News: CJ Exclusives

Rematch (for fourth time) in Western N.C. HD 119 between incumbent Clampitt, challenger Queen

CJ file photo
CJ file photo

N.C. House District 119 (Swain and Jackson counties, part of Haywood County)

• Mike Clampitt, Republican (one-term incumbent). Occupation: Retired firefighter. Education: Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, fire science and technology.  Career highlights: Sergeant-at-arms in the N.C. General Assembly. Charlotte Fire Department captain.

• Joe Sam Queen, Democrat. Occupation: Architect. Education: N.C. State University, architecture and master of architecture degrees. Career highlights: Three-term state senator, two-term state representative. Teaching fellow, N.C. State University. President, director, and member of numerous civic boards.

For voters in House District 119, it’s a case of déjà vu all over again. Republican incumbent Mike Clampitt and Democrat Joe Sam Queen are battling in another general election to win the legislative seat.

This is the fourth consecutive election in which the two have squared off. Clampitt beat Queen by 277 votes in the 2016 election. Queen defeated Clampitt in 2012 and 2014.

The district is listed as competitive by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections and voting behavior patterns. Both candidates stress their experience as a factor in why voters should give them the edge in the toss-up race.

“With my background and experience in public service and safety, it gives me a broad perspective to all facets of people’s lives,” Clampitt said.

“And, being from here in the mountains of Western North Carolina, I am familiar with the challenges our youth, working families, and seniors face. Because of my diverse background, it gives me an opportunity to promote, work, and get results for our region.”

Clampitt thinks the largest challenges the district faces relate to drug abuse and mental health concerns.

“My continued support for the local groups that have formed to identify, promote prevention, and implement strategies with facilitation by my office, hopefully, will begin to curb the devastating effects from this destructive enemy,” he said.

Queen, who served a combined 10 years in the state House and Senate, did not respond to repeated requests from Carolina Journal for an interview.

His campaign website lays out his priorities, and he is active on social media. The website includes a page “about Joe Sam Queen” that states he is “Passionate. Experienced. Effective.” It lists professional accomplishments, board memberships, civic activities, and affiliations, memberships, and awards.

His website also has pages for three policy topics — jobs, education, and health care. Queen’s posted comments on health care focus on expanding Medicaid, and his ability to attract money to the area.

Queen’s campaign website stresses that “education is the foundation of our economy and our society. To have a bright future, we must renew our commitment to educational opportunities across the board.” It mentions K-12 education, community colleges, universities, and internet access as critical areas. Queen makes no mention of school choice.

Clampitt said education is important, but he also believes strongly in school choice.

“Everyone should have a choice in their child’s education, whether it is in public school or other. With growth of the student population, allowing students the availability to attend a charter or private school allows for some relief in the public schools’ student growth,” Clampitt said. “Additionally, competition is essential to improve the quality in what the public schools produce.”

The candidates differ on some of the six state constitutional amendments voters will decide on the Nov. 6 ballot. Clampitt supports all six, and is a cosponsor of two of them: Marsy’s Law, to give victims greater rights in the criminal justice system; and to require voter identification at the polls.

Queen’s web page makes no reference to the proposed amendments. He has, however, posted links on Twitter to articles questioning proposed amendments on judicial vacancies and the state elections board which would reduce the governor’s power.