News: CJ Exclusives

Malone-Everitt rematch in HD 35 has Libertarian in the mix

CJ photo by Kari Travis
CJ photo by Kari Travis

N.C. House District 35 (Northeast Wake County).

• Chris Malone, Republican (three-term incumbent). Occupation: Case Manager – G4S Compliance and Investigations. Education: St. Mary of the Plains College, bachelor’s degree in speech and theatre. Career highlights: House deputy majority whip, chairman of House Appropriations of Health and Human Services, and Wildlife Resources committees. Former Wake County School Board member, Wake Forest Fire Department Board of Directors member, chairman of Wake County Republican Party House District 40.

• Terence Everitt, Democrat. Occupation: Lawyer. Education: Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. and completed Leadership Wake Forest. Career highlights: Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member. Wake County Transit Advisory Committee member.

• Michael Nelson, Libertarian. Occupation: IBM manager. Education: Whittier College, theater arts degree. Career highlights: Board of Directors member of former Raleigh Ensemble Players. Former homeowners association president.

Call it a backyard battle between two Wake Forest residents. Democrat Terence Everitt, a lawyer, is challenging three-term incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Malone in a rematch for the N.C. House District 35 seat on Nov. 6. Libertarian Michael Nelson is waging a third-party bid for the job.

Everitt lost to Malone by a 53-47 percent vote in the 2016 general election. But the district, in a fast-growing suburban area of Wake County that has been trending toward Democrats, has been reshaped since then, making it slightly more compact.

A federal court order that found 28 legislative seats had been drawn unconstitutionally because they relied too heavily on race required changes to the district boundaries. The General Assembly altered the map, but a court-hired special master reconfigured that version. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the special master’s changes.

The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections and voter behavior patterns, rates the district as competitive.

Everitt didn’t respond to multiple emails requesting comment on his campaign and platform. Information was gleaned from his campaign page. Education is a top priority for all the candidates, but how they plan to improve education couldn’t be more different.

“We need to raise standards and provide resources,” Malone said. “We have been prudent in increasing education appropriations significantly, but as the population grows we have to race to keep up.”

Malone said getting teachers to the national average of pay would help, but that alone wouldn’t improve education in North Carolina.

“Developing and challenging our students is key,” Malone said. “Math, sciences, rhetoric, and language classes are especially important. We need to round out the students’ learning.”

Malone helped spearhead legislation to automatically place high-performing, low-income students in advanced math courses. Students who score a 5 on the end of year tests would be given the chance to participate in challenging math classes.

Everitt doesn’t think the General Assembly has done enough to invest in public education.

“North Carolina now ranks 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending, more than $3,000 below the national average,” Everitt’s campaign website argues. “Right-wing politicians talk about ‘school choice’ as they repeatedly underfund our public schools, driving families to private and charter schools.”

Malone says he supports school choice initiatives like charter schools and homeschooling.

“Every parent, every student has civil rights to pursue their own happiness,” Malone said. “That includes choice wherever it leads them. It may not always be fair to those who can’t access those choices, and that’s where we have to do more.”

Nelson, too, is in favor of school choice programs.

“I am all in favor of funding and expansion of school choice initiatives like the opportunity scholarships,” Nelson said. “I think they need to be fully funded and expanded.”

Nelson said more power needs to be given to local and county school boards so they can better tailor education to their communities.

“We teach too much to the test and we set standards in Raleigh that may not be best for the children of Rockingham,” Nelson said. “We need to make education as local as possible.”

The candidates support reforming the legislative redistricting process, but Malone is more cautious on the approach.

“I am leery of commissions as we seem unable on a national level to figure out how to get a fair hearing on that,” Malone said. “But, if we debated and agreed to the main requirements, I would accept a computer-based program of some sort if possible.”

Everitt’s campaign website says he supports the creation of an independent, nonpartisan redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts.

“Gerrymandering makes partisanship worse by valuing political power over the will of the people,” Everitt’s website states. “North Carolina needs to get back to the way our democracy is meant to work, with fair maps and fair elections.”

Nelson placed blame on Republicans and Democrats for using redistricting to maintain control.

“It has to be a nonpartisan commission. There is no other way to remotely make this fair,” Nelson said, “The lawmakers themselves should have nothing to do with it at the end of the day.”

There will be six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Malone is backing all six.

“I support them all. From victim rights, to a cap on tax increases, to the very important voter ID, and all the rest,” Malone said. “Vote yes!”

Nelson opposes all the proposed amendments except for the one that would lower the income tax cap to 7 percent.

“While I’d rather see no tax, anything that limits the government’s ability to tax is a good thing, therefore I support it,” Nelson said.

The Libertarian candidate said the other amendments either give too much power to the legislature or are unnecessary. Nelson criticized the proposed Voter ID amendment for being poorly written.

“That’s not how this law should or needs to be crafted,” Nelson said. “Make it clearer and crisp on what is needed and not needed. Otherwise we’re just taking away some folks’ ability to vote.”