Warren, Poston face off in NC House District 77 forum

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 25, 2016

N.C. House District 77 candidate Andrew Poston in a Wednesday forum dished out a few bits of criticism of Harry Warren, but never seemed to disagree on significant policy questions.

The two Republicans during the forum at Catawba College agreed on topics such as increasing pay for teachers, funding for transportation projects, eliminating common core and nonpartisan redistricting. Warren never responded to Poston’s criticism but cracked a smile when Poston referenced Warren’s consulting jobs for Wendy’s restaurants.

“In 2010, Wendy’s hamburgers HR supervisor Harry Warren surprisingly defeated Lorene Coates to win the 77th District House seat,” Poston said. “We Republicans were happy to win this race. However, after his six years, we must ask: Harry, where’s the beef?”

The Wendy’s statement was part of prepared talking points Poston read from at several points during the forum. He paused and stumbled occasionally when not reading from the talking points. Before explaining his position, Warren often spent parts of his allocated response times freely describing words frequently used in the legislature.

The word “certificate of need” was one area where Warren demonstrated a deeper understanding of a topic than Poston. A “certificate of need” prevents health-care providers from adding to their facilities or equipment without prior approval. Warren and Poston were both asked whether they would eliminate a certificate of need requirement for hospitals.

In his response, Poston focused on whether the state should expand Medicaid.

“As we all know, the federal government can’t be trusted to pay the debt they would have created by expanding Medicaid,” he said. “I believe that all money that we can find to appropriate to hospitals and to doctors’ offices should be appropriated as long as it’s not federally mandated because, like I said before, the federal government cannot be trusted to subsidize those things.”

Directly answering the question, Warren said he’d have to carefully look at a proposal before voting to eliminate a certificate of need requirement.

“I’d really like to see a committee formed to look at and take expert testimony both ways,” he said. “The issue is this: if you take a hospital like ours, or any rural hospital, they have to take indigent care. That’s a money drainer for them.”

Warren said eliminating certificates of need laws may result in medical clinics being able to perform surgeries that provide important revenue for hospitals.

“In some situations, you might inadvertently end up closing down a hospital,” he said. “It’s not as simple as saying if we get rid of certificates of need then health care will come down.”

Warren and Poston also differed when asked about the $2 billion statewide bond proposal, which mostly contains money for universities and colleges in the state.

Poston said he’d have to read more about the bond proposal before deciding his position. Warren never explicitly said whether he supported the measure. However, he said the bond proposal contains a relatively small amount of money for Rowan County.

The bond proposal will appear on the March 15 ballots and provides several million dollars for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Rowan could, however, receive money for a county-owned water and sewer system.

Warren and Poston both placed education among the top priorities in the state’s budget. Both also said quality of education is key to economic development. Warren, however, mostly talked about the need to improve infrastructure as part of economic development.

In closing statements, Poston attempted to differentiate himself by saying he is a constitutional conservative. He said “it’s time to choose between the establishment and the outsider.”

Warren in his closing statement focused on his three-term record in the N.C. House of Representatives.

“I have drafted, sponsored and voted for bills that have reduced taxes so we can keep more of our money in our own pocket, that have protected our personal property rights, that have protected the integrity of your vote and reaffirmed and secured your second amendment rights,” Warren said.

Warren and Poston will face each other in the March 15 Republican primary. It would be Poston’s first term in the General Assembly. It would be Warren’s fourth.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.