RALEIGH — When Neal Hunt, a Republican state senator, announced earlier this year that he wouldn’t run in 2014, he endorsed House Republican Jim Fulghum for his District 15 seat.
But Fulghum’s spot on the Republican ticket is not assured, as Apryl Major, who ran as a write-in candidate for the House in 2012, is also vying for the seat representing parts of Raleigh and northern Wake County.
Voters will decide in the May 6 primary which of the two candidates will go on to face Democrat Tom Bradshaw, a former Raleigh mayor, in the general election this November.
Fulghum, 69, a retired neurosurgeon, was elected to the N.C. House in 2012 and had intended to run for re-election until Hunt announced he wouldn’t seek the Senate seat he has held for 10 years.
Fulghum said his first term showed him the value of asking questions and learning to work with lawmakers from both parties. It’s experience he hopes to bring to the Senate, where he wants to help work on budget, health care and regulatory issues. “I would continue to do the best I can, and I like to talk to just about anyone who wants to talk to me,” he said.
Among Fulghum’s top interests while in office has been health care. He helped introduce legislation to require hospitals to expand heart defect screening for newborns that was signed into law and continues to push for legislation to require Epi-pens in school and raise the legal age to use tanning beds to 18. He also is co-chair of a study committee on the Affordable Care Act.
Major, 54, is an engineer and compliance quality manager. She said she entered this year’s Senate race to ensure primary voters had a choice when they cast their ballots. She doesn’t agree with some of the positions Fulghum has staked out in his first term on health care and business regulation, such as his support for the tanning bed rules. “That to me is not somebody who’s truly for free market systems,” she said.
Major said her engineering background would serve her well in the Senate as she listens to ideas to come up with creative solutions to problems – ones that shouldn’t overburden taxpayers. “My sole purpose when going onto a team is to say, ‘How can I contribute?’ ” she said.
Health care issues
Fulghum and Major said Gov. Pat McCrory made the right choice when he agreed not to expand Medicaid to thousands of low-income people in North Carolina as part of the Affordable Care Act. Fulghum said the program needs to run better for the people it serves before the state can take on additional costs.
“We better reform this issue rather than expand something that’s not working well,” Fulghum said.
Major agreed she wants to see a focus on improving efficiency in the program.
“Ultimately what we need to be focusing on in Medicaid is how to reduce health care costs,” she said.
As for a proposal that would create what are known as “accountable care organizations” within the state Medicaid program – networks of hospitals, doctors and clinics that share in financial rewards if they meet certain cost targets – Fulghum said he needs more details about how they would affect the state’s budget.
“All that sounds really nice, but the devil really is in the details,” he said.
Major said she would have to learn more about the proposal before commenting.
The state’s Health and Human Services Department also is in the midst of writing regulations to govern clinics that perform abortions.
Fulghum said those regulations should enforce existing state law and deal with issues such as governance structures and inspections. “We felt like this was very reasonable,” he said. “We didn’t want to restrict the ability of someone to operate these places in a reasonable manner.”
Major said she would like to see restrictions on abortion clinics go even further.
“I would love to defund Planned Parenthood, quite frankly,” she said.
Both candidates said they want to see the local school systems remain strong, including increasing in teacher pay to help retain educators.
“I cannot believe that we struggle as much as we do in this state – for teachers,” Major said. She said she supports an aggressive effort – one that moves more quickly than McCrory’s recent proposal – to increase pay.
Fulghum said McCrory’s proposal was a good first step for the state.
For Wake County, he said the county commissioners should look carefully at the school system’s proposal to further increase the local supplement for teacher pay.
“I think it’s an opportunity for the county to step up and do what a lot of other counties have done, which is give a supplemental,” he said.
Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah