SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — Representative Deb Butler currently serves House District 18, which covers western New Hanover County and northern Brunswick County.
As a registered Democrat, Butler was appointed to her current seat in February last year, replacing Susi Hamilton, who stepped down to serve as Governor Cooper’s Secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Butler is running as a defacto unopposed candidate. Republican challenger Louis Harmati has not responded to calls or emails, but has declared to other news outlets that his campaign is officially inactive — though his name will appear on the ballot. Libertarian challenger Joseph Sharp did respond, but declined to answer questions citing a busy work schedule.
Below are Butler’s answers to Port City Daily’s questions:
What do you bring to the table?
Forthrightness, integrity and honesty which in my opinion are in short supply in the political
arena. I’ve been accused of being perhaps too straightforward sometimes, but I just don’t know any other way. There is a lot that needs fixing in North Carolina and in Washington, and I think people are tired of the arguing and are looking for intelligent, forthright, and candid representatives who focus on solutions instead of division and churning everyone up all the time. That sort of approach is damaging us as a nation and it has to stop.
What bills do you hope to introduce this legislative session?
The outcome of the election will determine what bills are actually capable of moving, but I would hope that we can agree that it is time for aggressive water quality legislation. I would appropriate more money to the Department of Environmental Quality as their budget has been absolutely slashed in recent years, and I would change the burden of proof so that anyone discharging into our public trust waters must FIRST prove that there are no adverse health risks associated with it. I also want to initiate a bold agenda to make North Carolina a top ten educated state over the course of the next decade. This has been our heritage and we must use our best efforts to get back to valuing public education for all, paying teachers like professionals, and increasing per-pupil spending. I also am committed to the expansion of Medicaid so that we can get more of our citizens the healthcare that they need, we can create jobs, and hopefully save our rural hospitals from closing.
What is the weakest aspect of the General Assembly at this time?
Unconstitutional gerrymandering has left us with unfair voting districts so that the General
Assembly doesn’t really reflect the true composition of the citizenry of North Carolina. It has created a circumstance where a veto-proof supermajority has run roughshod over the true will of the people. The maps are drawn to preordain the outcome and that is terribly wrong. We must have independently drawn voting districts because the candidates have no business choosing their voters. I support an independent commission for this purpose.
What is the strongest aspect of the General Assembly at this time?
As I write this, we have just endured a natural disaster in Hurricane Florence. I am encouraged that the General Assembly members have thus far pulled together to initiate recovery efforts. I am encouraged that this common threat has created unity in our response. I am hopeful that it will endure to see us through this very challenging time.
How are you similar to your constituents? How are you different?
I am just like my constituents because I work every day to earn a living. I am a native North Carolinian who grew up in our public school system and worked my way through college and law school and I take great pride in hard work and a job well done. I guess I’m different a bit because I don’t know too many people in my coastal casual community who work in pantyhose and heels anymore!
What are the top three issues District 18 faces at this time?
1. Housing for those displaced by Hurricane Florence and necessary aid for those
2. Water quality was already at the top of my list, but particularly so in light of Genx with the added contaminations of hog waste and coal ash.
3. We don’t pay our teachers and our first responders well enough for them to afford to live in the communities they serve. The storm has illustrated that in no uncertain terms.
That is shameful and I am committed to improving this situation in an aggressive
How specifically do you plan to address these issues as an elected representative?
1. I will push for a robust appropriation for storm relief and will continue to press FEMA for
housing solutions for those temporarily displaced.
2. There are several pieces of legislation that are necessary to address water quality, but
chiefly among them is to repeal what is known as the Hardison Amendment. The Hardison
Amendment prevents NC from passing any rule or regulation more stringent than those
passed by the EPA. I believe firmly that NC should be in charge of determining what is best
for NC’s natural resources. Then we must also hire more chemists, scientists,
epidemiologists and permit officers to police our rivers, lakes and streams from bad actors
like Dupont and Chemours.
What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishments of your current term?
I have put forward statewide anti-discrimination legislation and been a loud voice on the
issue and I have a promise from Governor Cooper that he will sign such a bill (anti HB2) just as soon as we can pass it through the General Assembly. I have fought non-stop against big chemical companies who are polluting our drinking water. I have supported Medicaid expansion to give more people access to the health care they deserve. I continue to advocate for the Film Industry and I believe we should restore the successful rebate program that worked brilliantly for us for decades. It should never have been repealed. The current grant program has proven to be a bust.
Do you believe the state’s film industry shift from an incentive to a grant program for the film industry has been successful?
Does the state’s environmental team have the resources it needs to address the issues we’re facing?
Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at firstname.lastname@example.org