For the first time in recorded history, Democrats are running in all 170 North Carolina state legislative districts. Some districts have more than one Democrat running. The newly formed NC House District 79, which includes all of Beaufort County and the western half of Craven County, has only one Republican running and two Democrats competing in the primary.
Democratic candidates for NC House District 79 Jerry Langley and Bryson Jones share many of the same views on the issues. They both support more funding for public education. They both want to work on creating jobs in rural areas. And they both support protecting Eastern North Carolina’s natural resources. The biggest difference between the two candidates lies in their backgrounds. Jones, a 34-year-old retired marine, is making his first run for political office. And Langley has served on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners for 18 years.
“I know how to govern. And I know how to get along with folk. I know how to walk down the middle of the road and decide issues based on what’s presented to us. Not because the Democrats said it’s this way or because the Republicans said it’s this way, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Langley said.
While Langley says his experience as a county commissioner qualifies him for the state legislature, his primary opponent Bryson Jones says the fact that he hasn’t served in political office would be an asset if he’s elected.
“We have a lot of people that have been playing the politics game for a long time, and we don’t really see a lot of improvement. And as I travel around Beaufort County, Craven County, people are tired of the same old politicians, the same party hacks, the same guys that have just been hanging around for 15, 20 years, doing the same thing," Jones said. "Not a whole lot has changed. As far as I’m concerned, being a young man with a young family, we need to take ownership of where our future goes.”
Jones has highlighted increasing access to health care as one of his priorities. He says if he’s elected to the General Assembly he’ll push for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
“We have the opportunity to provide health insurance to about 800,000 North Carolinians, and a few thousand of those people are right here in our district. Why we’re not pulling the trigger? Well, you know, there are lots of reasons for that. But I’m ready to pull that trigger. I’m ready to get in there and work out some type of agreement to where we can pull the trigger on Medicaid expansion because we’re already paying for it,” Jones said. “We’re already seeing that money go out of our paychecks, and now we’re just paying for other states to have Medicaid expansion.”
Both candidates say state lawmakers should do a better job at working together. Langley says the Republican supermajority has passed or pushed for policies that are bad for democracy, such as the voter ID law and racial and political gerrymandering.
“Gerrymandering with the judges is a terrible thing. Gerrymandering is terrible, period. The people should always be empowered to do what’s best for them,” Langley said.
The latest campaign finance reports show Langley has outraised Jones by about $2,000. Whoever wins the Democratic primary for NC House District 79 will face Republican candidate Keith Kidwell in the general election.
North Carolina is a semi-closed primary state, meaning unaffiliated voters can cast their ballots in either party’s primary elections. Early voting in this year’s primary elections ends on May 5. Primary Election Day is on Tuesday, May 8.