Issues & Policy Priorities

Strong Public Schools

I was raised in North Carolina public schools. My teachers at Elmhurst Elementary, E.B. Aycock Middle, J.H. Rose High, and UNC shaped me into the person I am today. I’m saddened when I return to these schools and see our students no longer have the support they need to succeed. Our schools have classrooms with pipes leaking through the ceiling, overflowing class sizes, and underpaid teachers. And this year, we also have COVID-19 and distance learning to deal with. I’m proud to be endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

Lock up the Education Lottery Funding

The NC Education Lottery was sold to us as a *supplement* for existing education funding, and at least 35% of proceeds were supposed to go towards our schools. Instead, politicians removed the safeguards that required the lottery funds to be a supplement to the education budget and that the revenue be used for educational purposes. If that wasn’t bad enough, they then began hacking away at our permanent funding sources for public schools. I’m going to Raleigh to Lock Up the Lottery so we’re funding our schools -- not politician’s pet projects.

Raise Teacher Pay & Rebuild the Pipeline

For years our teachers have been pushed to the brink because politicians in Raleigh failed to make education funding a priority, and with COVID they're expected to do even more. Our teacher pay is 37th in the nation, per pupil spending is 39th, and many experienced teachers have left the profession or the state to provide for their families. As representative, I’ll fight to raise teacher pay to the national average over the next five years, fully restore the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program (with an added emphasis on diversity), and restore pay incentives for educators who earn graduate degrees. We must rebuild our teaching pipeline, recruiting the best and brightest into the classroom.

Make Distance Learning more Effective

Teachers, parents, and students are all overwhelmed right now. With half of our students taking virtual classes and the other half balancing confusing in-person schedules, it takes a toll on everyone involved -- and parents with younger children are facing difficult decisions. Our schools need someone fighting for them in the Legislature to get resources for safety equipment and online educational systems that work for each grade-level. Frankly, they also need someone who’s willing to say that we need to make realistic plans, rather than just passing off the tough work to underpaid teachers and overworked parents.

Freeze College Tuition

In the past 12 years tuition at public universities in NC has increased by 45%. Gone are the days when students could pay tuition and housing while working a minimum-wage job. Instead, one in six of NC students are severely delinquent on student loan debt. In the Legislature I’ll advocate for a tuition and fee freeze to stop putting our children in decades of debt and instead restore our state support for public colleges. I’ll also hold university leaders accountable for bad financial decisions, and fight to rebuild the bipartisan reputation of the UNC System.

Healthy People

I believe in health care that doesn’t break the bank. I will advocate for a healthcare system where everyone can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick, get prescriptions for a reasonable price, and have their pre-existing conditions covered. I will fight for funding for a new Brody School of Medicine facility as well as Medicaid Expansion which will cover 13,000 more Pitt County residents and create 500 new local jobs.

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion would give over 500-thousand more North Carolinians the care they need, including over 13,000 Pitt County working parents, veterans, children, and those with pre-existing conditions who fall through the cracks. The majority of these families are already employed and just don't make enough to purchase health insurance on their own. Expansion would also create over 500 new healthcare jobs, inject over $114 million more into the economy of Pitt County, and prevent rural hospitals from closing.

Emergency Funding

If it hadn’t been vetoed, the State Legislature’s conference budget would have cut $42 million in funding for staff at DHHS. Secretary Cohen said even without COVID-19, but especially with it, there was “no scenario” in which the state agency could have delivered the pandemic response we need. I worked in emergency management for a federal agency and know firsthand the need for a robust crisis response team -- I will advocate to keep DHHS funding intact so we are prepared for our next emergency.

Brody School of Medicine

The Brody School of Medicine building is nearly 40 years old. I’ll fight to fund construction of a new Brody School of Medicine facility, retrofitted with the newest in medical innovations. This will allow us to increase class size and train our future health care providers on the 21st-century technology they’ll need to use on the job.

Telehealth

For many families it can take hours to drive to the nearest doctor, therapist, or specialist. By expanding rural broadband, health care can be just a click away. During social distancing, telemedicine has been extremely helpful for patients -- now we need to make sure all folks, regardless of where they live in NC, can access health care. Expanding rural broadband would give nearly 260,000 NC households, including 11,000 in Pitt County, internet and telehealth access.

Good Jobs & Opportunity

We need a tax system that rewards hard work, but also makes sure that everyone’s paying their fair share, including big corporations. I will work to increase local job opportunities by finishing the I-587 spur and expanding rural broadband. I support grant/loan assistance for small businesses hurt by the pandemic, raising the minimum, paid family leave, and tax cuts for low-wage families.

Small Business COVID Grants/Loans

Small businesses are among those being hit hardest during COVID -- and receiving the least support. Within two weeks of launching the $349 billion PPP loan program, the funding had been exhausted, with big corporations getting the first of the funds while small businesses sat in limbo. As “small business” funds intended for rent and payroll were used to pay conglomerate CEOs million-dollar salaries, local businesses were forced to shut down permanently. North Carolina’s businesses deserve help in re-opening and re-hiring their workers, which is why I will fight for low-interest forgivable loans at the state level earmarked for SMALL businesses, not big corporations.

Paid Family Medical Leave

At some point, nearly everyone needs time to recover from a serious illness, care for a sick loved one, or tend to a new child. Unfortunately, the majority of working people in North Carolina cannot take the leave they need without risking their jobs or economic security. Too often, people are forced to choose between what is best for their families and income they need to cover basic expenses. That’s why I support enacting a paid family and medical leave insurance program that allows working people to continue receiving a portion of their wages when they need time away from work for family or medical reasons.

State Earned Income Tax Credit

I’ll fight to restore the State Earned Income Tax Credit, which would provide a tax cut to 25% of Pitt County’s residents who earn lower-wages as sales clerks, health care techs and aides, restaurant workers, early childhood teachers, and military service members. This bottom-up tax cut would put $2 million back in the pockets of our low-wage workers in Pitt County.

Complete the I-587 Spur

Interstate access is a critical consideration for companies looking to locate or expand their businesses in new markets. Unfortunately, Greenville is the largest city in North Carolina without an interstate connection. I’ll fight to secure funding for the completion of I-587 to improve our highway access, economic opportunity, and capacity to respond during natural disasters.

Raise the Minimum Wage

Our minimum wage has not kept up with inflation and the cost of living, and with 20% of Pitt County families living below the poverty line for the past twenty years, it's clear we need to be doing more to support workers. When elected, I’ll support incrementally raising the wage to $15/hour by 2025 and indexing future increases to the cost of living so politicians can’t use people’s paychecks as a political football and wage workers don’t lose purchasing power.

Justice for All

Our justice system is in dire need of reform. I will advocate for sending more youth to diversion programs rather than prison, treating mental health issues as an illness not a crime, and helping formerly incarcerated people re-enter society and gain economic security through good jobs. I believe that black lives matter and there are concrete steps we can take, such as body cameras and independent investigations, to make a fairer justice system.

Youth Diversion Programs

Growing up in Pitt County, I volunteered in Teen Court -- a community-based mediation program where offenders go before their peers to take responsibility for their crimes. Innovative programs like this see far fewer youth ending up being arrested again. Other diversion programs include counseling, making amends with those they’ve hurt, and community service. Judges and court staff overwhelmingly support these programs, and it gives us the opportunity to put a kid on the right path rather than in prison. When elected, I’ll fight to make sure critical programs like these are funded to provide juvenile courts with more treatment options.

Mental Health Court

Thanks to the leadership of local leaders like District Court Judge Wendy Hazelton, a newly-established Behavioral Health Treatment Court will hold its first session this year. The courts collaborative relationship with mental health treatment agencies will help qualified individuals get the medical treatment they need, rather than sit in prison. Researchers who followed participants’ lives for a decade found that Mental Health Courts reduced re-arrest rates by 35.2%. While the start-up funds are in place thanks to local partners, we must secure long-term funding from the state for this initiative to continue. When elected, I’ll build partnerships in the legislature and with NC DOJ to make sustainable funding a reality.

Reentry Programs

21% of North Carolinians who return to the community from incarceration every year are rearrested within their first year of release.Successful reentry supports individuals before they leave incarceration so they have the support and tools they need to continue to build successful lives and remain productive members of their communities. That’s why when elected, I will champion the full implementation of North Carolina’s Reentry Action Plan, as well as build stronger partnerships between DPS and North Carolina Community Colleges so incarcerated persons can develop skills while in prison to help build a new life.

Police Accountability

I want to help build a world that values black lives, has accountability for our police force, and reforms our broken justice system. We have to commit to real reforms to repair centuries of systemic racism and inequality. Our state must be a national leader in accountability by conducting thorough investigations that provide a just and efficient means to reduce incidents of police misconduct. I’ll advocate for a state independent oversight committee, with appointed members of the public and the justice system working together to bolster accountability, hold law enforcement to the highest standards, and reduce racial inequality. I'll also support body camera requirements and mandatory de-escalation trainings.

Protecting our Environment

I strongly believe in standing up for our environment and clean energy opportunities from the mountains to the coast. We need to tackle climate change head-on, transition to a clean energy economy, and protect our communities from the rapidly increasing impacts of hurricanes and floods. I’m proud to be endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club.

Climate Change

The world’s leading experts have long known that climate change is man-made, and we are running out of time to do something about it. We already see the negative effects everyday right here in Eastern North Carolina -- record floods and devastating hurricanes -- in events that cost lives and cause billions of dollars in damage, and that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable communities. We need to implement the North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, a comprehensive strategy for reducing our state’s vulnerability to climate change. It’s a bold plan, but it only works if we have bold leaders willing to make it happen. Let’s get to work.

Protect Our Coasts

With 1.2 million North Carolinians living in coastal counties, we are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. While we work to reverse global warming, we also need to prepare for the natural disaster we are already expecting. We must invest now in disaster mitigation -- and thankfully, studies show every dollar we invest now saves us $6 down the line on recovery. Using my experience in emergency management, I’ll lead on helping communities recover from natural disasters. I’ll fight for major prevention measures like a state buyout program that builds flood resilience within at-risk communities, and I’ll strongly oppose offshore drilling that threatens the entire coastal environment and its economy.

Clean Energy Economy

If we do this right, we can create good-paying, local jobs in clean and renewable energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing - benefiting from the cost savings here at home and exporting our products to communities across the globe. That’s why when elected I’ll fight to implement the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan, which aims to reduce electric power sector greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 and attain carbon neutrality by 2050. I will work to make sure that sustainable technology has the same fair access to the overall energy marketplace and push for a new zero-carbon building standard in all new and renovated state buildings.

Scientific Honesty

For years, legislators in Raleigh have ignored scientific data when the results showed something they didn’t like. For example, in 2010 a panel of scientists from the Coastal Resources Commission presented a report showing sea levels could rise 39 inches over the next 100 years, putting 2,000 square miles in jeopardy. Instead of accepting the science and taking action to protect coastal communities, lawmakers and special interests squashed the report. Elected officials cannot be allowed to silence science. When elected, I’ll make sure we protect the integrity of scientific data and that critical reports can’t be silenced just because someone doesn’t like what they hear.

Fixing Broken Government

I believe government is at its best when our public officials are responsive to the people – and only the people. Eliminating corruption in elections and in our government is critical, which is why I will fight to end gerrymandering through an independent redistricting commission, close the revolving door of politicians turned lobbyists, get dark money out of politics, and protect everyone’s right to vote. I’m proud to be endorsed by anti-corruption leader former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Get Money Out of Politics

As the cost of campaigning skyrockets, special interests with deep pockets have stepped in to influence election and policy outcomes -- all while hiding where their cash is coming from. Every organization that spends money influencing an election should be required to disclose their donors. When elected, I’ll advocate for comprehensive campaign finance reform to bring dark money into the light and make sure this democracy belongs to ALL of us.

Shut the Revolving Door of Lobbying

Right now, North Carolina legislators only have to wait six months after leaving office before they can start getting paid to lobby their former colleagues. It reeks of corruption and unfair influence. North Carolinians should never have to question whether their Representative is putting lobbyists or the people first. That’s why I’ll fight for a five-year minimum waiting period before former legislators can become a lobbyist. We must tighten up the rules to ensure that when public officials are making decisions, they are considering only the public interest — not paving their way to a fancy lobbying career.

Independent Redistricting Commission

For too long, politicians have used the redistricting process to gerrymander districts that protect incumbents, divide communities, and take power away from the voters. When elected, I'll fight to establish an Independent Redistricting Commission and get all political parties out of the map making business. Together, we will rebuild a democracy where voters pick their politicians - not the other way around.

Restore Nonpartisan Judges Races

Under the current legislature, North Carolina became the first state in nearly a century to switch from nonpartisan to partisan judicial elections. We deserve judges who make decisions based on the Constitution and our laws, not which political party gets them elected. When elected, I’ll fight for a truly independent judiciary by restoring what politicians have tampered with and making our courts nonpartisan again.