By Jesse Wood
Oct. 14, 2012. Well, Watauga County Republican Party Chair Matthew Snyder hit the nail on the head.
When asked about civility of the political races in August, Snyder said the tone has been “pretty smooth,” but he expected to see more “passion” once Election Day was closer.
Last Tuesday, incumbent Jonathan Jordan and challenger Cullie Tarleton, candidates running for the 93rd District of the N.C. House, exhibited that passion at the courthouse during the “Meet the Candidate Forum” hosted by the Boone Area Chamber.
While civility was maintained on the outside, the two candidates were visibly steaming like broccoli on the inside.
In closing remarks, Jordan addressed Tarleton’s claims that Jordan and his cohorts in legislature laid off gobs of teachers by saying, “So when he says I fired local teachers, that is absolutely false, and I would go further, but this is a nice gentlemanly debate.”
Both Jordan and Tarleton, who was defeated by Jordan in 2010, contend that the other is disseminating false information.
Jordan Lays Into Tarleton About Bill Concerning Private Wells
At the candidate forum, though, it wasn’t until Chamber President Dan Meyer, acting as the moderator, asked a question, which was handed in from the audience and concerned water property rights, that the two candidates began addressing certain attacks that have recently filled mailboxes and the radio airwaves of the 93rd.
Meyer asked, “Water has been a hot topic as of late. What is your philosophy concerning private property rights as it relates to water issues?”
This question allowed Jordan to continue his attack on Tarleton about House Bill 1101 that Tarleton co-sponsored in the N.C. General Assembly 2009 session – one that Jordan has blasted on radio spots for advocating for meters and permits on private wells.
Jordan responded that water is a private property right and said House Bill 1101 is “very, very disturbing” and “a clear change in water policy.”
The opening declaration in House Bill 1101 states (in italics is the portion Jordan read at the forum): “Water is a public trust resource. The waters of the State are a natural resource owned by the State in trust for the public and subject to the sovereign power of the State to plan, regulate, and control the withdrawal and use of those waters, under law, in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare by promoting economic growth, mitigating the harmful effects of drought, resolving conflicts among competing water users, achieving balance between consumptive and non-consumptive uses of water, encouraging conservation, protecting ecological integrity, and enhancing the productivity of water-related activities.”
Jordan acknowledged that the bill, which died in committee, wouldn’t have permitted all water in North Carolina.
“The only thing preventing of the permitting of all the water was one small section that had an exemption. But we all know how quickly an exemption can be removed from a law. It takes a simple majority vote to remove it and then all water would be permitted,” Jordan said. “House Bill 1101 2009 Session – Look it up and read it for yourself. Don’t believe me.”
Tarleton said that the bill does “absolutely not” advocate for putting meters on private wells, and he was shaking his head in disgust during Jordan’s attacks regarding water and private property rights.
“Private water is private water,” Tarleton said, adding that the bill only dealt with the state’s water.
“And the bill was introduced for the express purpose of creating conversation and getting conversation started about the need to conserve water in North Carolina,” Tarleton said. “In terms of private water on private property, it’s yours.”
Jordan Addresses Attacks from Tarleton and N.C. Progress Action
Before the forum, Jordan handed out several papers defending claims from Tarleton and N.C. Progress Action, a liberal advocacy group based out of Raleigh, regarding state funding of schools and the number of teachers employed in North Carolina.
N.C. Progress Action has targeted Jordan about an annual $336-million tax break for business owners, which would include equity and law firm partners, doctors and dentists, that was passed in last year’s N.C. General Assembly session.
The tax break was lauded as a small-business tax break by N.C. legislators, although the tax break doesn’t feature a cap, so businesses that are much larger than would normally be defined as a small business are able to take advantage of the tax cut.
It is a tax break that N.C. Progress Action Executive Director Gerrick Brenner said could be self serving for certain N.C. legislators, including Jordan who has a law firm in Ashe County.
The Charlotte Observer reported in July that North Carolina will have $190 million less to spend on education this year than the previous year. Brenner said the elimination of that tax break would be more than enough to re-fund education.
A website created by N.C. Progress Action and titled “Jordan Gains, Schools Lose” asks, “What would $336 million buy?” and answers with 5,500 more teachers, $6 million brand new textbooks, 67,000 kids enrolled in Pre-K and an iPad for every middle and high school student in North Carolina.
The statement Jordan passed out read: “There have been some comments, mostly from liberal Raleigh-based groups, concerning the status of a $50,000 small business tax credit … Unfortunately, in the rush and heat of a breathless campaign stunt, they appear to have missed the mark on this one.”
Jordan said the first $50,000 income from a small business or profession is exempt from state income taxes, adding that, for example, barbers and stylists who rent a chair in a salon and real estate agents, home repair contractors, truck drivers and those self employed that file a Schedule C for earned income get this tax break.
He also mentioned that the claims that this tax break benefits mostly millionaires are not true, adding that 32 percent of the benefit goes to those who gross less than $50,000 of revenue; 57 percent goes to those that make less than $100,000; and two percent of millionaires will benefit.
Roy Carter, who is running for the 45th District in the N.C. Senate, mentioned this tax break more than once at the “Meet the Candidate Forum” on Tuesday night, but Tarleton didn’t address the $336 million tax break.
Tarleton, however, did say that thousands of school employees were laid off, which Jordan absolutely refuted during the forum at the Watauga County Courthouse.
“We can’t create jobs in North Carolina if we don’t educate our young people starting in public schools,” Tarleton said. “This legislature has slashed funding for public schools. Teachers have been laid off. Teacher assistants have been laid off. Money for materials and supplies have been cut. Need-based aid for college students has been cut. We’ve cut funding for our universities.”
In his closing statements, Tarleton said, “Jonathan, I will hire back the fired teachers because we have lost thousands of teachers across the state. You know it. We all know it. These are not my numbers. These are numbers that you can get at the superintendent’s office.”
Jordan held up figures from the N.C. Department of Instruction to counter Tarleton’s claims in his closing statement.
“I got a chart here showing state funded public education positions have increased in the last year. There are more of them. You can look at the DPI website and get these numbers for yourself,” Jordan said. “We have an increase of over 4,000 state funded public school positions.”
That chart, which was among the papers he passed out to the media before the forum began, showed N.C. DPI figures that state that the number of state-funded school positions increased by 4,613 in 2011 during Jordan’s first year of his first term. It also noted that those positions decreased 16,253 in 2009 and 2,559 in 2010 – both years Tarleton was in office.
“So don’t believe the fact that thousands of teachers have been fired and that kind of stuff going on by my opponent on the radio and his fliers. We actually were able to keep from losing just under 600 teachers statewide and no positions in Ashe and Watauga County have been lost,” Jordan said. “None in our district, so when he says I fired local teachers, that is absolutely false and I would go further but this is a nice gentlemanly debate.”
On Jordan’s website, he notes in a post called “Promises Made, Promises Kept” about education:
- Protected teachers’ jobs by focusing education funding on classrooms – not the bureaucracy. (HB 200)
- Provided teachers and public employees with a 1.2% pay increase – first in four years. (HB 950)
- Provided additional funding to public education to enhance student literacy, improve graduation rates, and reward effective teachers. (HB 950)
Ashe County Schools administrators could not be reached as of press time, although Watauga County Schools spokesman Marshall Ashcraft said unlike the past three years no teachers were laid off or fired this school year.
However, he added that due to funding shortfalls four pre-kindergarten classes were eliminated and the eight positions attached to those classes were absorbed elsewhere through attrition after the state legislature cut pre-kindergarten funding 20 percent.
According to the most recent N.C. DPI statistics, roughly 2,500 less North Carolina school positions existed in the 2011-12 school year than 2010-11, however state-funded school positions, like Jordan noted, did increase by more than 4,600 last year. While 915 less teachers were employed last year, state-funded teacher positions increased by 2,057, according to N.C. DPI statistics.
Communications Director Vanessa Jeter of the N.C. DPI could not be reached to discuss 2012-13 school year figures, which are not listed on the organization’s website. If and when Jeter does, this story will include any new data.
Either way, it’s likely Tarleton and Jordan will be at each other’s throat in your mailbox and over the airwaves for the next few weeks in the last rush to lock down votes.
A Difference From 2010 – Tarleton To Address Real Jobs NC
When Democratic Chair Diane Tilson was asked the same question about the tone of the political races that was asked of her Republican counterpart Chair Matthew Snyder, Tilson mentioned that the local races are usually civilized.
However she said because of the “infused cash” from Art Pope and the super PAC Real Jobs NC that Pope backs, the state races will likely lead to “nastiness” as they did in 2010 when Real Jobs NC unleashed a $2.2 million marketing campaign in support of conservative candidates in more than 20 state races.
Tarleton was one of more than a dozen liberal or moderate politicians whose reign in N.C House and Senate ended after that previous election.
Tarleton told Campaigns and Elections, a bi-monthly politic publication, that he didn’t prepare nor expect the attack ads that eventually led to his downfall last election, and in that article, he recalled digging 26 negative mailers that targeted him out of the garbage during one trip to the post office.
“As an incumbent with high name recognition, Tarleton opted to run on his record and he went out of his way to avoid directly engaging Real Jobs NC, deciding not to respond to the group’s attacks tit-for-tat,” wrote Dave Nyczepir, a staff writer for Campaigns and Elections. “His big mistake: Tarleton simply watched it all happen. It’s something Tarleton vows not to do again as he’ll be the challenger this November.
Currently, fliers have been circulating in Watauga County mailboxes that picture Jordan with a bobble-type head holding cash with text that mentions education cuts and the $336-million tax break. Tarleton’s name isn’t on the flier that is paid for by Common Sense Matters, but he does have a TV ad that features the same bobble-head image with Tarleton voicing that Jordan cut more than $1 billion dollars from schools.
Judging from Tarleton actually addressing attacks from Jordan this year and countering with his own offensive, Tarleton isn’t standing by the wayside this year.
But will it be enough?
Read the full transcript of the candidate forum featuring Tarleton’s and Jordan’s comments: https://www.hcpress.com/news/word-for-word-candidates-for-n-c-house-tarleton-and-jordan-speak-at-boone-chamber-candidate-forum.html
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