Name as it appears on the ballot: Kerry Sutton
Full legal name: Kerstin Walker Sutton
Date of birth: 10/16/1961
Campaign website: www.kerrysutton.com
Occupation & employer: Attorney at Law Office of Kerstin Walker Sutton, PLLC
1. Gov. Perdue is proposing a 3/4ths of 1-cent sales tax increase to balance the budget and avoid more cuts to education. Do you support her proposal? A different tax increase? Or no tax increase?
Nobody is happy about raising taxes, but the facts are clear: We remain in a financial crisis. If we must impose a temporary tax to keep our schools open and state government running, I’ll consider supporting such a proposal.
I support the passage of the Buffett Rule, now being considered in Washington and believe it can be applied in North Carolina. Those who can afford a tax increase should pay their share. Those who work hard to live a decent life but still struggle with paying for necessities should receive whatever assistance we can offer.
It is critical that we first do everything possible to provide job training and jobs for those who need them. We cannot subsidize those who choose not to seek work or provide for their families. But for those who do work, which includes the vast majority of North Carolinians, the state owes them everything it can provide to help them get by. That’s what the tax system is intended to do. Some of the revenue should be used to help those who need it most, particularly our children, to whom we owe a good education.
2. Do you support the Racial Justice Act? Is it time for North Carolina to abolish the death penalty?
I openly supported the enactment of the Racial Justice Act in 2009. I attended legislative committee meetings in 2011 and openly opposed efforts to repeal the RJA. Fairness and compassion demand that we allow a court to amend a death sentence to a “life without parole” sentence if a judge finds that the jury was selected or the original death sentence was imposed for reasons related to race. Any assertion that a death row inmate can be released from prison as a result of applying the RJA is simply incorrect.
Across the country, there have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations. I attended legislative committee meetings and actively supported the creation of the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2006. Knowing that the Commission has declared the innocence of two men previously convicted of grievous crimes, I am opposed to the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina under the present system.
3. 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? Please explain whether you would support such a law if elected, or how you would amend it.
I actively opposed the Voter-ID Bill in 2011. I openly sought to have Gov. Perdue veto the Bill and agree with her assessment that: “This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters.” Some call it a mere inconvenience. Some call it blatant intimidation. I say the suppression of even one vote for either reason is one too many.
4. 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 will vote AGAINST the Amendment. In 2011, I went to the NCGA and actively opposed efforts to add the constitutional amendment defining marriage to the May 8, 2012 ballot. The potential negative consequences from this unnecessary and regressive action intended to restrict the rights of our many LGBT friends, neighbors and colleagues will be felt not only by them, but in single parent households like mine, all households with unmarried couples, and throughout the business community and state as new and existing businesses will turn away from North Carolina as a place that is not friendly to a diverse work force. I will not support any effort to foster the image that the LGBT community is in any way a group of second-class citizens. If one of us in unequal, we are all unequal.
5. Do you support a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy? Would you sign a bill requiring that a woman, before choosing abortion, undergo an ultrasound? Be counseled about alternatives? Or in other ways be discouraged from choosing an abortion?
I trust women to make their own family planning decisions in consultation with their loved ones and health care professionals and based on their own circumstances and beliefs. I have been endorsed by Lillian’s List and will not vote for any bill that seeks to override a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions.
6. 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?
North Carolina should never stop encouraging the research and development of renewable energy resources of all kinds. We must aggressively seek increased sources and uses for solar power, wind power and alternative sources of fuel for vehicles and we must develop a plan for our future energy needs that decreases our current reliance on foreign oil and nuclear energy.
7. What should we do about frackingextracting natural gas by fracturing rock underground? Do you view it as a technology ready to use in North Carolina? Or one to be studied carefully before any decision about it is made?
Based on the information available now, I do not believe rushing into the use of fracking is in the best interests of our citizens or our environment. The U.S. Environmental Defense Fund opposes fracking because it violates the Clean Air Act. I have attended seminars related to fracking and agree with energy experts that action on this topic should wait until the EPA has completed its research and the NC Department of Energy and Natural Resources has issued a report presenting the facts and details we need to make an informed decision on how to proceed in the best interests of our citizens. The March 16, 2012 report, despite headlines implying fracking is “OK for NC,” clearly states that we do not yet have enough information about the environmental impact and long-term effects of fracking. While the technology used by responsible companies engaged in fracking may be ready to use in other areas of the country, North Carolina does not have the legislative framework, guidelines or infrastructure needed to proceed without extraordinary due caution at this time.
8. This year, Durham criminal justice leaders announced that together, Durham wants our state statute and juvenile code revised to create harsher penalties for gun-related crimes. If elected, would you file or support a bill that would change assault by pointing a gun from a “Class A1 misdemeanor” to a Class 1 felony? Please explain. What other changes would you support or file to change?
Gun-related violence is a serious threat to the safety and peace of citizens in all of our communities including those in the more rural communities in northern Durham and in Durham’s neighboring counties of Person and Caswell.
I will thoughtfully consider supporting all bills that effectively address a specific problem. While “harsher penalties for gun-related crimes” is a good sound bite and it’s tempting to automatically jump on that bandwagon, the reality is that neither Class A1 misdemeanor convictions nor Class I felony convictions require a judge to impose a sentence of active jail time. (Felonies are classified as Class A through I. I assume the question refers to changing Assault By Pointing a Gun to a Class I felony.) In fact, while a person with no prior convictions who is convicted of a Class A1 misdemeanor CAN be sentenced to active jail time up to 60 days, that same person CANNOT be sentenced to any active jail time if convicted of a Class I felony. (See N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.17 and N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.23.) So if anyone thinks “harsher penalties” means “more jail time,” this particular suggestion will not necessarily achieve that goal. To be clear, I am in favor of strong “anti gun violence laws” that have been effective at deterring gun violence in other states or municipalities. I do not believe this proposed change would accomplish that goal.
Our statutes currently contain a “Firearm Enhancement” that allows for additional active time sentencing upon conviction of many Class A through E felonies. (See N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.16A(c).) A thoughtful review of that concept to include a broader range of crimes to which it applies may lead to legislation that more effectively addresses the issue raised here.
While I will support bills that do actually increase penalties for gun related violence, I will not support bills that may make people feel better about our laws if they do not also actually and adequately address identified problems. Such laws are a betrayal of the trust people place in the criminal justice system. I will use my extensive experience in analyzing statutes and bills in all areas of the law to determine if ideas for proposed bills will have their intended effect.
I will support and sponsor bills in the areas of criminal law and criminal procedure that will give our citizens added confidence that our courts are a source of justice for all and that criminal convictions are fairly imposed and firmly adhere to the protections of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.
9. The General Assembly’s been criticized for years as a place where the majority rules and takes unfair advantage to hold onto power, depriving the other party and the public of due-process rights that are basic to a democracy. Do you agree with that criticism? If so, what reforms would you support to make the legislature run better?
In the General Assembly, as in our courts, there should never be a “win at all costs” mentality. While it’s rarely fair to paint an entire group with the same brush, there have been individuals in leadership positions in both parties over the years who may have lost sight at times of their relative personal importance in the process and have impeded what ought to be the rational and reasonable job of legislating.
We have all contributed to creating the prevailing mindset of our General Assembly if we have failed to recruit, support, vote for and elect legislators who reflect the true diversity of North Carolina’s citizens. A diverse body is less likely to engage in the displays of pack mentality we have seen in the recent past. True diversity should be encouraged to allow citizens of all sorts to represent our citizens’ views in the legislative process.
We should investigate and consider imposing term limits on North Carolina legislators. A more regular turn-over would keep new faces circulating through the General Assembly, keeping pace with our changing population and giving North Carolina a chance to take advantage of new ideas and perspectives.
In order to encourage candidates from a broader spectrum of life to run for office, we may need to consider compensating our legislators in a way that will not make holding office an insurmountable financial sacrifice for most. The financial impracticalities of holding office are simply incompatible for most people, particularly women, with the realities and obligations of raising a family, supporting our elders, maintaining a home, supporting our home communities, and paying the bills.
While I am willing to make that sacrifice for the betterment of my district and our state, it is unrealistic to think that many people, especially those not within a short drive of Raleigh, can do that. We simply cannot keep sending the same types of people to Raleigh over and over again and rationally expect a different outcome.
10. On reapportionment, both parties have shown that they will abuse the redistricting process when give a chance. Will you support a bill in the next session to turn all future redistricting over to a non-partisan or bi-partisan independent commission?
I will absolutely support and sponsor legislation to form an independent commission to oversee future redistricting decisions in North Carolina.