Shepard stumps in area, 3 seeking 3rd District seat from Currituck
By Nicole Bowman-Layton and Julian Eure
Adams Publishing Group
Sunday, March 10, 2019
Three of the 26 candidates who’ve filed for the vacant 3rd Congressional District seat formerly held by Walter Jones are from Currituck County.
Two of the Currituck candidates are current members of the county Board of Commissioners: Paul Beaumont of Shawboro and Michael Payment of Grandy. The third is a physician who specializes in canabinoid medicine, Dr. Kevin Baiko of Moyock. All three are registered Republicans.
Meanwhile, the race that features 17 Republicans, six Democrats, two Libertarians and one Constitutional Party member is already underway. On the same day the one-week filing period for the vacant congressional seat ended, one of the candidates who had already filed was already stumping for support in the area.
Phillip “Phil” Shepard, a Republican five-term state lawmaker from Onslow County, stopped by Edenton Friday as he kicked off his campaign.
“I was born and raised in Onslow County. My family has been here since the 1700s,” Shepard said. “That may not be important to some people, but I know about fishing, farming and the issues important to eastern North Carolina.”
Shepard, who represents District 15 in the state House, is chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He worked for about 36 years at the Camp LeJeune Traffic Management Office and currently pastors part-time at Lighthouse Baptist Church.
Shepard describes himself as a social and fiscal conservative. He voted for House Bill 2 — the so-called “bathroom bill” — and notes he did not vote for its repeal. He said he has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and the State Employees Association of North Carolina. Shepard says he’s one of the few members of the House who received a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.
Shepard said fixing America’s health system starts with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., revising Medicare and getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. He also said the country should concentrate on taking care of citizens who have lived here all of their lives, not those who come to the country illegally.
“I think it’s amazing that there are senior citizens in our country that can’t get any help from the government,” he said. “We should not reward people who come here illegally.”
While he agrees with President Donald Trump on building a wall at the southern border and most other issues, Shepard said he is not so sure the U.S. military should withdraw from the Mideast.
“We need to keep our guard up and keep our military strong,” he said. “The president should listen to his military leaders who know what is happening there.”
Payment, who represents District 3 on the Currituck Board of Commissioners, is in the middle of his second term and currently serves as board vice chairman. He operates CT Mechanical, a heating and air-conditioning company.
Payment couldn’t be reached for comment Friday or Saturday. However, he had the following message for supporters on his Facebook page: “I have listed myself as a Candidate for the 3rd District Congressional seat. The special election is coming up fast. I will putting out more information soon. ... I look forward to representing this District for all.”
Baiko, who’ll turn 50 next month, is a graduate of Eastern Virginia Medical School. A former family practitioner, he has specialized in canabinoid medicine — the prescribing of medical marijuana — for the past 10 years. Because treating patients with marijuana is currently prohibited in both North Carolina and Virginia, Baiko said he practices medicine in Hawaii. He said he and his wife split their time between Currituck and Hawaii.
Baiko says he’s running for Congress because he “cares about our country and respects its constitution” and believes the nation’s freedoms and values need to be preserved. He supports free markets, the freedom to bear arms, well-enforced borders and a well-regulated immigration system. He also supports “making America our priority,” he said.
The issue that’s likely to set him apart from most other candidates in the 3rd District race, however, is his support for legalizing medical marijuana.
“I feel somebody needs to stand up for this cause and raise awareness of it,” he said. “It’s a large part of my overall platform.”
Baiko believes most Americans support a “sensible drug policy” that includes legalizing medical marijuana. He notes an Elon University poll that found 80 percent of North Carolinians support legalizing medical marijuana. He says the issue “isn’t a partisan one for voters,” but legislators continue to block legalization — to their constituents’ detriment.
“People are unnecessarily suffering and dying because of our drug policy and it needs to be changed,” he said.
Asked how he thinks he’ll fare in what’s generally considered a conservative-leaning district, Baiko says he believes he “stands a great chance” of winning given all that he stands for.
“I am a Christian and a conservative,” he said. “And I don’t think my advocacy for medical marijuana is mutually exclusive to those things.”