Ron Robinson and Jane Hipps to face off in primary.
The Macon County News is presenting candidate profiles on all primary candidates between now and the May 6 primary. Following the results of the primary, MCN will then profile candidates vying for seats in November.
The North Carolina Senate District 50, which represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Swain, Jackson and Macon counties, is an office in which voters will choose which candidate will move on to the general election in November. The winner of the May primary will face Republican incumbent Senator Jim Davis in the November general election.
Democrat Jane Hipps has filed for election to the position and will face Democratic challenger Ron Robinson.
All candidates were asked the same questions for their candidate profiles.
Please provide your bio including personal, professional, educational and political.
Jane Hipps: A native North Carolinian, Jane Hipps has lived in Waynesville since 1968. She was married to the late Charles Hipps for almost 35 years and has three children and five grandchildren. Her major career years were spent in public education as a counselor, school psychologist, lead teacher, and as a Western North Carolina regional science specialist. Hipps also started her own business becoming a national science and math consultant working with schools in more than 35 states. Upon her retirement from public education, Hipps entered Vanderbilt University and obtained a Master’s degree in nursing in 2008, graduating with honors and passing her boards to become a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. Hipps has been an active member of the Haywood County Democratic Party, serving in the past as president of the Haywood County Democratic Women, Region One Director, and as a member of the State Executive Committee of the N.C. Democratic Women.
Ron Robinson: A resident of Sylva, Ron Robinson lives in Jackson County with his wife, Judy. Together, the couple has five children and four grandchildren. He was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains and has a BS Degree from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Robinson has 40 years experience as a basketball coach, teacher, business consultant, and serving the westernmost counties through serving hospitals, small businesses, public service agencies and families in need. Robinson has used his business experience to develop an economic development strategy based on county input. Robinson focuses on the belief that local counties can recruit companies that pay good wages by funding public schools to reduce class size, paying teachers a competitive salary, aligning business with education, enhancing transportation systems and high speed internet, and providing health care.
Why do you want to be Senator?
Hipps: “I am running for the State Senate because I believe that Western North Carolina deserves strong education, a clear plan for economic recovery, and increased access to quality healthcare,” she said. “My late husband, Charles Hipps, told me a few months before his death in 2003 that it was time for me to run for political office. I always kept this in the back of my mind and with a surge of public encouragement after the regressive bills being passed that impacted education from early childhood to the university level, restricted voter rights, voted away health care benefits for half a million of our neediest adult citizens, ignored the need for pay raises to our teachers and state employees, disregarded our environmental quality, reduced unemployment benefits for those struggling to find new employment and gave tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, I accepted the responsibility and decided to run for public office in order to restore stability for our citizens in these far western counties of Western North Carolina and our State.”
Robinson: “North Carolina was a national leader until this General Assembly began its campaign to tear down everything that made our state a great state,” he said. “I am running to reverse the damage and pure hostility directed toward our families, children, teachers and schools and our neighbors in need. I want to help our state become a great state once again and to bring prosperity and respect to our seven westernmost counties.”
What do you think is praiseworthy for the current Senator?
Hipps: “Senator Davis is a professional in the dental field who has a long history of practice in our area,” said Hipps.
Robinson: “I believe he really thinks that what he is doing is right,” said Robinson.
What is something that can be improved upon?
Hipps: “We must do a better job of listening to and caring for our people,” she said. “The drastic changes in our state have left middle class citizens and those with limited resources without a voice. The decrease in educational programs from pre-K to the university level threaten our children's futures and indeed our economic recovery. The destruction of the earned income tax credit, the weakening of our unemployment resources and the increased tax burden on our middle class has created a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. We need representation that will introduce bills and pass laws that restore the future and viability for all citizens of this great state.”
Robinson: “There are many things requiring improvement. First, our schools,” he said. “To reverse the trend toward privatizing our schools we need to implement early childhood development for every child in our state. Our public schools need more teachers and assistants, teachers need to be paid at the national average and all school workers and state employees are overdue for pay raises. Tuition reimbursement and pay increases for teachers who attend and complete graduate studies will strengthen our schools. It is critical that our children graduate from college debt free and that secondary education and community colleges provide vocational education as well as college preparation. Second, jobs that pay the bills. We need to partner our schools with businesses and begin recruiting high-tech, bio-tech, healthcare and advanced manufacturing companies. Rebuilding the Rural Center and NCCAT to support our schools and infrastructure needs of farmers and small businesses is a winning strategy. Third, healthcare. Expanding Medicaid and requiring competitive bidding by health insurers is also key to supporting our families, small businesses and bringing prosperity to our mountain economies.”
What do you hope to accomplish during your term?
Hipps: “The biggest issue facing North Carolina is economic restoration,” she said. “We have not recovered from the 2008 recession. My plans to restore our state to a more viable future are to insure that quality public education is available for all our citizens, to offer the incentives and build the infrastructure necessary to reopen rural North Carolina for business, and to secure broader access to healthcare by accepting the Medicaid funding for which North Carolina has already paid. Working together, these three measures can create a healthier population that is more productive at school and in the work force. The citizens of North Carolina deserve a stable future and I will work to see that happen.”
Robinson: “I want every person living in our mountains to make me responsible for serving them with respect and to hold me accountable for more teachers in our schools and paid at the national average, increasing the supply and text book budgets in our schools and instituting free tuition for our instate children attending in-state community colleges and universities,” said Robinson. “I expect to be held accountable for the number of companies I recruit that pay wages that pay the bills and pay women the same as men. Finally, hold me accountable for increasing the number of our friends and neighbors who have healthcare, for preventing fracking in our state and for keeping our air and water clean.”
What do you see as being your greatest challenge?
Hipps: “Our seven county Senatorial District did not have its voice heard in the last legislative session,” said Hipps. “We saw our economic future and quality of life eroded through threats to our public schools, threats to our environment, loss of resources for our small businesses, and reduced access to healthcare. While wealthy citizens and large corporations were rewarded with tax breaks, the average citizen was saddled with the burden of new taxes on electric bills; new taxes on services such as car repair and plumbing and the removal of the earned income tax credit. Like the people of this district, I believe it is time to restore representation that cares for our people and puts us first.”
Robinson: “We have many challenges but I will list three. Our first challenge is the big money in politics and the extreme positions taken by many in our General Assembly manipulated by Art Pope and the Koch Brothers,” he said. “This big money stacks the deck for multinational corporations and against the rest of us. Our second challenge is new voting restrictions which also stack the deck against us. Our third challenge is our seven westernmost counties are totally ignored by Jim Davis and this General Assembly which also, well, you understand! People say I am the person best qualified to speak up for us and reach across the aisle to get the job done for our mountain communities.”
Are there any additional comments you would like to make?
Hipps: “I am a leader from the West for the West and with every vote will put the needs of our people first,” she said. “I have lived and worked in western North Carolina for the past 46 years and continue to devote my life to the needs of our people. As a teacher, a small business owner, and a nurse practitioner, I have learned that if we listen to one another and learn from each other, we will develop sustainable solutions for the years to come.”
Robinson: “As a man of the mountains I have worked hard all my life. As a case manager, teacher, basketball coach and business consultant I have served our mountain families, schools, businesses and healthcare programs using common sense solutions and mountain values,” he said. “I believe that working together we can help every county become an even better place to live for every person living here. I believe that every person matters, not just a favored few in Raleigh. I am working hard to be able to level the playing field and serve respectfully every person living here.”