Candidate to be chosen during May primary election
Elections are about choices and Jackson County Democrats will have a choice to make this May. The primary election for the state’s 119th House seat is featuring two notable Democratic contenders in former state Senator Joe Sam Queen and former District Court Judge Danny Davis. Running on the Republican ticket is Bryson-City native Mike Clampitt, who will take on Queen or Davis this November in the general election.
Joe Sam Queen is no stranger to the General Assembly and according to him, legislative experience is invaluable. It is also why he thinks he is the best choice for the Democratic Party. “I believe I have solid experience. It’s a big learning curve serving in Raleigh and I’ve done the internship,” said Queen about his three term tenure in the state Senate. Queen represented Senate District 47 for three terms before losing to Republican Ralph Hise in 2010. Now, after the legislature redistricted the state, Queen is seeking to replace current House Rep. Phil Haire, a Democrat from Sylva. Haire decided to call it quits last fall.
“Experience matters when times are hard. People in Raleigh often forget that people live in WNC, and I’m not satisfied with our current direction. The current legislature has enacted policies that have abandoned our historic commitment to education and essentially put us in a race to the bottom,” he said. “I’m excited about this opportunity and I look forward to working for the people of Western North Carolina again,” Queen said.
When asked where he stood on public policy issues the legislature is currently contemplating, the candidate responded assuredly. Queen said he would support a temporary one cent sales tax increase to support the state’s public school system, which has suffered significant cuts the past two years. “At the current time I would support it,” Queen said. “We have to do something to respond to our crisis in the short-term. In the long-term I would like to look at lowering tax rates and broadening the base,” he said.
Queen also said he would vote against Amendment One, a Constitutional Amendment that would ban same sex marriage and civil unions in North Carolina. Queen noted that he would work hard to collaborate with Republicans as much as possible, but expressed his desire to get a Democratic majority back in Raleigh.
Queen is a Haywood County native and he graduated from Tuscola High School in 1968. He later attended N.C. State University where he studied architecture, an occupation he still practices. Core issues Queen hopes to tackle if elected are “preserving educational opportunity for all, developing WNC’s regional economy, and preserving the natural and cultural heritage of WNC.”
Queen’s primary opponent, former District Court Judge Danny Davis, is also a native of Haywood County. Davis firmly believes his experience and knowledge acquired during his tenure as a judge makes him a fine tuned candidate for mountain Democrats. “I have seen firsthand the problems our people face such as poverty, job losses, lack of education, mental health, drug abuse, domestic violence and debt problems. I have lived and worked with these problems on a daily basis and it has had a deep and profound effect on me personally. As a result, I now want to go to Raleigh and do something about it,” said Davis.
“I believe I am the best Democratic candidate because of my knowledge and experience with what the problems are in this district. If you don’t know what the problems are, you certainly won’t have the solutions. My training and experience as a judge has given me valuable insights into the need for legislation and programs that will specifically address issues that are important to the people of this district. I have spent my entire working career interpreting the laws and implementing programs that often fall short of their intended effect. As such, I believe I have the vision and fresh ideas to best draft legislation and create programs that will address many of the problems our people face,” continued Davis.
Like Queen, Davis would support a temporary one cent sales tax and opposes Amendment One. The former judge believes that the temporary one cent sales tax enacted in 2009 should have never expired, saying it would have prevented unnecessary cuts to public education. “It is a travesty to make our children suffer over one penny,” he said. On Amendment One, Davis thinks the existing law banning same sex marriage is sufficient enough.
The key issues Davis hopes to address are education, job creation and job training, economic development, more competition in the health insurance market, adequate funding for public safety programs, and reforming the state’s “antiquated tax code to make generation of revenue more stable and fair,” he said.
Davis graduated from Tuscola High School and Western Carolina University. He later graduated from Campbell University’s School of Law. “We have lived in Haywood County all of our lives except for three years we were away attending law school. So I know these mountains and the people who live here,” Davis said.
On policy matters, the two Democratic candidates seem to agree on most issues. The differences in policy will arise once the primary campaign ends and the general election campaign begins.
The Democratic winner will be facing Swain County native Mike Clampitt, a former Fire Captain in the city of Charlotte. Although the house seat is heavily favored toward the Democratic Party, Clampitt thinks he can win. “I think any election is an uphill battle and I’m just going to talk to people and reach out to folks who are interested in making WNC a better place to live,” Clampitt said. “I like where we’re going in Raleigh right now and I think we can do a lot more for the people here,” said Clampitt.
The Republican challenger is focusing on common sense solutions and accountability in government. “Look at the lottery for example. We hear it is for education but the money keeps getting abused, misused, and redirected to support other programs and it’s not right,” he said. “Someone needs to ensure that state funds get spent the way they are supposed to get spent.”
Clampitt is running a grassroots oriented campaign, reaching out to voters in three counties the old fashioned way. “We are trying to get out the message of less government and less regulations and I think the people want that,” he said. “I’m against any tax increases and I think there are a lot more regulations that need to be done away with. Teachers in this state need more discretion and less administrators standing over their shoulders. We can support our schools but I don’t think throwing more money at them will always help,” he said. “ I think a lot of other state agencies are overblown too,” he said.
The GOP challenger says he supports Amendment One and opposes a one cent sales tax increase. He also welcomes dissent and debate. “I want to be accessible to everyone in this campaign and I will try to do the same if I’m elected. If someone wants to call me up and talk about an issue, I welcome it. I think that is what public service should be about,” he said.