Republican primary, Senate District 42 (Catawba and Alexander counties).

  • Andy Wells (incumbent, two terms). Education: N.C. State University, two engineering degrees. Occupation: Real estate developer, and owner of Prism Development in Hickory. Career highlights: Chairs or co-chairs Senate committees on Agriculture/Environmental/Natural Resources; Pensions and Retirement and Aging; Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee; Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission. Served one term in House District 96. Harold and Margaret Deal Foundation board member in Hickory. Former president of the Piedmont Council Boy Scouts of America, and served on the board of the John Locke Foundation.
  • Mark Hollo. Education: Southern Illinois University, bachelor’s degree; Wake Forest University Bowman-Gray School of Medicine, physician assistant program. Occupation: Physician assistant. Career highlights: Three-term House member; chaired Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Health and Human Services Policy Committee; Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services; Joint Legislative Oversight Subcommittee on Medical Examiners; Legislative Ethics Committee;. Former U.S. Air Force Reserve captain. Order of the Long Leaf Pine recipient.
  • Dustin Long. Education: Mitchell Community College, associate of applied sciences in mechanical engineering technology. Occupation: Project engineering technologist at Liburdi Turbine Services. Career highlights: Interim vice president of operations for The Fathers Rights Movement, a national nonprofit that promotes shared parenting legislation.
  • Ryan Huffman. No information available.

By Sarah Okeson

Republican incumbent Andy Wells was unopposed in his two previous Senate District 42 primaries, and was uncontested in the 2016 general election. But three challengers are seeking the seat in the May 8 GOP primary.

Mark Hollo of Conover is a former state representative. Dustin Long of Stony Point is a Navy veteran. A third opponent, Ryan Huffman of Hiddenite, is flying under the radar.

The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections, lists the district as strong Republican. About 43 percent, or 55,247 of the district’s 128,117 registered voters, are Republican.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat Ric Vandett of Hickory, the former superintendent of Hickory public schools, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Wells, 63, of Hickory, said he prefers lower overall tax rates to incentives for businesses to boost the economy. In 2016 he criticized state incentives of $2.35 million over a dozen years to lure Corning Inc.’s optical communications business headquarters from Hickory to Mecklenburg County.

“Unfortunately, at times, when we’re competing with other states for, say, a major automobile manufacturer, they become an unpleasant fact of life,” Wells said.

Wells represented House District 96 in the 2013-2014 term before being elected to the Senate.

Wells said he has voted to cut state taxes by more than $1 billion.

“Those tax cuts are working,” Wells said. “They’re creating jobs in North Carolina.”

Wells said he supports building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will carry natural gas from West Virginia to eastern North Carolina. He said Gov. Roy Cooper was wrong when he had the companies building the pipeline pledge $57.8 million for a fund under his control for economic development, renewable energy projects, and pipeline mitigation.

“I was one of the legislators who voted to give that $57.8 million to the schools instead,” Wells said. House Bill 90 directed the funds to school districts in the eight counties the pipeline will traverse.

Wells is an advocate of welfare reform.

“Able-bodied people should work for their welfare benefits,” Wells said. “We need workfare, not welfare, to get people off the welfare treadmill.”

Wells is a small business owner, and has investments in about a dozen LLCs, according to state filings.

He raised $51,950, and had about $133,934 in his campaign fund, according to the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

He also was the first Senate primary candidate endorsed by Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

Long, 35, is a Navy veteran. He said unlike his opponents his life resembles that of most of the voting public.

“I don’t have significant financial resources at my disposal,” said Long. His family income is between $60,000 and $65,000 annually. “I understand the struggle to work and care for my children, and maintain my family and our relationships.”

Long became involved in politics by advocating shared parenting and children’s protections after he and his first wife divorced.

Long supports House Bill 90, shifting money from Cooper’s fund to school districts.

He criticized corporate subsidies.

“It’s absurd that any state is offering enormous subsidies to corporations like Amazon in an effort to convince them that our state is the best place to invest,” Long said. “Middle class taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for multibillion-dollar companies to move to our area, only to leave when the subsidies end.”

Long raised $726 and had about $103 in his campaign fund, according to his report with the state Board of Elections.

Hollo and Huffman did not respond to emailed questions from Carolina Journal, and could not be reached by phone.

On his website Hollo says he will fight for increased access to quality health care at reduced costs, improve schools, and reward teachers. He said he would hit the ground running to tackle the opioid crisis, and stand up for conservative values. He said he led the way on stopping the expansion of Obamacare in North Carolina.

“During my time in the House, I had the opportunity to work on many of the big, complex issues facing our state, and on many of the major conservative reforms that have transformed our state,” Hollo said on his website. “However, I always remembered that my No. 1 priority was to represent the people of our area.”

Huffman did not list an employer, and was living with his mother and stepfather, according to state filings. He said he did not earn more than $5,000 in 2017.