Stephanie E. Watson | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Stephanie E. Watson

N.C. Senate District 16


Full Legal Name: Stephanie E. Watson

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Stephanie E. Watson

Office Sought/District: NC Senate District 16

Party: Libertarian

Date of Birth: May 5, 1973

Home Address: 6720 Sandwell Lane #105, Raleigh, NC 27607

Mailing Address: Same.

Campaign Web Site:

Occupation & Employer: Technical Writer, rPath, Inc.

Years lived in North Carolina: 31

Home Phone: 919-333-5050

Work Phone: Same.


1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

The most important thing North Carolina can do right now is to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent more efficiently, and that we pay down our debt so our kids aren't struggling even harder than we are to catch up. My top three priorities in this campaign are focusing on your power to choose, and these choices should direct the State in how it should be spending its money. Those priorities are municipal growth management, school choice, and reducing the cost of doing business in North Carolina.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

My background is in training and writing, and in doing extensive hands-on research about the topic I'm teaching or writing about. As a middle school teacher in Rockingham County ('96-'99), I put that to work in the classroom as I got to know the lifestyle and challenges each student was facing. I worked to shape the students' learning experiences, making lessons meaningful considering those lifestyles and challenges.

I've taken this same approach into my training and writing in the tech industry. I've always felt that the best voice to teach someone about a topic is someone who thoroughly knows both the topic and the audience. I've received accolades for my ability to dive in and get hands-on experience on a topic, and to serve as an advocate for the audience when writing or training about that topic. Voters should select legislators that, like me, are willing to get her hands dirty studying the topic of legislation and the people affected. Let's dig deep to find all the relevant information needed to make meaningful law.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

Politically, I define myself as libertarian. Some describe this as being "socially liberal and fiscally conservative." I prefer to say that we have a certain set of natural and constitutionally outlined rights, and I believe that people should be free to do what they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. As a result, government should be small enough to fit inside the State and Federal constitutions, and its only role should be to protect and defend those same natural and constitutional rights for its citizens.

My platform is consistent with my political philosophy across the board. For example, my "More Choice in Education" platform issue, described at, is about putting education decisions in the hands of the parents and students, where they belong, not in the hands of government officials that seek a one-size-fits-all approach. The only way to ensure we have the power to choose things for ourselves is to make sure the law keeps that power in our hands, not takes it from us.

4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

When you choose that great house on the edge of town or that great older house near downtown, location is probably the biggest factor in your decision. Every real estate agent knows that to be true. So, it's only fair that if you purchase that property, the advantage of that location aren't forcibly removed from you by some State law or city annexation.

My "More Choice in Managing Municipal Growth" platform item, described at, describes the forced annexation issue in North Carolina. Current NC law allows an organized city or town to annex any land connected into its city limits, and then to impose all of its new city rules and taxes on those who own the land. Those who own the land have no recourse except to appeal to the State which passed the law.

The North Carolina League of Municipalities, an organization of city governments, have a stronger voice in the General Assembly than any of the individual affected by these annexation laws. As a result, they continue to persuade the GA time and again that current annexation law is just and reasonable. It's time to reverse that trend. It's time for meaningful annexation reform that protects the rights of those being annexed. See the four points of meaningful reform under "Issues" at

5. 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.

For many reasons, the general public has increasingly looked to government to provide solutions to its problems. A typical attitude is that government should force people to do "what's right" instead of trusting they can do it on their own. This has resulted in a prevailing attitude of helplessness and entitlement that has eroded the core U.S. values of independence and liberty.

Here's my concern: when government assumes a power, it historically keeps that power no matter who's in charge. That means the more power we put in the hands of the government, the more we're subject to the whims of each changing regime. On top of this, ballot access laws are designed to snuff any of the small, grassroots voices that rise in opposition to that regime. If you like the guy who got the most votes, you may be in luck. If not, you're screwed until the next election.

If we retain our power to choose, we won't have to hope we're in the majority come next election. Instead, we can solve our problems with the choices that are right for ourselves and our community. My platform is about taking on both the power and the responsibility of those choices, against the growing attitude that government can do it better.

6. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:

Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?

We should lower the cost of doing business in North Carolina. By lowering the barrier of entry, and easing the tax and regulation burdens, businesses can grow, provide more jobs, and pay their existing workers more. Not only will this improve the standard of living for those able to work, but it will improve the economic outlook for those unable to work who are supported by friends and family.

Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?

Joseph Coletti of the John Locke Foundation stated in a recent press release that the key to improving transportation in the state is to make a better selection in which projects are funded. His studies and others demonstrate that building new structures while old structures continue to deteriorate is a path that will further destroy our state's budget. Roads and bridges that need the most repair need priority, especially when money is tight. I was excited to see the work on Wade Avenue in Raleigh, and it's projects like that we need to focus on right now.

Job creation: What strategies should the state use to attract new business and lower the unemployment rate?

We need to make sure that the jobs created are sustainable. Government incentives that bring hand-selected businesses are a crap shoot: the business opens because it gets money to do so, not because it actually believes it can sustain long-term. That means the jobs "created" by those incentives may or may not be there in a couple years' time. The recent example of Dell is the definitive example of this failure resulting in a loss of over 900 jobs.

The real solution to creating jobs is to lower the barriers of entry for business, reducing the burdensome taxes and regulations so that NC is a truly desirable place to set up shop. If a business comes, it should be because it has determined it can be successful here, not because they've been paid to "take a chance."

Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?

The only thing the State should do with regards to health care and insurance is to remove any excess taxes and regulations that continue to drive up the cost. It's true that the government may actually be "protecting us to death" with some of its health care law.

Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?

It's not the role of government to intervene in the fulfillment of a private contract unless there is a violation of individual rights. It is unfortunate that so many people have found themselves victim of too-good-to-be-true mortgages. However, it's still the personal responsibilities of those in those contracts to deal with the consequences they signed on to. If an individual can truly prove their rights have been violated, such as through deceptive business practices, just compensation may be in order for that individual from the entity found guilty of the violation.

The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it's a mess. Now what?

The mental health system a mess because of mismanagement by State. The libertarian in me wants to say that the only real solution is to privatize the system. It's a big system, though, and it's been going for too long for privatization to be an overnight fix. Instead, the State should order a ground-up restructuring of the system with a clear mission, up-to-date goals aligned with a modern understanding of mental health, and distinct and fiscally restrictive boundaries as to what the State can and cannot be responsible for in patient care.

Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? Where else should the sales tax be applied? Should it be raised? What's your position on "combined reporting" for national corporations?

The State's taxes, like the Federal income tax, is the cumulative result of years of special interests getting what they want and making the taxpayers fund it. The bottom line is that if you want something from the government, the government has to pay for it. As I think we have the government trying to do too much, I naturally think our taxes are too high.

Currently, though, lowering taxes is not yet a reasonable solution. That can come in time, but first, we need to get spending under control. That means no new programs, eliminating inefficient and irrelevant programs, and tightening the budget across the board with reduced funding to existing programs. If we have to cut back in tough economic times, the government should have to, too.

Energy: What steps, if any, should be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? What policies should be put in place to incentivize innovation in wind, solar and future energy sources?

There are two things the State can do, reasonably, to aid its citizens in protecting the land, air, and water around them. The first is to eliminate or significantly lower restrictions on individuals and business who take their own actions to reduce their "carbon footprints." For example, they could overrule any local restrictions on an individual who wants to set up his own wind tower or solar panels on his property. The second thing the State can do is to continually improve the existing littering and pollution laws so they protect the rights of everyone.

7. What local bills would you introduce and how closely will you work with local elected leaders in advancing their legislative agendas?

I plan to research and write a bill to lift the cap on charter schools, and I look forward to supporting Senate Bill 494 or a subsequent bill to offer true annexation reform.

8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.

It is one of our basic rights to have the government leave us alone as long as we're not violating the rights of others. This includes living the lifestyle we choose. In addition, government should neither reward or punish us for those private decisions.

Current marriage laws in NC and other states were created for the sole purpose of letting the State have the power to decide who could marry. It's continued as a way the State can determine who gets certain privileges. A long as the State has this power, then whoever is elected has the power to tell me what "marriage" means. As a result, I would support any legislation to remove all "marriage" law from the books, replacing it with nothing, or with an act ensuring that any number of consenting adults be able to seek legal contractual obligations that take precedence in legal matters, such as personal health decisions. However, it's the individual, not the State, that should be able to call that "marriage."

As I stated in my response to Equality NC, there should be no protected classes under the law. This includes private business employment as the legislation should not violate the right of the business owner to select individuals he or she wants to work with. Also, there should be equal punishment for equal crimes, and hate crimes legislation seek to punish thought (one of our basic freedoms) in addition to the criminal act. It's the courts, not the legislators, that should determine the degree of punishment for a given crime.

State employment is a different game. We are, unfortunately, subject to whoever is in charge of the State. As such, while I would like to see a law prohibiting discrimination for State employment based on sexuality, I'm not the only "employer" whose vote counts in the election. As a result, any such legislation will always be subject to the power of the current regime. That said, I would still support the legislation to stop such discrimination in State employment.

9. Do you support women's reproductive rights, including the "right to choose" as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade? Given that North Carolina has the ninth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, do you support medically accurate sex education that includes information about birth control?

I think there is no role for legislation on abortion. We have our rights to both life and happiness, and it should be up to courts, not legislators, as to whether any one specific act is in violation of that law. If the State takes any action, it would have to step forward and define when "life" begins and ends, and I believe that's an individual moral decision, not something that the government should legislate.

Sex education in public schools, like many other things in public education, will always be in the power of whoever is in charge. I believe that education should not be a tool for pushing propaganda toward any particular social stance. My preferred "solution" to the controversy is to privatize sexuality education altogether while teaching only the biological side of sex in public schools. In other words, let the parents select which type of sexuality education they want their child to receive. Whether or not you agree with your neighbor's choice, they still have the right to choose what they think is best for their children.

10. What steps will you take to increase transparency and outreach to constituents, and root out corruption, not only personally but among other General Assembly members?

When I take office, I will have a Web site to keep people informed on what I'm doing in their Senate seat, and to blog my research and logic in each decision. Of course, my office will promptly read and respond to each email and phone call received from the constituency. I also plan to hold monthly "town meetings" where I can speak directly to the constituency, allowing them to share their thoughts on current legislation.

I refuse to be bullied by my peers in the General Assembly or by special interest groups seeking preferential treatment in legislation. I will stand on my libertarian principles in every decision I make, continually working to keep us free.

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