2nd district primary candidates take on state gas tax and term limits 

Listen to this story (10 minutes)

  • N.C.'s 2nd Congressional District runs north of downtown Raleigh through parts of Wake Forest, Zebulon, Wendell, Knightdale, and Cary

From establishing Constitution restoration training to having media sanctioned by a media accountability ombudsman, Republican primary candidates for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District are stumping on a wide range of policy ideas ahead of the May 17 primary election.   

The 2nd is one of two congressional districts in Wake County. It runs from north of downtown Raleigh through parts of Wake Forest, Zebulon, Wendell, Knightdale, and Cary. It is considered one of the safest Democrat districts in North Carolina with 61.5% of the district population having voted for Democrat candidates in the past, and 35.9% for Republicans. 

U.S. Representative Deborah Ross, an incumbent Democrat who has served one term, is the only Democrat running. She served in the North Carolina General Assembly, representing parts of Wake County, for more than 10 years. Prior to being elected to Congress in 2016, Ross lost a U.S. Senate race to incumbent Republican Richard Burr. However, the vote was narrow. Burr won with 51% of the votes.

Adina Safta, Mahesh Ganorkar, and Christine Villaverde are all running for office for the first time, and competing to be the Republican nominee for the primary on May 17.

Safta is a naturalized citizen born in communist Romania. She established a small business in Raleigh called the Safta Group, which helps local business owners with bookkeeping, and helps owners understand the Paycheck Protection Program.

Like Safta, Republican primary candidate Mahesh Ganorkar is also a naturalized citizen. He is originally from India and is a father of three children homeschooled by him. For a living, Ganorkar designs houses.

Also running in the Republican primary is Christine Villaverde, a former police officer raised in a military family. She currently serves as a member of N.C. Emergency Response Team. She has also volunteered her time as Civilian Grief Counselor and Family Support Group Leader in the U.S. Army. Villaverde previously worked for the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts as Continuity of Operations Officer, researching methods and techniques for emergency management and disaster recovery. She is a mother of three.

States such as Georgia, Maryland, California, Florida have all proposed or passed state legislation to suspend their state gas taxes for one month and in some cases, for an entire year. This is to alleviate the effect of rising gas prices on people’s wallets. 

The state gas tax in North Carolina was $0.361 per gallon last year. However, that was raised at the start of January to $0.385 per gallon due to change in population and energy cost inflation. The state gas tax is NCDOT’s highest revenue source providing $2.1 billion, 40.3% of its total revenues. Eighty percent of the highway fund’s revenues are provided via the state gas tax, which helps fund the replacement of bridges, resurfacing highways, and paving unpaved secondary roads. Of the overall transportation funding, state gas tax covers 50%. 

All four candidates were asked four policy questions. However, Ross was the only candidate who did not respond. 

Should the state gas tax should be suspended or ended entirely?

Villaverde: “Yes, especially in the short term we need to do whatever we can fiscally to alleviate the pain at the pump.”

Ganorkar: “I am in favor of ending any kind of tax that you can imagine.”  

Safta: “I am against it because North Carolina Department of Transportation’s largest funding source is the state gas tax. Reducing the tax only saves an average driver $33.00 over a two-month period,” She continued, “downside is NCDOT losing hundreds of millions of dollars in funds already budgeted for our roads and construction. As a long term solution, open up the pipelines and drill in America.” 

What should be done about the opioid crisis in terms of policy?

Villaverde: “We’re gonna have to get the border under control. Right now, the Biden administration has abdicated its responsibility and that’s just opened the border… China is taking advantage with the cartels trafficking fentanyl,” she states. “Record amounts of destroying young people, a hundred thousand people alone last year.” She further added, “If not opioid overdoses, its opioid poisonings. These people are thinking they are taking a different pill, and they’re taking it and thats murder. We need to finish the wall.”

Ganorkar: “We need to stop prescribing drugs that the people do not need. Opioids, legalizing of drugs, I am totally against it. Painkillers, pain can be handled differently, but not with addiction,” he said. “My son had dental surgery, and his doctor gave him those drugs. My wife looked at that and she said ‘no you are not getting this’.”  

Safta: “I would start with finishing the wall and securing our borders.”

 What should the United States do about the Ukraine crisis?

Villaverde: “Sanctioning Russia is only hurting us. Providing the javelins and the different missiles, that’s what we need to do. We need to continue supporting them so they can protect themselves.” 

Ganorkar: “Support them with arms and ammunition big time,” he said. “I am not in favor of giving them money per say, but we could do what is called in kind so we can pay other countries to provide arms and ammunition to Ukraine.” 

Safta: “I don’t support sending money to other nations before taking care of our own people, small businesses, children, homeless, and communities.” 

 Do you support term limits?

Villaverde: “You should be able to go in, you know, maybe six years,” she said. “I think you are more responsive to your constituency if you know that you only have a limited amount of time to get in these policies, to do the good you wanted to do,” she said.

Ganorkar: “I personally have issued a pledge to limit myself to six terms.” 

Safta: “I support term limits. Term limits has proven to be a long term fix.” 

The Constitution, Qualified Immunity, and Election Integrity

The GOP primary candidates shared some of their other policy priorities, including Safta’s plans to implement her new program called “Constitution Restoration Training,” for K-12 schools. Its purpose is to ensure that K-12 children are better equipped with the knowledge of the state and federal Constitution.

For Villaverde, criminal reform justice is important. She emphasized that a lot of the police force is demoralized.

“Officials, based on how they treat officers, how they respond to criticism from the media, their support to (police officers) goes a long way,” she said.“Increasing pay, getting the training, ongoing training as a professional is huge. Some of the smaller departments you don’t see ongoing training…If you don’t use your skills, you lose your skills.”  

She also stressed that qualified immunity, which protects police officers from getting sued in most cases such as issuing traffic tickets, should stay in place. Out of the three Republican candidates, Villaverde is the only candidate who voted absentee in the last election back in 2020. 

“I have two small children who didn’t have daycare,” she said. “Some people have different circumstances in life, and it’s been that way with COVID, and those things happen.” 

Regardless of her choice of voting method, Villaverde says she supports audits for every election, reducing the number of weeks to have mail in the ballot as an option, and having voter ID implemented.

“There were a ton of irregularities,” she said, referring to the 2020 election.

If elected, Ganorkar promises to work towards repealing the sixteenth amendment, which allows Congress to collect income tax without having to vary state by state. He also promised not to perform campaign fundraising.

“I receive money. I don’t raise money.” 

Ganorkar also advocates for school choice by ending the zip-code requirement. “Democrats were segregationist back in the day, and they continue such policies today by locking minority communities into failing schools based on their zip-codes.” 

“We need to go a step further and promote privatization of schools so that parents will have choices for their kids,” Ganorkar suggests. “The tax dollars will be allotted to students via their parents’ and guardians’ tax filings.”

He also calls for media reform by entrusting media accountability ombudsmen to watch and penalize media outlets. 

“For slander, media should be penalized,” he said. “You would take the advertising rate, and multiply the amount of time they gave to that story, the false story, and that would be the compensation given to the person who was the target of slander.”

The 2022 statewide primary is on Tuesday, May 17 while the 2022 general election will be on Tuesday, November 8. 

Lauri Salovaara is an intern for the Carolina Journal. He is a senior studying political science at North Carolina State University.