Thursday, July 25, 2024

Election 2022: Marcia Morgan challenges Michael Lee for N.C. Senate District 7

(Travis Bell Photography)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Democratic challenger and retired Army colonel Marcia Morgan is running against incumbent Michael Lee for N.C. Senate District 7.

Morgan stepped into the race in July after former Democratic candidate Jason Mininicozzi announced he was stepping down.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region.

Morgan’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full; the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall is dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots will be available Sept. 9 and have a Nov. 1 deadline.
  • Registration to vote will open until Oct. 14; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration only will be available during one-stop early voting. 
  • Early voting begins Oct. 20 and remains open through Nov. 5 (3:30 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 8, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Locations to vote early in New Hanover County include CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 2nd. St.), Carolina Beach Municipal Building (1121 Lake Park Blvd.), CFCC North Campus (4500 Blue Clay Rd.), Northeast Library/Board of Elections (1241-A Military Cutoff Rd.), and the Senior Center (2222 S. College Rd.).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on the voter registration card.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

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Port City Daily (PCD): Name three projects you currently are advocating for and why.
Marcia Morgan (MM): My mother single-handedly raised my siblings and me after my father died. As a result, I’ve always strongly supported women’s rights, including their right to make their own healthcare decisions. Make no mistake: Women’s rights are under attack. I will stand up for North Carolina women and their right to make their own choices about what is best for them and for their families.

As a former public school teacher, I know firsthand how hard our teachers work and how dedicated they are to their students. We must treat educators with the respect they have earned by raising their pay.

The state legislature must also show how much they value public education by providing appropriate funding for all of our public schools. For too long, North Carolina schools have been failing to meet students’ basic needs. By funding the court-ordered Leandro Plan, which provides a comprehensive set of fiscal, programmatic, and strategic steps, we will be able to eliminate the inequity and funding deficiencies that prevent students from getting the services and opportunities that the state constitution mandates they receive.

I am also a member of the Sierra Club and have been involved in local environmental protection efforts. It is vitally important that we protect our beaches, waterways, and parks. Our environment is essential to the current health of the residents of this area, the future world we’re leaving for our children and the economy. Corporations are attracted to move here because of the outdoor opportunities that a clean environment offers. One example is the tourism industry, which is an important source of income for so many New Hanover County residents.

PCD: So you would not support legislation to further restrict abortions in North Carolina?
MM: I firmly believe in a woman’s right to decide what is best for her life and health without the intervention of legislators in Raleigh. I would not support further restrictions on abortions in North Carolina and would work toward codifying Roe v. Wade into law.

PCD: Do you support the expansion of Medicaid? What else needs to be done to help all North Carolinians have access to affordable healthcare?
MM: Yes, I support the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina. Our hard-working friends and neighbors deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare for themselves and their children! For years, we have been sending our tax dollars to other states to improve their health care instead of looking after our own.

Expanding Medicaid would give over 600,000 North Carolinians access to affordable healthcare and create thousands of jobs across the state. It would support healthcare communities in rural areas, result in earlier diagnosis of severe illnesses, bring down the cost of insurance, provide medical care to approximately 14,000 veterans not covered by the VA and generally help the economy. The current legislature has begun to take steps to expand Medicaid for some people: we need to expand the program completely.

PCD: What would your main priorities be to address infrastructure needs in North Carolina?
MM: New Hanover County has seen rapid growth and new developments but hasn’t been able to keep up with the infrastructure required for all the new people living here. While we need to make sure we are keeping growth sustainable, we also need to develop our infrastructure so that it can handle the increased traffic and strain on water and sewer systems.

My opponent and his law firm represent developers that are recklessly pushing through new developments without thinking about how our country’s infrastructure will be able to handle the growth or how the growth will impact our current citizen’s quality of life.

PCD: What can you bring to the table to address the affordable housing crisis currently facing Residents?
MM: Individuals, families, and seniors are suffering as the affordable housing crisis in our area continues. To help address the issue, we must work with developers to create planned, well-thought-out communities that include affordable housing options.

We must consider modifying zoning laws to allow for greater density. We can also consider raising building height restrictions to allow for more vertical housing and offering subsidies for builders to include workforce housing.

PCD: How do you propose the government assist with combating inflation and its ramifications — rising rents, groceries, utilities, prescription drugs, gas — on working families?
MM: Working families are struggling with higher costs. The first step to addressing this issue is to increase the minimum wage, which was last raised 14 years ago.

Additionally, the legislature must continue to look for ways to incentivize companies to create higher paying jobs in North Carolina, perhaps by giving them a tax break for a designated number of employees who earn over a specified amount.

Our state is becoming increasingly attractive to new businesses, and we need to continue bringing companies here that value our skilled workforce and provide good-paying jobs. I would also look at restoring Earned Income Tax Credits to further assist the working families.

PCD: How far should North Carolina go to attract companies and promote economic development?
MM: It makes sense to offer incentives to attract companies and improve our economy. Those incentives can be tailored in various ways, based on what the new industry has to offer and what resources it would require from the state.

Some might be enticed more by assistance in locating office space, while another needs help with infrastructure. There is no single solution that fits everyone.

We should also evaluate the environmental impact of the new business, to make certain it does not impact the area in a negative way that would also inhibit the economy.

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?
MM: When the state legislature passed extremist bills, the film industry pulled out of North Carolina, and many skilled workers were forced to leave or find other professions. Wilmington (and our tourism industry) were particularly impacted by the loss of revenue the film industry created here, so I would work diligently to find ways to attract them back, including grants, rebates, and other incentives.

PCD: There has been a lot of talk about reforming ABC laws in the state, often called “draconian” by business owners tied to them. Would you support revising some of the laws and do you support privatization — why or why not?
MM: I’ve talked with many bar owners and have a sense of their frustrations. It’s clear that North Carolina ABC laws must be revised to make sense in today’s environment.

I would be opposed to privatization because that would put the business into a “for profit” status and result in higher prices and possibly less service, much like the hospital. Three states that recently went to privatization experienced an increase in prices, along with a drop in revenue for the state.

PCD: Do you support the state’s progression toward offshore wind development? Clean energy tax breaks? Explain.
MM: I am a strong supporter of promoting offshore wind farms. Not only would that bring new jobs to the area, but it would also provide this area with cheaper, cleaner power that would improve our economy in the long run.

We used to have tax rebates on some of the alternate energy programs and I would like to see the state offer them again in order to promote further development of new ways to power our homes and businesses.

PCD: How does the state need to improve its flood resilience plan to prevent disaster scenarios, like Hurricane Florence’s aftermath?
MM: The Department of Environmental Quality is in the process of developing a Flood Resilience Blueprint that will consider actions that communities can take to reduce flood risk in inland locations. It will also include suggestions on ways to recover as quickly as possible.

In terms of the coastline, the first step is to proactively reduce the risk of flooding by protecting all remaining natural shorelines and wetlands, replacing hard barriers with natural ones where possible, and reviewing the infrastructure impacted by flooding — for example, installing storm drain flood grates since water purification plants that are likely to be underwater. To help individuals, the state can set up an interim funding process that could be used immediately to help individuals while they are waiting for FEMA or other assistance funds.

PCD: What needs to be done to address PFAs in North Carolinians’ drinking water?
MM: Chemours must be held financially and legally accountable for the emission of deadly chemicals into our river, private wells, soil and crops. Part of their clean-up efforts needs to be working with academic research to continue developing efficient ways of removing PFAS from the water. And instead of consumers paying the costs of adding new filtering methods at the water treatment plants, Chemours should foot the bill entirely.

Additionally, to properly monitor emissions, we must fully fund the Department of Environmental Quality so that it has the necessary resources to test potentially affected waterways and wells.

PCD: What do you consider the top issues in our K-12 schools right now and how would you work to address it?
MM: One of the top issues is low teacher pay. If we don’t raise teacher pay, we will lose extremely talented teachers who go elsewhere or leave the profession altogether. Right now, North Carolina has a massive budget surplus that, if spent on our public schools, could make a huge difference to the quality of education our children receive. We must increase teacher pay (including veteran teachers), add teaching assistants back into the classroom, and raise the minimum wage for all support personnel. We must also support preschool programs that help prepare children to begin their academic life.

The school voucher program is currently siphoning dollars from public schools. While the original charter school purpose had many good points, the reality is that charter schools are not required to adhere to the same standards as public schools, resulting in students who are falling behind and not receiving the quality education they deserve. There are more charter schools that are failing right now than public schools, which highlights the need to restructure the program.

Underfunded schools and weak intervention programs have turned some North Carolina schools into a school-to-prison pipeline — instead of setting our students up for success, they’re being set up to fail. Schools need more resources to help students at the first sign of an issue, addressing concerns early and taking corrective action before a problem is out of hand. Additional resources include putting more counselors in the schools, adding afterschool programs that offer opportunities to learn new skills, and increasing social welfare programs.

PCD: Are there any actions you support to make North Carolina a more equitable state and provide opportunities to historically marginalized populations?
MM: One of the critical measures of a society is how well we treat each other and especially how we treat those who are different. As a Christian, I believe how we treat “the least of these” says a lot about our values and priorities. Passing heinous bathroom bills, supporting hate groups that seek to divide us, and branding entire religious groups as terrorists or all immigrants as criminals merely highlight the negative side of humanity. It is time to reach out to those who are oppressed, to live in harmony rather than fear.

I believe in creating new opportunities for those in marginalized communities to start small businesses so they can build generational wealth. I would vote against extremist bills that seek to limit the rights of specific groups of people while impacting our state’s economy — as happened with the GOP’s disastrous, unenforceable bathroom bill that cost our state an estimated $3.76 billion in lost business. It’s time for our legislature to realize that hateful, restrictive bills will have a negative effect on the overall welfare of the state.

PCD: Where do you stand on the decriminalization of marijuana? Explain.
MM: I support decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but not decriminalization for illegally selling it, especially if it is sold to minors.

I fully support legalizing medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids and offer a way for individuals to get pain relief without resorting to dangerously addictive drugs, thus helping to end the opioid epidemic. I am open to legalizing recreational use as long as cannabis is regulated the same way alcohol and tobacco are.

PCD: What resources do we need in place to continue to fight Covid-19? How should the state prepare for a future pandemic?
MM: Part of the reason we were hit so hard by Covid-19 is that politicians at the federal and state level defunded agencies and programs dedicated to preventing pandemics. We need more funding for agencies run by scientific experts who can watch out for new diseases spreading across the globe and warn state leaders and the public about potential dangers, so we can proactively prepare.

Ideally, a Think Tank or research facility would be working on ways to address the potential for various types of diseases and develop plans on how to minimize their impact.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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