Goodwin, Wesson to vie in House 1

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Eddy Goodwin

052218 Wesson

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The two candidates in House District 1 agree that rural North Carolina needs more state investment. Their debate is over where to find the money and how it should be spent.

Ed Goodwin, a Republican former state ferry director from Chowan, and Ron Wesson, a Democratic county commissioner from Bertie, are both vying for the House seat now held by state Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, who’s running for the open state Senate seat in District 1.

If elected in next month’s general election, either Goodwin or Wesson will represent a recently redrawn district that includes Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

Each candidate says they’ve got good credentials for the job.

Besides being the state’s former ferry chief, Goodwin is a former Chowan County commissioner, a retired naval investigator, and comes from a family of farmers. Besides his role on the Bertie Board of Commissioners Wesson is a retired executive for an analytics firm he claims on his website had annual revenues above $2.2 billion.

During interviews last week, Goodwin and Wesson discussed their policy prescriptions and their top goals if they’re elected to a two-year term in the Legislature.

Asked how he’d measure his success as a lawmaker, Goodwin said he would strive to look out for all six counties in House District 1, keep taxes low and defend people’s rights, both God-given and constitutional.

Goodwin said his specific goals would include following up on his concern that the state is not “sharing alike” in its funding of urban and rural areas, citing the method of distributing sales tax revenues as one example. He didn’t propose specific ways to make the distribution fairer, noting efforts to change sales tax distribution have faced opposition.

On education, Goodwin said the state needs to help rural counties with the major costs of building new schools. Noting that schools often affect perceptions about the quality of a community, some districts in the region have schools that are more than 50 years old.

“When I was growing up, your school reflected your community,” Goodwin said. “It’s a pride thing.”

Goodwin suggested the state should prioritize the communities that most need new schools, and use more revenues from the NC Education Lottery to help pay for them each year.

On taxes, Goodwin said he wanted to leave taxes where they are or lower them, if possible. He wouldn’t rule out raising taxes, which he said might be necessary if the state’s finances were distressed.

Wesson said his measure of success as a lawmaker would be whether he improved constituents’ quality of life.

Improving schools is a key way to do that, he said. Like Goodwin, he agreed more funding for new schools is a top priority. It would be very difficult for counties like Chowan to build new schools on their own, he said, noting federal stimulus dollars are what helped Bertie County afford a new school years ago.

Unlike Goodwin, he is calling for paying for new school construction with a $2 billion, statewide bond referendum. It’s been many years since the state had a school referendum, and the state determined earlier this year one can be afforded without raising taxes, he noted.

Wesson also said the state needs to help rural communities get more broadband internet access. It can cost $30,000 per linear mile to get a “last mile” connection to existing fiber-optic lines, he said, noting those costs greatly hamper business growth.

How the state should help, Wesson didn’t say, though he said there are many ways communities can expand internet access, including tying into electrical infrastructure or even using school buses as wireless “hot spots.”

On taxes, Wesson said he wants to keep taxes low and isn’t calling for raising taxes on anyone, despite his and other Democrats’ opposition to how Republicans have handled tax policy in recent years. Wesson said Republicans have cut income tax rates, but also increased the overall tax burden on middle- and low-income people by expanding sales taxes and making other changes to tax policy.

He said he doesn’t want to raise current rates, but also said the state should “refocus” on helping the middle class.

Wesson also said he and other Bertie commissioners have cut both spending and property taxes in the county, and as a state lawmaker he’ll work to find savings in state and local government. He also said he wants to enlist the NC Association of County Commissioners and the NC League of Municipalities in helping local governments find savings. Though he said his corporate career prepared him to manage complex budgets, he said other commissioners and even some county managers don’t have strong backgrounds in finance.

Asked about Wesson, Goodwin said the difference between them is that “I’m a conservative Republican and he’s a liberal Democrat.”

One issue they disagree on is Medicaid expansion, Goodwin said. Wesson and other Democrats argue expanding the health insurance program to cover single but still low-income individuals would improve public health and spur major economic activity in rural communities. Goodwin opposes what he says would be government getting further involved in health care, arguing expanding Medicaid could create unforeseen costs for taxpayers.

Goodwin acknowledged, however, that health care is expensive and there are high rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other maladies in the district. The state needs to study what’s causing those disparities, he said.

Asked about Goodwin, Wesson said his Republican opponent wouldn’t offer new or better leadership.

“If he’s elected, I think he’d be more of what we’ve had,” Wesson said. “He’d have to go along to get along” to maintain any influence with Republican leaders.

Wesson said he would work to unite rural lawmakers in different parties but with shared interests. He proposed establishing a bipartisan caucus for lawmakers in northeastern North Carolina.

“I’m looking for real answers,” Wesson said.

Name: Ed Goodwin

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent; former N.C. Ferry Division director; retired farmer

Education: East Carolina University, degree in criminal justice

Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1972-76

Previous campaigns/​offices: Elected Chowan commissioner in 2008, ran unsuccessfully for N.C. Secretary of State in 2012

Civic involvement: Ordained deacon and active church member at Macedonia Baptist Church; former youth rifle instructor

Family: Wife, Lori, three sons

Name: Ron Wesson

Age: 68

Occupation: retired 23 years senior vice president and global leader of supply management solutions division, Dun and Bradstreet Corp.

Education: Graduate of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, degrees in philosophy and business, graduate work at the MIT Sloan School of Business for executive studies

Military service: None

Previous campaigns/​offices: Elected to Bertie County Board of Commissioners in 2012, re-elected in 2016

Civic involvement: Member, Rotary Club of Windsor; member, Pleasant Oak Missionary Baptist Church; founder of nonprofits for children, the Youth Bertie Backpack Program and Better Beginnings for Bertie’s Children

Family:Wife, Patricia, two children