Name as it appears on the ballot: Deborah Ross
In your view, what are the three most pressing issues the United States faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues, given the gridlock that seems to define Congress these days?
Economic Security for all generations. As your US Senator, I’ll roll up my sleeves and get to work to build an economy that works for everyone, creates more good-paying jobs right here at home, and provides financial security for North Carolina’s seniors and students. For our youngest generation, I support two years of free community college for students with good grades, increasing funding for Pell Grants, and allowing students to refinance their student loans at today’s low rates. For our workers, I will support tax relief so hardworking families can keep more of what they earn. I will end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and invest that money in companies that grow and create jobs here at home. And I will fight to raise the minimum wage and work to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. For our seniors, I will protect and preserve Social Security and Medicare. These programs are a contract with our seniors.
Keeping Americans Safe. Nothing is more important than ensuring the safety and security of our families. That’s why I want to defeat ISIS by increasing airstrikes, depriving it of financial resources and territory, boosting domestic security by making sure our intelligence community has the tools they need to track down those who want to do us harm, and strengthening our allies in region.
Making Washington work for the people, instead of the special interests. In the State House, when the tough fights for the people over the powerful were being waged, people knew I would work with Republicans and Democrats to get results. I fought to end pay-to-play. I worked to add transparency to campaign contributions and outlaw special interest perks. And I led the effort to make sure politicians couldn’t use their campaign funds for personal items. I will take this same fight to the US Senate. I will not let the special interests buy their influence. I will stand up for the people.
If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
Senator Burr is a classic example of what’s wrong with Washington. He went to Congress and looked out for the special interests and his own interests instead of the people who elected him. Senator Burr has lost touch with who he works for – the people of North Carolina - and that’s why it’s time for a change.
Senator Burr introduced his own plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program that would raise costs for seniors while padding the profits of insurance companies, an industry that has given him over a million dollars in campaign contributions. Senator Burr supported a budget that would have cut taxes for millionaires like himself but raised taxes on working people. He voted a half dozen times to give himself a pay raise, but opposed measures to ensure equal pay for women and voted against raising the minimum wage. And, he’s voted to protect tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas while voting against programs to help retrain workers who lost their jobs.
Economic growth has been fairly mediocre in recent months. Things have improved since the Great Recession, but much of the growth has gone to top earners. What would you do to address rising income inequality?
We must make sure hardworking people who play by the rules can get a job that pays a fair wage and keep more of what they earn. This means we need to grow the economy and make sure it works for all of us, not just those with the most money or political connections. To do that we need to:
Make sure that working people can keep more of what they earn. When I was in the State House, I passed legislation to return taxes to low-income working people. That money is invested back into our economy, which helps us grow jobs and support businesses.
End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and use that money to reward companies that keep and create jobs at home.
Invest in infrastructure like I did in the State House. This will not only provide much needed improvements to our roads, bridges, highways, water and sewer, and broadband, it will create jobs that cannot be outsourced.
In general, what changes do you believe should be made to U.S. tax policy? What about federal spending? Do you believe the government should, for example, increase its investments in infrastructure and other priorities, or do you believe the government should focus on cutting expenditures to alleviate the deficit?
It has been more than 30 years since lawmakers came together to rewrite our tax code, and since then, the code has grown by thousands of pages, adding new, special interest tax breaks that our country cannot afford and that do nothing to help grow our economy. Because of this, Americans spend 6.1 billion hours a year filing their taxes, and those that can afford the most accountants get to take advantage of the system. We don’t need tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs or dodge taxes― we need tax breaks for companies that invest right here at home and play by the rules. Comprehensive deficit-reduction plans have shown that by simplifying our tax code, and getting rid of unfair, special interest tax loopholes, we can lower rates on the middle class while reducing the national debt. That is why I believe we need a complete overhaul of our tax code that expands the middle class, makes our country more globally competitive, and ensures we have the resources we need to help grow our economy.
I will also prioritize investments in infrastructure that keep us safe and keep up with the speed of business. We need to make the investments that will improve connections between communities, increase the speed goods can cross our state, increase access to broadband internet, and make all of us safer as we travel our nation’s highways, railways, and airways.
In North Carolina this year, we’ve seen two major insurers pull out of the federal health care exchange, which seems to be a blow to the Affordable Care Act. What do you believe should be done about health care? Do you favor changes to Obamacare? Or would you rather see it repealed? If so, with what would you replace it?
The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but we need to fix it, not repeal it. Repealing the health care law would take us back to the days when insurance companies ran the show and could deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions, charge women more for than men for the same coverage, and could put lifetime caps on coverage, just when people need it the most.
To fix the ACA we need to boost competition in the marketplaces by including non-profits and co-ops and eliminating taxes on high-quality insurance.
Mass shootings―some of which have at least tangential ties to terrorist organizations―have become an all-too-common occurrence. What more do you believe the government can do to disrupt so-called “lone wolf” attacks? Do you believe there should be limits on who can legally purchase high-caliber rifles?
I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I also want to keep guns away from dangerous people like violent criminals, domestic abusers, and terrorists. That is why I support closing the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy guns and expanding our background check system to prevent dangerous people―including domestic abusers and criminals―from buying guns online or at a gun show. We can protect the Second Amendment while also putting commonsense gun safety laws in place that help keep guns away from the people we all agree should not have them.
In terms of foreign policy, what do you believe are the Obama administration’s biggest successes? What do you believe are the administration’s biggest failures? What steps do you believe Congress should take with regard to these shortcomings?
The Obama Administration rebuilt relationships with our allies around the world, has reopened a diplomatic relationship with Cuba, and eliminated Osama bin Laden.
Work still needs to be done to defeat ISIS, the President could do more to stand up to Russia and protect the sovereignty of our allies, and to address Chinese currency manipulation that hurts American businesses.
My first priority is the safety of people in our community here in North Carolina and across our country. The first thing Congress should do is declare war on ISIS, which my opponent refuses to do. I have a plan to defeat ISIS by increasing airstrikes, depriving it of financial resources and territory, boosting domestic security by making sure our intelligence community has the tools they need to track down those who want to do us harm, and strengthening our allies in the region.
To secure our leadership around the world and keep American safe we must stand up to Russia. That’s why I support sanctions for their invasion of Crimea, increased NATO deployments to Eastern Europe, and punishment for cyber-attacks.
Congress must also take steps to crack down on Chinese currency manipulation.
One area where there seems to be an emerging bipartisan consensus relates to criminal-justice reform, specifically nonviolent drug offenses. How would you propose reforming drug policy? Do you believe marijuana should be either decriminalized or legalized under federal law? Do you believe the federal government should intervene where states have relaxed marijuana prohibitions contrary to federal law? Do you believe that marijuana should be removed from Schedule I classification?
We must make sure that violent criminals who pose a threat to our community are kept behind bars, but that doesn’t describe most people in our prison system today. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Instead of serving justice and promoting safety, we have the mass incarceration of millions of men and women – too many of whom are in prison for non-violent and low- level drug crimes. We need to find alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, help reduce recidivism, and update our sentencing laws. I worked across the aisle to update our juvenile justice system, to help juveniles get back on the right path and lead a productive life. It’s time to apply those same values to the criminal justice system as a whole. States should make their own decisions about the legalization of marijuana.
The recently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership has been criticized by some corners of both the right and left, though Congress did vote last year to grant the president “fast-track” authority. In general, do you support or oppose the TPP? Why or why not? Do you believe that it does enough to protect American workers?
I am against the TPP because it does not do enough to protect North Carolina workers or our environment. While Senator Burr says he’s against TPP, what he doesn’t tell you is that he voted to allow the deal to be fast-tracked through Congress. We need to focus on proposals that help homegrown businesses compete on the global stage and sell their products abroad―not sign on to trade deals that would ship American jobs overseas. My focus in the Senate will be on doing everything we can to bring jobs back into our state.
What do you believe is driving the polarization of and rancor in American politics? Is there anything you believe Congress can do about it? In what areas do you believe you could reach a compromise with members of the opposite political party?
The extreme partisanship in Washington has hurt North Carolina. It’s caused the government to be shut down, our credit rating to be compromised, and for Americans to worry about our future.
I have a strong record of working across the aisle to get things done. I’ve worked with members of both parties on domestic violence reform, ethics reform, nonpartisan redistricting, landmark anti-racial profiling legislation, and a bill requiring insurance coverage of contraceptives long before the Affordable Care Act.
I served in the General Assembly when it was a Democratic Majority, a Republican Majority and when it was evenly divided. I got things done because I worked with my colleagues and treated them with respect – even if we didn’t agree. More than 90% of the bills I sponsored in the State House that became law passed with more Republicans supporting than opposing them and about 80% passed with fewer than 5 Republicans voting NO.
In the Senate, I will always do what's best for North Carolina. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea – if it's a good idea and will help our state then I will be there to support it.
One particularly galling example of congressional gridlock is Congress’s inability to pass funding to combat the Zika virus. The White House asked for $1.9 billion; congressional Republicans settled on
$1.1 billion but attached a series of what Democrats call “poison pills”―e.g., Planned Parenthood funding, flying Confederate flags over national cemeteries―that have led to a filibuster and White House veto threat. As a member of Congress, what would you do to get past these impasses?
The partisan gridlock over the ZIka funding bill represents everything that is wrong with Washington politics. Four months after President Obama and public health experts requested $1.9 billion to respond to the Zika virus – Senator Burr voted to advance a Republican bill that fell $800 million short, politicized women’s health, and restricted funding for family planning services. Not only that, the bill cut funding for veterans by $500 million. Unlike Senator Burr, who chooses partisanship and special interests over the people of North Carolina, I would have worked across the aisle to make sure we passed the much needed funding for the Zika public health crisis much earlier.
Donald Trump’s campaign has been marked by bombast and incendiary remarks―attacking Gold Star parents, for example, or calling Mexican immigrants rapists. Do you believe these remarks render Trump temperamentally unfit for the presidency?
Yes. It is clear that Donald Trump is too reckless to be our Commander-in-Chief.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been dogged by an FBI investigation into her email use at the State Department. Do you believe that Clinton is trustworthy and honest?
Yes. The way Secretary Clinton handled her emails was wrong. She is the most prepared candidate to be Commander in Chief.
Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I would not support drilling off our coast. It’s not right for North Carolina’s fishing and tourism industries and it’s bad for our environment.
Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals issued an injunction against North Carolina’s voter ID law, which a deadlocked Supreme Court let stand. The Court of Appeals ruled that the law was conceived with discriminatory intent; recent reporting from The Washington Post has indicated that the law was drafted with the intention to discourage African Americans from voting. Do you believe the law passed by the legislature discriminates against black voters?
Yes. Unlike my opponent who said he didn’t think the law was “discriminatory at all,” I agree with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that this law was indeed passed with “discriminatory intent.” Our electoral process is strongest when we bring more voices into the political process. While in the State House, I expanded the right to vote by sponsoring legislation that allowed same-day registration during the early voting period before Election Day. I also sponsored a bill that allowed voters to cast their ballot outside of their precinct. These two bills were undone by the discriminatory voter ID law, but, with this decision, once again provide increased access to the polls for all North Carolinians.