State Rep. Tom Murry has nearly twice as much campaign cash as his opponent, Cary Town Council member Gale Adcock.
Murry, a Morrisville Republican, raised about $58,000 during the fundraising period that ended in July, giving the pharmacist and attorney about $160,000 on hand, according to campaign finance reports.
Adcock, a registered nurse and nurse practitioner who works as chief health officer for SAS Institute in Cary, had about $87,000 on hand after raising about $27,000 over the same period.
But Adcock, a Democrat, said she’s not worried that she lags behind Murry in fundraising.
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“He needs to get his message out as much as he can because he needs to spin it as much as he can,” Adcock said in a recent interview.
District 41, which stretches from the New Hill area to Morrisville, has about 3,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.
But it is considered relatively moderate, and Adcock said she thinks constituents’ top concern is education – an area where she says Republican state leaders have fallen short.
“They (voters) are very worried and they’re not the least bit placated by a last-minute plan to give teachers raises that isn’t sustainable,” she said.
As part of the newly passed state budget, teacher pay would increase an average of 7 percent. That doesn’t do enough to keep and attract talented teachers, Adcock said.
Murry said the raises are the first “dramatic improvement” in teacher compensation in more than 10 years – dating back to when Democrats were in control.
Republican leaders estimate the raises will boost teacher salaries to 32nd from 46th in the nation. Adcock said she wants to see a plan that brings North Carolina’s teacher pay to the national average over the next five to 10 years.
Murry said he considers education his top priority, and he wants to shift the conversation to ways state leaders can improve students’ odds of landing jobs.
“We need to treat our (college) chancellors like CEOs,” he said. “If they’ve got course offerings, they need to advertise to the students what the salary ranges for those degrees are (and) what the placement rates for those degrees (are).”
The plan to boost teacher pay cost the state $282 million. Adcock didn’t offer a specific plan to boost funding, but didn’t rule out raising taxes.
“I’d be lying if I said I had everything all written down,” she said. “My preference would be to use the money we have differently.”
Murry said he’s skeptical that Adcock can win his seat in the fall by focusing on education. The district is one of the most affluent and educated in the state, and Wake County supplements teachers’ salaries.
“We live in a blessed area,” Murry said.
He said tax cuts approved by the General Assembly last year have played a key role in reducing the unemployment rate. Raising teacher pay further would likely require legislative leaders to raise taxes – something Murry said he’s not willing to do.
“It would stifle our economic growth if we did that,” he said.
Adcock said the General Assembly would have more money to work with if Murry and his Republican peers hadn’t changed the tax code in a way that leaves the state with less money to fund its priorities.
Taxes cut last year will amount to a shortfall of about $700 million this year, and a total of $5.3 billion over five years, according to a recent report by the General Assembly’s fiscal staff.
Murry credited the cuts with reducing the statewide jobless rate to less than 7 percent, down from as high as 11 percent when Democrats controlled the legislature.
Murry said he has delivered on his top goal of improving the state’s education conditions. He cited a report by the N.C Center for Public Policy Research that ranked him the 10th most effective member of the state House.
“Folks in this area understand we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.