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Casting a line for congressional candidate's fishing perspective

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By Jerry Schill

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The following is a personal opinion and should not be implied as an endorsement of any candidate. I’ve read and heard many comments prior to and after the primary election but merely want to put out my thoughts from a commercial fishing perspective for what they’re worth.

Last month’s primary whittled down 17 Republicans to 2;

6 Democrats to 1; and

2 Libertarians to 1.

From a commercial fishing standpoint, where does that leave us? On the Republican side we have Greg Murphy and Joan Perry. Democrats have selected Allen Thomas and Libertarians have Tim Harris. Of those, all responded to the questionnaire sent out by NCFA except for Allen Thomas even though he was reminded of it. Of all of those listed, I have been around and talked to Greg Murphy more than the others because he’s a sitting NC House member, although Joan Perry has reached out to try and make arrangements for a sit down meeting. Our schedules haven’t allowed that to happen yet.

What’s more important to you?

1.) What a candidate says, or

2.) What a candidate does?

Is it important that the candidate at least knows the basics regarding your issues?

Greg Murphy has probably lost support from the anti-commercial fishing crowd because of the way he answered our questionnaire and has made comments in support of commercial fishing while campaigning.

To commercial fishermen, Greg’s biggest hurdle has been his co-sponsorship of House bill 867 in the last legislative session. That was a very bad bill from our perspective and never got out of committee, but it does raise eyebrows when a legislator puts his name on a bad bill, then runs for an office in a district where commercial fishing is so important. I took a little bit of heat for telling commercial fishermen who have asked about Greg’s sponsorship of that bill. I have not endorsed a candidate or spoken against any candidate, but I do have an obligation to truthfully answer questions about candidates when asked by commercial fishermen. I did not condemn him for the sponsorship nor did I defend him. Facts are facts.

House bill 867 was terrible legislation in my personal opinion and in the opinion of most if not all in the commercial fishing community. I think it was a mistake for Greg Murphy to co-sponsor the bill and I’ve talked to him about it. I think it’s safe to say that if you talk to him, he would say in retrospect it was not a good decision and he regrets it.

So between Greg Murphy and Joan Perry, Greg has a voting record for us to scrutinize while Joan does not. We criticize Greg for 867 and then he gets criticized from the other side for campaigning and stating he supports commercial fishing. That’s not a pleasant place to be.

In addition to the fishing issues is the ideological debate about which Republican is more conservative than the other. I’ll not get into that here, other than to say his sponsorship of H-655, NC HEALTH CARE FOR WORKING FAMILIES should be noted. This isn’t a fishing bill per se but a bill that has been criticized by some for various reasons.

All I’ll say is that I see it as a good faith effort to truly help working families that get caught between the cracks in getting health care for their families. I have personal doubts that many fishermen would take advantage of it due to the costs involved even though the costs may be minimal. What I’m saying is, without getting into the pros and cons of the bill, I think Greg’s intentions were good with the intent of helping the working class, including commercial fishermen.

On the Democrat side, I don’t mind saying that Allen Thomas thus far has been a disappointment, merely because he did not respond to our questionnaire. As a matter of fact he hasn’t reached out at all. I know his Dad, Joe Thomas, and his brother Scott Thomas but I don’t know Allen. He did sit down and talk to NCFA Chairman Brent Fulcher and Executive Director Glenn Skinner but since this is meant to be a personal review of the way I see things from a commercial fishing perspective, I have nothing to say when it comes to Allen Thomas because there’s nothing to base my comments on.

Libertarian Tim Harris has a rather good grasp of our issues based on his questionnaire answers.

Question about gamefish: None of the remaining candidates nailed it when it came to giving an answer about what happens when fish are declared gamefish. They did understand it was not good for commercial fishermen, but none mentioned the primary negative effect and that’s how it affects the seafood consumer! These are public trust waters and as such, all of us own those public trust resources.

Over 90% of our citizens do not fish in saltwater, so declaring a fish gamefish takes it away from the vast number of owners of the resource and reserves it for a very few. (There were some candidates in the primary that "got it", but they didn't make the cut.)

Also note that Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt will be on the ballot for the General Election but since he had no primary was not asked to fill out our questionnaire. But he will be going forward.

Jerry Schill has been involved with commercial fishing issues for over 30 years mainly as part of a non profit trade association. He is the Chairman of the God and Country Christian Alliance in New Bern. The views are his own.

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