Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — Republican newcomer Rob Bryan hopes to woo voters in N.C. House of Representatives District 88 with his strong stance on education reform. But he must convince them 10-term incumbent Democrat Martha Alexander, vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee, is not up to the task.
Bryan should get a boost because the liberal Alexander’s District 106 has been redrawn into the newly configured, Republican-leaning District 88. That makes her “the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent seeking re-election,” according to the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation.
According to his website, Bryan is a Charlotte attorney who was inspired to enter politics following the Democratic sweep in the 2008 election.
“After Obama won in 2008, I was pretty frustrated and felt like we needed to do more and get people active. I felt like we were getting outworked by the Democrats,” Bryan said in a phone interview.
Bryan started by serving as chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party. In that capacity he worked closely with Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, who represents Mecklenburg.
“I was impressed with Thom’s work ethic and vision to proactively get things done,” Bryan said. “The right doors seemed to open up for me to have the ability to run.”
Bryan wants to focus on two major issues during the campaign — education and regulatory reform.
Bryan’s interest in education comes from his days with Teach for America, in which he taught students in inner-city Los Angeles.
Bryan believes a strong education system is a crucial economic development tool.
“If people are moving their businesses here, they want to know if their kids can get a decent education,” he said.
Bryan doesn’t necessarily believe taxpayers are spending too much on education. He believes they’re spending too much for an inferior product.
“People do not want to pay for bad education. If we were breeding success, then people would be more willing to pay for education,” he said. “They don’t want to pay for something that stinks. We’re paying way too much for things in schools that are unacceptable.”
The other issue — regulatory reform — comes from his experience as a real estate attorney, through which he is aware of the governmental “micro-regulation” his clients must endure.
“If somebody wants to put a pink building up, they stand more to lose than anybody else. The government shouldn’t be making aesthetic decisions,” Bryan said. “Nobody has more incentive to get the aesthetics right than the person who’s putting the money in.”
Bryan also believes government shouldn’t be making decisions about winners and losers in the marketplace, as it often does when handing out economic incentives.
The best way to lure businesses, he believes, is to have a fair and simple tax code instead of handing out cash incentives.
“If you have a nice, level playing field, that’s the ideal. Everybody knows the rules, there’s not a big political game about who’s the favorite,” Bryan said.
Attempts to contact Alexander for an interview were not successful.
According to her campaign website, Alexander has an undergraduate degree from Florida State University, a Master’s degree in Human Development from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Alexander has “worked as professional in the addiction field and has served on various agencies and boards.”
Alexander has served on the Appropriations Committee and also has served on the Health and Human Services/Welfare Committee.
In a statement issued to UNC-TV, Alexander said when legislating “human dignity must be preserved and justice served.
“I am concerned that those with mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems receive the appropriate treatment,” she said. “Health coverage should be available for every woman, child and man. And our environment is very precious and must be preserved, not only for those of us living now, but for future generations.”
Indeed, much of the legislation Alexander has sponsored or co-sponsored has to do with women’s and children’s issues.
The Roll Call, which runs a database tracking legislators’ votes, says Alexander has voted with her party 94 percent of the time.
In 2010, Alexander was involved a controversy when she attended a state legislators’ conference at the famed Churchill Downs race track in Kentucky.
When asked on camera if she thought taxpayers would like seeing legislators “partying it up” at Churchill Downs, Alexander replied, “Probably not, but then they don’t like most of the things we do.”
Sam A. Hieb is a contributor to Carolina Journal.