By Jesse Wood
In the March 15 primary, Ronnie Marsh and Sue Counts are vying to represent the Democrats in the race for the District 93 seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives that covers Ashe and Watauga counties.
The winner will face either Republicans Lew Hendricks or incumbent Jonathan Jordan in the general election in November.
In 2008, Sue Counts retired as the Watauga County Extension Director for the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, where she had worked since 1993.
Prior to her work with the extension, Counts, a native of Dickenson County, Virginia and a graduate of Virginia Tech, worked as a nutritionist for 30 years with Dickenson County Head Start, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Hyattsville, Md., the New Jersey Department of Health, the Howard University School of Dentistry, the Avery County Health Department, and at Appalachian State University.
Counts first ran for District 93 in 2014 and lost to Jordan with 47 percent of the vote.
When announcing she was running again in December, Counts said, ““I ran in 2014 against incumbent Jonathan Jordan, who votes in lockstep with the Raleigh leadership and contrary to the interests and well being of his constituents, and I lost, but I did NOT feel defeated. I’ve never been a quitter and I am not going to start now when so much is at stake. Not when I have a duty and the ability to make lives better.”
While Counts is facing Marsh in the primary, she definitely has Jordan in the crosshairs when responding to questions and making pitches to voters.
Asked why she was running for office, Counts responded that she’s “passionate about the people of Watauga and Ashe counties, and I believe the people of our district deserve better representation than we’ve got down in Raleigh.”
“I’m sure Rep. Jordan will offer this year, just as he has every election year, an impressive spin on what he has accomplished in Raleigh on behalf of the district. But the truth of his service will not be found in the glossy, expensive mailers he’ll crowd into our mailboxes again this year,” Counts said in an email. “The truth is that in Raleigh, he has voted against almost every program in the state that benefits working people, retirees, the poor, and our public schools. His budgeting priorities help the very wealthy at the expense of the hardworking people and small businesses in Watauga and Ashe.”
In particular, Counts cited Jordan supporting the increase in consumption taxes (on labor, repairs, installation and maintenance) that irked local small business owners across a swath of industries in favor of lowering personal income taxes.
“The NC State Legislature promised no new taxes, then gave a substantial tax cut to out-of-state corporations doing business in North Carolina and balanced those cuts off the backs of hard working customers of small businesses…” Counts said. “The state has now increased sales taxes on hundreds of essential services. They increased taxes on your car repairs and inspections, increased taxes on the labor in getting an oven installed or having your toilet unclogged, added a tax to fix the hole in the sole of your boot, and even added a tax on having the monument installed at your loved one’s grave.”
Counts added, “You can count on me to do the right thing, the fair thing, in Raleigh for all the people of our district. That’s what my life has always been about, and I have a record to prove it.”
To see more issues of concern to Counts and to read more about her candidacy, click to www.suecountsfornchouse.com.
Like Counts, Ronnie Marsh also retired from public service.
A graduate of Appalachian State University, Marsh spent nearly 30 years as fire marshal for the Town of Boone before hanging up his fire hat at the end of 2014. Marsh spent another eight years with the local fire department before becoming the town’s fire marshal. He also served on number of local, regional and state boards pertaining to fire safety.
Speaking by phone on Monday, Marsh said that he decided to run for office after being approached by some local individuals to “bring back some common sense” to the state legislature with a no-nonsense approach. But even before being asked to run, Marsh said he “started hearing what a disconnect that the people are having with their local representatives.”
Marsh cited the gutting of education and mental health programs as issues that were important to him. He mentioned how Appalachian State University used to be called the Appalachian State Teacher’s College and how the Reich College of Education is one of the main degree programs offered by the local university.
“This past year was one of the lowest graduating classes out of there because no one wants to teach in North Carolina,” Marsh said.
He talked about how the State of North Carolina is defunding mental healthcare, especially in light of suicides and drug overdoses that have occurred locally. He said that mental health funding was cut $110 million this year and $135 million is estimated to be cut next year.
“So something has to change,” Marsh said.
When Marsh announced his intention to run for the N.C. House in December, Marsh said his candidacy was focused on “people before politics.”
“I feel politicians in both major parties have become disconnected from the people they serve. Ashe and Watauga counties have become melting pots for special interest groups in both parties, which have resulted in actions being waged in the public media by our representatives,” Marsh said in an announcement during the candidate-filing period.
In making a pitch to voters on Monday, Marsh said, “I am local. I’ve lived here and I know I have a pulse on what is Watauga and Ashe County and what the core values are in this area,” Marsh said. “I am going to very honest. I believe I am the one individual that can stop this separation – parties against parties. We’ve got to stop and got to start working for the people.”
To see more issues of concern to Marsh and to read more about his candidacy, click to http://www.marshforstatehouse.com/#ride.
Early voting began on March 3 and runs through March 12. Election day is March 15. Click here for more details on voting sites, hours and more.