In the coming weeks, Creative Loafing will be running political news contributor Mike Cooper's online-exclusive series of interviews with North Carolina's gubernatorial candidates. This week we begin with Rep. Bill Faison.
The 2012 race for governor in North Carolina was long billed as a rematch between incumbent Bev Perdue and the Republican challenger, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.
Then, weeks ago, Perdue shook the state political landscape with her announcement that she would not seek a second term. Since then, three Democrats have announced plans to run in a primary for the honor of taking on McCrory and succeeding Perdue.
Perhaps the best positioned candidate on the Democratic side is State Rep. Bill Faison, who loaned his campaign $500,000 in early January and has been more prepared for Perdue's announcement, considering he had been predicting that she would step aside since last fall.
Faison is a trial lawyer, a single father and a Democrat who has represented the 50th House district — which includes Caswell County and parts of Orange County — in the North Carolina General Assembly since 2005.
Faison spoke with CL about the race, his plans for North Carolina, and the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which also will be on the primary ballot in May.
Creative Loafing: Why did you decide to get into this race for governor?
Faison: The beginning for me, well I have three kids in college right now. And if you were to say that wasn't good planning on my part, I would agree with you. But I'm really close to my kids and we spend a lot of time talking. And my oldest is going to be the one out of school looking for work sooner than the others. And he has a lot of concerns, about whether or not government is working, what kind of jobs are going to be available when he gets out. So really the genesis for me was talking with him about his concerns for his future, and thinking about the concerns other parents have for their kids. We have about a half-million people out of work, and the same number of jobs in this state that we had 12 years ago but we have a million more people in this state now though. So we have a very large jobs problem that needs to be addressed.
CL: There has been some concern and a perception that you were eagerly pushing Gov. Perdue out the door. Would you address that concern, especially from activists inside the Democratic Party?
Faison: I've never attempted to push the governor out. I've always spoke highly of the governor. I supported her in her campaign for lieutenant governor. I supported her in the primary with the state treasurer when she first ran for governor. I gave her money, and supported her. It became clear to me last September that given the circumstances that existed, from her sense of who she is, and her historical perspective in North Carolina, that she would choose a very ambassadorial and statesmanlike fashion to end her elective career as a winner. And it became clear to me that she had no intention to file again to run for governor. And it played out just as I had anticipated. I have the greatest of respect for her, and it was the right move to make. Any suggestion that I was pushing her out is off base, it was simply an acknowledgment of the political reality, the intellect and insight of the first female governor of our state.
CL: The Democratic primary race for governor has three candidates right now. How can voters distinguish between you three gentleman?
Faison: The immediate distinction is that I am the only candidate from either party with a plan to put people back to work, and do it right away. I am the only candidate in either party with a plan to move us forward in a productive fashion, and provide the stimulus needed for small businesses to hire. I am the only candidate with a plan to support entrepreneurial efforts, and moreover I am the only candidate with a common sense approach to education to prepare our kids for a world economy, give them a world class education, and move everyone into an internet economy, and build the foundation to secure our future for everyone.
CL: Describe your record of service in the General Assembly, and what you have been able to accomplish so far in your public service career?
Faison: Well, as you probably know, I have not only chaired the House Democrats Business Caucus, but I have also been championing high speed internet access in both rural and urban areas. In order for a kid to get the kind of education that they need, in order to participate in a world economy, they need access to high speed internet. Not just at school, but they also need access at home. And I really think the days of the textbook are done, this is becoming a day of internet homework. Every kid going into high school needs a laptop, a device that allows them easy internet access. And in order to do their homework they have got to have internet access at home. We need to make this available to all the kids in our state. We need to view the internet, just as we once viewed electricity, telephones and roads when we moved from a farm based economy to a more industrial one.