North Carolina Senate District 48 features the race for Republican Senator Tom Apodaca's seat. One of the state's most influential lawmakers, Apodaca decided to retire early, meaning his seat is up for grabs. The conservative-leaning district covers parts of Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania counties. It's represented now by Republican Senator Chuck Edwards, a small business owner who was appointed to fill Apodaca's vacancy. Edwards declined our interview request. His opponent, Democrat Norm Bossert, was more than happy to be interviewed. He drove over to WCQS one evening from Black Mountain Elementary School, where he's been principal for about a decade, to answer questions on the numerous issues of concern in this election. The full conversation is above. We've highlighted some individual issues below.
ON THE ISSUES:
Asheville Districts Bill: One of the last actions of Sen. Apodaca's career was to introduce a bill that would split Asheville into six districts for the purpose of electing city council members. His goal was to give the residents of south Asheville a voice on the city council, saying that region hadn't been represented on the council for many years. But the move was very controversial, with the entire city council opposed, as well as the entire delegation representing Buncombe County other than Apodaca, all democrats. In perhaps the biggest surprise of the session, the bill went down in defeat in its last stop on the House floor, when a number of republicans joined democrats in voting against it.
Bossert said the issue should have been left to locals, and the legislature shouldn't be mandating what local governments should do with its city council. His full remarks are below:
House Bill 2: House Bill 2, or what's become known around the world as North Carolina's "bathroom law," mandates that transgender people use public bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity. It also set a state non-discrimination policy that excluded sexual orientation and gender identity from protected classes and made it unlawful for cities and towns to offer those protections on their own. And it also bans cities from raising the minimum wage. It was passed by the Republican-dominated legislature and signed by Governor Pat McCrory in response to a Charlotte ordinance that had expanded protections for the LGBT community, but which critics said would open the door to sexual predators preying on women and children. But HB2 was derided as discriminatory by critics and led to numerous boycotts and condemnations from the business, sports, and entertainment world.
Bossert says he wants HB2 repealed. He says he thinks about the bill as a school principal. He says the bill opens the door to kids being bullied and that government should be there to protect kids, not isolate them. He dismissed the notion that predators would use laws like Charlotte's ordinance to prey on kids, that the problem didn't exist. And he also says it's another example of the state government meddling in local politics. Listen to the full discussion on HB2 below:
Education: The legislature made a number of changes to education policy in recent years, including lifting the cap on charter schools, providing vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools, and offering pay raises for teachers. Each move came with its share of controversy, as the first two measures were opposed, and the legislature's moves on teacher pay have been criticized by some democrats as inadequate and an election-year ploy.
Bossert has been an educator for over four decades. Because it's his area of expertise, this portion of our discussion covered a lot of ground. He says he'd give the legislature lower than an F if he was to grade them on education. Bossert described teachers he knows as demoralized and said they feel disrespected. He says lifting the cap on charters was a mistake and that there's no proof that charter schools are more innovative than public schools. On vouchers, he says the schools kids are going to aren't held to any sort of standard and that doesn't amount to better school choice. Bossert's full comments on education are below:
Early voting begins on October 20th in North Carolina. Election day is November 8th. You can find schedules and voting sites by visiting your county board of elections website and additional information at the NC Board of Elections website.