Poston, Warren face off in 77th District race

Published 12:10 am Sunday, February 21, 2016

A bill that would give illegal immigrants the ability to drive is taking center stage in the 77th District N.C. House race.

For the second-straight year, State Rep. Harry Warren will face competition in the March Republican primary and none in November. Warren, a three-term incumbent, this year will face competition from challenger Andrew Poston, studying at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte for his master’s degree.

Poston is dishing out criticism about Warren on teacher pay and a bill allowing illegal immigrants to drive. Poston says Warren hasn’t been a friend to teachers. Warren hoped to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license with a bill he introduced in 2015, Poston said.

“It’s the biggest elephant in the room,” Poston said about giving illegal immigrants the ability to drive. “Here’s the short answer to the big question: I was not happy with the way our legislature is handling education or the way the representative from my district is trying to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.”

It’s criticism Warren says isn’t true.

“The boy needs to do more homework,” Warren said when asked to respond to the criticism.

The bill drawing criticism relating to illegal immigrants is one Warren calls “basically dead.” When the bill was considered, it drew a hefty amount of criticism, and it didn’t meet requirements to be considered during the 2016 short session.

Specific words matter when describing the bill, according to Warren. He said illegal immigrants would be able to obtain driver’s permits rather than licenses.

“There is absolutely no similarity between the permit that was proposed and an N.C. driver’s license, other than the ability to drive,” Warren said.

With a driver’s license, Warren said an illegal immigrant could enter a federal building, board an airplane and register to vote. The permit wouldn’t allow any of the three items Warren listed.

The other significant difference between Poston and Warren is pay for teachers. Warren said the legislature has increased teacher pay significantly since he was first elected. Poston says the legislature hasn’t given experienced teachers enough.

“Our legislature has raised pay for beginning teachers, but hasn’t significantly raised the pay for the ones who have been in education and inspiring students for years,” he said. “Our legislature has done nothing for for teachers. They’ve only been there to serve themselves and Harry has been right in the middle of that.”

Poston proposes using the state’s surplus money to help give raises to more experienced teachers.

Again, Warren said Poston needs to do more research on the topic. Warren counters that legislators have given significant raises to the state’s public school teachers. In the 2016 short session, Warren says he “fully expects” the legislature to increase starting pay again.

Warren said starting pay for teachers was $28,000 when he first ran for office. Last year, it was increased to $35,000.

On other issues, Warren and Poston have similar opinions.

On Medicaid expansion, both say they don’t trust the federal government to pay its fair share of the bill.

Both also support the legislature’s decision to cut income taxes. Warren says lower income taxes allow North Carolinians “to keep more money in their pocket.”

Warren also listed three specific areas he’d focus his attention on locally — economic development, quality of life and constituent issues. Warren said he’d use his position as a state representative to help secure as much money as possible for Rowan through loans and grants.

When talking about loans and grants, Warren specifically mentioned using money for economic development projects, air and water quality projects and health care issues.

When asked about local issues, Poston said he’d “like to play a role in bringing long-lasting industry to Salisbury and Rowan County.”

Poston said he’d also like to see Superintendent Lynn Moody stop the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s One-to-One technology initiative. Poston said some students don’t have access to wireless Internet at home.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.