Republican Susan Martin is running for a third term to represent House District 8, taking in two-thirds of Wilson County and one-third of Pitt County, where she is being challenged by Charlie Pat Farris, who is a lawyer, lifelong resident, and military veteran.

Although Martin won with about 60 percent of the vote in her previous runs, the district’s conventional voting behavior is labeled competitive by the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, which tracks state elections.

Education is Farris’ main issue. He thinks legislators need to volunteer in schools, “walk a sick child to the nurse, clean the lunch tables, and read to kids.” Illustrating the disparity among districts, he told of going to Harris Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, where, among other things he saw was “a machine that let students read the same story at different reading levels.”

By way of comparison, he said, “Pitt schools are some of the poorest in the state, and Wilson isn’t overflowing with money.”

Farris said he “would prefer to get the public schools up to where they need to be before I’d push for charter or voucher education.”

He said the General Assembly “had $900 million they spent for pet projects in their districts” that could have gone toward education. While much has been said about making teacher pay competitive, Farris asked, “Why do we need to be average? Why can’t we be one of the top states?” He wants to raise pay for all state employees.

Farris applauds the Republican-led legislature’s intentions to cut waste, fraud, and abuse in entitlement programs. Healthy people between 18 and 50 should have to work or provide volunteer service for food stamps, he said.

But many people are falling through the cracks, he said. He told of a lady who came into his office, “her insides held together by mesh, [and] she didn’t have the $20 she needed to see a doctor.”

The needs in his district are great, Farris said.

“I can’t do it all myself. It bothers me when somebody tells me they haven’t had breakfast, and I offer then an energy bar, and they say no because it has chocolate or nuts, and they have no teeth,” Farris said. “It breaks my heart.”

Farris said he would not have rejected Medicaid expansion, as the General Assembly has. As an alternative, he is promoting the idea of tax credits for doctors who treat indigent patients. He supports the elimination of labor costs on the state sales tax, which he says is “killing small business” in his district.

He wants to protect the environment, supporting the development of alternative energy and tougher environmental regulations. He opposes fracking and off-shore drilling.

Farris said he wants a chance to represent his neighbors. If elected, he said, he would demand adequate time for reading legislative bills before votes are called, and he would vote on the merits of legislation in spite of party lines.

Before running for office, Martin worked for IBM and took on many volunteer roles, largely at her children’s schools and through her church. Described as a rising star in the legislature, she is entrusted with a number of key appointments. She chairs the Finance Committee, and is vice chairwoman of the Commerce and Job Development Committee.

Martin is running on a solid conservative agenda. Concerned for the next generation, she said she cannot turn a blind eye to the “dishonesty and corruption with no real solutions” that characterize “politics as usual.”

She said government is holding down the ability of workers to be productive, causing massive debt and the anemic economy. The private sector, she said, cannot innovate and produce because so much of its resources are plowed into hiring lawyers and accountants “to figure out what they can and can’t do.”

Martin is pro-life and supports the Second Amendment. She supported Amendment 1 to the state constitution declaring marriage is between a man and a woman, and opposed Medicaid expansion. To help fight high electricity rates in eastern counties, she voted to pass legislation allowing North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency to sell assets to pay down the debt had been serviced by charging customers higher energy rates.

She sponsored the NC Competes Act to help align taxes on manufacturing with those in neighboring states. But she acknowledged that the state’s economic development incentives are for big cities, and that sustainable economic support from the state “must be integrated with educational, medical, and infrastructure improvements.”

Martin also is working for mental health reform. She would like to expand resources and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Untreated mental health illness costs the country at least $444 billion a year — with only one-third of that cost in medical care,” she said.