Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Each election cycle The Macon County News provides candidate profiles on offices up for election. The series continues with profiles on candidates for both the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate.

North Carolina’s 50th Senate District covers Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Swain and Macon counties. Since winning the 2010 election, Senator Jim Davis (R) has represented the district. Jane Hipps, (D) first challenged Davis in 2014 but lost. Hipps is once again challenging the three-term senator and will appear on the ballot in November.

The 120th District of the North Carolina House of Representatives represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham, and Macon counties. Incumbent Representative Roger West announced his retirement from the seat earlier this year, leaving the seat up for grabs. In November, Kevin Corbin (R) and Randy Hogsed (D) will appear on the ballot.

Candidates for N.C. Senate

senator-davis
Senator Jim Davis

Jim Davis was born in Lynchburg, Va., Davis earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Adventist University in 1969, and earned his DDS degree from Loma Linda University’s School of Dentistry in 1974. In 1989, he graduated from Loma Linda with his MS in orthodontics. Davis served on the Macon County Board of Commissioners from 1996-2000 and again from 2004-2010.

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

Jane Hipps
Jane Hipps

obtained a Master’s degree in nursing in 2008, graduating with honors and passing her boards to become a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. She 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 NC Democratic Women.

Why are you running for office?

Davis: 

1. Continue the progress in making our state fiscally sound including fully funding the pension and retiree healthcare benefit liabilities

2. Enhance the business environment for job expansion and creation

3. Adequately fund the legitimate functions of state government especially education

4. Continue to represent the interest of local governments, especially in my position as co-chair of state and local government

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. I am a leader from the west for the west and with every vote will put the needs of our people first. I know, as our mountain people do, that if we listen to one another and learn from each other we will develop sustainable solutions for the years to come.

Hot topic issues facing the county and where you stand. Give your opinion, your plan, and your outlook on what you think are prominent issues currently facing Macon County and the state.

Public Education: Depending in the source, the funding and numbers surrounding public education can be argued or viewed 100 different ways. In terms of real time as in today, what is your stance on the current state of Public Education in North Carolina? How can Public Education in NC be better? 

Davis:

Funding: The Republican led legislature has increased education funding every year it has been in leadership. State K-12 funding has increased by about 23 percent since 2011.  Our efforts to appropriately fund education will continue to be a priority as our economy improves and our revenues increase. Beginning teachers have advanced in starting salary from $30,800 to $33,000 to $35,000 per year. The average teacher salary will be greater than $50,000 once the current policy is fully implemented.  Benefits of about $14,000 per year are in addition to increased salaries.  Having high speed internet in every school is a high priority.  Education spending is 56 percent of the state budget, 37 percent of that is K-12.

Policy: Our approach to education should always be dynamic, never static.  Our K-12 education system continues to face significant challenges that require constant diligence by all parties.  About 60percent of all North Carolina students that enter the community college and university system require remedial work in at least one subject.  That is unacceptable.  Our legislature, the educational system, parents, students, business and community need to combine their efforts to correct that statistic.  Senator Phil Berger championed the Read to Achieve program to help ensure that all third graders can read at grade level before advancing.  Learning to read is a key indicator of success in later educational, professional, and societal levels.

Expanding opportunity scholarships for children in poverty and for children of the military gives students and parents additional options for their educational choices.  Increasing the number of charter schools does the same.

Hipps:

When you cut a half billion dollars from our local classrooms and give that money to the wealthiest citizens and special interests, there’s no other phrase for it than a reverse Robin Hood. Public education in North Carolina is suffering and no amount of political spin can change that.

My Republican friends agree that education is not a partisan value. Education is a shared American value. I will stand with you and work for progress because I am a retired teacher and it is unacceptable that we are 41st in teacher pay and 44th in per student spending.  We have 7,000 fewer teaching assistants than we did in 2008 and my opponent got rid of longevity pay and master’s degree pay. During the last election cycle, I visited Franklin High School and observed students in an English class sharing a 17-year-old set of textbooks.

Since Sen. Davis went to the legislature, Macon County has experienced growing class sizes, shrinking course offerings, and is operating with 30 fewer state paid positions and 34 fewer positions overall. This is inexcusable.

When you cut education to give tax breaks to special interests, those aren’t mountain values.  If my opponent wants to know what’s really happening in our classrooms, I invite him to visit our schools with me to talk with teachers and administrators so he can see and hear first hand what sort of devastating impacts the cuts he’s supported have had.  Whether you’re doing math at Cartoogechaye or studying English at Franklin High, whether you’re learning to read at East Franklin or studying science in Macon Middle, whether you’re working on social studies in Highlands or studying poetry at Nantahala, our students have the right to the same education afforded to those who live in our top funded states.

HB2: To repeal or not to repeal? HB2 is made the news in some form of fashion since it was first passed. What is your opinion on the legislation as a whole and the impact it has had on the state? 

Davis: Your readers need to understand that HB2 was a response to an unconstitutional action by the Charlotte City Council.  North Carolina is a “Dillon’s Rule” state which means all local governments get their authority from the state.  Charlotte has the authority to establish regulations for their own operation and employees but not private business.  Charlotte’s ordinance imposed unconstitutional regulations on private business and Charlotte was advised by Gov. McCrory and legislative leaders prior to its passage that there would be a legislative response.

My vote for HB2 was specifically addressing the “gender identity” or “gender expression” part of Charlotte’s ordinance.  HB2 protects the rights of the LGBTQ community but does not accommodate gender as a fluid or transient state.  Should an individual complete gender reassignment surgery North Carolina allows for the relevant change to one’s birth certificate.  It appears to me that allowing one’s gender to be transient opens the door for any with nefarious purpose to have legal access to public or private facilities designed for males or females, but not both.  Of course, single occupancy facilities would not be problematic.

Should we allow gender to be a fluid or transient state then why not age, race, disability, etc.?  If gender is fluid then can a boy’s basketball team declare themselves to be “female” and compete in the girl’s bracket?  Where does this madness end?  My opinion is that the madness ends when special accommodation for “gender identity” or “gender expression” tramples on the rights of the overwhelming majority.

I have no intention of reversing my vote.

Hipps:

As a guidance counselor, a school psychologist, and a pediatric nurse practitioner, I would never be in favor of letting a grown man go to the bathroom or shower with our women and children. That has never been okay before and that’s not okay now!

I’m running because I want to protect our women and children, and if my opponent wanted to protect our women and children, he would restore the Earned Income Tax Credit, increase pre- school education, and give women equal pay for equal work. Yet, Jim likes to talk about going to the bathroom. This is nothing more than an election day gimmick. Jim hopes you’ll forget that they closed Central School over in Haywood, hopes you’ll forget his public disdain for our educators, and hopes you’ll forget he raised your taxes fifty ways to Sunday on appliance repair, oil changes, and even your hunting licenses.

HB2 is unenforceable and has cost this state hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. These were good jobs that our families needed, gone now because people like Raleigh Jim continue to put politics ahead of our families just like they did when they cut funding for our schools or when they let Duke energy charge us to clean up their pollution.

Jim Davis and his Raleigh buddies are the only people in the history of North Carolina, harebrained enough to get football and basketball taken away from us.

Economic Development: Everyone wants to create jobs, but how do you think the county/state should do that? What specific plans of action should Macon County take to ensure job growth and economic development? Be specific. 

Davis:

The state can only create public jobs.  Public jobs should exist to efficiently satisfy the legitimate functions of government.  North Carolina’s responsibility assisting the creation of jobs in the private sector is mainly in two areas.  The first is to establish tax and regulatory policies to grow and expand business.  Over the last five years North Carolina has improved to be in the top tier of business friendly states.  The second is to train and equip a workforce sufficient to meet the available job opportunities.  Our excellent universities and community colleges continue to be excellent at addressing those needs.

In addition, we have loan and grant opportunities that target particular issues.  For example, I was able to get a bill passed in the N.C. Senate that later became law to qualify Blue Ridge Paper Products, a subsidiary of Evergreen Packaging in Canton, for $12 million over 10 years through a Jobs Maintenance and Capital Development Fund.  This grant funding is in addition to $51 million put up by Evergreen to enhance pollution controls and become more energy efficient.  The EPA had given Blue Ridge until 2019 to comply with new regulations.  The JMAC funding helped preserve about 1,000 jobs in Haywood County in satisfying the new regulations.

I was also able to get a bill passed that later became law which allowed the Eastern Band to employ live dealers and expand their gaming operations to Cherokee County.  This legislation resulted in an addition of more than 2000 great paying jobs with excellent benefits in this district.

Hipps:

The first thing we need to ensure job growth and economic development is a dedicated sustained commitment to our infrastructure. This means having long term plans in place to address the needs of our mountain communities instead of relying on quick fixes when problems arise.

Secondly, if we want to level the playing field with RTP, we have to talk about broadband. I’m really excited about Google NGN (Next Generation Network) that we’re working to put in place over in Waynesville, but we need to get high-speed fiber to the last-mile of our communities, and that includes way out in Wayah.

Finally, we must invest in our entrepreneurs. I’m proud of our entrepreneurial program at Southwestern Community College which serves many of our Macon students and equips our hard working mountain folks with the skills they need to be successful small business owners.

We absolutely can have cutting-edge businesses and industries here, but we can’t do it when Jim keeps voting against our mountain values. He voted to get rid of the Business Income Tax Deduction that was helping our small business owners. He voted to defund the Rural Center that helped us with our water and sewer projects. And if you really want to talk about rural economies, he voted to get rid of the tax exemption for small farmers and their equipment.

Once again, Raleigh Jim is taking care of the special interests and out of state corporations at the expense of our people right here at home.

The 120th District of the North Carolina House of Representatives represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham, and Macon counties. Incumbent Representative Roger West announced his retirement from the seat earlier this year, leaving the seat up for grabs. In November, Kevin Corbin (R) and Randy Hogsed (D) will appear on the ballot.

House of Representatives 

Randy Hogsed
Randy Hogsed

Randy Hogsed is a native of Andrews, N.C. After high school he served four years in the United States Army Infantry. Much of his work experience has been in transportation, warehousing and distribution. Currently, he works as a Real Estate Broker. Hogsed’s political experience consists of serving on the Andrews town council. He has a degree in business administration.

Kevin Corbin is a native of Macon County graduating from Franklin High School, class of 1979, an Honors Graduate of Appalachian State University (ASU) in 1983, where he majored in Marketing and Business Management, served as News Editor of the university’s “Appalachian” newspaper and interned for the university as a Public Information Officer. Corbin also represented ASU in the North Carolina Student Legislature. He graduated from Appalachian with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Corbin served four years on the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees, is a past

Kevin Corbin
Kevin Corbin

chairman of the Macon County School Board (20 years) winning five county-wide elections. For the past six years, Corbin has served on the Macon County Board of Commissioners, being elected as chairman of the board for last four years. Corbin currently serves as chair of the Region A Council of Government, which is comprised of all of the county commissioners, mayors, and town board members from the seven western counties of N.C.  Corbin currently serves on the board of directors for Southwestern Community College Foundation and has served on the Franklin Chamber of Commerce board. In 2010, Corbin was appointed to the Blue Cross Blue Shield NC Agents Advisory Board where he was involved in developing lower cost plans for citizens of North Carolina. Corbin was Inducted into Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC Hall of Fame in 2013, with only 21 inductees in history. Corbin is also an active member of the Franklin Rotary.

Why are you running for office?

Hogsed:

The first reason I decided to ask you to trust me to represent us in the North Carolina State House is that I am fed up with politicians. The people we have sent to Raleigh and to Washington to represent us and to look after the best interest of Western North Carolina are spending their time playing politics, representing their political parties and looking after their own bank accounts. It seems that they are more interested in controlling bathroom access than with bringing jobs to the mountains. I promise you that I will always put the best interest of our mountain families first. I promise you that I will work full time to bring employment, business and an opportunity for our families to prosper to WNC. Representing you will not be a part time job for me!

Corbin:

I believe I have the skills to be affective in Raleigh. Having worked in and around local government for literally half my life as a local elected official, I know what is important to our county and our towns. In the past, my skill set has always included bringing folks together with differing viewpoints to try to find a common sense solution to a problem. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will not only represent Republicans, but will also represent Democrats, unaffiliated voters, and even those who do not or cannot vote. I think an elected official has a moral responsibility to do that. Each representative in North Carolina represents about 90,000 people and I intended to do that to the best of my ability.

Hot topic issues facing the county and where you stand. Give your opinion, your plan, your outlook on what you think are prominent issues currently facing Macon County and the state.

Public Education: Depending in the source, the funding and numbers surrounding public education can be argued or viewed 100 different ways. In terms of real time as in today, what is your stance on the current state of Public Education in North Carolina? How can Public Education in NC be better? 

Hogsed:

Everyone agrees that our students deserve quality education and that being able to compete successfully in a 21st century job market requires a quality 21st century education. People disagree on how to provide and how to pay for that education. Priority One is to work with business and industry to develop a curriculum which will teach the knowledge and skills needed today and in the near future, and to develop an educational and skills certification system which is meaningful and useful to business and industry in today’s world. Paying to educate our students begins with reversing legislation passed by those now in office which will remove $148 million each year and give it to wealthy individuals to pay for private schools. We must insure that all money from the education lottery be used for education, not just 30 percent of it.

Corbin:

N.C. promised 40 percent of the lottery proceeds to come back to the counties for education. This year (’15-’16) it was 17 percent. Those lottery proceeds need to be restored and I will introduce legislation to do so.

Common core needs to be replaced. It was a good sounding idea that 46 governors endorsed several years ago. It is a cookie-cutter federal plan that assumes one size fits all. N.C. can do better, and we will.

Teachers in N.C. deserve to have their pay adjusted to competitive levels. We currently are not competitive with most neighboring states in overall teacher compensation. That needs to be corrected. We don’t need to blame the Democrats or Republicans, or continue to play that game. It just needs to be fixed, and N.C. can do that with the increased revenues that the State is experiencing through business and sales tax growth.

I believe all children should have access to a quality education and teacher pay should continue to be increased to a competitive level.  I believe NC can put more money into the classroom and that teachers should not have to spend their personal funds for classroom material.

HB2: To repeal or not to repeal? HB2 is made the news in some form of fashion since it was first passed. What is your opinion on the legislation as a whole and the impact it has had on the state?

Hogsed:

The issue of House Bill 2 began when the Charlotte city council passed a local ordinance which allowed transgender people to choose to use the restroom which corresponds to their gender identity. The majority of the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor responded by calling a special session (costing $42,000 each day) to pass HB2. Everyone knows that HB2 overturned the Charlotte ordinance and made it illegal for any other town or county to pass a similar law. Most people do not know that, as written, HB2 eliminated any state law claim for wrongful termination of an employee (including for race or religion), and also eliminated the right of any local government to increase its minimum wage. I sincerely believe that the majority party saw this simply as a reelection issue. They were so sure that the Bath Room Bill would win them a quick vote by making a major issue of it. If they had wanted only to change the Charlotte law, they could have done so by rescinding the Charlotte ordinance with a local act of the state legislature. This could not have been challenged in any court. Instead our lawmakers have chosen to have to spend tax dollars to defend HB2. In this year’s budget, they removed $500,000 from the state’s Disaster Relief Fund to pay attorneys to defend against court challenges to HB2. This is after spending $8.9 million in attorney fees to defend other bad legislation that has all been declared unconstitutional. They hoped that fighting over HB2 would divert our attention away from the economy and their failure to put North Carolina back to work. It hasn’t! The only people that HB2 has given work to, is the lawyers. In fact, it has lost North Carolina jobs. It is time to pass a law which gives businesses the freedom to choose if they want to provide additional restrooms to their customers or not and let the customers vote with their feet.

Corbin:

I believe that HB2 needs to be done with completely. It’s like when you have major problems with your computer, you reboot the entire system. That is what needs to happen here. It needs to start with the Charlotte ordinance being eliminated and then the state repealing their legislation that was enacted as response to the Charlotte ordinance.

No one thinks its okay for a man to be using a woman’s restroom and vice versa. The entire ordeal just needs to be eliminated and we need to move on as a state.

Economic Development: Everyone wants to create jobs. No one is going to run for office and not say “We need jobs.”  But how do you think the county/state should do that? What specific plans of action or paths should Macon County take to ensure job growth and economic development? Be specific. 

Hogsed:

Putting Western North Carolina back to work has to be Job One. I will put together a team of people from different backgrounds and with a wide range of skill sets to work on economic development. The first thing to do will be to develop a plan. This plan will identify objectives and goals such as infrastructure needs including roads, broadband, water and sewer, buildings and facilities. This will include working closely with business and industry to identify their needs. We will also identify needs in education and healthcare. It is impossible to recruit business today if we can not provide the very best in schools and hospitals and other quality of life issues. The second part of the plan will be to identify means to pay for our plans and projects. The third step will be to put together plans to bring our many projects to fruition. It will be good to finally see some things getting done! Building roads and other projects is jobs. Some specifics include finally building a road from Franklin to Nantahala, building a new Hwy129 from Andrews to Robbinsville and improving Hwy294 among many others.  Since our current system for appropriating highway funding is based largely on population and because it cost up to 10x more to build roads in the mountains, our funding for projects here often falls short. I believe that the answer to this problem is to develop a system resembling the Powell Bill funding which provides money to towns and cities in NC to maintain streets. This would provide an amount of current fuel tax money to rural mountain districts in addition to the amount of the normal appropriation.  Many of our highway chokepoints are across state lines, for instance Hwy’s 68 and 64 through Ocoee Gorge in Tennessee. And US129 from Deals Gap to Maryville, Tenn. Our team will work to co-ordinate work with our neighbors in Tenn. and Ga. We will apply for Community Connect Grants through the USDA to improve rural broadband access. We will also put together plans for regional water systems which will greatly expand and improve access to grants for water and sewer projects. We will look to promoting tourism district wide. I would like to see a Mountain Historical Tourism Trail, including projects to protect and preserve many of our historical cabins and buildings like the Tatham Grist Mill and Mosteller and Stewart Cabins. Money is available for some of these projects through Preserve NC and other grant programs. I also want to open up access to National Forest Service lands on existing and new roads to give locals and tourist a chance to drive into and enjoy our mountains.  A major part of economic development that gets over looked is agriculture. We will bring new life to our farming by providing better access to markets and canning facilities, financing and insurance for crops. A focus for our team will be to proactively promote our district to the world and to diligently recruit business and manufacturing to the mountains.

Corbin:

I support free enterprise economics with little government regulation and taxation. Job growth is a huge issue as we go forward. This is the time we need to capitalize on success. Right now N.C. is the 9th largest state in the USA and is the fastest growing economy since 2013 in the country. We need to make it easier to do business in N.C. and continue this positive trend. In Macon County we have reduced local regulations to make it easier for folks to build their homes here.

As we speak, we are developing a plan to reduce fees for building & well permits, etc. We can do the same in the state of N.C. As we identify and reduce over-reaching regulation, we increase folks’ desire to do business here. Also, I applaud the current legislature for reducing corporate, personal and business income tax. That is a positive trend that we need to continue. The future is bright for N.C. and we need to work to make sure that is true for all of far WNC as well.

The primary focus for our state is to increase connectivity and broadband access in rural areas of North Carolina. Macon County is currently leading a charge to identify dead spots in the county and do research for internet providers to show them areas that need service and help entice them to come to the area. If elected, all the counties in my district will be doing this. Broad band is something we need to look at because it is essential for success in business and just in life. If company’s don’t think its profitable to run a line out to Cartoogechaye because they will only add a few customers, then we need to look at a public, private partnership on the state level to make it possible.

Next week: Candidates for Macon County Commissioners.

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