Cunningham, Tillis talk plans for Chatham County

Posted 10/28/20

Editor’s Note: The following are exclusive interviews with U.S. Senate candidates Cal Cunningham and Thom Tillis conducted via email with the News + Record. Responses were included in their …

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Cunningham, Tillis talk plans for Chatham County

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Editor’s Note: The following are exclusive interviews with U.S. Senate candidates Cal Cunningham and Thom Tillis conducted via email with the News + Record. Responses were included in their entirety and only minor edits were made for spelling and grammar.

Cal Cunningham, Democrat

What will you do that will specifically benefit Chatham County residents and how will you help stimulate a pandemic-racked economy? Especially in western Chatham County, industry has been faltering for some time and the situation has become more dire in recent months.

I grew up in the small town of Lexington, so I am no stranger to the issues small towns and rural communities in our state face, and I intend to be a strong voice for them in the U.S. Senate — from helping connect communities with federal economic development and recruitment programs, to investing in priorities like expanding access to rural broadband and health care. From Siler City and Goldston in the west to Wilsonville and Pittsboro to the east, I’m committed to fighting for the needs of every Chatham County resident.

Chatham County is home to a robust network of open space, trails and parks, and I will work on federal efforts to preserve those public lands so they can be enjoyed by generations of North Carolinians to come.

We also know that forever chemicals remain a threat to Chatham County’s water, particularly in the Haw River. In the Senate, I will be a partner at the federal level to ensure that cities and towns have the resources to spot these contaminants and clean our water, and that polluters are held accountable when they harm our communities and public health.

Too many of our communities have also been neglected when it comes to infrastructure investment. I’ve called for robust investment in infrastructure — not only in our roads and bridges, but also in our schools, public housing, and local wastewater and sewer systems. Infrastructure investment is not only a job creator, but will also help communities like Chatham Country attract economic stimulus to the area for years to come. I’ve also called for investing in expanded broadband access, something Senator Tillis has voted against funding in the past.

I also understand that in times of economic crisis, our small communities are often the hardest hit. That’s why I support additional relief for towns and cities as they respond to the economic fallout of this pandemic.

Another top priority of mine will be health care. One of the most frequent issues I hear about is the urgent need to improve access and bring down the cost of health care for families — and that is exactly what I will fight for in the U.S. Senate. I will do everything I can to stop the dangerous lawsuit that would dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections, including protections for those with preexisting conditions. I also support expanding Medicaid in North Carolina and bringing down the cost of prescription drugs.

“Distrust” has been a buzz word around both candidates. In your case, ongoing coverage of infidelity concerns many voters. It is especially critical to many older, undecided voters with a conservative lean. So, why would you say that you still deserve and have earned your constituents’ trust?

I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends, and am deeply sorry. The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do. I ask that my family’s privacy be respected in this personal matter.

I remain grateful and humbled by the ongoing support that North Carolinians have extended in this campaign, and in the remaining weeks before this election I will continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state.

What will you do to ameliorate divisiveness in the political sphere and between American citizens?

From my Aunt Sis, who was an elementary school teacher, I learned that a good listener is a good learner — and I think you can say the same about leaders. In the Senate, count on me to listen first, to take on the biggest challenges, and never waiver in my commitment to serve the people of our state. I’ll always put North Carolina first and stand up for the people I represent. That includes working with either party when it’s right, and standing up to my own when they’re wrong.

I’m also going to push for reform. I’m not accepting corporate PAC money, and I’ll work to make Congress responsive to the voters, not the special interests.

Can you comment on your evaluation of how the president has negotiated race relations and socio-economic disparity?

Too many communities across North Carolina have seen generations of inequality due to institutionalized racial discrimination and the resulting disparities. I believe we need policies that break down historical barriers by:

Investing in public schools to provide the resources they need to succeed and closing significant funding gaps between districts — and achievement gaps between black and white students — including investing in Head Start and other early childhood programs.

Ensuring pursuing higher education is an opportunity available to anyone who seeks it by lowering the cost of college, expanding access to community college and technical training, and reducing the burden of student loan debt.

Strengthening and extending coverage under the Affordable Care Act, including creating a public health insurance option, and doing more to support rural hospitals and address doctor shortages.

Reinstating protections under the Voting Rights Act, so that any state or jurisdiction with a pattern of discrimination must have changes to voting practices approved by the Justice Department.

Enacting criminal justice reform that includes: revisiting mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders, refocusing efforts on preventing violent crime instead of locking up people who need treatment, and reducing recidivism by investing in programs that give people who have paid their debt to society the opportunity to re-enter their communities. I also support curbing the abuse of cash bail and eliminating for-profit prisons.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican

Note: Questions were answered by Tillis campaign spokeswoman Alex Nolley.

What will Mr. Tillis do that will specifically benefit Chatham County citizens?

Through the USMCA, Senator Tillis is bringing jobs back home for Chatham’s farmers and manufacturers and through the Paycheck Protection Program, he helped save 4,200 Chatham jobs. Whether in the agriculture, textile, energy or lumber industries, all residents deserve a Senator like Thom Tillis who will fight to rebuild the economy and get Chatham County back to work.

In keeping with the first question, how will Senator Tillis help to stimulate a pandemic-racked economy?

Senator Tillis believes the way to bolster North Carolina’s economy is through lower taxes and fewer regulatory burdens. As North Carolina’s Speaker of the House, he cut taxes and slashed regulations, making the state’s economy one of the strongest in the nation. In the U.S. Senate, he did the same thing. He also supported strong trade policies that allow small businesses and farmers to flourish. Senator Tillis’ pro-growth policies helped achieve record-low unemployment for women and minorities and generated record high wage growth for blue-collar workers. Before this virus, Senator Tillis helped create one of the most prosperous economies in our nation’s history and he’ll never stop working until he does it again.

Despite his challenger’s ongoing scandal, Mr. Tillis is still trailing in the polls. The New York Times reported a week ago that “distrust” was the problem. We’d like to give Mr. Tillis the opportunity to address that specifically — why should voters trust him?

Cal Cunningham has spent his campaign pretending to be trustworthy and honorable, but is now under investigation by the U.S. Army Reserve for having an affair with the wife of a disabled combat veteran.

Senator Tillis has kept his promises to the people of North Carolina. He promised to cut taxes and through the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he did. He promised to reduce burdensome regulations on small businesses and rolled back Obama-era regulations a record sixteen times. He promised to take care of veterans and he has improved veterans’ access to quality health care, increased job opportunities and made bipartisan reforms to improve the VA system. He promised to rebuild the military and then secured over $3.3 billion in funding for North Carolina’s military installations. He promised to confirm well-qualified judges to the federal bench and he did. While Cunningham has been dodging the media and refusing to answer for his potential court-martial, Tillis has put the people of North Carolina first and he will continue to do so when he’s re-elected on November 3.

Why has Mr. Tillis vacillated in his opinion of President Trump (opposing then supporting executive action around the wall)? What changed?

Senator Tillis has a record of both securing the border and increasing funding to North Carolina’s military bases. He voted for the emergency declaration because he wants to crack down on illegal immigration, while Cal Cunningham wants to “enable” sanctuary policies that allow dangerous criminals back onto the streets and put North Carolinians at risk.

What will Mr. Tillis do to ameliorate divisiveness in the political sphere and between American citizens?

Senator Tillis knows that his job is to produce results by working with his colleagues no matter their political party, which is why he’s made it a priority to seek out members of the other side and find areas to work together. He’s worked across the aisle to protect veterans from predatory lending and partnered with Amy Klobuchar in 2018 to successfully pass legislation that created a new initiative at the VA to research the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure. He also introduced bipartisan legislation to make sure those who were exposed to toxic chemicals while serving at Camp Lejeune, Iraq, and Afghanistan receive proper medical care from the VA. As long as he is in the Senate, Thom Tillis will continue working with members from every side of the political spectrum.

Some fault the president, with whom Mr. Tillis is closely allied, with fomenting disunity in the country. Does Mr. Tillis support how the president has negotiated race relations and socio-economic disparity?

Senator Tillis is committed to addressing disparities within our communities. As Speaker of the House in North Carolina, Senator Tillis helped survivors of North Carolina’s eugenics program and in the U.S. Senate worked with President Trump to pass the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, which overhauled our criminal justice system. Under Senator Tillis’ leadership, Black Americans’ unemployment reached an all-time low and the Black community experienced record high wages. Gains like the ones Senator Tillis has helped secure are what reduce disparities and create greater unity among different communities.



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