News: CJ Exclusives

Challenger Snyder Says Incumbent Democratic Rep. Brisson Too Conservative

Brisson voted to override vetoes by former Gov. Perdue; Snyder says government assistance to indigent must expand

State Rep. William Brisson has represented North Carolina House District 22 since he ran unopposed in 2008, but attorney Ben Snyder, who moved to North Carolina from West Virginia in 2010, says he is challenging the incumbent in the March 15 Democratic primary to give voters a “greater choice.”

If elected, Snyder said, he would vote “based on what is best” for his constituents, rather than following party lines, while at the same time saying that Brisson “voted with Republicans to override every veto by Gov. Bev Perdue.”

District 22 takes in Bladen, Johnston, and Sampson counties in the coastal plains. With a Scotch-Irish backdrop that stretches back to the early 1700s, the area’s economic activities include agriculture, a diversity of scattered industries, and recreation.

District 22 is listed as competitive by the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, which closely follows electoral cycles. But since first elected, Brisson has won by 52-48 percent majorities, including a 2010 win over Republican John Szoka, who now represents District 45.

Snyder said he would pull out all stops to get government assistance to the poor.

“Fully fund food stamps,” he said. “Fully fund free school lunch programs. If social services are truly overwhelmed, hire enough to fill the need. Spend more money on drug treatment, and less on drug possession incarcerations. This is not rocket science.”

Had he been in office, Snyder said, he would have voted in favor of expanding Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

“Look at Kentucky,” a state where it was done under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, he said.

In 2013, Brisson crossed party lines to vote against Medicaid expansion, which had been accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars in deficits annually prior to reforms by Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. McCrory announced on Feb. 29 that Medicaid was $181 million under budget as of December for this fiscal year.

Carolina Journal made multiple attempts to get comment for this story from Brisson through his campaign and legislative assistant and got no response.

According to Brisson’s campaign website and other online sources, the Dublin native has a background in farming that taught him hard work and Christian values.

Brisson describes himself as a “conservative Democrat who believes in providing the services that people need, while still trying to minimize the costs.” He believes government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves.

Brisson serves on the Agriculture, Appropriations, Appropriations on Health and Human Services, Environment, Ethics, Health, Insurance, Regulatory Reform, and Wildlife Resources committees. He sponsored several bills providing health care to the indigent, helping farmers, and protecting the environment.

Both candidates place a high priority on boosting teacher compensation. Brisson’s website says he fought for better teacher pay, despite what he has called false attacks to the contrary. However, he said, prudent financial planning must be even handed.

“In hard economic times you can’t say, ‘Cut everybody else, but not [me],’” Brisson said.

Snyder admitted the issue is complex, but argued, “We must stay competitive with other states, and stop cutting the education budget every legislative session.” He claimed the size of teacher pay increases was exaggerated by the Republican majority.

In 2012, Brisson was endorsed by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber praised Brisson for passing legislation allowing “companies that already employ millions [to] expand and grow.”

Snyder countered that “Large North Carolina corporations do not ‘create’ jobs, and many cut back on employees. Small businesses create more jobs statewide.”

However, Snyder said he intends to “work closely with the economic development authority directors in my district, and the private-sector partners focusing on creating high-paying jobs [but] not on making the rich even richer.”

Asked about the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has experienced in its Obamacare health insurance exchange policies, Snyder said, “I will never support taxpayer handouts for ‘too-big-to-fail’ corporations.