The race to represent North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District is now more crowded than it was just a week ago.
Until the filing deadline last Friday, Jonathan Barfield had been the only Democratic candidate hoping to replace Representative Mike McIntyre. Now, he’ll battle it out with fellow Democrat Walter Martin, a Town Commissioner from Johnston County, in the May primary.
When WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn spoke with Barfield late last week for this Candidate Profile, he was in the process of hiring a campaign manager.
RLH: Political analysts are comparing your financial firepower to that of your Republican counterparts. One recently-published article connected the ability to buy media time in larger markets like Raleigh to winning this race. Are you concerned?
JB: For me, money is not the biggest concern. I look at my last county commission race. I think I raised roughly $9,000. Woody White raised $118,000, and we’re both on the Board.
My political capital is really going out into the communities, meeting individuals and sharing our vision and sharing our story.
President Obama had many Democrats that did not vote for him throughout the District. But when you look at my race as county commissioner, everywhere where President Obama lost, I won.
It shows I’ve got great Republican support not just in throughout New Hanover County number one -- but throughout the district as well.
RLH: What do you say to the political pundits who say, ‘Now that McIntyre has decided not to run again, this is essentially a Republican safe seat.’?
JB: There are so many folks that are disenfranchised that are Republicans looking at what’s happened in Raleigh. There’s a lot of teachers, I’m sure, that voted Republican that now are second-guessing their thoughts as they’re looking at how do we get a pay raise? How do we get adequate pay for what we do?
But I think across many sectors people are quite concerned with what’s happening in North Carolina. You know, we used to be a shining star. But now we’re hearing exact opposite. When you have a U.S. Attorney General suing your state because of a voter I.D. bill, you know, that’s big.
RLH: Your Republican opponents talk about shrinking the size of government… cutting spending in bureaucracies such as the Environmental Protection Agency… where do you stand on that?
JB: You know, it wasn’t but a few years ago when our county was facing a non-attainment issue with SO2 emissions. And myself along with Commissioner Rick Catlin at the time and a young lady from our County staff went to DC to talk with the number two person at the EPA about how do we mitigate this situation here in our community.
So I believe that the government plays a role in – number one -- protecting the environment, protecting the American citizens – number two -- whether it’s water quality, air quality… I mean, you’ve got to have some protections in place to make sure that you don’t have what happened at the Dan River happen.
RLH: What do you say to people who complain about the intrusion of the Federal Government on individual American liberties and freedoms?
JB: My question is do you want to be like China where you walk out of your home with a mask on everywhere you walk around? I don’t want that. Looking at the pristine environment we have here in New Hanover County – the beach, the river… I don’t want to have to walk out of my home and put a mask on every time I go out because the air’s too tough to breathe and I’m going to worry about getting some type of disease where I’m going to die immediately from that. And that’s what you see in China on many days. The pollution is so heavy and so great because of the lack of regulation.
RLH: What are you excited about doing when you get to Washington? What are your top three priorities?
JB: Public education, number one, to make sure that we afford every child access to a quality education and show them that the possibilities are limitless.
Also, job creation and economic development. We talk a lot about that in this County. We’ve done great things in New Hanover County in terms of bringing more jobs to our community. When you see a DAK Americas in Brunswick County close and lose 600 jobs or you see INVISTA looking at shutting their plant or laying off individuals, now, more than ever, we need jobs. But also, so that when our children leave and go to college they can come back to the community they grew up in and find adequate employment as well.
You know, agriculture is something that’s very big to me and I want to make sure again that we protect that industry. It’s the number one industry in our state, by far.
RLH: Jonathan Barfield, thanks so much for joining us today.
JB: Thank you for having me.
WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn talked with Barfield recently about the issue topping his agenda:
Public education funding is right up there with the recent overhaul of election law as one of the most contentious issues in the state. During the last session, members of the General Assembly removed a controversial cap on the number of charter schools.
As a current New Hanover County Commissioner, Jonathan Barfield says he sees firsthand the need for funding local public schools.
JB: And I can’t see us diverting taxpayer dollars – whether it’s state, federal, or local, outside of our own local jurisdictions. Being a county commissioner and seeing how much money we allocate towards public education, and the fact that we can’t even pay our teachers enough to provide the education that our kids need and deserve, we’ve got issues to take care of locally to take care of before we look at making more opportunities out there. If someone wants their kid to go to a private school, I think that’s great, you know, but you use your private resources to fund that private school.
RLH: What do you say to the parents who say, ‘Well, my kid, if he was going to go to public school, he would have to go this school which isn’t doing very well. So I want to be able to send him to that school which has an award-winning program.’
JB: To that I say – you know, that’s every American citizen’s option to pay for resources for wherever they want to go. But we all put money into same pot which is our state and local tax base. All my kids have gone to public school. And I find that as you bring the melting pot into our schools, that melting pot is what makes our schools better.
The primary election takes place May 6th.