Seven General Assembly candidates, all but one of them Democrats, answered questions and gave brief campaign speeches to an audience at NC Central University Wednesday night.
The forum in the H.M. Michaux Jr. School of Education Building auditorium was organized by the League of Women Voters for Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties.
“I believe that North Carolina is at a crossroads,” said NC Sen. Valerie Foushee, a Democrat representing Chatham-and-Orange District 23. “I believe that now is the time that we elect people who care about people.”
There were five other Democrats on the stage, including the building’s namesake, House Rep. H.M “Mickey” Michaux, a Democrat who’s represented Durham District 31 for more than three decades.
During his five-minute speech, Michaux told student voters that he’s pushed, by his estimation, about half-a-billion dollars of NCCU funding through the General Assembly during his career. He also said that the current Republican majority has set North Carolina back “about 140 years” in terms of voting rights for African Americans.
He recalled a conversation he had with his friend Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s.
“Martin instilled in me one thing,” said Michaux. “We need political power more desperately than any other group in American society.”
Michaux also blasted Republican leaders for cutting minority economic development programs from the state budget.
Other Durham Democrats at the forum included Sen. Mike Woodard, representing Durham, Person-and-Caswell District 22; District 30 Rep. Paul Luebke of Durham; and Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. of Durham-and-Granville District 20.
Luebke criticized Republicans for giving $300 million in tax breaks to “the wealthy” while raising taxes, as he said, “on the middle class” by adding a seven-percent tax to movie tickets.
Besides Foushee, Orange County was represented at the forum by District 56Rep. Verla Insko.
Insko cut into Republicans as well, saying they got it wrong on the economy by believing in a “trickle-down” theory that, in her words, “never worked.”
“Instead of cutting the fraud and waste,” said Insko, “they cut education.”
The panel was rounded out by half-term Rep. Robert Reives II, a Democrat representing District 54, in Chatham and Lee Counties; and Herbert Joubert, Woodard’s Republican challenger for the District 22 Senate seat.
Joubert is a substitute teacher and bus driver for Caswell County schools, and the chair of the Caswell County Republican Party.
In his remarks, Joubert called the public school system “a monopoly” that could use some competition. He also made a case for gun rights.
“Our founding fathers in the Constitution provided for us the right to keep and bear arms,” said Joubert. “And that’s not anything we should be apologizing about. Any gun – I can place a gun on this table, and as long as it sits there, nobody will get injured.”
Foushee’s Republican opponent Mary Lopez-Carter was not present; nor was Dave Carter, who’s running against Insko. Carter and Lopez-Carter are married.
League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham President Brenda Rogers told WCHL that Rep. Graig Meyer of Distict 50 in Durham and Orange said he could not attend due to a schedule conflict. His Republican opponent Rod Chaney was also absent.