NC Senate race for 25th District features three Richmond County residents
One is a former Navy seaman, the second is a small business owner and partner in an auction company and the third is the president of an oil distribution company, but all three candidates for N.C. Senate District 25 are from Richmond County.
In alphabetical order, the 25th District race features P.H. Dawkins, a former Navy seaman running as a Libertarian, auction company owner Tom McInnis, running as a Republican, and incumbent Gene McLaurin, a Democrat and president of Quality Oil Company.
Dawkins, 73, was born in Hamlet. He went into the Navy at 17 after dropping out of high school in the 10th grade. He also worked for the U.S. Postal Service for several years. Dawkins has run for the 25th district senate spot twice previously and been unsuccessful.
If elected, Dawkins said his top priority would be giving the public correct information to make decisions.
“I just want to educate people; I talk about it all the time,” Dawkins said. “We have to have someone in Raleigh that will tell the truth.”
He used six words — religion, education, marriage, freedom and liberty — to describe his priorities in educating the public.
Dawkins talked extensively about a problem that he called religious fanaticism, specifically in schools. He said the problem isn’t simply religion being taught in schools, but rather a conspiracy of ignorance.
“The word religion doesn’t mean a thing in the world but beliefs,” he said. “We have so many people in this state and this nation that see themselves as superior to other people, but the only difference between me and anyone else in this stat is time and circumstance.”
When asked about issues specific to North Carolina, Dawkins said he was concerned about mandatory sentencing laws. He called the laws unconstitutional.
“A person automatically has to pay x amount of dollars and the judge has no authority to change what the legislature has said and that’s not correct,” he said. The legislature wants to take over the judicial system and the judicial system wants to take over the legislature. The executive branch wants to be the master of them all.”
He also expressed opposition to gay marriage.
“Homosexuals are looking for a quick feel good and that quick feel good is addictive in the physical sense,” Dawkins said. “It’s just plain nasty.”
McInnis, 60, was reared on a farm north of Ellerbe — a small community along Interstate 74 in Richmond County.
As a ten-year-old, McInnis said he became enamored by auctioneers. It was a career path that would he’d soon make his own.
“In my small, youthful mind, that’s what I wanted to do for a living,” he said.
A few days after graduating from high school, McInnis said he immediately entered the auctioneering field.
If successful in his bid for the 25th district seat, it would be the second elected position McInnis has held. He currently serves on the Richmond County Board of Education.
He talked extensively about education and job readiness, as it’s one of his top priorities.
“Because I am an employer and job creator, I have the privilege of interviewing people and reading resumés,” McInnis said. “Graduating kids are either not prepared for the workforce or need some kind of remediation to go forward. When you look at statistics.”
He said one potential reason for the need for remediation is a failure in the public education system. One solution, he said, is to stop using the same method to teach all children. He said the brightest students should be allowed to complete public school as quickly as possible, while students who need more time have an education plan that’s tailored to them.
By focusing on education and workforce readiness, McInnis said the job market could improve because job candidates would have the right qualifications.
“There are jobs just waiting to be filled,” he said. “There are jobs that are available today, but every industry is clamoring for specialized training and 21st century skills.”
McLaurin is running for re-election after serving his first term in the North Carolina Senate. He was previously the mayor of Rockingham.
Among McLaurin’s top priorities are education, fostering a business-friendly atmosphere and protecting the environment.
“I’ve stood up for working class people, stood up for better funding for our schools and made it clear that we need to raise teacher pay to the national average,” he said. “We need to show our teachers that we value what they do.”
McLaurin also said the education system is responsible for preparing the workforce for the future.
“I think we’ve fallen behind,” he said. “We need to make education one of our priorities. I see not reason why North Carolina can’t be known as the education state.
McLaurin has also taken on coal ash as a priority during his time in Raleigh. The Buck Steam plant, located on the Yadkin River isn’t actually in McLaurin’s district, but he says it’s a concern regardless, particularly because the Yadkin River flows through the 25th District.
“I think we have a fundamental responsibility to protect clean drinking water, our land and air for the next generation,” he said.
McLaurin said one proposal he has in mind, if re-elected, is to hold public meetings on the state’s budget before the state’s general assembly votes on it.
After taking part in multiple budgets, McLaurin said the process isn’t transparent, not even for state legislators.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246