Watch video of WFJA’s interview with North Carolina House of Representatives District 51 candidate Jason Cain, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent Republican John Sauls. District 51 includes Lee, and parts of western Harnett County. Below, read answers submitted to The Rant monthly in August, September and October.
Visit Cain’s campaign website here.
Briefly introduce yourself and describe why you’re seeking election to the House of Representatives.
CAIN: The military brought me to the Sandhills over 20 years ago, but it was the people, pines and hometown pride that made Sanford home. While completing my undergraduate degree on active duty, I discovered a love for public policy and making government work for the people. I left the service to become an advocate for my fellow veterans and military families. Over the last ten years I have spent countless hours working on policy and team building at both the federal and state level and in the nonprofit sector. Today, I teach political science to the next generation of leaders coming up through our community college system.
I’m running to bring new energy, integrity and honest leadership to the people of Sanford and the Sandhills. We need leaders in Raleigh willing to fight for justice and equality for all in our community. That means fighting for quality education, affordable healthcare, and good employment opportunities for all who call North Carolina home. I am a father, veteran, and an educator and I want to put my passion and experience to work for the people in my community.
What is your view of North Carolina’s process of closure and subsequent reopening in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how best do you think an elected representative can support his or her community during a time like this?
CAIN: This pandemic has tested us like never before. The failures of our national government have put the burden on the backs of the states and state level leaders. Governor Cooper has done well in weighing the incredibly difficult decisions that put both our health and our economy at risk. In the end, the health of our people must be our priority.
We elect our state representatives to serve our best interests in Raleigh and to lead during times of crisis. Throughout this pandemic and resulting economic downturn, I have not seen our Republican leaders in the General Assembly stepping up to the challenge. Our representatives need to be in our community, speaking to constituents, encouraging them to follow guidelines, while also providing resources for things like unemployment benefits and meal assistance. They need to be present and actively working in our communities to solve the immediate needs of North Carolinians. When I am in Raleigh, I will prioritize working with Governor Cooper, our cities, and our counties to make sure everyone has the information and resources needed to survive and attempt to thrive through this pandemic and its aftermath.
The method by which political maps are drawn has been an issue of contention in the General Assembly. Do you support an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission which will draw maps in the future, or any other changes to the process, or do you think legislators should continue creating political districts?
CAIN: As a student and teacher of the American political system, and as a North Carolinian, I am well versed in the long term and short term dangers of allowing politicians to pick their voters. North Carolina has become nationally known for its egregious history of letting politicians pick their voters, rather than letting voters pick their representatives.
Gerrymandering hurts everyone but especially our already marginalized communities which are most likely to lose their voice in our political process. True democracy depends on every vote having the same weight. When politicians are allowed to pick which votes count, democracy begins to break down and we must end this harmful practice.
I have pledged to support and fight for the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission to ensure we put a stop to this and finally create a fair district-drawing system. Never again should politicians be allowed to draw their own districts.
Partisan balance in the House has grown tighter in recent years, forcing legislators from both parties to work together more often. Assuming this trend continues, how will you look for opportunities to work across the aisle? And if you are elected as a member of the House minority, what will you do to ensure that your ideas are heard and your constituents are well represented.
CAIN: When I was a leader in the Army I didn’t ask my soldiers if they were Republicans or Democrats. I asked if they had checked their gear and knew what to do when we hit the ground. When I’m representing the people of Sanford and the Sandhills I won’t seek liberal or conservative solutions. I’ll look for solutions and policies which support the best interests of my constituents.
In the last decade, leaders in the General Assembly have gamed the system to achieve a super majority and ignored the input and ideas from the other side. That’s not the kind of leadership that solves problems. I will work with community leaders and all of my colleagues in the State House to create equitable solutions.
Our Representatives work for our communities, not for their political party. They must work with their colleagues and House leadership, of whichever party, to ensure people’s concerns are being heard and addressed. I will absolutely work across the aisle to find solutions and I would vote for bills sponsored by either political party if I felt they would better our district.
The News & Observer reported in July that roughly 1.2 million adult North Carolinians under age 65, or about one in five, live without health insurance, a number that was exacerbated by job losses occurring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What, if anything, should the General Assembly do to ensure these people have access to affordable care?
CAIN: When the newly elected legislature takes office next year, we will immediately vote to expand Medicaid coverage to more than 500,000 working North Carolinians who fall into the coverage gap, including about 30,000 North Carolina veterans. Being uninsured or under-insured is bad for our fellow North Carolinians and it’s bad for public health. When people are sick, we need to get them treatment.
Additionally, our first step in reducing the overall cost of healthcare must be to address health concerns before folks end up in the emergency room, often because they can’t afford to see a doctor. Preventive primary care is exponentially less expensive than emergency care. The cost of those emergency visits by uninsured patients is passed on to all of us through higher fees for those with insurance coverage. Expanding Medicaid not only helps our fellow North Carolinians, at no cost to us, it actually saves money for those of us with insurance.
Pandemic-related job losses have also led to situations in which renters are being evicted from their homes because they can no longer afford rent. One such situation here in Sanford was even covered in The New York Times. Does state government have a role in addressing these situations, and if so, what do you think should be done to prevent individuals from being evicted?
CAIN: Yes, state government absolutely has a role to play here and the General Assembly should immediately expand the number of weeks eligible recipients can receive benefits. The vast majority of folks facing eviction are in danger of losing their homes by no fault of their own and largely due to our worst in the nation unemployment benefit system. Our current economic crisis has far surpassed the 12 weeks to 20 weeks of eligibility our state provides those who are actively seeking but unable to secure employment.
When I worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I worked with mayors across our country to end the calamity of veteran homelessness. Leading experts and research convinced us of the efficacy of the housing first model to address the homelessness crisis. Stable housing is the most important factor in determining someone’s ability to be a productive member of society as well as keeping their families safe and secure. The General Assembly must do everything in their power to avoid a growing homelessness crisis on top of the health and employment crisis we are currently in.