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State House hopeful Ken Fontenot’s only primary opponent is the calendar.
In order to square off against Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield in November, the Wilson pastor and teacher needs 2,200 signatures on a ballot access petition that will certify him as an unaffiliated candidate. The deadline is May 8 — the same day party primaries will be held.
Republicans pledged their support for the conservative independent and helped circulate Fontenot’s petition during Saturday’s annual GOP county convention at the Wilson County Courthouse.
“Above all, just volunteer to get the word out,” Fontenot said. “I believe people are looking for solutions. I believe people have noticed that there really haven’t been many solutions from my challenger, and I believe that they’re looking for it.”
Before a brief precinct organization meeting, Republicans heard from Fontenot and fellow legislative candidate Richard Scott, who faces Democrat Milton F. “Toby” Fitch in the Senate District 4 race, along with 1st Congressional District challenger Roger Allison.
Rep. Susan Martin, R-Wilson, who is stepping down at year’s end after the 2017 redistricting process double-bunked her with Farmer-Butterfield in a redrawn House District 24 containing all of Wilson County, endorsed Fontenot as her successor and urged Republicans to get out the vote in order to maintain the party’s General Assembly majority.
“This is an off-year election, and we have to be very, very careful that we don’t minimize the importance of this coming November,” Martin said. “Our friends on the other side of the aisle, they are very, very focused and very long-term focused. They are not looking at a big, major swing. They are chipping away one seat at a time.”
‘EDUCATION A KEY FACET’
Fontenot served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps before moving to Wilson County to become pastor of Bethel Baptist Church. He is also a teacher at Forest Hills Middle School and wants to reform public education by adapting classrooms to meet the needs of kinesthetic, or hands-on, learners as well as visual and auditory learners.
“I believe education is going to be a key facet to keeping North Carolina in the top 10 states to live, increasing our mission in that, to revolutionizing our workforce and to making a difference locally, nationally and internationally,” he said.
Describing himself as a “Ronald Reagan conservative,” Fontenot said he shares the Republican Party’s values and reassessed his support for Democrats after becoming a Christian in 2004.
“When I began to do my research on what I believed and why, I discovered that really, I was a Democratic voter because I’m black and from Chicago. That was the logic,” he said. “But when I began to look at the research of the African-American heritage, my Christian heritage, I discovered that many of the champions of that cause have been Republicans.”
Fontenot has backing from the North Carolina Republican Party in addition to the GOP in his home county. State party Chairman Dallas Woodhouse recently tweeted that Tar Heel Republicans would throw their weight behind the unaffiliated candidate.
The most recent unaffiliated state legislator was former Rep. Paul Tine of Dare County, who was elected as a Democrat in 2012, switched his voter registration in 2015 and participated in Republican caucus meetings. Tine did not run for re-election in 2016.
Supporters say Fontenot is nearly a quarter of the way to his 2,200-signature goal. In an appeal to undecided voters, they stressed that signing Fontenot’s petition isn’t a commitment to voting for him, it’s merely the mechanism to add his name to the ballot.
For more information, call 252-226-9385 or visit the “Ken Fontenot for NC House” page on Facebook.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Roger Allison, a Durham businessman challenging Wilson native and Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, plans to broadcast his message of evangelical conservatism in Butterfield’s own backyard.
“I think Wilson is going to be ground zero for our campaign,” Allison said Saturday.
Allison shared his Christian faith and voiced his opposition to abortion along with support for faculty-led public school prayer and the United States’ diplomatic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Offering an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Allison said expensive health insurance plans with high deductibles could be replaced with a combination of concierge medicine — a system where patients pay flat membership fees to physicians’ offices in exchange for continuous care — and a major medical policy for hospital visits and out-of-town emergencies.
“I have started eight health care and technology companies. I’ve probably forgotten more about health care than most people have ever learned,” Allison said. “I do know how to do health care insurance...We can do better than this.”
For more information on Allison’s campaign, visit www.rogerallisonforcongress.com.
There’s no antipoverty program as effective as a good-paying job, state Senate hopeful Richard Scott told a roomful of Wilson County Republicans.
“We don’t need affordable housing as much as we need people that can afford housing,” he said, noting historically high unemployment rates in Halifax, Edgecombe and Wilson — the three counties that comprise the new Senate District 4.
A former fire department and rescue squad chief who now works as an instructor at Halifax Community College, Scott stressed the need for economic development partnerships between state, county and city agencies and job-training programs in high schools and community colleges.
“You can’t spell community without spelling unity,” he said. “I like to bring people together to help our communities to expand.”
Scott said he’d work to reform North Carolina’s occupational licensing system. Free-market think tanks have criticized policies that require state licenses and establish regulatory boards for hundreds of non-medical and non-legal career fields, arguing that they serve as a barrier to entry that protects existing businesses and reduces competition. An advocate for school choice, Scott stressed the importance of quality education and anti-drug programs for children and teens.
“Youth make up about 23 percent of our population, but they make up 100 percent of our future. We need to work on making sure that they’ve got a great foundation to work with.”
For more information on Scott’s campaign, visit the “Richard Scott for NC Senate” page on Facebook.