On Nov. 8, Johnston County voters in N.C. Senate District 12 will choose between a U.S. Army veteran and a retired educator.
Republican Ronald Rabin, 84, of Spring Lake has held the seat since 2012. His opponent is Democrat Susan Lloyd Byerly, 60, of Erwin.
Rabin retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. He spent another 25 years in marketing and business development in the defense sector.
Rabin said that combined experience and knowledge made him the better choice to serve Johnston residents in the state Senate.
“Because I always have and always will listen to and try to execute the will of those who elect me to represent them,” he said. “Because I take seriously my oaths of office to the USA and to North Carolina.”
Rabin called his office the most open and transparent in Raleigh, and he said his consistent conservatism represented “basic District 12 values.”
Byerly made an unsuccessful bid for the N.C. House in 2014. She is a hospice-care consultant and adjunct professor in the Campbell University School of Education. Previously, she taught school in Harnett County and was a school system administrator in Cumberland County.
Byerly said voters should choose her over Rabin because the Republican majority in Raleigh had passed discriminatory, regressive and economically detrimental legislation.
“I am tired of the backwards motion of North Carolina,” she said.
Byerly said it’s good that she’s not a career politician. “I can bring a fresh perspective to the N.C. General Assembly and make sure the interests of people are represented, not the interests of money,” she said.
On the issues, the candidates are predictably divided along party platforms.
Both candidates said teachers deserve pay raises and that North Carolina should adequately fund its schools. They differ on how good of a job the General Assembly is doing.
Rabin said the state budget allocates 57 percent of all money to education. “That figure alone tells you the current governor’s and General Assembly’s priority is education,” he said.
Byerly disagreed, saying the amount spent “does not even meet the minimum of what is needed to properly educate North Carolina’s youth.”
Since the Great Recession, education spending has yet to return to pre-recession numbers, and per-pupil spending is $684 lower than it was before the economy took a turn for the worse, she said.
That deficit, Byerly said, forces parents and teachers to take money out of their own pockets to stock and maintain classrooms with daily supplies.
Rabin said Republicans have been raising education funding to correct cuts that Democrats made when they controlled the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion. And since being elected, Rabin said, he’s supported all teacher pay raises, including the latest increase, which brings average teacher pay to $50,000 per year in 2016 and $55,000 per year in 2017.
Byerly said average pay wasn’t all Republicans made it out to be. “Most teachers never see that amount,” she said of the $50,000 figure. “North Carolina continues to rank amongst the lowest in the nation for teacher salary. How do we expect North Carolina to advance if our teachers can’t properly educate our youth, our future?”
Both candidates said they support charter schools, with Rabin saying he supports all options equally and Byerly saying North Carolina needs to hold charter and public schools to the same standards.
To help create jobs, both candidates say, the General Assembly needs to create a healthy environment for business.
“Politicians cannot create jobs,” Rabin said. “However ... we can create a business environment in which businesses can grow. ... This involves lowering taxes (personal and corporate), controlling spending and reducing regulations that stifle business.”
Byerly said the General Assembly needs to pass legislation that attracts and keeps businesses in the state.
And she argued that the legislature can create jobs by putting North Carolinians to work on the state’s crumbling infrastructure. “Fixing our infrastructure will provide many of our citizens with a job,” she said.
Both candidates called for lower taxes; they just disagreed on who should get a lower tax bill.
Rabin said lower personal and corporate income taxes lead to a healthier economy in which people retain and spend more money and corporations buy more equipment and hire more employees.
“We should stay on course to eliminating income taxes and model our tax system on Texas and Florida, neither of which have income taxes and both of which have booming economies,” he said.
Byerly didn’t go so far as to say the state should abolish income taxes. “Everyone should abide by the law and pay their fair share of taxes,” she said.
Byerly said she doesn’t think it’s right for wealthy corporations and citizens to receive income-tax breaks while the poor continue to pay the regressive sales tax.
“Taxes serve an important function in ensuring funding for many valuable services to all citizens, and it is imperative that they are distributed fairly and implemented equitably,” she said.
House Bill 2
The candidates were most divided on House Bill 2.
Rabin stands firmly in support of House Bill 2. “To do less would be to say that outside special interests and their sponsors are in a position to dictate the terms under which we live,” he said, adding that he supports HB2 because his constituents do.
Byerly was strongly in favor of repealing the controversial law.
“House Bill 2 sent North Carolina back in time as it relates to discrimination of civil rights and caused the state to be labeled as backwards, racist and full of inequality,” she said. “That kind of description of our state will prevent people and businesses from wanting to settle and build here, forcing our economy and culture to suffer.”
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett
Education: bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern Mississippi; master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University; graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College; graduate of the U.S. Defense Department’s National War College.
Professional experience: retired U.S. Army colonel with 23 years of service; 25 years of marketing and business development in the defense sector.
Political experience: state senator since 2012.
Family: wife, Mona Rabin, and children, Mark, Scott and Rachel.
Education: undergraduate and master’s degrees from Campbell University; education specialist degree from East Carolina University; doctorate in educational leadership from Fayetteville State University.
Professional experience: senior hospice care consultant and adjunct professor in the Campbell University School of Education; retired Harnett County teacher; former chairman of the Military Child Testing Board for Cumberland County Schools; former director of student services in Cumberland County; former director of project planning for Universal Meeting Management Inc.
Political experience: unsuccessful run for N.C. House District 53 in 2014.
Family: widow of the Brooks Byerly and mother of Blake and Ben Byerly.
Senate District 11
Senate District 11 includes the following Johnston County precincts: Banner, Southwest Cleveland, South Elevation, North Pleasant Grove 1, North Pleasant Grove 2 and South Pleasant Grove.