LUMBERTON — Four candidates are hoping to win Tuesday’s primary to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for the District 13 state Senate seat representing Robeson and Columbus counties that will be vacated by Sen. Michael Walters.
Walters, a Democrat from Proctorville who was originally appointed to the Senate by former Gov. Beverly Perdue, announced in January that he is retiring at the end of this year. He will have served in the Senate five years when his current term ends.
The candidates on the ballot Tuesday are David Ayers, a sales manager for R.A. Jeffreys from St. Pauls; Jane Smith, a retired realtor from Lumberton; Marcus Williams, an attorney from Lumberton; and Beverly Collins-Hall, of Shannon, the founder of American Indian Mothers Inc. The winner of the primary will face Republican Bernard White of Whiteville in November. White is running unopposed in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
The Robesonian submitted questions on various issues to the candidates, and the questions and answers from each candidate can be found at www.robesonian.com. Only Collins-Hall did not provide answers to any of the questions.
Among the candidates, Ayers touts that he is the only one with government experience as an elected official. He served on the St. Pauls Town Board of Commissioners for eight years.
A lifelong resident of St. Pauls, Ayers believes that the need for economic growth is the most important issue facing those living in District 13. He said that he would like to see the state assist local governments more in developing their communities.
Ayers also is a strong supporter of public education, saying that he does not support elimination of teacher tenure. He also said that while state government cannot be allowed to grow uncontrollably, there are services that the state must provide. Ayers also said the state needs to help county and municipal governments in their efforts to recruit new businesses. He agrees that the private sector should be utilized to create and expand economic development.
“I believe the most important issue is economic growth. We are suffering from high unemployment; our citizens are in desperate need for jobs,” he said.
Smith contends that she is the best prepared candidate to serve in the Senate because she was a teacher and understands education; owned and operated a business for 28 years; and has served on regional economic development boards for several years. She said that her two major concerns are education and poverty.
Smith said that she opposes eliminating teacher tenure and supports increasing teacher salaries. She also said that the state needs to do more to provide incentives for new businesses wanting to locate to the area.
According to Smith, new state voting regulations — including the requirement of voters having a photo ID when they go to the polls in 2016 — are too restrictive.
“Of course, no one wants voter fraud but I believe the laws that were passed are designed more to prevent certain groups from voting than to prevent voter fraud,” she said.
Williams points to his 35 years of professional advocacy, business, administrative and broad economic development skills and experience as the reason he should be elected the next senator from District 13.
Williams said that he believes North Carolina should have accepted the expansion of Medicaid as provided for in the Affordable Care Act. He also said that he believes the state’s recent action to eliminate teacher tenure will eventually be invalidated by the courts.
“We can attract and retain high quality teachers by recruiting the best trained minds available and subsequently providing them with stability in the projected growth of their financial compensation,” he said.
Williams contends one of his strong points as a senator would be his ability to work across party lines. He said that he has proven experience that he can work with people of diverse backgrounds, philosophies and ideologies.
According to Williams, he believes in efficient limited government. He also said that obstacles should not be put in front of any group of people that will prevent them from exercising their right to vote.