Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — In the race for the open seat in N.C. House District 88, Republican Mark Hollo, a physician assistant and former state representative from Alexander County, says internal polls show him with a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent, David Munday, an insurance consultant and retired major with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
According to the latest statistics from the State Board of Elections, Republicans lead in voter registration in Alexander and Catawba Counties with nearly 44 percent. Democrats have 31.5 percent of registered voters and 24.4 percent are unaffiliated. Two-term incumbent Rep. Ray Warren, D-Alexander, who narrowly defeated Hollo in 2006 and won re-election in 2008 by a mere 200 votes, decided not to run again.
Earlier this year, the Raleigh-based North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation said the 88th District has the highest percentage of Republican voters of any district now represented by a Democrat, making it perhaps the best opportunity for Republicans to pick up a seat.
Gibbs Knotts, head of the political science and public affairs department at Western Carolina University, told Carolina Journal that Republicans believe they have the best chance in years to gain seats in the House if not take it over, given the low approval numbers for both President Obama and Gov. Bev Purdue.
In separate phone interviews, both Hollo and Munday said the economy and jobs are the main concerns for voters in their district. Munday added that teacher layoffs and public education are other issues of interest.
“I’ve been going door to door around the district, and voters are angry,” Hollo said, “so I expect a large voter turnout. People aren’t happy with how things are going in the state. They want to know their hard work will be rewarded. They don’t want the government telling them what they have to buy.”
North Carolina faces another $3.2 billion budget shortfall next year but won’t have millions in federal stimulus dollars to help close that gap. What would these two candidates do to address the deficit?
“I would either look at the tax structure, possibly a sales tax on services, or cuts at the top levels of government,” Munday said, “but no cutting in classrooms. I would cut administrative jobs.”
“We’re overtaxing to pay for overspending,” Hollo said, “and it’s been going on for years. We need fiscal responsibility. You can’t tax your way out of a recession like the state tried to do last year.” Hollo opposes any new taxes, including taxes on services, and would let the temporary one-cent sales tax hike expire.
When he served in the state House in 2005-06, Hollo said he voted against any budget increases, especially if lawmakers wanted to use non-recurring revenues to pay for ongoing expenditures. Munday said he was undecided about that practice.
While both candidates said they thought lower corporate and personal tax rates would stimulate the economy and lead to job creation, Munday takes a decidedly different stance on a number of employment-related issues.
For example, Munday favors raising the state’s minimum wage, allowing collective bargaining for state employees provided there’s a “no-strike clause,” expanding workers’ compensation disability payments to cover non-physical ailments, and allowing associations that represent state and local employees and teachers to engage in collective bargaining for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Munday is undecided whether North Carolina employers should be required to provide paid sick leave for all employees.
Hollo wants to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, while Munday is opposed, saying “we should focus on [traditional] public schools.” Munday would consider increasing taxes to raise teacher pay to the national average.
Hollo said he and fellow Republicans favor spending money on classroom instruction rather than bureaucracy, but too often the legislature does the opposite.
“I’ve spoken with some members of the Tea Party, and it works well in some places,” Munday said, “but there’s too many party lines being drawn in North Carolina. Too much fighting, not enough working together.”
Hollo said he’s confident Tea Party members will vote for him because he’s more mindful of North Carolina values and will work hard to cut taxes and reduce wasteful spending. “The people know how to spend their money better than the politicians in Raleigh do.”
Karen McMahan is a contributor to Carolina Journal.