporary solutions. We must assure that every child in North Carolina has access to a quality education.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Almost all of my experience is outside of public office, but I have seen enough of the broken politics in Raleigh to know it must change. If we keep sending the same kind of people to Raleigh, we are going to keep getting the same kind of government.
Over the last 10 years, I have built a small business. As Lt. Governor, I will be North Carolina’s biggest advocate for attracting new business and helping ease the way for current employers to create more jobs. And I will fight to protect social the safety net.
As the son of a schoolteacher mother and the father of a son in public schools, I know that education is the key to opportunity, and an important part of job creation. Employers tell us over and over that they need a well-educated workforce.
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a proud Democrat. The opportunities provided to me in my life taught me that there is a role and a need for government to help open the doors to opportunity.
I am a results oriented consensus builder. I bring together people of diverse backgrounds and ideologies and work toward finding solutions that unite us, not divide us. When I entered the state Senate last year, I was surprised to find that partisan posturing took precedence over finding real solutions.
4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
A just and inclusive community is at the core of my service in public life.
I fought against the repeal of the Racial Justice Act in the Senate. I opposed the inclusion of Amendment One on the May ballot and lined up other Senators to oppose it.
As Lt. Governor, I will work to ensure that the boards and commissions for which I have appointment power will reflect the diversity of North Carolina. I will consult widely, and will both review the current board membership and work with members to better understand their views and opinions.
5. Is there a stand you’ll take on principle if elected, even though it may cost you some popularity points with voters?
My test for any proposal is simple: is it the right thing to do for the people of North Carolina. I don’t poll, I don’t think about the electoral implications.
During my time in the Senate I have fought the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, opposed Amendment One, supported the Affordable Care Act.
I do not know whether these were popular or unpopular choices, only that to me, they were right.
6. Do you support the Racial Justice Act? Is it time for North Carolina to abolish the death penalty?
I support the Racial Justice Act and fought against its repeal in the state Senate.
7. Are you in favor of a Voter ID law? Why or why not? What steps can the state take to increase voter participation in elections?
No. Voter ID laws are unnecessary. There is no significant evidence of voter fraud in our elections.
What with increased registration and early voting, I believe that the biggest obstacle to increased voter participation lies not in our laws but in our candidates. The election of 2008 showed us how participation could increase if the voters had a choice of candidates to believe in.
If we keep nominating the same kinds of candidates we are going to keep getting the same results.
8. How will you vote on Amendment One, the amendment to ban gay marriages, civil unions and all other domestic partnerships other than the marriage of one man and one woman?
I oppose Amendment One. It is unnecessary, risky, and could cost us jobs. Principally though, I oppose it because we should never write discrimination into our state constitution.
9. Should the state take additional steps to encourage solar, wind and other renewable energy sources? Should additional nuclear plants in North Carolina be encouraged, discouraged or stopped?
Yes, absolutely, we must encourage the development of renewable energy resources. North Carolina is particularly well positioned to benefit from such development. Our universities and technical schools give us a competitive edge over other states; the concentration of technical know-how, particularly in the RTP area, is world class. Sustainable resourcing is not only the right way to go but can be a substantial economic driver for our state.
10. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
In this recession we’ve seen our poverty rate increase. In the short term, we need to ensure that unemployment benefits are extended to support families hurt by the economy. In the long run, we need to ensure that we have strong public schools in every corner of our state and programs that prepare children for school. Education is the greatest tool we have to lift people out of poverty.
b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?
North Carolina has long been known as a good roads state. We need to maintain that reputation but we must also embrace public transportation that connects our urban areas inside the state and rail that connects us to other parts of the country.
c. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?
Financially, our zeal to lock people up is unsustainable. We need to focus more efforts on prevention and rehabilitation, particularly with young people. Drug courts, which saved money and better addressed the issues of addiction, were slashed in the last budget. That’s shortsighted both in human and financial costs. In the state Senate, I cosponsored and worked for the adoption of new law to give young, non-violent offenders a chance to expunge their records by making amends and performing 100 hours of community service.
d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?
I have been an ardent and outspoken supporter of the Affordable Care Act. While it has its weaknesses, it is a first step toward providing universal coverage.
e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?
Let’s hold banks to the letter of the law. No more fraudulently robo-signed documents, no more foot-dragging when it comes to modifications. The state should withdraw its funds from any bank proven to be in violation.
We need to provide real, understandable information to the borrowers. Right now, mortgage disclosure documents are so numerous and so full of dense legal language that almost no one really understands them. We should require that mortgage disclosure documents be written in plain English.
f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it’s a mess. Now what?
During the 2009 fiscal year, 135,536 people in mental health crises were seen in emergency departments statewide, according to the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
After years or so of reducing mental funding at the state level we have a growing list patients who need mental health hospitalization and use hospital emergency departments instead, at an increased cost to the taxpayer.
We have to fix our mental health system because the costs are too great to calculate, from loss of income to increase costs of hospitalization and jail time. We need to build a functioning safety net and begin treating mental illness the same as other illnesses.
g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?
Our current tax system is broken. It is based on the manufacturing and agriculture based economy of the 1930s. We need to overhaul the system by broadening the tax base and making it fairer. We rely too much on the income tax, which is less stable than other forms of revenue when a recession hits.