Name as it appears on the ballot: Mack Paul
Campaign website: www.mackfornc.com
Phone number: (919) 417-0666
Years lived in the district: 17 years
1. What do you think are the three biggest issues facing our state? If you are an incumbent, what have you done to address those issues, and what more would you do if given another term? If you are a challenger, what would you do differently to address those issues than the incumbent has done?
- Inadequate resources for public education. Invest in public schools by raising teacher salaries, ending vouchers, and providing incentives for advanced training.
- Wage stagnation. Create better pathways through our community college system for the trades and increase the minimum wage.
- Broken political process. Approve an independent commission for redistricting to end extreme gerrymandering and stop attacks on co-equal branches of government.
2. It seems hardly a day goes by without news of another mass shooting. On the state level, what changes to gun laws, if any, do you support? If you do not support any changes, please explain why you think the current laws are successful.
North Carolina must do more to reduce gun violence. Some specific measure I support include background checks, a red-flag law to protect people from domestic abuse and eliminating bump stocks. I am proud to be endorsed by Moms Demand Action which advocates common sense gun safety.
3. In recent years, Duke Energy’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River and Chemours’s GenX leaked into the Cape Fear River. Do you think these companies have been held sufficiently accountable? Do you believe the state has put in place sufficient regulations to prevent these problems from occurring again? If not, what more do you propose doing?
North Carolina has not been holding these companies sufficiently accountable. Environmental damage—particularly in North Carolina—is becoming an increasingly pernicious problem that affects everyone in our state. To help prevent pollution in surface and groundwater, we need to advocate for increased funding and regulatory compliance in order to excavate and transport coal ash from existing impoundments to regulated and lined subtitle D landfills. This would help mitigate the impact of adverse environmental and health effects due to faulty impoundments.
4. In the wake of Hurricane Florence, at least six hog-farm lagoons were damaged and more than fifty saw discharges or were inundated with floodwaters as of this writing, according to the DEQ. More than five thousand hogs have died, and right now it’s unclear what the ultimate long-term environmental impacts will be. Since Hurricane Floyd, environmentalists have warned that, in a severe flooding event, the farms’ “anachronistic” waste-disposal techniques could pose a threat to the state’s waterways and public health, while the industry has insisted that its farms utilize best practices and are already heavily regulated. Do you believe these farms, and their lagoons, pose a risk to the environment? If so, do you believe the state has done enough to minimize that risk?
The General Assembly has a vital responsibility to North Carolina residents. We need to set standards for the best practices in order to mitigate future damage from storms and reduce damage on our schools and communities. All taxpayers bare the burden of higher insurance premiums resulting from these tragedies. As a former member of the NC Building Code Council, we must always look at new techniques to build structures that can withstand wind and flood damage. Communities have a variety of standards for floodplain regulations. These should be standardized. The state could give incentives to assist with flood plain mapping and better planning for resilient development.
5. This year, Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—has lost three verdicts in North Carolina totaling millions of dollars, after juries found that its farms’ methods of waste disposal infringed on the property rights of their neighbors. But in the last two years, the General Assembly has taken steps to make it more difficult for these neighbors to sue or to recover substantial damages, citing the threats these lawsuits pose to the well-being of family farmers. Do you believe the legislature’s actions with regard to these nuisance lawsuits are prudent? Why or why not?
I do not believe that the legislature’s actions are good for this state. There is a long standing line of case law with respect to nuisances that turn on specific facts and criteria. We know that odors from hog waste lagoons can cause a myriad of health conditions. Neighbors should be accorded the rights that others similarly situated have from legitimate nuisances.
6. It has been estimated that special sessions of the North Carolina legislature cost about $50,000 per day. Since 2016, the General Assembly has called seven of them to deal with everything from passing HB 2—the so-called bathroom bill—to passing restrictions on the governor’s powers after Roy Cooper defeated Pat McCrory to, most recently, clean up controversial constitutional amendment language so that it complied with a court order. Under what circumstances do you think it’s appropriate to hold a special session?
There should be exceptional circumstances when the General Assembly holds a special session. Those circumstances include a natural disaster or other crisis facing the state. In particular, the legislature should never hold special sessions simply to create laws that target political opponents or to rig the election process for political gain.
7. What are your thoughts on the six proposed constitutional amendments before voters this November? Please explain which you support and which you don’t support and why. What do you think about the process behind these amendments—what critics have described as a limited public debate, for example, as well as the elimination of amendment numbers and ballot summaries, and the lack of so-called implementing legislation, which could be passed in another special session after the November vote?
There is no legitimate basis to these amendments. I don’t support any of the proposed amendments because they were designed for a political purpose rather than a valid constitutional basis. There certainly are many legitimate issues encompassed within several amendments that should be addressed. However they could be better addressed through other legislative means. Changing our constitution as a partisan power move will only tear at the fabric of our democracy.
8. In May, thousands of teachers from all over the state marched on the legislature to demand better pay, more resources for students, and more respect. Do you think North Carolina’s schools are being adequately funded? If not, what taxes would you be willing to raise—or what services would you be willing to cut—to fund them better?
I do not think North Carolina schools are being adequately funded. We should roll back and/or delay massive tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy to fund our schools more adequately. I am proud to have the endorsement of NCAE and commit to finding additional resources for public education.
9. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage?
Yes. The biggest crisis facing our state is the hollowing out of the middle class as reflective in wage stagnation. In addition, we see the mounting costs of healthcare, housing and education that add to the tremendous financial burden experienced by working people. Increasing the minimum wage is one step among many to address the crisis of our time.
10. Under current law, toward the end of 2020, municipalities will gain the authority to pass nondiscrimination and living wage ordinances—unless the General Assembly intervenes. Since the winner of your race will be in office at that time, do you believe local governments in North Carolina should be allowed to make these decisions for themselves?
Absolutely. Local governments must have authority and discretion to take measures to protect the economic and civil rights of their residents. Increasingly, companies make decisions about location and growth based on policies that are favorable to their workers. Unfortunately this General Assembly has cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars in investments and thousands of jobs by targeting local government. This must stop.
11. Over the last couple of years in Wake County, county commissioners and school board members have battled over local school funding. Recently, some commissioners have made moves to petition the legislature to allow for a pilot program in which the Board of Commissioners turns over school-taxing authority to the Board of Education, as is the arrangement in most states. In general, do you believe the state’s elected school boards should have the responsibility to raise taxes for the schools they oversee? Why or why not?
As a public school advocate, I have worked closely both Wake County and WCPSS over the years and know that school funding creates tension due to the respective authorities held by these governing bodies. There are studies that support granting school boards taxing authority and studies that do not. I believe the current governance structure has merit. However, I am open to further input on this matter.
12. Since Governor Cooper’s election, the legislature has taken a number of steps to assume powers that were previously the executive’s domain, including overhauling the State Board of Elections. Do you believe these decisions were merely power grabs, as Democrats have alleged, or that they were made in the interests of public policy?
By in large, these actions have been driven by an effort to consolidate power in the General Assembly and target perceived political enemies. They are short sighted. Any efforts to reshape the respective powers held by the co-equal branches of government demand substantial analysis and public debate, lacking in this instance. Our actions that undermine political institutions like the executive branch are an attack on Democracy itself.
13. Over the last year, the state has frequently found itself in court over its legislative and congressional districts, which courts have ruled to be unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymanders. Given this, do you believe the state legislature of that last several years has acted as a legitimate body? If not, what do you propose as a solution? If yes, please tell us why.
Extreme gerrymandering is at the root of the polarization that is tearing this country apart. The correct solution is an independent commission for redistricting. An independent commission for redistricting would remove party influence and allow equal and precise representation of our constituents opinions and elected officials. More importantly, it would insure that voters get to select their leaders rather than the General Assembly and it would bring political debate back to the center where most people reside.
14. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.
For many years, I argued with friends who supported campaign finance reform that it was an exercise in futility and that candidates should be free to spend unlimited funds. As the Citizen United decision and seeing the influx of “dark money,” I concluded that my friends were right all along. Unlimited campaign spending, which ensure the person with the biggest wallet has the loudest megaphone, has damaged our Democracy. Like extreme gerrymandering, it greatly exacerbates polarization by directing voters to the most divisive issues used to inflame our emotions rather than debate important issues.
15. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.
If elected, I will call out my fellow Democrats when they use extreme partisan rhetoric for political gain. There need to be more voices calling for civility and a focus on issues that affect us all. I recognize there are those within the base who thrive on extreme rhetoric and they may be critical when elected leaders opt to find common ground rather than take advantage of a political opening.