Six-term incumbent Nelson Dollar and challenger Mark Villee faced off Monday, Feb. 22, during the first candidates forum for the N.C. House District 36 GOP primary race.
More than 30 people attended the forum, which was hosted by the Western Wake Republican Club, at Rally Point Sport Grill in Cary. Each candidate made opening and closing statements and answered questions submitted by members of the audience that ranged in topics from tolling to unemployment benefits.
Dollar highlighted his years of experience in the N.C. General Assembly and his plans if elected for a seventh term, including creating jobs and improving education. Villee is an engineer who owns a home inspection business and is a former 36th District party chairman. He focused on Dollar’s voting record at the state legislature, pointing out instances where he said Dollar was not acting conservatively.
The candidates also brought up Villee’s recent TV and radio ads titled “Change for a Dollar.” In the ad, Villee criticizes Dollar’s work as the top House budget writer, saying he’s supported millions of dollars in wasteful spending. Dollar later fired back with a TV ad of his own, saying that Villee was lying about his record.
“For 35 years, I have been fighting the liberal Democrat establishment,” Dollar said. “I have worked diligently in this party to make sure that we had majorities in the House and the Senate. ... I have voted for every tax cut that we have put forward in our tax reform. I have worked to control state spending.”
During the question and answer period, the conversation continued to return to Dollar’s voting record while serving in the N.C. House. Villee highlighted Dollar’s support of the Connect N.C. referendum and his vote against an amendment in last year’s budget that would halt the transfer of $3.7 million from the state’s Highway Trust Fund to the general fund.
“He wanted to continue that process of moving money from the Highway Trust Fund into the General Fund so they could get their greedy hands on it and spend it any way they please,” Villee said.
Dollar responded that this money was shifted to give needed raises to members of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
In addition, the candidates also touched on subjects such as tolling, unemployment benefits and term limits. Both said they support some form of term limit, particularly for higher-level representatives like the Speaker of the House. Villee said he is opposed to tolling on any road in North Carolna, and Dollar defended the legislature’s decision to scale back unemployment benefits, citing a $2.8 billion debt to the federal government that needed to be paid off.
“We simply were not going to make unemployment a lifetime benefit the way the Obama administration really wants,” he said. “We can’t afford that so we made the tough decision ... Our thing is about cutting taxes, cutting regulations, creating jobs. We want people at work.”
The N.C. House District 36 primaries are March 15. Democrats Woodie Cleary and Jennifer Ferrell also are seeking election, along with Libertarian candidate Brian Irving. The district stretches across western Wake County, including Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Garner.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon