We have a very exciting primary election coming up on May 8. On the Republican ticket, Hunter Ford, who owns Momentum Surf & Skate, as well as Burnt Mill Creek Billiards and Wine Bar, is challenging Ted Davis for the 19th District in the NC General Assembly. Ford kindly shared his views on many issues facing southeastern North Carolina with encore’s readers.
Please, remember to vote! It is an essential action for participating in our democracy.
encore (e): Why is it important for you to seek office now? What helped your decision?
Hunter Ford (HF): I wake up every morning looking for an opportunity to make my life better. Now that I have two daughters to be responsible for [and] an amazing wife that loves me no matter what I do, I bear the burden of being the best man I can for my family. I chose to run for office because I’m not satisfied with the job our elected officials are doing. Political racism is a huge problem in our country. Share a political debate with someone that doesn’t agree with you and ask yourself if you would be considered a political racist because of how you treated the person you just disagreed with? Hate has no place in America! I seek public office to teach children and adults that hatred of all kinds will not be tolerated.
e: Please, explain our plan for addressing the GenX crisis.
HF: Partnerships with regional universities, like UNCW, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, is the only way to get in front of research involving chemicals in our water supply that we don’t already know about. Something unidentified and harmful can pop up everyday. Now that we know the problem exists, it’s time to hold companies liable for discharging waste into our drinking water. That liability should fund the research, as well as punitive damages and cleanup.
The GenX issue is similar to the short-term rental debate in the fact it is a property rights issue. Chemours is violating the property rights of the owners of the Cape Fear River (taxpayers in North Carolina) by discharging waste (GenX) in the river. As an elected official in the NC General Assembly, I will hold corporations and individuals accountable for any illegal dumping. When the Gulf oil spill happened eight years ago (Deepwater Horizon 2010), BP was responsible for cleaning up the spill and compensating punitive damages. I will not allow illegal dumping in our rivers. The illegal actions of Chemours will not be passed down to the taxpayers to rectify. I will not allow this to mirror the coal-ash cleanup that Duke Power has passed down to its customers to pay for.
e: Public education is of paramount importance. What do you plan to do in the NC House to improve public education in North Carolina?
HF: Public education was difficult for me because I have Tourette syndrome. I was a square peg that didn’t fit in[to] a round hole. Because of my own experience, I believe heavily in school choice. Charter schools offer smaller classrooms with teachers committed to education first, not nationwide teacher unions and organized walkouts. Charter schools are operating on 73 cents of every dollar that public schools operate with—and continue to produce better test results. Charter schools do not operate with the same building slush funds as public schools; they operate on independent resources from the charter school’s owner.
In addition to the building slush funds, there is a movement in public education to combat teen suicide that comes with a massive cost. State mental health pays for that service in public schools where charter schools are overburdened with mental-health counseling as an additional expense. It’s another attempt to try and discredit charter schools as an alternative to the wasteful spending in public education.
Where is the public-school funding going? Wasteful spending is the reason we have below-average test scores. Nothing has changed in education since I graduated from high school 20 years ago. The idea of rotating public school teachers every five years has been introduced and ignored. North Carolina public schools will continue to fail if they ignore ideas that introduce positive change. Charter schools will continue to be a better alternative to public education while politics play a role in education.
e: What are your thoughts on the Skyway Bridge? NCDOT says it is still part of future planning.
HF: The Skyway Bridge connecting New Hanover County with Brunswick County at Independence Boulevard is boondoggle.
e: What are your thoughts on proposed passenger rail service to our area?
HF: I would love to see a link of passenger rail between Wilmington and the central part of the state (Charlotte and Raleigh). It would improve commerce by bringing Wilmington residence to larger cities for professional sports, historic sites, and state attractions. It is a two-way street and brings a lot of commerce in return to Wilmington-area beaches, possibly for day trips only. I would like to see a bridge built to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, with a railway attachment to rectify the growth of our region and ongoing concerns regarding our port crisis. Railcars from the port are about to triple with growth, causing long waits on our roadways.
We can either plan for this or deal with it when it happens, like our leaders have done with just about everything else. I support planning for this serious issue! While we’re planning for it, let’s look at using the existing tracks that run through the city like a bell shape as a way of public transportation.
e: Deb Butler introduced a bill for North Carolina to ratify ERA. What is your position, and how is NC doing protecting the rights of all citizens? What would you do to improve the situation?
HF: We already have anti-discrimination laws on the books to protect individuals in North Carolina. We don’t need additional laws to ratify ERA. It is already illegal to abuse someone based on their skin color, sexual preference, religion, handicap, etc. Those laws are strong and they are extremely important in protecting everyone in North Carolina.
e: Is there a future for reclaiming our film industry? What role do you see for yourself rebuilding that sector of our economy?
HF: Film is extremely important to everyone in North Carolina! As a business owner, I pay 4.75 percent sales tax to the state and 2.25 percent to New Hanover County every month. Filming in North Carolina is no exception. Everything shot in Wilmington, Charlotte or Asheville—including major motion pictures, television series, pilots or commercials—benefits the entire state. I promise to introduce a bill on the first day I enter the NC General Assembly to reinstate a 20-percent tax incentive for film at a minimum of 10 years to continue to strengthen and build our local economy and tax base. Film in NC benefits everyone equally.
e: What is your position on gerrymandering and voter ID laws? What do you plan to do in to preserve the right to vote for all NC citizens?
HF: Everyone that goes to vote needs to have a valid ID to prove who they are. It is not gerrymandering to request individuals to prove their identity to make sure they are voting one time. On the subject of gerrymandering, I am against judicial redistricting because it is irresponsible of any political party to favor judges by redrawing voting lines. We already have great judges in southeastern North Carolina; political influence has no place in the judicial system.
e: In the wake of the devastation of Harvey and Irma, what can our NC General Assembly take to prepare for natural disasters? How will you address the issues related to climate change?
HF: I don’t believe climate change has anything to do with hurricanes approaching our coastal community. I don’t think we need to ignore taking steps to change the way we live our lives, but our weather is not forcing an immediate need of irrational change. We need a balance of introducing clean energy and exploration of clean-burning natural gas off our coast as an alternative to burning coal and oil. I support offshore exploration of clean-burning natural gas. I have done a lot of research as a candidate into natural gas exploration and I have found we are not walking away from burning fossil fuels in the next 20 years, but as a planet, clean-burning natural gas is the best alternative to coal and oil.
e: Who from the opposing party in the NC General Assembly would you most like to work with and why?
HF: I look forward to working with Deb Butler because we already have a good line of communication, and even though we differ on a couple issues, we have enough respect for one another to show the rest of the assembly how to come together and work as a team to represent the citizens of southeastern North Carolina and be a positive model for other members of the house. I believe Deb Butler and I can show the assembly we have Wilmington’s best interest at hand no matter what our party affiliation is. Hopefully our ability to reduce divisiveness will be a role model for other membersto get the job done for the people of North Carolina!
Readers can learn more about Hunter Ford at www.facebook.com/HunterFordNCHouse.