The District 26 N.C. House seat is wide open for the first time in more than two decades.
Last year, longtime lawmaker Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, said he would not seek a 13th term in the House, setting the stage for a newcomer to make his or her mark.
Three candidates stepped up. Johnston County Board of Education member Donna White will face retired Air Force colonel and gun store owner Dennis Nielsen in the March 15 Republican Party primary. The winner will face Democrat Rich Nixon, a veteran teacher at Corinth Holders High School, in November.
In the past three elections, Nielsen has staged unsuccessful primary campaigns – twice for the N.C. Senate, including once as a Democrat, and against Daughtry in House District 26. Nielsen said he’s running because he wants to rein in government overreach.
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“When the people are afraid of their government, that’s called tyranny,” Nielsen said. “When the government is afraid of the people, that’s called freedom; that’s what I want to bring. Right now the government is taking too much power from people. I want to return that power to the people.”
Nielsen favors term limits at all levels of government and wants to see elected officials removed from the state retirement plan.
He said he also wants to see many elected positions because hired jobs. He used clerk of court, registrar of deeds and sheriff as examples.
“We don’t vote on the chief of police, so why sheriff?” Nielsen said. “If we have these as jobs, then there can be some oversight. We need to eliminate a lot of political perk positions. These do not need to be elected. What does the register of deeds do? He registers deeds. They don’t make any decisions that need to be voted on. This would be a big step in the state.”
White is a registered nurse with the N.C. Division of Aging and a former campaign manager for Daughtry. The three-term school board member said her experience working with the schools would be beneficial in the General Assembly.
“Working on the school board for 11 years, I’ve been exposed to the rules and mandates, sometimes without funding from the General Assembly and (Department of Public Instruction),” White said. “I feel like there needs to be a fresh voice that can represent education. Since education is such a large portion of the state budget, it would be good to have someone fresh off the farm making it work on the local level.”
White said she values a family’s choice in public education, saying she supports the purpose of charters while wanting to see traditional schools just as equal in quality.
“I don’t want public education to be an A plan and B plan; I don’t want charters and private schools to be the A plus and traditional public schools to be a B,” White said. “They need to be at the same level quality. … I think we need to analyze what charters have done and what they haven’t done for public education.”
White said improving safety in public schools has been a priority for her on the school board. She also hosts a show on Johnston County public-access television on fraud and scams targeting seniors.
White thinks her experience as a nurse could add a valuable perspective in the drafting of health care policy in the state.
“I feel, with the Affordable Care Act and other issued that affect funding for Medicare, we need to find a way to improve access and reduce costs while addressing the provider shortage,” White said.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdjackson
Occupation: gun store owner; retired U.S. Air Force colonel.
Education: bachelor’s in criminology from the University of Nebraska, 1971; U.S. Air War College, 1995.
Political resume: Republican primary candidate N.C. House District 26, 2014; Republican primary candidate N.C. Senate District 11, 2012; Democratic primary candidate N.C. Senate District 11, 2010.
Family: two adult children.
Occupation: registered nurse, aging specialist with the N.C. Division of Aging.
Education: Watts School of Nursing in Durham.
Political resume: Johnston County Board of Education member 2004-present.
Family: two adult children, two grandchildren.