Lawson, Clemmons compete for House 57 seat

Republican Troy Lawson and Democrat Ashton Clemmons, two first-time candidates for North Carolina House 57, separately responded to questions from The Guilfordian.

What inspired you to run for NC house rep?

AC: I was inspired to run for the North Carolina House of Representatives because I have spent my whole life trying to create opportunity for children in our state as a public school employee. I believe we’re going backwards as a state if you care deeply about public schools and providing opportunity for all of our children. I felt like this was a critical time to break the super majority of the North Carolina House and also to move the House to more representing the people of North Carolina.

TL: What inspired me to run is I see some disconnects in this city. I see that the city, in my district, there are two sides to the district: the west side and the east side. Sometimes they don’t meet, and I don’t like that. I think that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done connecting both sides of the city. So, I see that as a real disconnect. Part of that disconnect is the economy, jobs and education, and my passion is education. I’m driven by having children and their families make a choice as to where they want to go to school.  And that means you can go to the public schools, which are all great. It’s okay to choose somewhere else to go to school. If you don’t think the school down the street is working for you, and a lot of them are not, a lot of them are failing, then we have charter schools, and many of them are very successful. I’m on the board of directors of one Gate City Charter Academy and we’re outperforming all the public schools in our area and we’re only three years old. We have 570 kids that go there, and we have a waiting list as long as Wendover Avenue. So that really drives my passion, is education.

What are the biggest economic problems in Guilford county? And what some specific ways that you plan to bring economic growth to Guilford county?

AC: I think our biggest economic challenge is the increasing gap between the workers of our state and people who are in the top ten percent of income earners in our state. The wage stagnation of the workers in our state is creating an economy that does not work for all people. So, while if the stock market is doing well or profits are increasing, those profits are not being reflected in the workers creating those profits. So, I think our biggest challenge is: how do we build an economy that is inclusive and gives opportunity and self-sufficient wages to all people in North Carolina?

TL: One of them in my district, in East Greensboro, is economic development. There’s a lot of areas in East Greensboro that need improvement and there’s a lot of ways to do that. One of them is investment and for a lot of reasons like crime and other reasons people are not investing enough in east Greensboro, so that area needs a lot of work. One of the ways I’m going to try to help them do that is I don’t think people in east Greensboro are connected well enough to the political system. As a Republican, if we remain in control, I go to bat for them right away. If my opponent wins but we remain in control, she gets relegated to the bleachers immediately. Nothing will be done. So, if she wins, it’s a watch. But with me, I get up to bat right away, so that’s going to help my entire district.

In data from from 2015, the arrest rate for black people in Guilford county was 417.5 per 100,000 residents, and the arrest rate for white people was 119.4 per 100,000 residents. What do you think accounts for this disparity and do you intend to solve it? 

AC: I think that is one example of statistics across our justice system that show that our justice system operates differently based on the color of your skin at times. I think that a lot of the important work to improve that is with local police organizations at the county and city levels. I have been endorsed by Police Benevolent Association. A first step in the right direction is to work with the local law enforcement to try to understand the data. We need to work with the leaders of the local law enforcement to say what strategies we can try to bring more just processes forward, and then working together to support those strategies with funding from the state and local levels.

TL: I don’t think anybody has the total answer, but I think this is institutional stuff that’s been going on long before we all were around. I think people have certain biases against people and I’m all for police officers, but I think we all come from different areas of our lives and we’ve all been taught different things, and I think those biases carry into even jobs like law enforcement. I think they do a great job, but that kind of statistic means we have to ask, “What is this? Why is this?” There’s definitely room for improvement.

How do you plan to make health care affordable for North Carolinians? Are there any potential drawbacks to that plan?

AC: The first thing we have to do to make health care more affordable is to expand Medicaid. The fact that we continue to prevent 500,000 North Carolinians from accessing because we refuse to expand Medicaid is immoral and unconscionable to me. By expanding Medicaid, we are bringing about a thousand more jobs to Guilford County health care-related jobs, millions of dollars to Guilford County’s economy and billions of dollars to the health care economy across our state, which will lower the premiums for everyone. I think that expanding Medicaid makes moral sense because there are children and families that will be covered, but it also makes economic sense because it will be lowering that healthcare cost for everyone.

TL: Everybody is worried about Medicaid and Medicare. Those are programs that should be in place. But I don’t agree with necessarily expanding them, but let’s get people jobs so they can afford them. Let’s not expand that because it’s a lot of money and costs a lot, but for people who are not able-bodied and need that program, then we should keep it and they should take advantage of it. Expanding it is not the answer. We need to make it work better. There’s a lot of waste and a lot of fraud in those programs.

What are your views on reproductive issues? Do you believe that women have the right to choose to have an abortion?

AC:  I am a pro-choice candidate. I think that our women’s healthcare is best made between the woman who is facing the situation and the doctor who knows the implications of their individual situation.

TL: Personally I don’t believe in (the right to choose), but it is the law and it’s a law of the land. I want to make sure that it’s going to be safe and it’s not something that the government is going to pay for. That’s what I believe in. If there has to be a an abortion, then it should be very rare.