Unanswered political questions in North Carolina

Here in North Carolina the Kay Hagan vs.Thom Tillis for U. S. Senate debates have ended. Thank goodness. Of course, they weren’t really debates—mostly they were denunciation declarations: As the incumbent Democrat senator, “She voted with Obama 96 percent of the time.” As the Republican challenger and former NC General Assembly House Speaker, “He cut State education spending by $500 million.”

Aside from the facts that Sen. Hagan did support Obama policies most of the time during her tenure, and State spending on K-12 under Speaker Tillis’ leadership has increased 14 percent over the past four years, neither candidate spent much time telling voters their governing principles, their positions on vital State issues, and their likely future voting records.

Rick Henderson, managing editor of the Carolina Journal (www.carolinajournal.org), noted that “voters do not elect senators merely to rehash history.” Knowing a thing or two about politics in The Old North State, Mr. Henderson had some good questions for the candidates that deserve honest answers. (But most observers probably believe that “candidates” and “honest answers” are oxymoronic terms.) Anyway, I’ll paraphrase and summarize some of his questions:

(Readers may see Henderson’s opinion piece at this site: http://www.johnlocke.org/acrobat/cjPrintEdition/cj-oct2014-web.pdf?)

Sen. Hagan and Speaker Tillis: Are either of you “troubled” by the unsustainable trend that, without structural changes, predicted spending on entitlements and interest on the debt—in ten years—will consume every tax dollar the federal government collects? If so, what changes would you make in tax policy and entitlements to restore fiscal solvency?

Speaker Tillis: It’s well know that you are “at odds with Obama on a number of issues.” Do you see any areas of agreement on his policies over the next two years of his presidency? Also, you said that a top priority for you is eliminating the U. S. Department of Education. If elected should other federal bureaucracies be “consolidated or abolished, and why?”

Sen Hagan: Senate Democrat leadership (specifically Majority Leader Harry Reid) has refused to bring any of about 350 bills passed by the House legislators to a vote. “Do you support these tactics? Have you urged Reid to bring any of these bills to the full Senate (for a vote)?”

If you win a second term would you support Reid? If not, name a Senate Democrat you would support.

Legislation you have sponsored in the Senate has largely been ignored or rejected during the past six years. “What are your legislative priorities for a second term…?” “What policies…would you champion?”

You claim to have a “moderate record.” “Name some specific instances in which you have worked with Republicans to pass legislation” in the Senate.

It’s unlikely that these, or any other substantive, questions will be answered by the candidates; avoiding important issues remains most conspicuous in the game of politics.

Speaker Tillis, and Republicans generally, have been under relentless assault from left-wing groups resentful of losing their long-time political power here in North Carolina. He’s probably gun-shy about anything related to State politics because of the vicious sniping by activist groups—often distorting and lying about Republican-sponsored legislative activities.

Sen. Hagan also wants to avoid anything that connects her to Obama’s policies. He has publicly and proudly stated they are on the Democrat political agenda during this coming election. In largely conservative North Carolina, these are feared as if they were infected with the Ebola virus.

So, we won’t hear many straightforward responses to questions political candidates should forthrightly answer. We’ll have to wait to learn what they do when elected. Meanwhile, we can predict their behavior based on the activities of the people with whom they associate.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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