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House candidate says Medicaid expansion should be priority

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Kris Rixon speaks at a healthcare rally at Pitt County Courthouse on Oct. 6, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A recent college graduate said democracy is only healthy when voters have a choice, which prompted him to challenge Pitt County’s one-and-a-half term state representative.

“I am not in this for myself. Running for office is not in my plan. It’s a decision I made 18 hours before filing ended,” said Kris Rixon, the Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Greg Murphy for the state House District 9 seat.

“I thought about it and voters need a choice. In any healthy democracy you need a choice,” Rixon, 24, said. “No one should ever run unopposed. I decided that I don’t agree with my state legislator and I’m going to run against him.”

Rixon became involved in politics when he was 18 and helped form a chapter of the Young Democrats in Pitt County.

Murphy was appointed to the District 9 seat in late 2015 to finish the unexpired term of Brian Brown, who stepped down to for a job with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

Murphy had expected to begin his term in April, when the General Assembly’s short session was scheduled to begin. Instead, he found himself in Raleigh a month earlier and his first vote cast in favor of House Bill 2, a bill requiring individuals to use restrooms designated for the sex on their birth certificates. It also prevented local governments from adopting ordinances that ran counter to state legislation.

“I have a sibling who identifies as transgender and I am one of the only openly gay candidates running in Pitt County,” Rixon said. “ Murphy’s vote on that legislation is personal to me.”

When running for his first full term in 2016, Murphy said he voted for the bill because he believed people should have an expectation of privacy. In later comments Murphy said also believed municipalities do not have the authority to supercede state law.

Rixon said there are no reasons that can justify support for HB2.

“Regardless of what his explanation was for that vote, it was the wrong vote and we saw what it did to North Carolina’s reputation,” he said.

Businesses such as PayPal and Deutche Bank abandoned expansion plans after the law was signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory. Multiple sporting events were canceled and numerous states and organizations issued travel bans to North Carolina.

Rixon and his two siblings were raised by their single mom in Winterville. He graduated from East Carolina University this May with a bachelor’s of arts degree in psychology. He describes himself as self-employed with a social media platform. He plans to return to school and earn as master’s degree is sociology.

Rixon said he never has met with Murphy to discuss HB2 or other issues. He said he attempted to engage Murphy in a conversation about education via his representative’s Facebook page, but the legislator deleted the exchange and blocked him.

Murphy’s campaign slogan is “It’s good to have a doctor in the House” but Rixon counters Murphy does not care for the health of his constituents because he has not championed Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare.

Instead, Murphy introduced legislation in 2017 called “Carolina Cares,” which would provide health insurance to adults who don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare and who meet certain financial requirements. Participants would pay a monthly premium along with co-payments. They would be required to participate in preventative care and wellness activities. It also would have a work requirement. Murphy said he sees the legislation benefiting the self-employed such as farmers and clergy, veterans and the working poor.

“I don’t think any Medicaid expansion program should have a work requirement attached to it,” Rixon said. “Usually when people need Medicaid they are impoverished, they are already sick and they can’t work. Having a work requirement attached to Medicaid doesn’t make sense.”

Rixon held a campaign event on the steps of the Pitt County Courthouse on Saturday to push for Medicaid expansion.

Esther Ross, who has lived 25 years with an HIV diagnosis, said if Medicaid had a work requirement when she first qualified she might not be alive today because she was too sick at the time to work.

The medical coverage she received through Medicaid allowed her to get healthy and receive treatment for mental illness and drug addiction. Ross said she has been clean for 21 years, her viral load is less than 20, which means the disease is undetectable in her system.

She also is no longer on Medicaid because she is a social worker with East Carolina Center for Speciality Care, where she helps other HIV patients.

If Medicaid is expanded more than 600,000 North Carolinians will have health insurance, Rixon said. The additional money would stabilize rural hospitals which treat many uninsured patients and it would provide a long-term solution to fighting the opioid epidemic, he said.

Rixon is one of 30 candidates under the age of 30 that MTV News is following during this campaign season, said Jenny Catherall, a producer. It is the first time MTV News has covered the midterm elections, and its stories are focused on candidates addressing particular issues, such has Rixon discussion about health care. The segment, which will appear on MTV News’ Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube channel in the next several weeks.

Rixon believes the current Republican-led legislature is against public and higher education. Although the 2018-19 state budget funded an average teacher raise of 6.5 percent, Rixon said more needs to be done for teachers. He wants the average teacher’s salary to match the nation’s average. He also believe the state should increase its per-pupil spending to give teachers more classroom resources.

While the General Assembly set the minimum wage for state employees at $15 an hour, tenured university professors did not receive raises in the current fiscal year budget, he said.

The General Assembly gave the University of North Carolina System $20 million for employee raises.

At ECU, its share of that money was used to give 2 percent raises to employees classified as Clinical Support Services and State Human Resources Act. After funding those raises, there was such a small amount of money left that faculty exempted from the State Human Resources Act and non-faculty employees would have received less than a 0.3 percent raise, a spokeswoman said.

The General Assembly also cut $1.1 million from East Carolina University’s current fiscal year budget.

Murphy said he was prevented from seeking a correction because the legislature’s Republican leadership presented the budget as a conference bill, which prevented changes to the plan.

“I found that to be disgraceful for someone who represents the county where East Carolina calls home,” Rixon said. “He had an opportunity to stand up and fight for East Carolina University and he didn’t do enough.”

Murphy said he voted for the budget because, despite the cut to ECU, he thought it did more good for the university and Pitt County than harm. Rixon said he should have opposed the budget and been more vocal in his opposition.

“I want (voters) to know I am going to be an independent voice in the legislature and I’m going to stand up to any Democrat or Republican who wants to do harm to eastern North Carolina,” Rixon said. “It’s our time to lead we have the tenancy and grit to lead this state.”

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.