Elect 2012: Troyer, Ford discuss experience in forum for 76th NC House seat
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Don’t call Dr. Eric Troyer a politician.
The physician is running against Carl Ford, both Republicans, in the state House District 76 race.
It’s Troyer’s first time running for office.
Troyer spoke during a Wednesday night forum about bringing something new to the House.
While he may not be a politician, he is a quick study, Troyer said.
“I feel I’m going in with a naivete, but that can be a good thing,” Troyer said.
Ford has been with the Rowan County commissioners for nearly three years.
“You can call me a politician,” Ford said.
He said he has experience and is familiar with the way things work.
Both men shared their views on various topics at the 50-minute forum, which was held at the Catawba College’s Tom Smith auditorium. Many of the questions were submitted by Salisbury Post readers and others by the candidates’ constituents.
The forum was moderated by Catawba College professor Dr. Michael Bitzer, who teaches politics and history.
The candidates seemed to agree on most issues brought up at the forum.
The issue of fracking has received quite a bit of attention and there was a question of whether North Carolina should legalize the method for obtaining natural gas.
Both candidates said it’s a way the nation could get away from relying on foreign oil.
Fracking uses highly pressurized water and chemicals to obtain natural gas, but the risk to drinking water and the environment, remains under question.
Ford said if it could be done safely, he would be in favor of allowing it.
“Natural gas is a good thing. It can be used to decrease our need for foreign oil,” he said.
He also said it would also create jobs and it needs to happen.
In keeping with job creation, one of the questions involved policies the General Assembly could enact to create jobs in the state and Rowan County.
According to both candidates, the answer apparently lies with small businesses.
Ford said the idea is to “get government out of the way,” and reduce the tax burden for businesses.
Also, improving education would help if officials “put more money in the classrooms, where it belongs,” he said.
Ford is in favor of some of that money going to community colleges.
Troyer said, “There are just hidden fees and taxes that just hurts small businesses,” which are what will create jobs.
A question was asked if legislators should revisit the state’s Castle Doctrine, which allows citizens the right to use deadly force in defense, in the wake of the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Troyer said some gun laws could be expanded, but he said the statute is appropriate as it is.
Ford also said the self-defense law was appropriate. He said he’s in favor of strengthening the law for people who are trying to defend themselves or their families. Ford added that if faced with someone breaking into his home, he’d hope he wouldn’t have to shoot them, but he would unashamedly defend his family.
As to the state budget and the decision to cut or increase funding, Ford said cuts need to be made at the top level.
He said he would not cut funding for public safety.
Law enforcement, including highway patrol, police and fire are needed, Ford said.
Troyer said he’d be in favor of eliminating or consolidating some departments as a way to cut costs. “There are way too many departments in government,” he said.
He would increase funding to schools. “I believe in getting money to the school boards to let them do what they will,” Troyer said.
Superintendents attending a recent special state board of education meeting said cuts had taken a toll. Bitzer asked what candidates thought of local schools being forced to return money to the state.
The cuts have been because of the economy, Ford said. He said cuts need to come from Washington. There needs to be an administration, but “the education department in Raleigh needs to be thinned out.”
Money should be concentrated in classrooms and control should return to the local level, Ford said.
Troyer said he didn’t think local school districts should have to return money. “We care about how we educate our children,” Troyer said.
Another education-related issue concerned a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The study said the state slipped to 11th in the nation in per-pupil pre-kindergarten spending by the state.
Both Troyer and Ford said they didn’t attend kindergarten.
Troyer said there were other issues that need addressing like hunger and unemployment rather than how the state ends up in such rankings. “How much did that study cost us?” Troyer said.
He said there are many churches that have very good pre-kindergarten programs.
Ford said he understands some people want the More at Four program, but, “We’ve got to look at the budget and spending.”
There is no Democratic primary for House District 76 since John Williams is the only candidate. The primary is May 8.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.
The question and answer session helped Jack Errante form his opinion.
“I didn’t know anything about Troyer and what his thoughts were,” Errante said.
One of the issues the candidates discussed that was of interest to Errante was education.
He has grandchildren in the school system and wanted to know Troyer’s and Ford’s position on the issues related to education.
Sarah Abernethy also said she had not heard Troyer’s position on some issues prior to the forum, but found the event helpful.
“It helps make my decision easier,” she said.