NORTH CAROLINA — Everette S. (Rett) Newton, a Democrat in Beaufort, is running for U.S. Senate. Newton must defeat 10 other Democratic candidates in the primaries to secure his spot in the general election.
Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate appearing on ballots in the tri-county region, even those unopposed. For federal and state offices, we asked candidates to address issues pertinent to the Cape Fear: PFAS, offshore wind, affordable housing and more.
As a reminder, the early voting period runs from Apr. 28 to May 14. The voter registration deadline is Apr. 22. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period (check if your registration is active at your current address).
Primary Election Day is May 17. Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election. Those who are registered as unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in.
Newton’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.
Rett Newton (RN): I am a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, former mayor of beautiful Beaufort, NC, Duke University PhD candidate studying marine science and conservation, and I’m running for the U.S. Senate. After the insurrection of Jan 6, 2021, I realized I couldn’t sit on the sidelines while our democracy is under attack. For context, I was an F-15 squadron commander in Goldsboro, NC, on 9/11 and on that horrific day, we were directed to launch our fighter aircraft with live weapons and rules of engagement that included the possibility of having to shoot down a civilian airliner. I experienced the sinking feeling of “how can this happen in our country?” Spring forward 20 years as I watched the insurrection on 1/6/2021, under completely different circumstances, but again having the same sinking feeling of “how can this happen in our country?”
The framework for our campaign includes protecting democracy (at home and abroad), reversing the effects of climate change, protecting our environment, and helping those tens of thousands of North Carolinians that are trapped in the wealth gap and are really struggling with lack of affordable health care, housing, food, broadband, and transportation.
PCD: Name three projects that you would advocate for funding and why.
RN: 1) Protecting democracy – Whether it’s holding those accountable for their actions prior to, during, or after January 6th, or securing voting rights to all Americans. We must replace the guardrails and, as a minimum, we should consider the Protecting Our Democracy Act as proposed by Rep Adam Schiff. Protecting democracy also means helping to support other nations, like Ukraine, where democracy is being attacked.
2) Reversing the effects of climate change – We’re in a climate crisis. As a scientist, I fully understand the human impacts that are causing climate change. As a mayor of a coastal community, I had to constantly prepare for and respond to the increased frequency and ferocity of storms (and associated precipitation). We must be a global leader by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and building a cleaner and greener economy.
3) Helping our most vulnerable citizens – Recent hurricanes and COVID-19 pandemic have exposed our nation’s wealth gap where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Our most vulnerable citizens are trapped and we must help these citizens with initiatives that include increasing the minimum wage, strengthening worker rights and protections, providing better access to healthcare, reducing student debt, passing universal pre-K education, increasing access to childcare.
PCD: Do you support offshore wind development? Clean energy tax breaks? Explain.
RN: There is a burgeoning clean and green industry in North Carolina that, with the right incentives, is ready to thrive. We are in the Top 5 in the nation for solar and in the northeast part of the state, there is already an enormous wind energy farm. It only makes sense that we look to offshore wind energy as well. This helps reduce dependence of fossil fuels but can also provide business opportunities for our ports in Wilmington and Morehead City during the research, build, operations, and sustainment phases of offshore wind energy.
PCD: What are the main priorities to address infrastructure needs in North Carolina?
RN: Infrastructure is much more than just roads and bridges. A holistic infrastructure plan also includes broadband, education, and medical care (e.g., preventive, mental health, substance abuse). As your U.S. Senator, I will work with the governor and legislature to develop a robust infrastructure plan to support all North Carolinians.
PCD: How would you propose all North Carolinians have access to affordable healthcare?
RN: First, we must pass Medicaid expansion that will positively affect over 500,000 North Carolinians, create thousands of jobs, and provide billions of dollars in economic development. The American Rescue Plan lifted more of the burden from the states so let’s get this done!
Next, we need to work toward healthcare for all. There is already infrastructure in-place to support Medicare so, to me, that provides the best opportunity to get to healthcare for all. Private insurance will still be available to those who prefer that option. But a robust healthcare system should be put in place for all Americans that includes preventive care, dental, hearing, and sight.
PCD: Are there any actions you support to make North Carolina a more equitable state and provide opportunities to historically marginalized populations?
RN: Let’s realize the wealth gap is structural, work toward reducing this gap, and help our most vulnerable citizens. We must help these citizens with initiatives that include increasing the minimum wage, strengthening worker rights and protections, providing better access to healthcare, reducing student debt, passing universal pre-K education, and increasing access to childcare.
PCD: Coming out of 2021, wherein NC garnered over $400 million from film projects, should North Carolina take steps to strengthen the industry, such as improving grants?
RN: Yes, objectively you can see a clear return on investment. Subjectively, this industry can highlight the very best of North Carolina which will attract more commerce and opportunities. It’s disappointing that some production teams have had to go out-of-state when opportunities exist across our great state.
PCD: How far should the state go to attract companies and promote economic development?
RN: With many companies already coming to our state, it seems we are already an attractive destination for business. Now, we need to work on getting more of these corporate opportunities to set-up in our rural areas. That may require investment in wastewater treatment plants in areas that may be desirable but lack this important infrastructure.
PCD: What needs to be done to address PFAS in North Carolinians’ drinking water?
RN: Forever chemicals like polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have polluted waterways and drinking water across the state (e.g., Cape Fear River, Haw River, Neuse River). We need a robust state (NC DEQ) and federal (EPA) research program specifically designed to better understand the magnitude of this pollution, and then work with resident or non-resident experts to take steps toward mitigation. Corporations that have contributed to this contamination must provide part of the funding to support these efforts.
PCD: How does the state need to improve its flood resilience plan to prevent disaster scenarios, like Hurricane Florence’s aftermath?
RN: We should continue to understand North Carolina flood plains, dissuade development in these areas, and determine how climate change will affect these areas in the future (e.g., increased frequency/ferocity of storms, sea level rise).
At the same time, we need to help those hundreds of families that still have not recovered from Hurricanes Florence, Dorian, and/or Isaias. The number of homes that still have blue tarps on their roofs is staggering. Since the needs of these families are dissimilar, we need to establish a grant program to help these families recover.
PCD: What are the top issues in our K-12 schools right now and how would you work to address it?
RN: The most significant issue is declining support for public education which includes stagnant teacher pay, lack of support for infrastructure, reappropriating public education funds for private schools, and a concerted effort to sew distrust of public school faculty, staff, and curriculum. I do not support privatizing our public education and, as your U.S. Senator, will strive to fully fund our public school systems.
PCD: What resources do we need in place to continue to fight Covid-19? How should we prepare for a future pandemic?
RN: We must fully support medical research through the Department of Health and Human Services at the state and federal levels to prepare for COVID-19 mutations. This research will lead to improved vaccinations, better personal protective equipment, and innovative techniques like wastewater sampling to determine outbreaks well before patients become symptomatic.
PCD: Where do you stand on the decriminalization of marijuana? Explain.
RN: Approving medical marijuana is a no-brainer. Under a physicians care, marijuana should be available as a way of controlling pain.
I also believe recreational marijuana, if regulated, is an option as long as THC levels can be controlled to reduce the potential for addiction.
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