Cary, NC — The last of four Cary Chamber 2020 Candidate Forums was held yesterday morning and had, by far, the least amount of debate and disagreements.
This was because out of the 8 candidates running that were invited, the only ones to attend were the three incumbent Democratic candidates. That’s also likely the reason the forum lasted 27 minutes in comparison to its original time slot of one hour.
The three candidates got a chance to introduce themselves and answered two questions — one on the last biennium’s budget failure and another on technology. Here’s a look at what they had to say.
District 15: Senator Jay Chaudhuri (D)
Chaudhuri is currently in his 5th year of serving in the NC Senate, representing parts of Raleigh, Cary and Garner. He describes his public service as a way to give back and to ensure people have a chance to move up the economic ladder and make better lives for themselves. Some of his top priorities are to expand Medicaid, stop the virus and provide a safety net for the people who need it.
Note: Chaudhuri’s challengers Kat McDonald (L) and Mario Lomuscio (R) did not attend the forum.
District 16: Senator Wiley Nickel (D)
Nickel is finishing up his first Senate term, representing parts of Cary, Morrisville and northwest Raleigh. He’s an attorney, a small business owner and is a big supporter of the expansion of Medicaid. That’s the first bill he co-sponsored as a Senator and if Democrats are elected as the majority following this election, he says, “that will be the first bill that we file and pass.”
Note: Nickel’s challenger Will Marsh (R) did not attend the forum.
District 17: Senator Sam Searcy (D)
Searcy represents southern Raleigh and now part of western Wake County including west Cary. He grew up in the area and received a public NC education. When he looks at this election and what’s to come after, he is dialed in on four things — Medicaid expansion, independent redistricting, small business COVID relief and improving public school teacher salaries to at least the national average.
Note: Searcy’s challengers Travis Groo (L) and Mark Cavaliero (R) did not attend the forum.
Discussing the Budget
In the last biennium the legislature failed to pass a budget. What will you do to ensure that the same does not happen again for 2021-2022?
Senator Chaudhuri noted that the last time around there were certainly areas of differences, as the NC House representatives also shared in another forum. One area of contention he mentioned was in the investment into North Carolina’s public education system. A secondary argument was also on Medicaid. Although, this time around, Chaudhuri said there’s room for compromises.
“I suspect, given the makeup of the senate as we go forward, we will find a compromise. I’m also optimistic if we take the majority we will pass a budget that will reflect the priorities that will help both our investment in public education and help small businesses,” said Chaudhuri.
Senator Nickel was straightforward, saying it was “just a bad budget” that did not do enough for education. Both he and Searcy mentioned that they want to see the state of North Carolina at least reach the national average investment into public education. He said NC currently is ranked at 40th in the country for the lowest spending per student.
Much like Chaudhuri said, Nickel echoed that he believes common ground can be found and a budget can be passed if Democrats take the majority. He also shared that the budget, if approved, would relocate the state’s Department of Health and Human Services headquarters about an hour away to Granville County — something he and Searcy voiced against.
“When it came to this budget, I was vehemently opposed to moving DHHS to Granville County,” said Searcy, saying it would have been detrimental to the local economy in the districts in and around Cary. Looking to more directly answer the question, Searcy said that he thinks budgets will be able to move forward better in the next session with focuses on education, healthcare and small business relief.
Top Concern for 2021
What do you think is the largest issue our state will face in the coming year?
Nickel’s top concern was non-partisan, independent redistricting reform which would impact the way the maps for NC districts are drawn in order to get rid of gerrymandering.
Searcy said the main, defining issue for the next session will be the pandemic and specifically how the legislators come together to pull the state out of the negative impacts on the economy and on the lives of citizens.
Chaudhuri doubled down with Searcy by saying “tackling the pandemic and the challenges the pandemic continues to present to us will be the number one issue.”
Story by Ashley Kairis. Forum image screen captured from the live forum. Others courtesy of the candidates.
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