Saturday, October 1, 2022

2022 Election: Rep. Deb Butler eyes another term in NC House District 18

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. ⁠— Rep. Deb Butler has served New Hanover County in District 18 in the N.C. House of Representatives since 2017. She will face Republican candidate John Hinnant in the upcoming general election.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate appearing on ballots in the tri-county region, even those unopposed, ahead of the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to the Cape Fear: PFAS, women’s rights, affordable healthcare and more.

Butler’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.

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 their 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 that you would advocate for funding and tell us why.

Deb Butler (DB): a) We must do a better job of ensuring that our children are getting the “sound basic education” required by our NC Constitution. The NC courts have made it clear that we are failing our children and that is unacceptable so that is my first priority. We absolutely must invest more in teachers, schools and public education for ALL our children.

b) The pandemic has highlighted that our essential workers are the backbone of society. It’s important that we raise the minimum wage so that hard work affords someone the dignity to provide for their family.

c) Unless we take care of our natural resources, we will all suffer the ill effects of pollution and climate change. I believe in science and technology. By investing in NC scientists, we will not only create jobs, but we will lead the nation in technologies that will clean our planet of PFAS and other contaminants.

PCD: What needs to be done to address PFAS in North Carolinians’ drinking water?

DB: PFAS … forever chemicals and other emerging contaminants must be our first priority. Much has been accomplished in the last couple of years and much is yet to learn and do.

I was on the phone just today with leadership of the North Carolina Collaboratory, a consortium of the finest North Carolina scholars and scientists, who are committed to stopping the discharge of these toxins into our natural environment, and working diligently to develop technologies that can rid the accumulation of these chemicals that exist in our soil, our water and our air. 

I was pleased to learn that, through our investments, these technologies show promise for a path ahead, and right now, programs are emerging that will embed scientists from our universities into our regulatory agencies, giving them a better understanding of how to tackle this issue into the future. It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment for us and North Carolina should lead the way on this issue. I’m committed to seeing it happen.

PCD: What are the top issues in our K-12 schools right now and how would you work to address it?

DB: The top issues in our school system are mostly related to funding. But, I am concerned that some people are making school issues a political football. Disrupting school board meetings, acting disrespectfully and causing chaos is not the way to effectuate helpful change. I have faith in professional educators because I know that they have the best interests of students as their priority. All of this hoopla is about maintaining “control” and garnering votes and inflaming the public; it’s not about what’s best for children, parents, teachers, and families.

PCD: What would you like to see happen at a state level to help combat inflation and alleviate the ramifications — rising rents, groceries, utilities, prescription drugs, gas — it has on working families?

PCD: I think that the single most effective action that the legislature could take to ease the effects of inflation and supply chain cost increases is to raise the minimum wage. No one can live on $7.25 dollars an hour.

We could also reinstitute the earned income tax credit. 

Further, we could suspend a portion of the gas tax and we could expand Medicaid extending healthcare to 500,000 deserving North Carolina families and creating an estimated 26,000 good paying jobs. 

Further, I do think we need to study how to manage skyrocketing rents. No one should suffer a $500 monthly increase in any one renewal. That is obviously an untenable situation and I have heard it far too often.

PCD: Where do you stand on women’s reproductive health rights and would you support legislation to further restrict abortions in North Carolina?  

DB: Women should have the absolute freedom to control their own bodies.  The last people that should be making decisions about family planning are legislators. I would NOT support any infringements on that personal liberty.

PCD: How would you propose all North Carolinians have access to affordable healthcare?

DB: The first step MUST be Medicaid Expansion. We are one of a scant handful of states who have failed to do so.  Our citizens pay federal taxes and they deserve the benefits that expanded medicaid affords. Job creation and access to care make it a no brainer.

PCD: Do you support the state’s progression toward offshore wind development? Clean energy tax breaks? Explain.

DB: Yes, I do support the development of renewable sources of energy including wind. We are fortunate in NC to have some of the most reliable and consistent coastal winds and we should take advantage of this unique opportunity. Clean energy is the future. If the Ukraine/Russia war illustrates anything, it is that reliance on fossil fuel is ill advised and that we must move away from it with all deliberate speed.

PCD: What are the main priorities to address infrastructure needs in North Carolina?

DB: Infrastructure is a broad term. But, clearly, we must expand broadband across the state. It is unconscionable that there are areas in NC where school children did their homework in the McDonald’s parking lot during the pandemic.

Additionally, we should embrace high-speed public transportation, particularly in the more dense urban areas.

Lastly, vehicles are becoming more efficient which is wonderful and the proliferation of electric vehicles is happening, but this means that the gas tax that has typically funded roadway maintenance is producing less revenue, so we must develop a new formula for funding our road maintenance. It should be fair and equitable for all who use our roadways.

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?

DB: North Carolina, and Wilmington in particular, worked hard for decades to cultivate a robust film industry. That industry suffered under Republican leadership (think House Bill 2 and other regressive measures), and is now finally enjoying a resurgence.

I support film in NC fully because I recognize that the industry pays good wages, does not require infrastructure investments, and is a good and “green” industry. They are an asset to my district and I support them fully. And, frankly, I prefer the former system which was a “rebate” style system. The industry seemed to flourish under the old system, but regardless, film is welcome in North Carolina as far as I am concerned.

PCD: How far should the state go to attract companies and promote economic development?

DB: North Carolina, as every other state, provides incentives and other inducements to lure businesses to our state. I think these incentives are critical to making us competitive to other states. The key is to be judicious and selective as we decide what industries are well-suited to our state. So, for example, incentivizing film as opposed to another “smoke-stack” industry is a clear choice of what type of businesses we want as neighbors.

PCD: There has been a lot of talk about reforming ABC laws in the state, often called “draconian” by business owners tied to them. Do you support privatization — and if no, why? Would you support revising the laws at the least? How?

DB: Alcohol sales generate enormous revenues. Our county, in particular, earns more than most because of our tourism and hospitality industry. Those revenues give our county commissioners additional dollars to spend improving our county for everyone and to help keep taxes in check. I think our ABC stores are well located, well-maintained, and professionally run. They are an asset that belongs to us.

Selling (or privatizing) county assets doesn’t always prove to be the best idea and I would not support that at this time. I would, however, be supportive of legislation that could streamline the permitting process or other legislation that would create efficiencies for our retail providers.

PCD: Where do you stand on the decriminalization of marijuana? Explain.

DB: I support the decriminalization of cannabis. Many young lives have been stigmatized with criminal charges for small amounts of cannabis. And many resources expended that could have been better spent. There is no reason to ruin people’s lives with these sorts of charges making it harder for them to become productive citizens. It’s time to move on from this in order to put people back into the workplace, providing for their families.

PCD: Are there any actions you support to make North Carolina a more equitable state and provide opportunities to historically marginalized populations?

DB: There are a host of things we could do right now to assist marginalized populations: raising the minimum wage, reforming the cash bail system, making workforce housing a priority, and decriminalizing the possession of cannabis to name a few.

PCD: How does the state need to improve its flood resilience plan to prevent disaster scenarios, like Hurricane Florence’s aftermath?

DB: Governor Cooper’s administration created a Recovery and Resiliency department within his administration and that is a critical first step. But it is impossible to predict or stop Mother Nature so we must be prepared for the consequences of storms that continue to increase in frequency and ferocity. Climate change is real. Sea level rise is real. So preparedness cannot be overemphasized. 

I am so impressed by the work of local officials and New Hanover County employees who work tirelessly through these storm events. They man the shelters, co-ordinate food and water delivery, manage the utilities and so much more. In this terrible time of division, my faith in community is always restored when we pull together as one during times of disaster. That’s when we remember we are one community.

PCD: What resources do we need in place to continue to fight Covid-19? How should NC prepare for a future pandemic?

DB: Fortunately, it appears that we are emerging from the Covid 19 pandemic. What a challenging time it has been. Fortunately, we do have the protocols and procedures in place should we be faced with a resurgence.

Again, it is regrettable that some have chosen to weaponize a pandemic that has killed over 22,000 North Carolinians. We should continue to keep the emergency authorities vested in the Governor so that he/she can be nimble and swift in response to future pandemics. We fared far better than most of the states because of Governor Cooper’s reliance on science based responses.


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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at alexandria@localdailymedia.com or on Twitter @alexsands_

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