Yesterday, two of my respected opponents in the Lieutenant Governor race engaged in a rhetorical battle over their positions on several issues of genuine concern to Democrats in our state.
I have to say that I thought that the challenge raised fair issues in a documented fashion. I hope that Sen. Dalton will choose to address in more detail the substance of the questions. For example, it's certainly true that his questionnaire answers on choice, used in the initial challenge message, were almost 10 years old. Does that mean that Sen. Dalton's positions on this issue have evolved since that time, and if so, how and why? That may well be the case--but it is an important issue and a fair question to ask.
I have not raised some of these questions earlier myself, in part because I believe that it is important that candidates introduce themselves on the basis of their own records and positions before moving into negative comparisons. By and large, I think that we are still in the period during which candidates should focus primarily on introducing themselves to the voters.
However, since these particular important questions have been raised, I believe that this is a good moment to emphasize my own record on those issues.
In my discussion, I emphasize experience not just because of how valuable it is to an elected official in translating stated positions into effective action. I also believe that candidates' records tell you what they genuinely believe in, far more than just what they say during the heat of a campaign.
I am running on my record, as a progressive North Carolina Democrat with the record and experience to prove it.
These were the issues on which my opponents engaged yesterday—and here is my record on them:
CHOICE: I am unabashedly pro-choice, and strongly support maintaining the rights to privacy established under Roe v. Wade and its constitutional law predecessors. I have a long record of active personal support for choice, and for safe access by all to reproductive health care. I have worked for these important policies, so critical to good health and equal opportunity in our society, all of my adult life.
My record in this issue area includes over six years of work as a staff member or consultant for Planned Parenthood health centers in our state. I have worked as a Public Affairs Director, the Associate Executive Officer, and the Security Coordinator for North Carolina-based affiliates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. This work has provided me with valuable knowledge and insight into the important work of providing safe access to reproductive health care in our communities. For example, I can explain to my fellow public policy-makers such matters as what "emergency contraception" is, and why it is important that access to it be provided on a timely basis to victims of assault. I can explain the difference between "abstinence-only" and "abstinence-based" sex ed curricula--and why it is important that our schools utilize medically accurate, age-appropriate sexuality and health curricula. Many now do not.
I have been elected and re-elected as a progressive Democrat, against partisan Republican opposition, in a Republican-leaning, culturally conservative district. As a candidate, I have been attacked by opponents for my pro-choice stance, but my issue positions have never shifted on the basis of political expediency.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: I spent a decade as a legal aid attorney in mostly poor, rural counties of eastern North Carolina. I serve now as an elected City Council member in one of our largest and most diverse Piedmont cities. I understand from those experiences just how far we still have to go to overcome the long historical discrimination against minorities and women in our society. We continue to need focused public efforts on every government level to ensure that equal opportunity is genuinely available to members of these historically disadvantaged groups. As an elected member of the Winston-Salem City Council since 2001, I regularly vote to establish and apply goals for participation by minority and women owned businesses for participation in all major city contract work. We are also careful to ensure opportunity and consideration for minority and women candidates for all city positions. For example, I am proud that we currently have outstanding chiefs of our Police Department and Fire Department, hired on the basis of their skills, experience, and qualifications—and who are also both African-Americans. (I believe that our exceptional Police Chief was the first African-American woman hired for that position by any large city in North Carolina.)
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: I am on public record in calling for a moratorium on executions in our state. This is not an issue which we can justify merely tweaking around the edges—for example, by no execution of the mentally retarded, or reform of the procedures for execution. It is past time to address the fundamental questions about capital punishment, the ones which cause too many of our leaders to duck and cover: risk of erroneous executions of the innocent, and racial bias in the application of the death penalty. It is time for the legislature to put executions on hold while we carefully, systematically address those issues.
CLEAN AIR: In the interest of time, I'll just summarize some high points of my record as an effective advocate for clean air in our state:
During my 12 years as a member of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (by appointment of Gov. Jim Hunt), I served as a key hearing officer on critical air quality rules, including controls on toxic air pollution, and on the nitrogen oxides which result in urban smog. I'm proud that I was able to work with my EMC colleagues, scientists, citizen advocates, and representatives of industry in crafting solid programs that are helping clean up our air. The nitrogen oxide control rules, for example, are among the critical rules implementing the Clean Smokestacks Act, which I supported publicly and with enthusiasm.
As an elected official and representative of my city, I chair the Piedmont Triad Early Action Compact stakeholders group, which represents more than 40 local governments and many private stakeholders in our region. We designed and are leading the implementation of our regional clean air plan. This plan is helping protect our public health and economy, by bringing our area into early compliance with controls on urban smog. (These are the EPA ambient air quality standards for ground-level ozone. As of the end of 2007, the Piedmont Triad region should be in compliance with the old health standards for ozone. That meets our agreement under the Early Action Compact...just in time for the new, tougher standards to come into play. Of course, that means there's still work to be done here.)
As an elected local official, I have worked to implement in my city important policies for cleaner air, including rules in our city fleet acquisitions for the purchase of the most fuel- and emissions-efficient vehicles. I'm pleased to have supported our city's signing on to the nationwide effort by cities to fight global warming (the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Action Agreement). (I want to share credit where it's due here: The town of Canton, under Mayor Pat Smathers, is another signatory to that agreement.)
As a representative of citizen conservation groups since 1978, I have persistently advocated for cleaner air laws and programs. This record of advocacy stretches from the elimination of the old "Hardison amendments" which at one time barred North Carolina's clean air rules from being any stricter than federal minimums, through passage of the Clean Smokestacks Act, to this year's clean energy legislation. I went to Raleigh this summer to testify before the House Energy and Energy Efficiency Committee in support of a renewable portfolio standard, but in opposition to state law changes which will require electric consumers to subsidize the risky construction of new coal and nuclear power plants.
I serve now on the state's Climate Action Plan Advisory Group, which spent months crafting a set of comprehensive policy action recommendations for the state on how we can control greenhouse gas emissions and help fight global climate change.
I could go on, but this post is already more than long enough.
These four issues (choice, capital punishment, affirmative action, clean air), as important as they are, are far from the only important ones being addressed during this campaign. I have dealt with them here because they were the tough questions raised during the issue exchanges this week. I will also continue to emphasize access to health care, equal opportunity in quality public education, and meeting the challenges of both our growing urban areas and our rural regions.
I look forward to continuing, and broadening, this discussion of critical issues in this campaign.