WILMINGTON — Democrat candidate Marcia Morgan is running for the North Carolina House of Representatives for District 19. The district is home to about 80,000 residents and includes the land area from Wrightsville Beach south to Carolina and Kure Beach.
District 19 is currently represented by Republican Ted Davis Jr. who is also running for reelection along with Libertarian David Perry.
Below are Morgan’s answers to Port City Daily’s questions.
What makes you the best candidate to represent District 19? What are your qualifications and work experiences that you think will be valuable to the residents of the district?
I’m the best candidate because I care. I care about the people for whom I am responsible, I care about the condition of the state we live in, and I know the value of listening. I’m not running for office because of any lifelong dream of being a politician—I had gotten pretty good at retirement! However, as a former teacher and retired Army colonel, I was in service industries my entire adult life, and I think politics should be a service industry, too—but I’ve grown frustrated because I’ve seen too many politicians treat it as a place where they see how much THEY can get out if it. That isn’t right.
My background, especially when I worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, allowed me to experience first-hand the value of collaborating, communicating and cooperating with a variety of entities, each with their own needs and agendas, to find the best solution. Part of my training is as a systems analyst, figuring out how to get things done in the most efficient manner possible.
The reality is that the people of North Carolina are sick of partisan politics and are ready for the people that they send to Raleigh to figure out how to work together to get things done for the good of the people. From working with pre-kindergarten students at a Head Start program to working with four-star generals to determine the best logistical plan for a military campaign, I have the range of skills necessary to work with the different personalities and people in the legislature in order to affect positive change in North Carolina. I’m also not beholden to any corporations or special interest groups, nor do I plan to make this a lifetime career; I only want to serve and give back to the hard-working families in this community.
What issues are the biggest concerns for you as a candidate? What do you hope to accomplish if elected?
Water quality is a huge concern here, and Hurricane Florence only exacerbated our existing issues. In my opinion, clean drinking water is an issue that can and should transcend party lines; ensuring that our citizens have drinking water which is free from toxins while those responsible for polluting our environment are held responsible for the cost of cleanup—not allowing the fees to be shifted to the taxpayers—is a top priority.
Similarly, renewing our commitment to the education of our children is a high priority; our public education system was once heralded as one of the top in the nation but thanks to the GOP’s desire to give tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, our children and teachers are suffering. Raising teacher pay and per-pupil spending at least to the national average are our first steps to getting back on track, as is looking at ways to incentivize new teachers and to reward veteran teachers.
Creating good-paying, environmentally responsible jobs is also critically important. Wilmington and the beaches are beautiful places to live. We can create a win-win situation by attracting businesses and industries that respect our natural resources and want to take advantage of our prime location, progressive attitude, and diverse, well-educated workforce.
What is your opinion on companies like Chemours and DuPont continuing to discharge waste into N.C. waterways? Have you taken any campaign money from DuPont of any subsidiary?
We cannot allow companies like Chemours/DuPont, Duke Energy or any other corporation to continue using our waterways as sewers. Our natural resources, like the Cape Fear River, are simply too valuable and too fragile to allow them to be abused in this way.
These companies are at the forefront of technology and enjoy massive profits each year. It is entirely reasonable to expect that they could develop a way to safely dispose of their waste and byproducts instead of allowing them to cut corners to maximize profits for shareholders. If they’re caught and forced to pay symbolic fines? No big deal. More often than not, the Republican General Assembly — who has taken campaign money from them on many occasions — tends to vote for rate and tax increases, allowing these companies to eventually pass along their cleanup costs to taxpayers and ratepayers. This is systematically wrong.
I have not, nor will I, accept a dime of campaign contributions from Chemours, DuPont, Duke Energy or any other company that pollutes our region’s air or waterways. And when I am elected, I will not only hold these companies responsible for cleaning up their own mess, but I will fight to put stronger environmental regulations in place so that these corporate polluters cannot poison our delicate natural resources in the first place.
What are your opinions on the constitutional amendments on the ballot this election? Do you find it right to take rights from the executive branch and give them to the state legislature? In one example the amendment would be legislating around a state Supreme Court ruling —- do you find it okay to undermine a judicial ruling simply because it does not favor your party?
I am against all six amendments on the ballot. While on the surface several of them may sound as if they have merit, none of them have any level of detail behind them. We have no idea how the legislature would implement them—and given the dishonorable way in which they were conceived and added (late at night, with no discussion or debate allowed), I have concerns about what they would look like when put into practice.
While my Republican opponent may say “Why don’t we let the voters decide?” I would suggest that the GOP is presenting voters with choices based on false premises. For example, Ted Davis is pressing for Voter ID based on fears of widespread voter fraud, but in 2016, the State Board of Elections found that out of 4,769,640 votes cast throughout North Carolina, one would have been prevented with Voter ID. One.
It’s telling that we’ve added only four or so amendments to the ballot over the last 20 years and this year alone, the legislature is attempting to add six, many on the same topics they tried to pass via legislation but were deemed illegal.
No, I do not condone any attempt to undermine a judicial ruling. The court system was established to interpret the laws, without bias or favoritism for one party over another.
What can the General Assembly do better to help Wilmington New Hanover County? What state legislation do you personally think will benefit the region?
There are many things that the General Assembly could do to help the Wilmington area, but I’ll focus on the top three.
The first thing the General Assembly can do is get serious about truly serving the people who voted them into office. New Hanover County’s citizens are paying for undrinkable water. We cannot trust what comes out of our taps or the water fountains at our children’s schools. We’re giving bottled water to our pets. We’re anxious. We don’t know the long-term effects of GenX and whatever else may be in the Cape Fear River, but we know it isn’t good for us. Cleaning up our water must be a top priority for our legislature.
Related to this, we also need our legislators to protect the vibrant natural resources that we rely on—not only for our drinking water but for our tourism and fishing industries—by enacting environmental reforms that keep corporations here and in other areas of the state from polluting our fragile ecosystems. This includes standing with our Governor to send the President a message that drilling off of the coast of North Carolina is a no-go. Our legislators must also identify permanent, sustainable sources of funds for beach renourishment, shallow inlet dredging, and coastal storm damage reduction projects.
And third, our legislature could have an enormous positive financial impact on our area by reverting to our previous tax credit system for the film industry, abandoning the much less successful grant-based system it adopted in 2014. I’ll expand on this answer more in question #9 below, but suffice it to say that I agree film=jobs and revenue.
Do you feel like water-quality issues in the region have been handled acceptably so far? If not, what steps would you take?
I believe the Republican General Assembly has failed the people of this area on the GenX issue. If your house is on fire, you don’t step back and study the fire to see what started it and how it is continuing to burn; you put the fire out. Similarly, when legislators found out that their constituents were drinking toxic water, they should have put politics aside and stopped the problem immediately. The fact that people in Wilmington are still drinking (and paying a premium for) tainted water more than 18 months after it was discovered is completely absurd and unacceptable.
I would take a zero-tolerance approach with Chemours and any other companies discharging into the Cape Fear River, also cracking down on their cat-and-mouse games of changing the chemical makeup by a molecule and calling the resulting byproduct something different to throw off testing. I would have Chemours immediately cease operations until it could prove that any discharged water was free from chemicals, and would ensure that both state and independent testers be allowed to verify results, no longer allowing companies to self-report. Additionally, I would support stronger regulations and higher penalties for any companies that violate those regulations, including compensation for communities, landowners and taxpayers for cleanup, loss of use and other damages.
What role, if any, do you see for the state in beach renourishment?
Healthy beaches are resilient and living shorelines that help mitigate storm damage while simultaneously promoting tourism and economic growth. And with federal money for renourishment becoming less secure, it is imperative we think creatively, determining the most effective ways to help pass along the costs to the thousands of tourists who flock to our beaches every year, as residents cannot be expected to foot the bill. For example, we may need to brainstorm ways to raise fees on services provided to day-trippers—those who visit our beaches but do not stay overnight—to maximize revenues gathered as a result of those visits.
North Carolina’s General Assembly banned Medicaid expansion in 2013. Do you think that was a good idea? Why or why not?
Rejecting a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid was short-sighted, to say the least. Billions of NC tax dollars that SHOULD have come to North Carolina instead went to other states. That money would have helped keep hospitals in rural areas open while creating an estimated 43,000 new jobs.
Strep throat doesn’t care if you have health insurance, nor does salmonella poisoning. But if your neighbor is one of the many working poor who fall between the cracks, she’s forced to decide between the Emergency Room or no care at all—and we taxpayers pick up that inflated bill. Not only that, but your dear neighbor’s strep throat may end up killing her; One study by CUNY and Harvard Medical School estimated that the annual death toll from North Carolina and other states opting out of the Medicaid expansion may top 17,000 annually.
Karen is a single mom who works mornings at a convenience store and evenings as a waitress to make ends meet for her kids, while at the same time completing her degree online. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Karen should have to die or go bankrupt if she eats some bad chicken! The money for the Medicaid expansion was there for us to use expressly for hard-working people like Karen. I think it’s worth giving Karen and folks like her a hand up.
Do you think the shift to the current grant system hurt the local film industry? What can Raleigh do to help reinvigorate Wilmington’s film scene?
Absolutely, the shift from a rebate or credit-based program to a grant system has caused a huge negative impact on the film industry in Wilmington. And let’s differentiate between tax rebates, which are a refund on what was actually spent, and a grant, which is a gift. I’ve read comments about how we were “subsidizing movie stars” with the film rebates—but that isn’t even close to how the film credits work.
The film industry brought all kinds of jobs to this area—from directors and designers to carpenters, camera operators and drivers—and those people purchased and rented homes, bought cars, enjoyed evenings out at restaurants, spent their money in our stores, and helped to support countless other workers in the community. So not only did we lose hundreds of film jobs that migrated to Atlanta, but we also lost jobs (and tax revenue) in the service and tourism industries.
I would support restoring the previous credit/rebate program; similarly, I would support a credit/rebate program for ANY environmentally-friendly industry that had the potential to bring significantly increased revenue into the state.
Is North Carolina economically competitive enough? If not, what can Raleigh do to change that?
North Carolina has the potential to be much more economically competitive. Although we already rank high on many national lists as a great state for business, we must be mindful of the opportunities lost because of discriminatory legislation like House Bill 2, the notorious “bathroom bill” that my opponent Ted Davis, Jr. signed.
A favorable tax structure isn’t the only thing that a business or individual considers when it comes to determining where they’re going to build their new corporate headquarters or start their new entrepreneurial venture. They also consider what the area has to offer staff and employees in terms of quality of life issues and other opportunities. In a recent Forbes magazine, our state was ranked 28th in quality of life and 32nd in education—not exactly a draw for innovative companies with high-paying jobs!
Our educational system, once a standard bearer in the nation is now an embarrassment due to lack of funding. If we want to be truly competitive in the increasingly global environment, and want our children to have the greatest chance of success, we must increase the investment in schools, and not just in “make-believe” teacher raises but in actual dollars and cents that will translate to real impact and a qualified, well-educated workforce.