U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Jackson makes stop in Salisbury during ‘100 counties in 100 days’ tour

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 25, 2021

SALISBURY — State Sen. Jeff Jackson on Monday stopped at City Park to talk with locals about the most important issues in the race for the U.S. Senate seat on the ballot in 2022.

Jackson is a Democrat representing part of Mecklenburg County in the N.C. General Assembly, an attorney, Afghan war veteran and National Guardsman seeking to succeed three-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who says he’s not seeking reelection in 2022. Other Democratic challengers at this time include former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and former state senator Erica Smith, who lost the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020 to challenge Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.

At least 50 people joined Jackson for a discussion of issues from a racial equity, early childhood education, broadband and gerrymandering. Rowan County was the third stop on Jackson’s “100 town halls in 100 counties in 100 days” tour, which began in Guilford County on Saturday.

Jackson began his remarks by explaining the daunting process of political consultants developing key phrases and talking points for the campaign once a candidate decides to run in such a race. He added that his 100-county tour is intended to humanize him and combat misinformation by seeing folks face-to-face and presenting an honest view.

Smith has also announced a “100-county in 100 days” tour but has not yet made her first stop.

“I think you all have come to see less and less every (election) cycle,” Jackson said. “Your expectations keep falling, less energy, less transparency, a lot less substance. We want a campaign that raises your expectations.”

Jackson said preschool and early childhood education will be a big part of his campaign. He praised Transylvania County for its nationally recognized early childhood education, noting that the small county has worked to reach every child. He praised the state as a whole for being the first in the nation to make full-day kindergarten universally available.

Norma Honeycutt, who is executive director of Partners in Learning, asked about teacher pay, noting that after working on the upcoming fiscal year budget she can now raise her lowest employee salary to $9 an hour and $15 for the salary of her highest-ranking employee with an associate’s degree.

“How on Earth are we going to find teachers? In my over 40-year experience, we have never been in this kind of crisis,” Honeycutt said. “And $9 is nothing. Fifteen dollars an hour to go to school for two years is nothing.”

Jackson said there’s something wrong with the fact that someone can make more working at Wendy’s than working at a high-quality preschool. He referenced his bill in the North Carolina General Assembly, Senate Bill 713, which calls for more funding above the base budget in the program to allow more children to participate and a tax credit to certain early education teachers and directors.

Local resident Emily Perry discussed the community’s grassroots attempts at working toward racial equity, citing the Rowan Concerned Citizens group and Covenant Community Connection. She asked Jackson how issues of school infrastructure, broadband and gun violence can be addressed. Jackson said doing so requires looking at issues through an equity lens. While those three issues typically result in disparate outcomes for people of color, he added housing, health care and criminal justice to the list.

Jackson recalled a slew of gun bills filed in North Carolina following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018. Though North Carolina’s bills were modeled after Florida, which passed them with a Republican majority, they died following discussions in a bipartisan committee established to study the issue.

Jackson was also one of two lawmakers in 2016 to vote against a bill that no longer deemed police body camera footage a public record.

Jackson said the issue of gerrymandering may be the top one for racial equity, especially because it lays the groundwork for systemic racism seen throughout American history. North Carolina lawmakers are tasked with redistricting later this year, and an independent commission is unlikely. Jackson recalled Republicans pushing for bills to end gerrymandering when Democrats were in control of the state legislature, and Democrats throwing them out because they didn’t expect to lose the majority. Republicans took both chambers in 2010, and Democrats then proposed an independent redistricting commission. Republicans, despite attempts from local legislators such as state Rep. Harry Warren, have been hesitant to take the issue on.

Jackson said hope lies in H.R.1, a measure in Congress aimed at expanding voting rights, changing campaign finance laws, limiting partisan gerrymandering and creating new ethics rules for elected officials.

“So what are we going to do? Are we committed to this or not,” Jackson said. “Yes, I think we should be. And you can send as many angry emails to Joe Manchin as you want. Or you can just elect me, and we’re good.”

Tamara Sheffield, a Salisbury City Council member, asked about protections for marginalized communities, aging individuals in housing as well as a state broadband bill designed to prevent the city from growing its fiber-optic network, initially known as Fibrant. Jackson said a bill to lift that restriction has been filed and federal funds for broadband under the current administration are expected. Additionally, investing more into the low-income housing tax credits is the biggest financial lever to pull for affordable housing, he said.

Other issues Jackson highlighted include action on climate, which he foresees being a major part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, and the legalization of marijuana for increased tax revenue. North Carolina farmers are knowledgeable about the climate crisis, he added, and action on both issues would benefit them.

Jackson also touched on the need for a raise in the minimum wage, LGBTQ rights and abortion.

“The more you actually talk to people, the less this is used as a cultural wedge issue and the more it becomes a conversation,” Jackson said, adding that he intends to be conversational with any voter questioning his pro-choice stance. “It’s my job to speak as well as I can in defense of your right to make decisions over your body without someone from the government getting involved between you and your doctor.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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