On Election Day, voters in Johnston County will choose a new District 28 representative in the N.C. House. Their choices: Democrat Patricia Oliver, a businesswoman who has run for office before, or Republican Larry Strickland of Pine Level, a longtime member of the Johnston County Board of Education,.
The District 28 House seat opened up when longtime Rep. J.H. Langdon retired.
Oliver, who lives just outside of Selma, is a licensed general contractor, home inspector, insurance adjuster and commercial contractor. She owns Oliver’s Construction Co., Around the Clock Plumbing and Independent Home Inspections. Oliver previously ran for Johnston County clerk of court and the N.C. Senate.
The 69-year-old said District 28 needs a representative “with education and common sense” like her.
“Someone that knows what it is like to be poor,” she added. “I know how to use your tax dollars to the best of their ability and not raise taxes.”
Strickland, 61, is an assistant right-of-way manager for the N.C. Department of Transportation. Also, he is owner of Strickland Appraisal Services and a co-owner of Strickland Brothers Farms. Strickland has been a member of the Johnston school board since 1998 and its chairman since 2008. He also served two terms on the Pine Level Board of Commissioners.
Strickland said voters should choose him for his experience as a DOT employee, farmer and longtime school board member.
“I believe this will allow me to be an effective voice for House District 28 on the critical issues that are important to us – transportation, agriculture, education and economic development,” he said.
Strickland added that he would follow Langdon’s example of “working tirelessly on behalf of Johnston County, serving as a strong voice for our conservative values and always putting the needs and concerns of my constituents first.”
On the issues, the Democrat and Republican hold remarkably similar views. Both candidates said they think teachers should earn more and that North Carolina should steer more tax dollars to education in general. Also, both think North Carolina should hold charter schools to the same standard as traditional public schools and that the General Assembly should lower taxes.
Both even agree that compromise is in order when it comes to controversial House Bill 2.
But that’s where the similarities end.
The state of things
Strickland is happy that the Republican majority in the General Assembly has increased teacher salaries and spending on public K-12 education, though he sees room for more improvement.
Oliver couldn’t disagree more on the current state of things.
“Teachers are the poorest paid employees doing the most important job,” she said. “If we have funding, it must be being used to enrich certain state employees’ retirements; it’s not being used in the school system.”
That was a dig at Strickland, whose school board allowed former superintendent Ed Croom to convert employment perks to salary, fattening his pension. The state says Johnston taxpayers are now on the hook for more than $400,000 of Croom’s pension.
After 18 years on the Johnston County school board, Strickland said he realizes that “one type of school does not fit all students.”
“As a legislator, I will support charter schools,” he said. “I believe that parents should have a choice in their children’s education and that all parents should have the option and ability to send their child to a good school regardless of where they live or what their socioeconomic status is.”
Oliver said all North Carolina classrooms – traditional and charter – should have teachers with college degrees.
Jobs and wages
On job creation, Strickland had a plan to get government out of the way to foster economic growth. Oliver wants to see paychecks grow.
Strickland said he would support lower income taxes for businesses that add jobs, and he wants to eliminate “unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations.” He said he would work with the governor, State Department of Commerce and local leaders to bring new industry to Johnston County.
Oliver said she wanted to establish “a decent minimum wage first, then jobs.”
She proposed moving the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour in 2017 and then to $9.50 per hour in 2018.
Both candidates preferred lower taxes.
Strickland said he supports the work the current Republican administration has done “to lower the tax burden on North Carolina families and small businesses,” and he said he would back further efforts to cut taxes.
Oliver said she wants the General Assembly to “cut our existing taxes by 10 percent.”
On House Bill 2, both candidates saw room for compromise, though their opinions about the law differ.
As a father and chairman of the school board, Strickland said he’s gravely concerned about “allowing men to access the same bathrooms, showers and locker room facilities as women and girls.”
If lawmakers could offer a compromise that “ensured public safety,” Strickland said he’d be open to it.
“I would not support any efforts at repealing or amending House Bill 2 that would put women and children at risk,” he said.
Oliver said politicians had made “a big mess” of House Bill 2.
“Everybody’s acting like children,” she said. “Compromise is giving and taking, being smart enough to make a decision for the betterment of all the people.”
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett
Education: associate’s degree in forestry from Wayne County Community College, bachelor’s degree in business from Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College.
Professional experience: assistant right-of-way manager for N.C. Department of Transportation, owner of Strickland Appraisal Services, co-owner of Strickland Brothers Farms.
Political experience: member of the Johnston County Board of Education since 1998, chairman since 2008; two terms on the Pine Level Board of Commissioners.
Family: daughter, two grandchildren.
Website: larrystrickland.org; Larry Strickland for NC House on Facebook.
Education: nearly two years of study at Johnston Community College.
Professional experience: North Carolina-licensed general contractor, home inspector, insurance adjuster and commercial contractor; owner of Oliver’s Construction Co., Around the Clock Plumbing and Independent Home Inspections.
Political experience: several unsuccessful bids for elected office, including Johnston County clerk of court and N.C. Senate District 12.
Family: husband Larry and two adult children.
House District 28
House District 28 is made up of the following precincts: Bentonville, North Boon Hill, South Boon Hill, North Elevation, South Elevation, South O’Neals, Pine Level, North Pleasant Grove 1, North Pleasant Grove 2, East Selma, West Selma, East Smithfield, Southeast Cleveland, Southwest Cleveland, South Pleasant Grove, Banner, Beulah, Ingrams and Meadow.