I will always remember Mark Meadows standing in the Rose Garden next to Donald Trump and laughing as they celebrated the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act — laughing that they were going to toss millions of Americans off of medical coverage, including thousands of people in Western North Carolina. Make no mistake, that is the game-plan for Republicans in 2020 — they want to remove protection for pre-existing conditions and gut Medicare coverage for seniors. The Trump enabler who replaces Meadows on the Republican ticket will work to take your healthcare away because the GOP doesn’t believe healthcare is a fundamental right for the rest of us.
I support a public option — whether it is a buy-in to Medicare or called some other name — that recognizes access is a human right and puts affordable healthcare above corporate profits. Here’s why you should support a public option, too. Right now, the per capita cost of healthcare is more than $10,000 per person in America. That’s in some cases double the cost per person compared to other developed countries, where every citizen has healthcare coverage. We’re paying too much, with some going bankrupt to pay medical bills. And we don’t even have full coverage in America – 1 out of 10 go without healthcare. In Western North Carolina, those uninsured rates are even higher.
A public option will ensure that every citizen has access to care. Once and for all.
Along with that, people should have the right to buy private insurance if they choose or maintain quality healthcare coverage negotiated by labor unions.
North Carolina’s rural counties spend over $1,000 less per student than rural counties in other states. In Swain County, local spending on each student is one-fourth the statewide per student average. It’s not surprising, given that disparity, that public schools in North Carolina’s rural counties rank in the bottom third of the nation in math and reading skills.
No matter how you measure it, we are failing our kids. And we all know the end result. Poorly educated children grow up and often wind up working in low-wage jobs. People in low-wage jobs live in poverty. Generation after generation after generation of poverty.
We have to end that cycle. And we can.
We need to invest in K-12 education. We can’t just rely on property taxes, because we know that means wealthier communities will have the funding to provide better educations and poorer communities will struggle to educate. Nor can we rely on the state to come through to close the gap in funding. North Carolina isn’t doing that.
We need much greater federal investment in raising teacher pay. We need a major expansion in Title I funding to help close the gap so our K-12 students in rural communities will have the same quality public school education.
Funding K-12 public education is an investment in our future. When I am your NC-11 Congressman, I will support that investment.
Student Loan Debt
Donald Trump made a career of piling up debt and then walking away from it in bankruptcy court; in fact, he did it six times. Ordinary Americans who take on debt in order to get an education aren’t treated as well as the alleged billionaire genius.
Americans owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt and the tally rises daily. Student loan debt was the fastest growing category of debt over the past decade and it is second only to home mortgage loans. Two out of every three graduating seniors leave school with student loan debts that average $29,200 per person.
When I was a law professor at Howard University, I often encouraged students to consider a career in the military or some other form of public service, and quite a few did. There were, however, at least an equal number that did not because they were saddled with such significant student loan debts that they needed to pass up military service or public service to land the highest paying jobs possible in order to make their loan payments.
The student loan crisis is a drag on our economy and it inhibits innovation. Americans saddled with significant student loan debts often forego entering the housing market because they can’t save enough money for a down payment or qualify for a loan. Many who might have dreamed of becoming entrepreneurs and starting some innovative businesses are compelled to settle for more safe and secure employment choices because of the student loan debt cloud that hangs over their heads.
Some advocate for the total elimination of student loan debt, but others argue that would be unfair to the millions of Americans who scrimped and saved and worked part-time jobs so as not to be saddled with debt upon graduation.
Under my plan, all student loans would be transferred to the Department of Education and the loan rate will be capped at zero percent interest. I look at student loans as an investment in America’s future and a net positive, not as an expense that will generate no return. People who choose careers in the public service sector — the military, teachers, firefighters, senior care providers, for example — would have portions of their loan amounts eliminated depending upon the length of time they choose to serve. I will also fight to relax the laws making student loan debts difficult to discharge in bankruptcy; there’s no reason a community college student who falls on hard times should be treated worse than Donald Trump.
Education lights the path to a progressive future and the light shines brighter when it’s not obscured by a cloud of debt.
JOBS AND A LIVING WAGE
If unemployment is low, why is the poverty rate so persistently high in Western North Carolina? In McDowell County, it’s 19.3 percent – well above the national average of 12.3. In Yancey County, it’s 19.6. Swain? The poverty rate is a whopping 20.9 percent.
Jobs may be plentiful, but they don’t pay enough to lift people out of poverty. That’s because the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour hasn’t budged in 10 years. And there aren’t enough high paying jobs to go around.
With the right leadership, we can reduce poverty in Western North Carolina. When I am your congressman, I will fight for a $15 living wage. I will work to add jobs that pay well, building much-needed infrastructure in our district. We also need to create incentives for green jobs in solar energy that protect the environment, which is a critical economic driver for the region.
It is our moral obligation to preserve and protect our land, air and water for our children and future generations. Climate change is real and we can’t afford to wait until we reach a tipping point to act. We are already running out of time.
I will work to extend and expand federal support for commercial and consumer alternative energy programs including wind and solar power and geothermal heating and cooling – and will focus those efforts on communities that are economically disadvantaged.
Achieving energy independence is good for the environment, good for national security and good for entrepreneurs and workers. And it is critical for our Western North Carolina economy, which depends on tourism that is driven by the beauty of our mountains. That’s why I support the Green New Deal. It will bring jobs to Western North Carolina and protect our environment.
I support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body. Full stop.
Access to abortion is a guaranteed right. Instead of fighting to take that constitutional right away, legislators should focus on reducing the need for abortions. I support making birth control more readily available and expanding education efforts.
When unintended pregnancies happen, in addition to access to abortion, we should make prenatal care, childcare, nutritional assistance, housing, adoption support, healthcare and education more accessible. It is unrealistic to expect a woman who may be struggling to support herself day to day to continue an unintended pregnancy when all she can count on going forward is thoughts and prayers.
Cruelty should never be a policy in America. We can agree on that, can’t we?
We should not separate parents from children, which does irreparable harm. We should not put children in cages. That’s abhorrent.
We need to address immigration reform once and for all with a sense of urgency and compassion. I remember the bipartisan Senate bill that Lindsey Graham co-sponsored: The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. It was a good framework and it’s unfortunate it didn’t pass. It would have increased border security and created a path to citizenship for those already in the country. That’s what we should be aiming for now.
We should support DACA, creating a path to citizenship for those who have grown up in the U.S. and are contributing to our country. In addition, it is unconscionable that men and women who served in the military who aren’t citizens are subject to deportation. Another cruelty of our current system.
One area to focus on to reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants is to crack down on the employers who hire them. The current system focuses on cracking down on the supply; the focus should be on reducing the demand.
Remember, we are all immigrants or descended from immigrants. Immigration is part of what has always made America great.
It is long past time to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 Controlled Substances and legalize it nationwide. It is already legal in many states, aiding patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes including veterans suffering from PTSD and other ailments.
Imagine the impact legalizing marijuana could have in Western North Carolina, from farming income to tax revenues that could be directed to education or installing broadband internet in rural areas of the state.
Medicinally, the benefits of marijuana are just beginning to be known. Removing it from the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs would open the door to scientific research on the many potential uses of marijuana in healthcare.
Once legal, we should expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana infractions. It’s the right thing to do.
I grew up hunting and even worked as a bail bondsman where I was often armed. Then I served 25 years in the military. I own guns. I’ve been a multi-gun owner my entire adult life. Anyone who says I’m anti-guns doesn’t really know me.
I believe in common sense regulation to try and reduce gun violence. We lost 3,000 lives on 9/11. We’ve lost more than 600,000 additional lives since 9/11 to suicides, murders and accidental deaths involving firearms. Don’t let the NRA tell you there’s nothing we can do about it.
I support mandatory universal background checks and red flag laws. I also support more stringent requirements to purchase military-style assault weapons.
Over a half-million North Carolinians have qualified for concealed carry permits. Obtaining a permit requires submitting an application and paying a fee, undergoing a background investigation that includes a mental health records check and completing a full-day gun safety course. The permit has to be renewed periodically and it can be revoked for good cause. I support placing similar requirements on those who want to own a military-style assault weapon. I also support strict civil liability if a firearm that is not properly stored and secured is used in the commission of a crime.
I am a retired Air Force Colonel, former Chief Prosecutor for Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay and ex-Assistant Director and Senior Specialist in national security for the Congressional Research Service.
I understand national security. And I can tell you this: Our country is less safe with Trump enablers in Congress.
The GOP is in lockstep support of a president who has turned his back on our allies around the world while embracing murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, allowed North Korea and Iran to move forward with building nuclear arsenals, abandoned the Kurds who fought for us in Syria and allowed them to be slaughtered, and ignored the murder of a Washington Post columnist that was ordered by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
America has abandoned its moral leadership in the world. We have lost our standing and the GOP has stood idly by and allowed it to happen.
For our national security –- for our safety — we must vote for a Congressman who will put America’s interests first.
ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
Ethics, honesty and truthfulness have been under attack during the three years of the Trump Administration. The lies that spew forth daily have shaken the very core of our democracy – over 16,000 falsehoods at last count, according to The Washington Post. And Republicans have acted as little more than echo chambers for many of Trump’s myriad lies.
We need representatives we can trust. So here’s what I promise the people of Western North Carolina when I am your Congressman in the 11thDistrict: The truth.
ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
There are many corrupting influences in politics, but none more so than money — particularly corporate dark money that has flowed since the Citizens United decision. I will support legislative reforms to dismantle Citizens United so corporations can no longer buy politicians.
In the meantime, I will not accept corporate PAC money for my campaign. Unlike Republicans, I will not be bought. That is my promise to you.
When I am your Congressman, I will support legislation that will require full disclosure of every dollar that’s injected into the political process. That includes the corporate dark money that is manipulating voters’ perceptions and fueling extremism.
The rights of our LGBTQ community have been used for far too long as a wedge issue to divide Americans. It is cynical, nasty and demeaning.
I will not stand for it.
I’ve been a consistent supporter of the LGBTQ community. In fact, I was an early and active supporter of Danica Roem when I lived in Virginia and she ran for General Assembly and defeated a long-serving right-wing bigot.
I support H.R. 5, The Equality Act, which was passed by the House in 2019 and provides protections for the LGBTQ community on issues from employment to housing, credit, education and more. And when I am in Congress, I will support a ban on discrimination in any public space.
FIGHTING PRIVATIZATION OF THE VA
There is currently underway an attempt in Congress and by the Trump Administration to privatize veterans’ healthcare. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), an agency within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), is tasked with providing healthcare to nine million veterans. Privatization amounts to little more than a thinly disguised attempt to undermine the VHA by diverting funds to the private sector that are needed to maintain and strengthen veterans’ healthcare.
I strongly oppose this effort and will work to ensure the VHA is fully funded and its integrity maintained when I am your representative in Congress.
The VHA is the only agency dedicated solely to serving our veterans’ medical, social and mental health needs, and it is the only healthcare agency that has the expertise to provide complete and holistic treatment for those who place their lives on the line in service to the nation. There are currently nearly 50,000 vacancies in the VHA. I pledge to do all in my power to ensure that these vacancies are filled and that resources are not diverted from an essential VA mission: Caring for our veterans.
Those who support privatization of VA healthcare promote a false narrative that care at VA facilities is inferior to the private sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are numerous studies by independent, highly respected organizations that prove the opposite is true. I can attest to that through my own personal experience as well.
Many Americans are not aware of the importance of the VA to the national’s healthcare industry. It is the largest integrated healthcare system in the country. On a daily basis, the VA cares for 230,000 veterans in 150 hospitals, 819 clinics and 300 mental health and other facilities. The VA has teaching partnerships with 1,800 educational institutions and each year trains 62,000 medical students and residents, 23,000 nursing students and 33,000 students in other health-related fields. Over 70 percent of physicians receive at least part of their training in VA Medical Centers. The VA houses one of the nation’s largest research programs. The list of accomplishments includes: Therapies for tuberculosis following World War II; the implantable cardiac pacemaker; computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans; functional electrical stimulation systems that allow patients to move paralyzed limbs; the nicotine patch; the first successful liver transplants; the first powered ankle-foot prosthesis; and a vaccine for shingles.
For me, support for VA medical care isn’t just a check off the box talking point a campaign staffer wrote. I am a disabled Veteran and I get my medical care at the VA Hospital here in Asheville, the same VA hospital where my dad got his medical care a half-century ago. I’ve had arthritis for a long time … that’s why I switched from running to biking about 25 years ago. The discomfort in one of my hips progressed from tolerable discomfort to full-on pain recently. I’m going to be moving around a little slower for a while, but I won’t be slowing down my campaign to turn NC 11 blue.
Trump and the Republicans have their sights set on privatizing the VA so their rich owners can get richer and the focus will turn from treating patients to turning profits. Veterans kept their end of the bargain and those who are disabled are entitled (yes, it’s an entitlement) to the medical care they were promised when they raised their hands to serve. When I take a seat in the 117th Congress in January 2021, I give you my word that I will fight hard for my fellow veterans here in Western North Carolina and across the country.
As many as 17 veterans will commit suicide today. Another 17 will do the same tomorrow. The day after that, 17 more. Studies show 6,000 veterans die by suicide per year.
Suicides by veterans in the United States are 42 percent higher than suicides within the general public. That includes North Carolina, where as many as five veterans a week commit suicide.
Veterans need help, and they aren’t getting enough of it from our government. One study showed as many as half of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans don’t get the mental health treatment they need.
I’m going to work to change that when I am Congressman from North Carolina’s 11th District.
For-profit universities have targeted veterans for enrollment and used a loophole to drain their G.I. Bill educational benefits. I support H.R. 4625, The Protect the G.I. Bill Act of 2019, which would provide oversight of for-profit universities so they don’t take advantage of G.I. Bill benefits.
FOR UNAFFILIATED VOTERS
As many as 33 percent of voters in North Carolina are unaffiliated. And that figure is growing here in Western North Carolina.
Unaffiliated voters may be just as passionate about issues as the rest of us. They are just not as passionate about political parties.
We get it. You want a candidate with a history of putting country over party. You want a candidate with a record of bucking both Republican and Democratic administrations to do what is right.
That’s my record.
When I was Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, I set the rule against using evidence obtained through torture in prosecutions. When I was ordered by the Bush Administration to change that policy, I refused and resigned my post.
In 2009, when I was Senior National Security Specialist for Congress, I wrote op-eds in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post criticizing the Obama Administration’s policy on prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay. I was fired because of that. I sued and, with the support of the ACLU, won my free speech rights case when it was settled, I was compensated and my employment record cleared.
My policies reflect the same independence. I spent 25 years in the Air Force and retired as a Colonel in 2008. I am as fierce a defender of the military and veterans as any candidate. I’m also a partially disabled veteran who gets healthcare from the VA. I will work to prevent privatizing our VA healthcare system. At the same time, I recognize the military budget is bloated to benefit defense contractors and should be significantly cut.
It’s not about party. It’s about doing what’s right.