News: CJ Exclusives

Beasley, Caulfield vie for open Meck County House District 92

Candidates from Charlotte exurban district agree on getting rid of I-77 tolls but not much else

CJ photo illustration
CJ photo illustration

Located in western Mecklenburg County, House District 92 is the rare legislative swing district in the state’s most populous county. Democrat Chaz Beasley and Republican Beth Danae Caulfield are facing off to represent its voters.

Republican Charles Jeter was elected to the seat in 2012 and 2014, winning with 51.4 percent of the vote in 2012 and 52.5 percent in 2014. Earlier this year, he eked out a victory by 35 votes over Tom Davis in the GOP primary. In July, Jeter resigned from the General Assembly.

In a move that disappointed several prominent northern Mecklenburg County Republicans, the county Republican Party opted to bypass Davis, and instead selected Caulfield to replace Jeter on the ballot.

Caulfield was not appointed to fill the remainder of Jeter’s term in the legislature. Instead the county party selected local attorney Justin Moore to sit in the General Assembly for now.

On the Democratic side, Beasley ran without opposition, and will face  Caulfield in the Nov. 8 general election.

The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which tracks state elections, rates the district competitive based on its conventional voting behavior since 2008. It comprises 35.3 percent Democratic voters, 31.3 percent Republicans, and 23.9 percent unaffiliated.

Beasley grew up in Catawba County, and is an attorney who specializes in capital market transactions. His undergraduate degree is in economics from Harvard University. He attended Georgetown University for law school. This is Beasley’s first run for public office, though he previously worked for four months in the office of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Caulfield has spent nearly two decades in the real estate business after a stint in the Air Force, and some time as a stay-at-home mom. She is a 2014 honors graduate of the Charlotte campus of Johnson & Wales University. Caulfield served for a term on the Huntersville Town Board, but was defeated in 2011 when she ran for mayor.

Caulfield argues that her greater experience makes her the better choice.

“Chaz is only 30, he hasn’t run a business or been an elected official, and hasn’t had to make tough decisions,” Caulfield said.

Beasley in turn feels that his willingness to be a straight-shooter, to say what people need to hear and want to hear, is what would make him the best qualified candidate.

Both Caulfield and Beasley said that education is the issue most on the minds of district voters.

When it comes to an issue central to the debate about education policy — charter schools — the two candidates offer somewhat different visions.

Caulfield said that unconventional solutions and policies should be sought, including charter schools.  She said she’s for parental choice, and doesn’t think that the public schools should be protected from competition by charter schools.

Beasley sees charter schools as a valuable means to experiment for the public schools, but doesn’t want them to exist effectively as a separate school system.

A hot topic in the district is widening Interstate 77 in northern Mecklenburg County by adding toll lanes. The Spanish company Cintra is partially funding the project in exchange for toll revenues. The deal has a noncompete clause, which may preclude the state from widening the highway for the next 50 years.

Both Beasley and Caulfield are against the toll project.

Beasley said that when he first heard of the plan, he read the contract.

“This is a lopsided, bad deal,” he said.

Beasley hopes that in the future the state pays closer attention to the details, and negotiates better agreements than that with Cintra.

“I-77 is our main street,” said Caulfield, noting that Lake Norman restricts the travel options in the area. She doesn’t think the state had to resort to the sort of financing used in the deal with Cintra, and that the state’s current budget surplus shows that the state had adequate means to pay for the project.

Another issue of local interest is House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that the General Assembly passed in March in reaction to a new Charlotte ordinance allowing people to use the bathroom corresponding to what they believe their gender identity to be. Caulfield and Beasley differ on whether H.B. 2 is a good idea.

“We aren’t a home rule state,” said Caulfield, who believes that Charlotte has used the issue as a political ploy. She said that this is a genuine issue, but that Charlotte leaders should sit down and make their case to legislators.

In contrast, Beasley finds H.B. 2 to be “not the best thing for the state.” He said that H.B. 2 has cost North Carolina jobs and businesses, and that rights have been lost under the law. He’d like to see the law repealed, and attempts made to bridge the divide.