Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — A Tea Party pioneer, a libertarian-leaning Iraqi war veteran, and a former Democratic state lawmaker are pitching themselves as the best conservative choice and voice for House District 6 in the May 8 Republican primary.
But Mattie Lawson of Kill Devil Hills and Jeremy Adams of Nags Head are warning voters that they are the true Republicans in the race. Former legislator Arthur Williams of Washington is a lifelong Democrat attempting to reinvent himself as a conservative, they say.
All three say they are for limited government, smaller state budgets, reduced taxes, and eliminating federal intervention and environmental regulations that are destroying the beach-and-tourism economy of District 6.
The district, comprising Beaufort, Washington, Dare, and Hyde counties, is listed by the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation as a swing district. The winner of the GOP primary will face Kitty Hawk small business owner Paul Tine in the Nov. 6 General Election. Tine is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
“I didn’t like the way it was running up there,” Williams said of the reason behind his party switch. “I’m a conservative ... trying to cut government waste and reduce the bureaucracy in Raleigh.”
Williams served eight years as Democratic District 6 representative until Republican Bill Cook ousted him in 2010. Cook is vacating the seat to run for N.C. Senate District 1 in the GOP primary.
“Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms both changed parties,” said Williams, owner of a small car sales business. “You see the light after a while.”
“He’s been a Democrat for 45 years and he changes [registration] in October , announcing his candidacy just three months later,” said Lawson, who described herself as “very active in the local Tea Party movement” since it launched in April 2009.
Lawson, a GE pensioner whose professional life included stints at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and department head of process engineering at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., said Williams “doesn’t have a stellar record. He claims he is a conservative, but I don’t think his voting record shows that.”
Williams “raised taxes several times and certainly is no free market fan” or supporter of the “small r” republican form of government, said Adams.
Adams is an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He stands apart from Williams, Adams said, in part because he is an adherent of Austrian economics, arguing that “individual liberty is only possible with economic freedom. We have to be able to keep the fruits of our labor and that means government needs to keep its hands off of our money.”
Williams said education is “one of the most important” issues he’s championing, and government needs to partner with the private sector to get good schooling, job training, and help for small businesses in eastern North Carolina.
He said he is best positioned to help the region because of his eight years of legislative experience, including membership on Agriculture and Transportation committees and committee chairmanships.
“I feel like if I go back up there I can hit the ground running. I understand the system and the process,” Williams said.
But Lawson said her public service record on the Kill Devil Hills Board of Adjustment and deep roots in Republican politics would serve her well.
Her involvement includes secretary of the Dare County Republican Party, publicity chairwoman for District 3, member of the N.C. GOP Executive Committee, and an attendee at three state party conventions.
She said her designation as a Six Sigma black belt would be useful in evaluating state government for waste and best practices. The Six Sigma process has been used in manufacturing to identify problems and wasteful spending and make companies leaner and more productive.
Adams, a real estate broker whose interest in politics is to secure individual and economic liberty, said he is an active member of the Dare County Republican Party.
“I’ve faced down people who wanted to kill me in combat,” he said, so engaging in state politics would not be as daunting as his citizen soldier experience.
Lawson said she supports a voter identification requirement and immigration reform. She backs charter schools because “I don’t think the public schools have been doing our children justice.”
Willliams said the state tax code needs adjusting, noting that 40 percent of North Carolinians don’t pay taxes.
And Adams believes the state could look to trim its employee roster by privatizing where possible.
“In general we probably have way too many state employees,” he said.
All three said there are ways to help residents in the district.
Williams would like to eliminate ferry fees on the Pamlico Sound. “They don’t need to charge people to go to work,” he said.
Lawson and Adams believe there are too many regulations on fishermen and beach use and some of those need to be abolished.
Regulators “care more about the piping plovers [sea birds] than they do about their families” who are leaving generations-old businesses due to the tourism-killing laws, Lawson said.
Adams would like to see the national park status of beaches revert to state ownership, reducing the number of more park rangers needed to enforce access fees. He believes ferry tolls are double taxation, but would support them on out-of-state users.
Lawson and Williams say they are pro-life Christians and support the constitutional amendment on the May ballot limiting marriage to a man and a woman.
Adams believes abortion is between an individual, her family, and their God. He said government power to regulate marriage, not same-sex unions, is the more appropriate area for discussion. (See editor's note at end of story.)
“I think government should not be in marriage. God gave us the right to get married, not government,” he said.
Though it’s listed as a swing district, District 6 is 48 percent Democratic, with 28 percent of voters registered Republican and 24 percent unaffiliated. The district is 82 percent white and 16 percent black.
Voters favored Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr over Democrat challenger Elaine Marshall, 61 percent to 37 percent, in 2010. In 2008, voters picked U.S. Sen. John McCain for president over U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, 56 percent to 43 percent, but voted for Democrat Bev Perdue over Republican Pat McCrory, 55 percent to 42 percent.
Dan Way is a contributor to Carolina Journal.
Editor's note: Adams has taken issue with the way his response to a question about social issues was reported in Carolina Journal. CJ asked the three candidates this question: "Are there social issues that resonate with you, such as abortion or the marriage amendment?"
Adams' verbatim response was: “I am of the liberty mind.” And “that’s up to you and your family and your god.”
In an email received after publication, Adams said he recalls being asked the question as stated, but said his response was limited to the marriage amendment rather than abortion.
Monday, Adams told CJ he is a pro-life Christian.