Name as it appears on the ballot: MaryAnn E. Black

Campaign website:

Phone number: 919.357.2236


Years lived in the district: I have lived in Durham since 1970. I have been in the district since its inception.

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?

My priority is to present and vote for needed legislation that is fair and will serve the people of. N.C. Three main issues facing our state.

1. A living wage for families that will help them move out of poverty. I believe that all individuals should have the right to provide a better life for themselves and their families regardless of their work. The legislation I sponsored or co-sponsored to address the issues are:

H289, a living wage, which didn’t pass the House but will be introduced again. H334 Families Stabilization Act, Ref to rules, and H544 Healthy Families & Paid Workplace /Paid sick days referred to the committee on Health.

2.Medicaid Expansion: We continue to deny health care to more than 400 thousand people in North Carolina. Every person has a right to quality health care and I want to continue my work in the House to expand Medicaid.(Please see my op-ed in the Durham Herald-Sun dated February 5, 2018.)

3. The Environment: We are being made sick and dying from the pesticides and other chemicals in our food, water and air. Cleaning up our environment is a top priority. I tried to bring an amendment to the floor that would make polluters pay for polluting our environment. The amendment was to be ruled out of order. I plan to continue bringing environmental protection bills forward and fighting to ensure polluters are held accountable for their actions.

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.

I believe that we need to take a hard look at the sort of weapons we allow citizens to own. Powerful guns, such as the semi-automatic AR-15, which is capable of shooting up to 60 rounds per minute should not be in the hands of untrained citizens. These weapons serve one purpose and one purpose only: to harm other human beings. I believe that we should raise the age requirement for purchasing a gun to 21, with exceptions for active military personnel. In addition, I am a proponent of extending background checks to private purchases and gun shows/auctions.

As a member of the House Select Committee on School Safety, I authored four amendments to address school safety, one of which had provisions concerning arms regulation. In order to get that amendment passed, that provision had to be removed. I plan to continue pushing for legislation that will address this issue in order to keep our young people safe. I also support legislation brought forward by my colleague, Durham Representative Marcia Morey, which would allow judges to temporarily remove weapons from an individual who demonstrated themselves as a credible threat to themselves or to others. 

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?

I don’t believe these companies have been held sufficiently accountable. I will vote against having the taxpayer or the home owners who use the service pay for the clean-up. I will support funding the Department of Environmental Quality to hire more personnel to monitor and enforce environmental rules and regulations.

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 industrial hog farms in North Carolina pose an imminent threat to our environment. I believe that the legislature failed in their duty to protect the citizens of North Carolina when they passed the Hog Farm bill. Sadly, despite the legislative briefing which detailed the amount of waste on the walls of homes in the area as well as the illnesses that plagued the families, the bill was passed. I don’t believe that in the wealthiest nation on earth, our citizens should have to suffer in this way. Farms must come up with more innovative and fiscally responsible solutions to this problem.

We must do more to protect our citizens.

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?

Let me be clear: the bills introduced in the House on behalf of Smithfield were a slap in the face to the people of North Carolina. All citizens have a right to protect themselves. For the Legislature to prevent families from recovering financial losses after a massive out of state corporation abused their environment undermines our values as a state. Many of the families living next to these farms, seeking justice were African American. Those bills should not have been introduced nor should they have been passed.

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?

A special session should be held when we have an emergency in the state, not for political gamesmanship that seeks to rig the system when things don’t go our way. Hurricane Florence called for a special session. Adding six constitutional amendments to the ballot out of fear of losing power in November doesn’t meet that standard.

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?

I voted against adding all the six proposed constitutionals amendments to the ballot. Why should an unconstitutionally elected legislature that sought to disenfranchise African Americans with “surgical precision,” be allowed to permanently change our constitution? I have also spoken to groups about the six and explained why they are not needed. Amending the constitution is a serious matter. None of the six meet the standard.

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?

Yes, I support more funding for the schools. In addition, we must figure out what educational policies, curriculum and technology we need to improve our educational system. Too many of our schools and students are failing. We must do better by our youth, the future of our state depends on it.

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, I am a co-sponsor of H289.Living Wage. We live in a time of great wealth. If a single mother loses her job tomorrow, she should be able to find a job that helps provide for her family. Higher wages put more money in people’s pockets and allows them to reinvest in our economy.

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?

I believe that the state government has a role in providing the minimal acceptable standard on issues concerning non-discrimination and living wage ordinances. We should both expand non-discrimination protections and increase our state minimum wage, allowing for an adjustment for inflation every year. From there, I think each local government should be allowed to make the decisions that best fit their area. The cost of living varies across our state and what might be considered livable in the east is inherently different than what is livable in places like Durham.

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?

I am concerned that if we have three separate entities taxing communities with a small tax base that we are not looking out for the best interest for property owners. I think school funding is better managed at the state and county level and that we should prioritize protecting low-income homeowners.

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?

The current state legislature was unconstitutionally elected. The Republican supermajority, which is able to make all of these decisions without the input of a single Democrat, drew our legislative maps in a way that silenced their opposition. They are now seeking to undermine the Governor, who was actually elected in a constitutional manner. I wish I could say that the moves that are being made are in the interest of good government, but that simply would not be the truth.

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.

Partisan gerrymandering is wrong, regardless of who does it. Leaders should not choose who vote for them, it should be the other way around. How else are we to be held accountable for our actions? We need to establish an independent committee to draw the districts. These districts should be fair and not be drawn in a manner that favors any one party or incumbent.

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.

I believe in coming into all legislation with a level head and an open heart. As a county commissioner, the school merger of the Durham City and County schools was a time when I changed a position after talking with and listening to citizens and experts on the issue. It is important for our leaders to grow and adapt.

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.

As public servants, I believe it is our responsibility to serve the people we represent. If we take actions that only benefit our reelection, then we are no longer public servants, we are self-servants. In my tenure as both a Representative and County Commissioner I have a record of taking difficult and sometimes controversial stands on many issues where I was met with frustration and threatened with withdrawal of support. I’m alright with this. I understand that all communities have certain interest they are passionate about. In the end, after truly considering the arguments from all sides, I will make decisions based on factual evidence and what I believe to be fair and just. I will support policies that put value into a hard day’s work, protect the health and well-being of all families, and recognize the importance of community. I urge you to reach out and talk to me if there is ever any question on where I stand on an issue.