Race pits experience versus common sense
By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, May 3, 2018
A state senate veteran driven by education needs and a small town lawyer hoping to bring a rural perspective to legislation are seeking wide support in their efforts to secure the Democratic nomination to District 5 Senate seat.
Incumbent Don Davis, who is currently on his fourth term as the district’s senator, and Lonnie Carraway, a former District Court judge and current Snow Hill lawyer, face off Tuesday in hopes of taking on the winner of the Republican primary.
Newly drawn maps have shifted the district’s power base geographically and have given Republicans a fighting chance, but Davis said he serves all constituents and is confident that his experience will give him the edge.
“I have been in the General Assembly when Democrats have been in majority and when Republicans have been in majority,” said Davis, a longtime Greene County resident who now has a residence in Greenville. “I’ve been effective and consistent in being able to work with whoever is there, trying to address and resolve issues. I’m driven and fueled by the people and what has taken place. Everyone’s voices matter to me.”
Carraway, who has made his home and living in Greene County, said that even though it only makes up 11 percent of the voting base in the district, his reputation as both a lawyer and friend should give voters the confidence that he will help address the issues they see.
“I’m from the working class out of the tracks, even on the other side of the tracks,” Carraway said. “I have that knowledge. I’ve gone to school, I’ve gotten my education. You have two sides of me. I’ve been a lawyer for 35 years and people have supported my practice because when they come in here I’m not a ‘lawyer,’ I’m a friend.”
The 63-year-old Carraway said he has a passion for public schools and education because he himself is a product of it. The son of a sharecropper, Carraway said his education helped open new doors in his life that he previously did not know existed. Now, he said he wants to make sure others in the same county that he is from have that same opportunity.
Carraway said the best way to accomplish that would be by raising teacher salaries, which he called his first priority.
“I think we ought to increase teacher salaries,” Carraway said. “I think they’re underpaid. We have good quality teachers but I think they need to have their salaries increased for what they do. We take our children to school and drop them off and we expect them to look after them and teach them.”
Carraway also said he would like to see old schools undergo beautification because he said it would help enhance the learning atmosphere.
For Davis, he said his hope for the future hinges on education. The 46-year-old is a product of eastern North Carolina, having grown up in Snow Hill before serving in the Air Force. Like Carraway, he grew up on a farm and like Carraway, he said giving students resources to succeed, starting with teacher pay, is an important priority.
“We need to continue the commitment that we made to increase teacher pay, taking it close to 10 percent over the two years,” Davis said. “I also believe that we should work to get more funds into the classroom, impacting students. We should increase the textbook funds and the importance in that is making sure kids have the resources they need to succeed.”
But Davis also has his sights set on higher education in the region, particularly East Carolina University. He said he wants to find a way to provide the university funding for a state-of-the-art medical school to help provide more physicians in rural communities. He said his hope is that medical school graduates jump from 80 per year to 120 but he admitted that is at least a four-year project.
Still, Davis said it would benefit the area from an economic standpoint.
“All of that ties right into building the economy,” Davis said. “I would also add that we need to close the coverage gap on health care. I believe that would bring jobs to eastern North Carolina and stimulate our economy.”
Carraway said he remembers how businesses like Dupont and Firestone helped stimulate the economy when they came to Greene County years ago. He said learning how to bring industries back would be a goal of his, if elected.
“I know you go out and recruit.,” Carraway said. “I understand having jobs and I understand bringing industries back. How to go about it, that’s what I would learn as a legislator.”
Both candidates expressed a need for nonpartisan governing. Carraway said he wants to work across the aisle so power players are not able to dictate the caucus. He said his time spent around a breakfast table with his closest friends, many of whom are Republicans, has helped him find ways to communicate with people that have different ideals.
“There are too many agendas,” Carraway said. “Republicans are in control now and I don’t agree with some of the things they are doing. And Democrats, when they were in power, I didn’t agree with a lot of the things they did when they were in control.”
Davis said he already has proven that he can work across the aisle. He said that having an open mind and listening to different points of view is important, save for what he called extreme points of view.
“What I believe I offer is common sense,” Davis said. “I’m one who listens, makes his way around to hear other voices and takes those perspectives to Raleigh to work across party lines to solve problems in our communities. That’s what I’m known for and I would like to continue to be the champion for eastern North Carolina.”
The winner of the race will go on to face either Kimberly Robb or Tony Moore, candidates in the Republican primary.
Contact Brian Wudkwych at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.
Address: Snow Hill
Current position: Lawyer in Snow Hill
Political experience: District Court judge for 13 years, former county commissioner
Current position: NC Senate District 5
Political experience: Former Snow Hill mayor, four-term State Senator