Amber Degree contributed to the reporting
The candidates for the North Carolina state Senate District 50, incumbent Jim Davis (R) and Jane Hipps (D), debated on Oct. 27, on healthcare, education and taxes, trying to convince voters to vote for them.
This was the final debate on the WCU campus and around 75 people attended.
The crowd seemed to be pretty even. Hipps spent more time attacking Davis, who was defensive throughout the debate.
Both candidates got heated on education. Hipps, who has a background in education,said North Carolina is behind the curve on teacher pay and funding education as a whole.
Davis assured the crowd that he has increased funding for education every year since taking office in January 2011.
Hipps claimed that, while funding may have increased, North Carolina has also increased in the number of students. She claimed that the money allocated per student has decreased since 2008 and the state is 41st in teacher pay. According to the National Education Association, North Carolina ranks 45th in average teacher salary.
Davis and Hipps both agreed that college should be more affordable for young people. Davis lauded a potential decrease in tuition costs at Western.
“I think it’s a bargain to invest in our young people that way,” said Davis, referring to students potentially being able to get an education without having a heavy debt burden after college via new legislation.
Hipps attacked Davis for not expanding Medicaid in the past. Davis blamed an unpredictable budget and the federal government.
“I don’t know if expanding Medicaid would save lives or not,” said Davis.
Hipps claimed that Davis had the opportunity to expand Medicaid to include around 500,000 more citizens in North Carolina, but it didn’t happen.
Davis claimed that he is a ‘by the numbers person’ and that the budget money simply wasn’t clear enough to expand Medicaid. He then stated that his budgeting helped to create a $400 million budget surplus in North Carolina.
Hipps stated that the $400 million could have insured citizens as well as teacher pay.
“They have picked our pockets clean and robbed us blind,” said Hipps, referring to the policies of the current regime related to the fees associated with license plates and boating.
Davis, in his opening remarks, said he is very proud to have lessened the tax burden on the people he serves. Hipps quickly attempted to debunk this and stated that, under Davis, citizens have seen a remarkable increase in fees associated with license plates for their cars.
“It’s picking our pockets and it’s making us poor,” said Hipps, on Jim Davis’ tax shift.
Davis said that lessening the tax burden is important for helping to incentivize business in the region.
We spoke with several members of the audience after the debate.
“I think his point that he made at the end, it’s a perfect example of rhetoric. Making statements without any substantiation versus proven performance,” said Ted Carr, a citizen from Haywood County and a Davis supporter, referring to broad claims made by Hipps, and Jim Davis’ proven track record.
“I think Jim Davis will do what’s best for North Carolina and for this district,” said Nelson Bumgarner, a Jackson County resident, Davis supporter and former head of the Democratic Party in Jackson County.
“You won’t find a more qualified candidate than Jane Hipps. She’s knowledgeable, she’s well educated, and she keeps up with all the important issues,” said Nancy MacDowell, a resident from Haywood County.