As election season heats up, Brandon Lofton paid a visit to Queens on Wednesday, October 24 to discuss some of the issues he hopes to address if elected this year.
Lofton is the Democratic challenger campaigning for North Carolina House of Representatives district 104, which is the part of Mecklenburg County Queens is located in. He is running against Republican incumbent Andy Dulin. Knight-Crane professor Rick Thames, who hosted and moderated the event, said Dulin had initially agreed to come speak alongside Lofton but changed his response shortly before the event because he was worried it invited debate.
Lofton briefly introduced himself before accepting questions from a student panel (pictured below), speaking in depth about his desire to see more Democrats in Raleigh in order to upset the current political climate. Currently, Republicans hold a firm control of both the North Carolina Senate and the House of Representatives. The governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat.
“Our city and our state are being held back by an extreme political agenda that is threatening our schools, our healthcare, and even the form of our democracy, said Lofton. “The reason why I’m running in this race right now is because there is so much at stake.” Other major points of focus for his campaign have been educational value, teacher pay and healthcare for North Carolina residents.
Student panelist Jayda Brown asked Lofton about a time he was able to work in a bipartisan manner to create conversation. Lofton responded by discussing the Republican Party and their complete control of the state legislature, which included their ability to override the governor’s veto. If more Democrats were to win seats, he felt the balance could help motivate politicians to try and achieve compromise.
“Right now we have one party that has complete control over our legislature… They don’t need a single Democratic vote to push their agenda,” said Lofton, later adding, “There is no incentive for them to reach across the aisle.”
The next student panelist, Alyssa Pacheco, asked Lofton about the six state constitutional amendments voters will be seeing on the North Carolina ballot. He was against all six, particularly the one regarding voter identification. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred…important rights to us as U.S. citizens,” he said.
Taylor Robinson, Student-Government Association president, asked him about his professional career and how it may give him a “competitive edge.” Lofton asserted his experience, which includes stints on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Advisory Board, the Council for Children’s Rights, and the Disparity Study Advisory Committee.
Itzel Garcia-Ruiz, another student panelist, asked him about supporting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and immigrants in North Carolina. This was the first question that did not relate to the politics of the election itself nor any of the issues listed on Lofton’s campaign website. Lofton momentarily paused, before commenting on the need for North Carolina to always be accepting towards others. “We need to do everything we can to make North Carolina a welcoming community,” he said. He stated a first step towards achieving this feeling would be fighting laws that are preventing immigrants from feeling safe and welcomed.
The next panelist, Tommy Bobbit, asked Lofton about teacher salaries. This is a hot-button issue on his campaign site, and he responded to the question passionately. According to the National Education Association’s 2018 report, North Carolina ranks 39th in the nation for average teacher salary. Lofton, frustrated, claimed college students were getting their degrees to teach and then leaving the state. “Our taxpayer dollars are going to educate some other states’ teachers.”
Other issues discussed, both from other student panel questions and questions opened to the assembled room, included gerrymandering, House Bill 2, healthcare, community unity, police militarization, economic mobility, educational segregation and the environment. Lofton closed by thanking Queens for allowing him to speak and warning them of Andy Dulin, whom he referenced the Charlotte Observer had called a “rubber stamp” for the Republican party, as well as the six proposed amendments and the current state government. He hopes, regardless of who wins, that the leadership of North Carolina and Charlotte will stand up for state and city values.
Images courtesy of Knight-Crane professor Joe Cornelius.