Guilford County

N.C. House Candidates

Nicole Quick (D) – State House District 59

1.What do you plan to do to address the inequities related to testing for the black and brown community that is harshly affected by COVID-19?

Due to long-standing racial inequities in our healthcare and economic systems, black and brown communities have been more affected by this pandemic and are at greater risk of illness and death. North Carolina’s communities of color have lacked access to affordable and timely testing sites, one of the easiest things we can do to help stop the spread of the virus.  As a legislator, I would work to make sure COVID funding and resources are allocated equitably so that communities can get what they need. As a legislator, I would take very seriously the responsibility that no North Carolina family is left behind during this crisis. 

2. What’s your long term plan for the UNC system and higher education in North Carolina? 

North Carolina has long been known for the quality of our state university system. However, for far too long, higher education has been sorely underfunded by the state, requiring schools to charge students more in tuition, making higher education increasingly unaffordable and unattainable. We must have a state budget that prioritizes education, at all levels. An investment in education is an investment in our future and will lead to a better-educated workforce and will attract more companies looking for skilled employees. In the long-run, investment in our education systems will lead to more sustained economic growth and a better quality of life for all North Carolinians.

3. Do you believe in decriminalizing marijuana and reducing mandatory minimums?

Marijuana is legal, either medically or recreationally, in 33 states. In addition, there is growing support for legalizing it in the remaining states. It’s pointless to continue to criminalize marijuana when most of the nation has already legalized it. Yes, NC should legalize it.

Mandatory sentencing minimums allow no room for judicial discretion and give a disproportionate say in sentencing to prosecutors. As a result, tens of thousands of low-level defendants, usually drug users, face unduly harsh sentences that judges are required to impose. The original intent of mandatory sentencing was said to be intended to combat major drug traffickers. However, the result has been overly excessive punishment of small-time users. It’s time to do away with them and return discretionary sentencing to judges. In addition, drug use should not be criminalized; it should be treated as a health/medical issue.

4. Many students are concerned about student debt, do you have plans to address increasing student debt in the UNC system during the pandemic? 

I know personally how heavy the burden of student debt can be for young people. I would support legislation that puts a freeze on student debt payments and student loan interest rates until the emergency COVID order is lifted. We are living through an unprecedented time, and I support the state taking unprecedented steps to make the UNC system and the economy work for everyone.  This crisis should not destroy students’ credit records or leave them so deeply in debt that they cannot dig themselves out.

5. Considering N.C. is one of the top states in producing black or brown undergraduate students, what are you doing to address HBCU funding (FUTURE Act and HBCU Debt Relief/Cancellation)?

The number and variety of public HBCUs in NC stand out to me as a strength of our state, and our state budget should reflect this. While the FUTURE Act and HBCU Debt Relief/Cancellation are federal policy initiatives, there are things we can do at the state level to make sure our HBCUs continue to operate and provide opportunities to the students they serve. As a legislator, I would make sure that equitable HBCU funding is a top priority in the state legislative budget to help drive down the costs of attending these historic institutions and keep them financially viable. In addition, I would push to expand the NC Teaching Fellows program and other grant and loan forgiveness programs to our HBCUs.

Pricey Harrison (D – Incumbent) – State House District 61

1.What do you plan to do to address the inequities related to testing for the black and brown community that is harshly affected by COVID-19?

It is clear from the data that African Americans are disproportionately contracting and dying from COVID 19. Free testing and rapid turnaround for results must be made readily available to those communities harshly impacted by COVID-19. I have been in regular communication with the NCDHHS, and receive updates about their response plans. I will continue to advocate for increased testing sites and rapid turn-around, along with contact tracing to help stem the spread on the coronavirus in black and brown communities. The legislature is returning for session on September 2 to address issues around COVID-19, and I plan to push for funding for this and other needs related to the pandemic.

As a more long term solution, we should also immediately expand Medicaid to provide access to health care for those communities hardest hit by COVID-19, including expanding access to health care centers in communities of color, and we must address the inequalities that exist not just in health care, but in education, employment, and housing as well. 

2. What’s your long term plan for the UNC system and higher education in North Carolina?

My first priority for the UNC system is to depoliticize the UNC Board of Governors. Too many critical decisions are made by this board, which lacks diversity and experience in higher education. The Board has failed in critical ways to allow decision making that supports its students, faculty, and staff by each individual university and its leadership. We have seen the catastrophic results of this practice with the Board of Governors’ plan for opening universities without an adequate means to address COVID. Many of the appointments to the UNC Board of Governors have been made for political reasons, and even include lobbyists with conflicts of interest.

In addition to depoliticizing the Board of Governors, I also support better funding across the board, and more funding for HBCUs to help increase their capacity to do research and to develop and expand curriculums. The issue of funding will be especially critical as the universities calculate their financial losses due to the pandemic. I have long supported in-state tuition for DACA students.

3. Do you believe in decriminalizing marijuana and reducing mandatory minimums?

Yes. I have supported decriminalization of marijuana for all of my political career, and have filed numerous bills that would help accomplish that goal. The current data shows that African Americans are 3.8 times more likely to be charged with a crime involving marijuana than are whites.  This statistic alone should be enough for the General Assembly to change North Carolina’s laws regarding marijuana. I have also continuously sponsored legislation to authorize medical marijuana and have tried to educate my colleagues about its benefits for people with different health conditions.

I strongly oppose mandatory minimum sentencing and have worked for years on many aspects of criminal justice reform. There have been several bills that have moved through the General Assembly which would have addressed various mandatory minimum sentence issues, but despite the hard work of groups like FAMM, we have not been able to pass many changes. I believe more people are becoming aware of the problem with mandatory minimum sentences, and that we will see some movement on these kinds of bills in the coming years. I will continue to sponsor bills on these and other criminal justice reform issues. As a primary sponsor of the Racial Justice Act, I fought for change in death penalty cases because of racial bias, particularly in jury selection.  

4. Many students are concerned about student debt, do you have plans to address increasing student debt in the UNC system during the pandemic?

I support extending the freeze on federal student loan payments, including interest and late fees for people who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. I would also like to see Congress come up with a plan for a similar program for private student loan debt, whether it be a freeze on payments, or loan forgiveness. I support relaxing tuition requirements for our UNC system schools when a campus shuts down or goes online because of the pandemic. 

5. Considering N.C. is one of the top states in producing black or brown undergraduate students, what are you doing to address HBCU funding (FUTURE Act and HBCU Debt Relief/Cancellation)?

The FUTURE Act is a good step toward funding HBCUs, providing $225 million per year in permanent funding, simplifying the FAFSA application, and reducing paperwork for loan repayment plans, but I believe more can be done. I also support efforts at the federal level such as the HBCU Capital Finance Debt Relief Act, which was proposed by US Rep. Alma Adams in July. The loss of tuition revenue during the pandemic disproportionately affects HBCUs, where tuition is one of their primary funding sources. I will continue to advocate at the NC General Assembly for expanded funding and support for HBCUs in North Carolina.

At the state level, in the last legislative session, the General Assembly passed two bills that support HBCUs. The NC Promise Tuition Plan and “Buy Down” directed the Board of Governors, beginning with the fall 2018 academic semester, to set the rate of undergraduate tuition for Elizabeth City State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University at $500.00 per academic semester for students who are North Carolina residents for tuition purposes and $2,500.00 per academic semester for nonresident students. The State must “buy down” the amount of any financial obligation resulting from the lower established tuition rate that may be incurred by program.

Also, the Cheatham-White Scholarships were created and established as merit scholarship programs at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) with the purpose to provide an outstanding education experience for students who are exceptional scholars in the areas of both the arts and the sciences. The Scholarships are fully funded, four-year scholarships that cover the cost of all of the following: full tuition, student fees, housing, meals, textbooks, laptop, supplies, travel, and personal expenses. Each Scholarship also provides four summers of fully funded enrichment and networking opportunities that can include international travel and study. Up to 50 Scholarships may be awarded to students at each institution each academic year with 40 for North Carolina residents and 10 for nonresidents.

Every HBCU in the UNC system deserves proper funding and support. I will continue to look for ways to expand funding and opportunities for HBCUs, and sponsor legislation in pursuit of this goal.

Brandon Gray (D) – State House District 62

1. What do you plan to do to address the inequities related to testing for the black and brown community that is harshly affected by COVID-19?

Making sure we are meeting folks where they are is the key. If a testing site is not on a bus route or is 30 minutes away from folks.. how is that accessible? I’m for mobile testing sites to set up in different communities to make sure we are seeing the bigger picture and getting accurate data on where we are in the pandemic. Greensboro has already implemented mobile testing sites. There’s a lot we can do, luckily some of GA members have already seen this is a major problem and have made legislative moves to fix it. It’s a process but they’re doing the good work already.

2. What’s your long term plan for the UNC system and higher education in North Carolina?

​The Board of Governors are trash and most chancellors in the UNC system are not listening to their students. The board and most chancellors have become increasingly partisan. The process of becoming a board member needs to be looked at. We have also seen a huge decline in funding in the UNC public schools and in the community college system. The Republican scheme to defund public education starts at elementary and goes all the way to the top.

3. Do you believe in decriminalizing marijuana and reducing mandatory minimums?

​Yep. Let’s be clear NC has already “decriminalized” marijuana, but we still see drug charges being thrown out disproportionately to black and brown folk. Reducing mandatory minimums is an understatement for what I want. Release nonviolent drug offenders immediately as well as expunge their records.

4. Many students are concerned about student debt, do you have plans to address increasing student debt in the UNC system during the pandemic?

​ If we would legalize marijuana and put that tax money towards education we could have the #1 education system in the nation and get tuition rates down.

5. Considering N.C. is one of the top states in producing black or brown undergraduate students, what are you doing to address HBCU funding (FUTURE Act and HBCU Debt Relief/Cancellation)?

​Earlier this year at NCAT I spoke about how I would’ve supported more funding for HBCUs like Governor Cooper’s plan. My opponent voted for less funding for HBCUs. I am for canceling student loan debt so people aren’t starting off in mountains of debt while trying to get ahead in life. Everyone deserves a fair shot and crippling student loan debt prevents this.

Guilford County