Ferguson draws on simple principle in bid for Congress

Published 12:05 am Thursday, April 21, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Attorney and minister Mazie Ferguson says her bid for Congress is based on a simple principle. It’s one that dates back more than two millennia.

“God asked us to do only two things, and in every major religion in the world the god figure asked the people to do two things —  obey God and take care of each other,” Ferguson said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Ferguson, 71, is one of five Democrats running for the 13th Congressional District seat. A greensboro resident, she has served as an attorney for a number of organizations including legal counsel for the NC Legislative Black Caucus, North Carolina General Baptist State Convention and North Carolina A&T State University. She also worked as the director of Palmetto Legal Services.

Most recently, Ferguson ran as a Democrat for N.C. labor commissioner in the March 2016 primary. She didn’t win the nomination, but finished first in all but one of the counties in the newly redrawn 13th District — Davison County. Now, she’s bringing many of the same political policy positions to the 13th District race.

Ferguson said she supports raising the minimum wage to $15, raising taxes on the rich to pay for free college and universal health care.

Raising the minimum wage is an example of an issue that’s carried over from her labor commissioner campaign.

“When I was running for labor commissioner, I said I wanted to speak for the workers of North Carolina,” she said. “I want a $15 minimum wage and I don’t think that’s outrageous. Even $10 per hour is poverty level. You cannot feed a family on $10 per hour.”

She joked that people tried to be progressive by supporting a $10-per-hour minimum wage.

“I want a living wage, but not only do I want a living wage, I want to connect the minimum wage to the cost of living index,” she said. “If the cost of living index goes up, so should the minimum wage.”

If the cost of living index goes down, Ferguson said the federal minimum wage should remain steady rather than going down.

“I know that that’s radical, but by golly we’ve got some situations in this country that call for radical action,” she said.

When asked about student debt, Ferguson responded quickly and simply: “cancel the debt, get rid of it.” She likened her proposal to “bailouts” of major corporations following the 2008 financial crisis. Ferguson said she favors free college education at public schools. She responded to questions about the cost of free college by proposing increasing taxes on the wealthy.

“When my grandmother finished eighth grade, she was ready to become a school teacher,” Ferguson said. “When I came along, people had to finish 12th grade in order to be certified to teach. Now, you have to practically get a master’s degree. The bar keeps going up and getting higher and higher.”

She reiterated the “take care of each other” principle when asked how the United States might pay for free higher education.

“If you’re making money, you can make as much money as you want to make, but please understand that some of that money is going to have to take care of the other part of your family,” she said. “The family of humanity is one family, and so those children who are walking around hungry and naked in the streets are part of your family.”

When asked about the Affordable Care Act, Ferguson said the measure hasn’t worked out as intended because it wasn’t approved as originally proposed. She accused Republicans of deliberately “creating stumbling blocks” that would hinder the bill later on. A way to ensure adequate medical care for all Americans is to provide universal health care, she said.

“We’ll have universal disease if we don’t have universal health care,” she said.

Ferguson is a self-described socialist, and she said there’s nothing wrong with the socialist ideology of “taking care of each other.” She will face off against the four other Democratic candidates for the 13th Congressional District on June 7.

The 13th Congressional District includes parts of Rowan, Iredell and Guilford counties. It includes all of Davie and Davidson counties.

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