In NC House race, Heggins campaigns on consistency, dedication to human rights
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2020
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins says she’s campaigning for the N.C. House race on a record of consistency and dedication to human and civil rights while in public office.
Heggins, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican, in the upcoming general election to represent the 76th district. Warren was elected to serve the 76th district in 2018, but has served in the state House for a decade now, previously representing District 77.
Heggins made history in 2017 when she was the first Black female mayor in the city of Salisbury and the first Black woman to serve on the city council. She said there needs to be fresh faces and perspectives among elected officials to keep them more focused on the people they serve. Additionally, it helps keep elected officials from becoming complacent.
“A different face means different opportunities,” she said, adding that she hopes to groom other young leaders who wish to be public servants one day.
She was encouraged to run by some people in Raleigh, including Gov. Roy Cooper, who called her.
If elected, Heggins said she has plans for working families. She wants to help create family-friendly, safe working environments, work to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and allow for collective bargaining. Additionally, she believes it’s important to extend and increase unemployment benefits, protect workers’ compensation laws and improve upon the state’s Family Medical Leave Act.
Heggins advocates for better funding for public education, including higher pay for teachers, more investment in classrooms and educational programming as well as more input from students across the state.
The core to her platform, however, is eradicating poverty.
“I think that poverty is the root cause of many of the issues we face societally,” she said.
Heggins said she agrees with expanding Medicaid, as “so many can’t afford health care.”
“Now, North Carolina is one of 12 states that has not done this,” she said.
Using her own experience, Heggins said local governments should have more autonomy and improved laws that allow for more problem-solving from the people local governments serve.
As mayor and mayor pro tem, she has proposed and supported several measures intended to better racial injustice and policing issues. She was vocal about her support to relocate the “Fame” Confederate statue from downtown. And in August, she proposed banning the Salisbury Police Department from using chemical agents, or tear gas, on residents, though the measure went no further than a contentious discussion.
Additionally, Heggins is helping lead a grassroots effort among local artists to create a mural that represents the city’s diversity.
“I will certainly stand in the gap for human and civil rights,” she said. “There’s never been a moment where I changed what I stood for.”
Heggins said her time as mayor shows “she can work with anyone,” she said. For example, she referenced bringing members of the Trump administration to Salisbury in October to discuss potential opportunity zone sites in Rowan County. She added that she has a record of consistency and dedication to local constituents.
Heggins served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1981-99 and retired as a captain. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNC-Charlotte. She taught English as a second language in Rowan-Salisbury Schools, worked as a college administrator and as a small business owner. She also worked for the city of High Point as its human relations director, a job from which she was dismissed.
She and her husband, Isaac, who is also a veteran, live in Salisbury. The couple has seven kids between the two of them, along with five grandchildren and one on the way.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 3 to make grammatical corrections and clarify that Heggins did not advocate for “Fame” to be relocated to specific location. We apologize for the errors.