The race for North Carolina Senate District 41 is unusually competitive this year with three candidates running for the same seat.
Incumbent Jeff Tarte and challengers Jonathan Hudson and Chris Cole are all vying to represent the district that covers Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and parts of northern Charlotte.
Cole, a retired postal worker running as a Libertarian candidate, has lived in Mecklenburg County for 35 years.
He strongly opposes the Interstate 77 toll road project, describing it as an example of government overreach and saying he would try to cancel the current 50-year contract between the state and a private company.
“There’s an incentive for corporations to connect with government programs as a source of profit. I call it crony capitalism,” Cole said.
While construction of toll lanes on I-77 has already begun, some Lake Norman area residents are critical of the project.
He said he agrees with incumbent Republican candidate Tarte on some issues. Cole and Tarte both strongly support the Second Amendment right to owning firearms, for example, but Cole said he would take it a step further.
“Anyone who’s not legally restricted from owning or carrying a gun wouldn’t need a permit to exercise their constitutional right,” Cole said.
Cole and Tarte are also both opposed to abortion rights, but Cole supports legalizing marijuana while Tarte does not.
Cole said he got into politics because he doesn’t like how the government allocates and spends tax revenue, and only elected officials are in a position to change that.
“It’s a matter of self-defense,” Cole said.
The Democratic challenger for N.C. Senate District 41 is a 34-year-old political science student at UNC Charlotte.
One of Hudson’s primary campaign issues is raising the minimum wage.
“I voted for (Bernie) Sanders in the primary and want to raise the minimum wage in North Carolina to a livable wage,” Hudson said. “Charlotte was ranked 50th out of 50 cities in a Harvard study about upward mobility.”
Hudson laid out several environmental proposals, pointing out that Tarte has a zero lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters.
“To combat global warming, North Carolina needs to electrify our public transportation and school buses with 100 percent renewable energy from offshore wind and solar farms,” Hudson said in an email. “We need more bike lanes and electric-vehicle charging stations and to force (Department of Environmental Quality) to clean up all coal ash sites.”
Duke Energy agreed to remove millions of tons of coal ash from three sites near Salisbury in October to settle a federal lawsuit. Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity, contains several toxic chemicals, including lead and mercury.
Hudson said he’s running because of “the possibility of yet another undemocratic and unopposed District 41 state senate race."
“Growing increasingly frustrated and disappointed by the harmful direction of the legislature, I decided to run for office,” he said.
Tarte said he got involved in politics to “have a seat at the table. I wanted to be part of the decision-making and prioritizing and working to help solve problems in the community.”
The most important priorities in District 41 and statewide are building the economy and improving public education, Tarte said.
“People are looking for good full-time jobs and that can be facilitated through getting a good education,” Tarte said. “I’m a big public school supporter so I’m massively invested in (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and the UNC system. Pre-K is an area where we really have to get focused. There are two junctures. Getting kids ready to enter school is foundational to being successful long-term. And then after high school being ready to enter into post-secondary education.”
In regard to taxes and spending priorities, Tarte said the main focus is “getting our fiscal house in order.”
Tarte described the state legislature as the “United Way agency for the state. We take in people’s taxes, and then we have prioritize it and allocate it. There are infinitely more needs than we have the financial wherewithal to fund. So we have to balance that. It’s just an ongoing part of the process to do that.”
Tarte said people should vote for him because of his strong bipartisan support and ability to reach across party lines to solve problems.
“I have a pretty good record of people supporting me across the spectrum of political ideologies. And that’s partially from treating everyone respectfully,” Tarte said.