Last Thursday, when early voting began in North Carolina, I encouraged everyone to research the issues, to know the candidates, and to go vote. Ironically, I had yet to do any of these things–however, as I returned home this weekend, it was my intent to do all of them. And I am quite pleased to announce that I have, indeed, now done all of them.
But I don’t want to stop there.
Instead, I want to share with you what I believe–where I stand on the issues at hand and the candidates I have placed my faith in to propel us forward. My intent is not to persuade, although certainly I believe I have endorsed those who will lead us to the best state we can be in–nationally and locally–and for that reason persuasion is not a bad thing, but it is not my intent. What I plan to share is my ballot–who I voted for and more importantly why I gave them my endorsements.
Before I continue, I want to be clear about where I’ve gained my facts and the resources that led me to making my decisions: First, I relied on NCVoterGuide.org to provide me with my personal ballot information (available in sample ballot form at NSCBE.gov) and summaries of the candidates. Second, I relied on the candidates’ websites to further aid in making my decisions. If you do not live in North Carolina, at least take the time to read a little bit further about the national candidates I’ve voted for (namely, the president) and then, unless you truly wish to hear my views, I encourage you to stop reading and take the time you would have spent here researching the issues and getting to know the candidates you’ll be voting for. And then, of course, I want you to vote.
Otherwise, what’s the point in writing any of this?
President of the Unites States of America: Barack Obama
I came of voting age shortly before the 2008 campaign began. It was my first year voting and when the issues were broken down for me, my vote rested in the hands of then-Senator Barack Obama. I was, at the time, largely a single-issue voter, and although that single issue still informs me greatly, I’ve since expanded what I look for in my public leaders.
I still stand by President Obama because, despite the many areas where things in our country have not proceeded as we all would have liked, he has come through on many promises that were meaningful to me: He signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding hate crimes legistlation to acts fueled by homophobia and gender identity intolerance; he signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing those who fight to uphold our freedom to serve freely no matter who they love; and he has publically come out in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples in the United States. These issues affect me personally–and although they’re only the beginning, they are a sign of the vision he has for our country, a vision in which people like me share the same rights as every other American we know.
I also support President Obama for his committment to alternative energy sources and his desire to see these techonologies developed in our country; they will be developed, without a doubt, and if we don’t move forward in these fields, the rest of the world will. I also agree with his position on education: Like him, I believe it truly is the answer, and the work he has done to streamline student loans and expand Pell grants have truly been the only reasons that I have been able to attend college and afford even a relatively low-cost institution such as N.C. State.
When it comes to the economy, I agree that our potential rests upon the middle class; only by expanding our middle class and shrinking our lower class can our country truly achieve greatness for all people, including the upper class. Although at this moment in time I am not making more than a quarter-million dollars in a year, I hope someday I might be so fortunate to do so–and should that day come, I would happily pay a little more in taxes to help others as I have been helped by my country. No one has to like paying taxes–I don’t think anyone likes giving up money–but that doesn’t mean we can’t see the worth in doing so, the necessity of doing so, and in fact, the honor demonstrated by doing so. Just as we pay membership dues to organizationS that run those organizations, we pay taxes to run our country–and when our neighbors are supported and able to succeed, our success is more important and more noteworthy. Only by coming together as a community, by giving a little more when we are able to do so, will we truly achieve greatness for all.
Finally, I believe Barack Obama is the most capable and honest leader running in this election. He may not have the greatest level of skills in certain areas where Mitt Romney has shown his success, but this isn’t just about who can do the job, it’s about who do we want to represent us to not only America but also the world–and for me that man is President Obama. He is genuine on all accounts; he has demonstrated his humanity in speeches and through actions of his presidency and he has shown true integrity and leadership when, under the national eye, he took sole responsibility for the catastrophes in Lybia even after others beneath him expressed their own shortcomings in the matter. It takes a truly honest man to do that, and we need a truly honest man to lead this country. Machiavellian politics may have worked in the past, but in this day and age we must stand for more than that–true integrity must win out over false promises and deceit. And that is why I am proud to say I have voted to reelect President Obama.
U.S. House District 2: Stephen P. Wilkins
When people complain about the lack of progress in our country and blame the president, I shake my head and tell them the real lawmakers are those in Congress–and when they don’t act, it doesn’t matter how much or how little our president does, the country will not improve significantly. We need leaders in Congress who are unafraid of challenging existing norms and willing to do what it takes to pass the laws our countries need–that is, championing even unpopular but necessary legislation and being willing to work toward bipartisan solutions.
That’s why I’m voting for Steve Wilkins. Among the many points that swayed my vote were his support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which I highly support and believe will safeguard our country’s people; his goals of reducing poverty and improving education; his position of promoting alternative fuels while finding short-term solutions to carry us toward our long-term goals; his strong support for effective foreign policies and national defense, and the fact the he himself is a veteran and supports them wholly; his desire to see the national debt reduced; and finally his support of immigration reform, especially passing the DREAM Act, which I also strongly support–a plan I supported even before it was proposed.
The nail in the coffin, so to speak, was hammered in when I read that Wilkins wants to start the process of enacting term limits for Congress. Ever since I took an American Government course a year ago, I have been a strong believer in the necessity of terms limits for our senators and representatives. The U.S. was never intended to be dynastic, yet with the seemingly unending rule of incumbents, we have forsaken the vast amount of leadership potential inherent in our nation’s populations–and with the incumbents leading Congress, we have no new ideas and no new faces to steer our country in the right direction. Congress stands at a historically low approval rating–and yet the incumbents repeatedly get reelected. It’s time we tear down their empire, get more capable leaders interested in pursuing positions on a level playing field, and see our Congress representative at last–and with finite term limits, Congressional leaders are less likely to spend their entire time seeking reelection and will truly put their efforts into what our country needs most: strong leadership and bipartisan solutions that make real change for all citizens.
So, yes, for all these reasons, I support Wilkins for U.S. Congress.
N.C. Governor: Walter Dalton
At this point, plunging into State politics, things become a little hazier. There are so many offices, so many candidates, that it can exhausting just trying to name them all. And for many offices, the choices don’t always seem all that different–we might equally dislike all of them. For me, that’s a close description of this race.
For various reasons I’m not incredibly fond of Pat McCroy, and although Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe has said some quite remarkable things, she doesn’t seem to have a very clear plan for her governorship and, as a third-party candidate, it’s unlikely she’ll gain a significant number of votes to win regardless.
My vote then falls upon Walter Dalton. I do appreciate his apparent committment to education for reasons I addressed in brief earlier in this post, and especially for his committment to community colleges. I never would have realized my own potential nor even tried to do so if not for my experiences attending a community college, and I was fortunate enough to witness this same transformation in so many people who were both classmates and close friends. I do not want to see our community college system suffer, and I certainly don’t want to see the opportunity taken away from our citizens.
Another point that has helped me make this decision is Dalton’s positions on child care, safety, and women’s health–all important issues no matter who you are, because no matter who we are, we all know someone with children and (more than likely) we all know some women, too. Dalton is against sex-based wage discrimination and he’s also in support of a woman’s right to choose and increased protection for victims of domestic violence and abuse–and on these issues, I agree with him. It may not seem like much, but it’s enough.
N.C. Lieutenant Governor: Linda Coleman
Sometimes it feels like the further we remove ourselves from national politics, the less our candidates have to say–and I imagine, as we go on through this lengthy list, the less I’ll have to say as well. When it comes to Linda Coleman, I’m happy to give her my vote for three reasons: First, her experience seems well-rounded and the fact that she has worked with the N.C. Department of Community Colleges makes me know she has her head in the right place. Second, she shares the same passion for education that has swayed my vote in a number of other offices–I recognize the importance of education, and I’ll support anyone who does the same. Finally, she stands against the prejudices of the past and spoke out against N.C. Amendment 1–and although it did pass, knowing she did not support it helps me to know that she is truly committed to fostering diversity in our state and achieving equality for all people.
N.C. Attorney General: Roy A. Cooper
Cooper’s running uncontested, so there’s not much of a point in making much of a point here, but it’s worth mentioning regardless for another reason: He’s uncontested. Can you not see the problem with that?
I have no problem reelecting a good politician, but I do have a problem electing a politican simply because no one else is running against them. This is the United States–this is the country in which we all have the potential to make a difference, to rise to the occasion and leave a legacy. There is no reason, especially in hard times, that any political office should practically be given to any individual on account of no one bothering to even run. I’m not saying people should jump into politics just because no one else has; I’m saying we should be informed enough and care enough that if we are faced with only the status quo and we want things to change and things to improve, we actually make a stand and work to change them and improve them.
That said, Cooper’s credentials seem satisfactory and I’m happy giving him my vote–I just wish it wasn’t a given he’d get it.
N.C. Auditor: Debra Goldman
Of all the State offices, N.C. Auditor was the hardest for me to decide: On the surface, both candidates’ goals seem incredibly similar, and merely reading their personal statements hardly makes a definitive case for either of them. And after that, what else can I turn to but the candidates as people, not politicians?
Watching their campaign videos and listening to both candidates speak, incumbent Beth Wood surely speaks more eloquently, and I greatly appreciated the video she made explaining what the office of state auditor oversees, while Debra Goldman seemed rather nervous and somewhat hesitant in the single video she had posted on her website. Additionally, I could also appreciate the fact that Wood attended a community college in North Carolina and then later returned to finish a four-year degree; that is a level of dedication I am very aware of personally and can deeply admire.
However, it was Goldman’s personal story of growth that convinced me to give her my vote. Not only has she overcome great personal challenges (she’s a breast cancer surivor), she didn’t begin her political career as an accountant–she began it in the classroom, advocating for her own children. As she saw the needs of larger and larger communities, she served on the Wake County Board of Education and now hopes to serve the entire state. By changing only a few words of her story you’d have mine, and knowing how much my own journey of growth has enabled me to lead and strive to improve my own community, I am confident that she has the passion necessary to achieve her goals as N.C. Auditor.
N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture: Walter Smith
I am very pleased to announce that both candidates for this office are graduates of my future alma mater–that is, they’re both part of the Pack, just like me. However, they do have obvious differences, and because of these, I plan to give my vote to Mr. Smith.
It comes down to a number of things: First, I believe his experience working with the federal government will lend itself wonderfully to his working with our state government. Some may argue we need “fresh faces” untainted by politics, but sometimes it takes being in politics to know how to avoid “politics,” and I’m hopeful this is the case; certainly from reading his personal statements, I would think it is.
Next, his position on many issues are quite noteworthy in my opinion. He believes in setting up a hotline to help people access the N.C. Department of Agriculture more easily. He believes in supporting family farms and encouraging research to improve agriculture across the state–maybe it’s my belonging to N.C. State as well, but I completely agree with both of these ideals. He supports higher standards of food and consumer safety, and after recently developing some major food allergies, this is more important to me than ever before–so why wouldn’t I support him?
Finally, two last things have made my vote a given: Number one, he’s expressed a great amount of support for the environment and making our state practices greener so that our children and grandchildren have as beautiful a world to live in as we do. Number two, he is a staunch supporter of the humane treatment of animals–both domestically and on the farm. He’s opposed to the attrocious puppy mills that litter our state and he hopes to see studies conducted on animal welfare to ensure that our practices are best practices. It’s not commonly known that it’s a Jewish value to treat our animals with the highest level of respect possible; part of this is because, like Adam and Eve, we have inherited the responsibility of caring for our world and its inhabitans, but another part is because if we can treat our animals with the utmost respect, imagine how much more respect we must then give to our fellow human beings–and isn’t that the trademark sign of a true leader?
N.C. Commissioner of Insurance: Mike Causey
When it came down to it, both candidates for this office seemed fairly matched in many of the things I would hope to see in a Commissioner of Insurance. What turned my vote in favor of Mr. Causey is primarily his work experience: Just as with the last office I spoke of, Mr. Causey has actually worked in the insurance field and has lobbied for it in the past. I don’t always agree with lobbying, but lobbyists must understand laws and practices, and that’s a valuable skill.
That said, I do really, really wish Mr. Causey were better in two ways:
First, there is no reason on this earth that any political candidate should have a webpage riddled with typos, misspelled words, and poor grammar. It’s just not acceptable.
Second, on his website, he says, if elected he will work “very closely with Pat McCrory”–the problem, however, is that he may be elected and maybe Pat McCrory won’t be–does that mean he won’t work equally as closely with Dalton or Howe, should they be elected governor? A true leader will work with their superiors even if they differ fundamentally in their opinions, because together they are all serving the same body of citizens. Furthermore, it’s just pompous to assume you know who will win when, let’s face it, the future is always uncertain.
But like I said, I support his experience and mostly agree with him on the issues. If that doesn’t earn him my vote, I can’t say I’m voting honestly according to my beliefs–and I won’t sacrifice my integrity like that.
N.C. Commissioner of Insurance: Cherie Berry
I’d like to say I’m voting for Cherie Berry simply because her name is remarkably fun to say, but it really isn’t that simply. Actually, I wish it were that simple, but honestly, what gave her my vote is that fact I don’t want her opponent elected: To be frank, I’m a little startled by some of John Brooks’ suggestions and I don’t want to see what would happen should he be given the chance to move forward with them. I also appreciate Berry’s committment to workplace safety, and the injuries and illness rates under her administration have been impressive.
N.C. Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall
Marshall’s qualifications pleased me and I was happy to hear her committment “to modernize the office by embracing technology and streamlining processes.” Her positions on stomping out counterfeit goods while protecting investors and charitable organizations is admirable, and her promotion of governmental transparency is also worth voting for.
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction: John Tedesco
I haven’t been stating these candidates’ political parties–but if it isn’t already clear, I’m a bipartisan voter. I believe just as the middle class is the indicator of our country’s success, the meeting-in-the-middle of bipartisan politics is what will allow us most to achieve greatness in our country and our state (now if only our politicians would agree and actually make some kind of effort to work together instead of being big-headed and uncompromising). Debra Goldman, Mike Causey, and Cherie Berry are all Republicans, and so is John Tedesco–but because I believe they’re the better candidates, it would go against my moral integrity to give my votes to anyone else.
So why do I think Tedesco’s the better candidate? Because he seems wiser on all accounts. He wants to cut down bureaucratic limitations in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction while committing it more so to servicing its local districts. He supports fairness in choosing education–not just charter schools versus public schools, but also religious schools and home schools. Furthermore, reading his ideas on how schools should learn from each other was simply inspiring–that is precisely how I feel: When someone has discovered a best practice, we shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel, we should learn from them–and they should be happy to educate others for the benefit of all. I’m not well-enough informed to have a clear preference for charter schools or public schools (which often seem central to these debates), but Tedesco states very clearly that even if we add more charter schools, we still need to support the public school system and ensure all our students get the quality education they deserve.
If that were enough, it would be wonderful–but there’s still even more that has earned Tedesco my support:
He stands by teachers, hoping to support and empower them, to give them the opportunities needed to grow and improve themselves, their practices, and their students. He is an advocate for teachers–and we need this. Finally, he wants to see wiser spending of school funds so that education is not only more affordable, but our investments in education are taken further. It is my hope to see Tedesco elected–and if he’s successful, perhaps he’ll move on to larger leadership positions in the future. I’m almost certain he’d carry my vote then as well.
N.C. Treasurer: Janet Cowell
When I read a candidate’s personal statement, I expect to learn about their motivations for running and the things they support–not a rant about “big money” and debt, and when I read Steve Royal’s statement, that’s all it was: a rant. No substance, no point. When I visit a candidate’s website, I expect to find a page detailing the issues, and I’ve noticed in looking at the candidates for other offices that most of the incumbents rarely have these pages, whereas most of the other candidates do–so here I was surprised when for this office it was reversed.
I believe Cowell’s positions are noteworthy for two reasons: She seems concerned about matters that affect all of us economically in North Carolina, and she also has pioneered efforts to increase financial literacy, especially for students but also for all people regardless of their age or place in life. This committment to education is greatly important, and when we rarely see financial responsibility and good practices followed by our young people, it is essential to educate them about these issues so that, when they are our nation’s leaders, we aren’t falling into the same financial traps we have already fallen into.
State Senate District 029: No Vote
I mentioned earlier that I think it’s a poor state of events when a candidate runs uncontested–and yet I still planned to vote for the man running. In this case, with no other option, I refuse to give my vote to the incumbent. True, Jerry W. Tillman will by default gain election, but I cannot in sound mind give him my support. Although his educational and vocational background sounds sufficient, and although his personal statement seems admirable, he was one of the key proponents of putting N.C. Amendment 1 on the ballot, and if these are the causes he fights for, he is a leader I can never stand behind. It’s as simple as that.
State House District 070: No Vote
Likewise, I cannot in good conscience give my vote to Representative Pat B. Hurley either. I wrote her before the vote on whether or not Amendment 1 should be put on the ballot, and after it had been voted on–with her support–I received a call from her in which she and I spoke for a few minutes. She seemd very nice and genuine, but she said she supported the bill because she felt it should be the people’s decision–but that reasoning is completely erroneous. You don’t give this kind of choice to the masses when the masses rarely support the rights of minorities. It’s an example of flawed reasoning and poor moral, ethical decision-making that holds my hand whenever I think of giving her my vote.
N.C. Supreme Court (Newby Seat): Sam Ervin
The judges’ section of the ballot is often overlooked: They’re non-partisan and therefore neither political party can be the powerhouses behind their campaigns–and thereby they are often forgotten. However, it is our court system that drives forward one third of our government, and to ignore its importance is simply ignorant and dangerous.
Unfortunately, judges don’t often have as clearly-defined views as the candidates for other seats. In this case, I like what Paul Newby has to say about education, and I think it says a lot about his skill and the kind of person he is that he still teaches even while serving on the supreme court. However, I also like what Sam Ervin had to say about unbiased judging and the endorsements he’s received.
Ultimately, I’ve decided my vote on the merit of two points: First, although it’s incredibly admirable that Newby continues to teach law and has achieved awards for his written works about the N.C. constitution, an aptitude for education does not always correlate with an aptitude for leading in action. Second, if groups like the Sierra Club, Replacements Ltd., and the Durham People’s Alliance–all of which reflect my views in some ways–can endorse Judge Ervin, then so can I.
N.C. Court of Appeals (Bryant Seat): Wanda Bryant
I’m supporting Bryant’s reelection because of her outstanding education, work, and community experience and achievements. Her endorsements and vision statements have also earned her my vote in this election.
N.C. Court of Appeals (McGee Seat): Linda McGee
Once more, it has been the combination of the candidate’s experiences and endorsements that have compelled me to lend her my vote.
In deciding on our judges, I find it’s more challenging than simply breaking down the issues–because judges seem unable to do that. They are not running on a platform; they are running to decide the law, and no one or two issues will ever prepare them for all the cases they may have to preside over. Therefore, what else can we rely on but trusting their demonstrated character and the endorsements of groups who understand the law more than we do?
N.C. Court of Appeals (Thigpen Seat): Cressie Thigpen
This was a tight race: On the one hand, I sincerely liked the philosophical standpoints presented by Chris Dillon, but Cressie Thigpen’s experiences and endorsements seem to far outweigh his opponent’s. Should Dillon run again in the future, I may lend him my vote then, but for the time-being, I believe Thigpen is the more qualified candidate.
N.C. District Court (District 19B – Creed Seat): Bobby McCroskey
Compared with Don Creed, I favor McCroskey primarily for his past experiences as a lawyer. He’s stated that he has worked on both sides of many kinds of cases, and I feel this closeness to his clients and the awareness of varying perspectives has given him a judicial edge over his opponent. The fact that he’s lived in the area he’ll be presiding over for most of his life also lends him a level of perspective I think will help him judge fairly in our district.
N.C. District Court (District 19B – Wilkins Seat): Jane Hughes Redding
This was perhaps the closest of all the judicial races I’ve had to decide: Both candidates seem exceedingly qualified in both education and experience, and as individuals, the principles they stand for seem paramount and pristine. Ultimately, I placed my vote for Redding on account of her longtime experience working on the Board of Education and representing parties in family-related cases. That said, I almost wish both judges could have this seat–because I truly believe both of them are fantastically qualified and I would be happy for either one who wins.
District Attorney – 19B: Garland Nelson Yates
Here’s another unchallenged office. Since I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about Yates (mostly on account of not finding much about Yates in the first place), I see no reason why I shouldn’t vote him back into office–but I really do wish I had the freedom to choose. However, if no one runs for office, the choice is already made, isn’t it?
Randolph Country Commissioner (District 1): Phil Kemp
It baffles me why there is practically no information about either candidate in this race, but I suppose it’s a moot point: What I found about challenger Valinda Norton I didn’t like (such as pushing for the privatization of the N.C. Zoo–an end I hope to never see actualized), and what scant bit I read about Kemp I wasn’t deterred by… so as a matter of unfortunate default, I’ll give my vote to him: After all, it’s probably better to keep our current leadership than to try a new leader who may not be qualified or right for the job. However, it does sadden me to think that there is such low interest in local politics that neither candidate felt it worthwhile to have a website or even a page on Facebook… Perhaps if local politicians were more vocal, local voters would be more engaged.
Randolph Country Commissioner (District 5): Arnold Lanier
Libertarian Adam Brooks is young and has new visions for Randolph county, but with his youth comes an obvous amount of inexperience and, sadly, disrespect–two elements not explicitly mentioned on his website, but apparent in the way he wrote about his ideals. Although I agree with his positions on governmental ideas (for which I think his ideas are outstanding) and building a business-friendly environment, his attitude is less becoming, and when he states he’ll be happy to talk about his opinions on other issues but won’t make them a priority until his goals have been achieved was outright disconcerting; government representatives are here to represent, not plow blindly forward with their own agenda–and that’s the very tactic that he seems most opposed to, yet happily admits advocating for personally.
That doesn’t mean I’m ultimately pleased with my choice in Lanier, though. Lanier provided no candidate information to the N.C. Voter Guide, nor has he put any effort into reaching out to voters on the issues, just as Kemp and Norton hadn’t–and for me, that’s a great negative on his campaign efforts (if we can even say such, since it appears there wasn’t any effort at all). That said, what little I can find has painted a positive picture: He’s opposed to raising taxes in this climate unless necessary, and he supports a balanced budget, just as if the county budget were a household budget. He’s proud of Randolph county’s recent construction of two new schools, and two projects he’d like to see move forward are adding water lines to areas where there currently aren’t any (which will ease things for those living there and attract new businesses) and expanding EMS services (since in some places, there are response times in excess of half an hour). These are all important issues–issues Brooks doesn’t seem to care about–and although I’m disappointed that Lanier didn’t make any efforts to reach out to voters and make his stance on these issues clear and public, it is enough to swing my vote in his direction–and for me, I believe it’s the right direction.
Randolph County Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor: Shane Whitaker
Because no one else is running. Yet I know nothing about him–because, again, there has been no effort made to reach out to voters and share the information important to making any intellgible decision. So in he goes. Whatever for, I do not know.
If you’ve read this far, you are amazing. Even if you just skimmed this far, you’re awesome. Most of these offices have a small bearing on the world as a whole; most of them have a small bearing on the country as a whole; and some of them have a small effect, if any, on the state as a whole–but all of them together are important. Our local governments are closest to all of us, and they build up to our state and federal governments to create a tiered system that has worked effectively for hundreds of years–but will only continue to work effectively if people are informed and active voters, if they rally around the causes they support and make an effort to make their voices heard when election time comes.
So now that I have sufficiently consumed your time, I ask you to do one more thing for me: Go vote. It is my hope that, in reading this, you have decided to look more closely at the candidates in your own districts and it is my hope that, knowing what I have looked for in making my decisions, you may find it easier to make your decisions–they need not be the same as mine, but so long as you make those decisions and then act on them by voting, it doesn’t matter to me.
Just vote. It’ll help you. It’ll help everyone.