Candidate Q&As: Brenda Letchworth Smith, state House 8
Friday, October 19, 2018
Note: Following are questions submitted by The Daily Reflector to Brenda Letchworth Smith, candidate for the state House District 8 seat, and Smith’s responses. District 8 includes all portion of northern and western Pitt County (click here for the map). All voters in the district may cast ballots on Nov. 6 and in early voting, which is ongoing through Nov. 3.
Name: Brenda Letchworth Smith
Profession: Human resources professional
Prior political office: None
Social Media: Brenda Smith for NC House District 8
Political philosophy: We must restore our founder’s vision that government that governs best is one that governs the least. We need legislators to live under the laws they pass.
■ Why are you running for the General Assembly and what distinguishes you from your opponent?
This election, the issues my granddaughter and all future generations will face, are too important to sit on the sidelines, so I became a candidate in my first political race ever. It is important to have good accountable leadership that will keep government limited and close to the people. I will be a representative serving all citizens of District 8 in the House, not a politician looking for a career path in politics. I will be a humble representative with no personal agenda but only to serve all citizens of District 8. I will carry two books to the house: my Bible and the N.C. Constitution.
■ What will your top priorities be if you are elected?
Health care, economic growth, education, infrastructure and school safety.
■ There are six constitutional amendments on the ballot. Explain where you stand on each issue.
Voter ID: Voter ID is absolutely needed to protect the integrity of voting. It would curtail questions of voter fraud by folks on both sides of the aisle.
Elections and Ethics Board: I support the establishment of an eight-member, bipartisan board to administer North Carolina’s ethics and elections laws, free from the influence from the legislative, executive or judicial branches of state government.
Income Tax Cap: I support a cap that would lower the state’s maximum possible income tax rate from 10 to 7 percent. With this amendment, voters can say no to a return to the days of spendthrift politicians and high taxes by placing this protection in our state constitution.
Judicial Appointments: I support authorizing a nonpartisan merit commission, appointed by the chief justice, the governor and the General Assembly, to evaluate those nominees and rate them based on their professional qualifications and merit.
Victims’ Rights: It is time the victims have some protection and rights. This amendment guarantees victims the right to be present at any proceeding, to be heard at certain proceedings, to receive restitution in a timely manner, to receive information upon request and to confer with the prosecutor.
Hunting and Fishing: I support this to preserve hunting and fishing for the future generations. Hunting and fishing are essential parts of conservation efforts and also contribute to the economy of the state in a significant way: 35,000 jobs and $56 million in license fees in sporting related goods in 2017 alone.
■ If the Voter ID amendment is approved, will you support a funding increase so the Division of Motor Vehicles can open more offices and hire more staff hired to issue identifications?
First we need to determine how many people do not have an ID. I expect it is a small percentage of voters. After the data is available then we can make decisions on how to provide IDs.
■ East Carolina University wants a new medical school building. How would you convince other legislators to fund the project?
First I would have to be convinced that the building is needed. What are the justifications and would it provide adequate return on investment for the community. What does the feasibility study and cost analysis reveal? Belief in the need of a new medical school building and using my excellent sales ability would enable me to convince the legislators on both political sides of the House to fund the project.
■ Hundreds of illegal immigrants live and work in the Pitt County area. They are building homes and families, they go to church and do jobs many other people don’t want to do. Should we allow them to stay? What action will you encourage the legislature take to deal with them?
Protecting our citizens is the No. 1 priority. Illegals are putting a strain on our economy, especially social services and health care. In North Carolina we spend $2.4 billion each year on illegal immigration. Not legal immigration. Now, of course we want people to come to America legally and be contributing citizens to our economy. But they have to come legally. I would never vote for any bill which would grant in-state tuition to illegals, or provide them with driver’s licenses. If they are here illegally and want to be a citizen they must go home, return and go through the legal process. It would be unfair to immigrants who came here legally to grant the illegal’s a path to citizenship. Citizens in Pitt County aren’t allowed to break the law. We are a nation of laws, and segmenting illegals allowing them to break the law would teach the youngest of citizens that the law can be broken in some cases. Breaking the law is breaking the law.
■ David Wheeler of Newtown, Conn., has become an advocate for stricter regulation of assault rifles since his 6-year-old son, Ben, was among 20 children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He said “The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life – his life ...” How would you respond to a constituent who shared his experience and convictions?
I can empathize with anyone who has lost a loved one to violence and I pray for them. Mentally ill people who have it in their minds to destroy and kill will use any means to accomplish their goal. So how do we attempt to control these monstrous attacks? Concentration in mental illness should be on the front burner. Observation, acknowledgement, training and getting proper help is the first order of business. I believe it can begin with agencies such as mental health and other agencies that provide information for background checks. That information should be accurate and submitted timely to the database. These background checks should prevent undeserving individuals from purchasing guns; however that will not stop the criminals from getting weapons. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. We do have a 2nd Amendment that allows ownership of guns. I would not support any additional laws restricting guns. I do believe we need to strictly enforce the laws on the books today.
■ Do you think that the state should allow local authorities to determine for themselves where and how to display Confederate memorials, and do you think it is appropriate for a monument to confederate dead to stand on the grounds of the Pitt County Courthouse?
I think the laws on the books today should stand as they are. The laws on the books state that if local governments want to remove a statue they have to get permission from the state. We should not be changing or altering history. These statues were erected to honor the fallen and should continue to stand.
■ Would you support a law that banned same-sex marriage or required people to use the bathroom that matched the gender on their birth certificate?
My Christian belief is that marriage should be between a man and woman. However, the Supreme Court has ruled, and it is the law of the land that the same sex can marry. I will uphold the laws of the land and of North Carolina. We need to move away from this social issue and concentrate on matters such as sex trafficking and the opioid crisis. I would not support any law that would harm North Carolina economically.
■ Leaders in North Carolina recently established and $15 per hour minimum wage for all state workers. Big corporations such as Amazon and Target recently announced they are committed to a $15 per hour minimum. Would you support a mandatory minimum wage of $15 an hour. Why or why not?
I would support a minimum wage equal to the Federal Minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would have a harsh impact of job losses. Research from the Heritage Foundation estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would cost over 330,000 jobs in North Carolina (full -time equivalent jobs) by 2021. Only about 5 percent of North Carolina’s workforce is paid at or below minimum wage. Bear in mind that it would not just impact minimum-wage jobs, but all jobs paying below $15 per hour.
Economist believe a $15 minimum wage would result in lost jobs, more skills required to get any job (even entry level), fewer young people finding work, and business closings. Raising the minimum wage hurts the very people it is suppose to help: the poorest, the least skilled and the disadvantaged. All a higher minimum wage will do is make it more expensive to employ low-level workers.
■ Critics say the current process for drawing legislative districts leans too heavily with the party in power and allows the party in power to ignore other points of view rather than compromise? What is your response to such criticism?
I agree. We need a non-partisan panel to draw district lines. Finding non-partisan individuals poses a quandary within itself. The redistricting process is frustrating to the voters as they try to determine what district they are in, who is on the ballot and what candidate will gain their vote. In District 8 the party in power is not the majority.
■ Proponents say that fiscal policies enacted by the current legislature have North Carolina on its strongest financial footing and have contributed to a robust and growing economy. Do you agree? Do you think the legislature should increase spending vs. savings or change its tax structure to address needs in roads and infrastructure, schools, health care and mental health care?
I do agree. Fiscal policies enacted by the current legislators have made North Carolina financially sound. I do not believe an increase in taxes is needed to address needs mentioned; we do have to spend the revenue we collect in taxes and the funds received from the federal government wisely so that these needs can be met.