Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — As a swing district it already commands interest. But a General Election anomaly has drawn heightened interest of the state’s political observers to state House District 93. It is the only House district in the state to feature the same opponents from the 2010 election.
Former two-term Democratic state Rep. Cullie Tarleton of Watauga County is challenging incumbent freshman Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, after losing to him in 2010 by 769 votes.
The second go-round also may be close, as Tarleton and Jordan holding many similar positions on issues. Those include reducing business regulations, cutting the corporate tax rate, providing tax breaks for businesses that expand or hire new employees, and ensuring that the state's 58 community colleges provide the technical training increasingly required by employers.
Both candidates cite job creation and the economy as top priorities.
The two candidates differ in a couple of key areas. Jordan opposes the use of federal stimulus money to cover budget shortfalls; Tarleton supports it. Jordan opposes expanding the state sales tax to services, while Tarleton said he would consider it.
The N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation predicts this will be one of the most competitive races in the state, given Jordan’s narrow margin in the last election, when political winds favored Republicans and gave them their first majority in the General Assembly in more than a century.
Registered Republican voters lead over registered Democrats 37 percent to 31.6 percent in the district, comprising the two northwestern-most counties bordering Tennessee. Unaffiliated voters account for 31 percent of those registered. Whites make up 95.7 percent of the population.
Jordan told Carolina Journal that, since winning the seat in 2010, he has served on the House agriculture, finance, elections, education, and judiciary committees.
"The bottom line I have to run on is my record," Jordan said. "My opponent was not as effective, except for increasing the size of government."
During his two years in office, Jordan, the House majority whip, has sponsored or co-sponsored legislation providing additional funding to enhance student literacy, eliminating the arbitrary cap on charter schools, and providing a 1.2 percent salary increase for teachers and other public employees — the first raise they received in four years.
He also signed onto a bill requiring state and local governments to use the federal E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Jordan co-sponsored legislation such as the Castle Doctrine, allowing victims and potential victims of violent crimes such as break-ins and attempted kidnapping to defend themselves without fear of criminal prosecution or civil action.
He was the primary sponsor of 30 bills or revisions during his first term in the House. Of those, 10 successfully cleared the legislature and became law.
"Voters should vote for me over my opponent, because I will focus on creating jobs and restoring funding to all levels of education," Tarleton told CJ. "The most important issues are jobs and education. These two issues are linked because we can't create jobs if we can't provide employers with an educated, well-trained work force."
Watauga County had 8.7 percent unemployment in July, the most recent period for which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has provided county data.
Prior to unseating Tarleton in 2010, Jordan worked with the N.C. Republican Party and was appointed by the Stokes County Board of County Commissioners to serve as the county attorney. From 1997-99, Jordan was the director of research for the John Locke Foundation, publisher of CJ.He earned a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University, a Master's in Business from Vanderbilt, and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tarleton worked as a broadcasting executive and completed two four-year tours in the U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserves. The retired broadcaster worked for the N.C. Lottery Commission until Feb. 13. Tarleton attended Prince Georges and Central Piedmont community colleges and graduated from the Young Executives Institute in the School of Business Administration at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1974.
Tarleton represented N.C. House District 93 for two terms, winning elections in 2007 and 2009. During that period, the legislation he supported included extending the emergency foreclosure program, the homebuyer protection act, and child care nutrition and activity standards.
He also backed bills providing incentives for renewable energy, up to a $2.5 million tax credit for biodiesel producers and investors buying renewable energy property, as well as a tax credit, ranging between $1,400 and $10,500, for homeowners installing appliances and other equipment powered by renewable energy.
Tarleton's campaign had $16,400.20 on hand at the end of the second quarter, and Jordan had $14,822.26, according to quarterly reports filed with the N.C. Board of Elections.
Kristy Bailey is a contributor to Carolina Journal.