Corbin, Fox facing off for local seat in state Senate

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House incumbent Kevin Corbin and political newcomer Victoria Fox will face off to replace state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin), who ran for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows but decided to retire after losing in the primary election.

Corbin and Fox are competing to represent District 50, which consists of Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. Early voting starts Oct. 15.

The Cherokee Scout interviewed each candidate, which are presented in alphabetical order.

Kevin Corbin (Republican)

Today a member of the N.C. House of Representatives, Kevin Corbin, of Franklin, has served the public as an elected official in various roles over three decades. Over the last six months, he and other Republicans have been actively campaigning to gain more seats in the House and Senate in order to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s Stay-at-Home and business shutdown orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the past few months, we passed about a dozen pieces of legislation to open things back up in regard to schools, businesses, bars and restaurants,” Corbin said, 

stressing that the lockdown is causing more harm than good. “The governor has vetoed those measures.”

While there are more Republican members in both chambers of the General Assembly, there are not enough to override a veto. Since state law requires a supermajority vote to override a governor’s veto, some Democratic lawmakers would need to cross party lines in order for both chambers of the legislature to meet that three-fifths requirement.

“It is definitely political down party lines,” Corbin said when asked about his fellow lawmakers’ attitudes toward reopening the state. “In my opinion, it’s time to open things back up and let kids go back to school. The original reason for closing things down, wearing masks and social distancing was to keep hospitalizations down. The entire purpose of it was to flatten the curve, and we’ve done that.”

Although he favors a full reopening of the state, Corbin added that people who are vulnerable to the virus need to protect themselves and continue following social distancing guidelines. He also feels that children suffer more from a lack of education than they do from the virus.

“There’s certainly some risk and some danger of kids getting COVID when they go to school, but the risk is minimal,” he said. “Remote learning doesn’t work very well. It is a poor way to educate our children. Our kids need to be in the classroom interacting with a teacher and interacting with each other in person.

“To me that’s worth the risk. I would certainly say some precautions need to be continued, but it’s time for our kids to go back to school in person.”

While he stands with Republicans in the state regarding Stay-at-Home orders associated with COVID-19, Corbin has broken from the party in regard to other issues. He was recently endorsed by the State Employees Association of North Carolina because of his positions on state employment.

“They do not endorse very many Republicans,” Corbin said. “I’m very pro-public school. I also co-sponsored legislation to give raises to state employees.”

He’s also one of few Republicans who supports expanding Medicaid to individuals who are ineligible due to their income level, but also not eligible for government subsidies to offset the cost of privately purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The battle over Medicaid expansion is one of the issues that has created an impasse to passing a new state budget.

“We had a good number of the Republican caucus that was against expanding it because it would require a 10 percent match from the state,” Corbin said, who supports Medicaid expansion with a few caveats. “In the bill that I supported, the state would not have to pay anything. The federal government would pay 90 percent, and the other 10 percent would be funded by a combination of people paying a small premium and the providers contributing back toward that premium.”

If elected to the Senate, Corbin would continue pushing for two legislative issues that he has been working on as a member of the House.

“As soon as I get there in January, one of the first things I’m going to do is introduce the Hands Free NC bill again, this time on the Senate side, and I’ve got three other senators that are already lined up to help me do that,” Corbin said.

“Secondly, I’m going to continue pushing for rural internet. The total of $45 million that’s in the budget now is a good start, but it’s not enough. We need more money for rural North Carolina.”

Corbin also supports completely eliminating state income tax in order to put more money in workers’ pockets.

“The most fair tax is sales tax, and I think that’s where the state should get its income,” he said.

Victoria Fox (Democrat)

Canton resident Victoria Fox, a mother of three originally from Michigan, has lived in North Carolina for about 13 years. She previously worked as a counselor and community organizer helping disadvantaged young women and children who battled extreme poverty, homelessness and drug addiction.

“It’s not easy to go out on the streets of Detroit on the weekends and try to pull young girls off the street and convince them to come into your shelter,” Fox said. “It was not easy to see and hear what a lot of those young women went through; it changes you. You start to see the ugly side of bad policies and bad politics.”

She said the issues that cripple metropolitan regions also exist in rural areas across the country. 

“One of the biggest issues I see is people assuming there is this urban-rural divide,” Fox said.

“Whether you live in Raleigh or here in western North Carolina, if you don’t have access to broadband – either because you can’t afford it or because they don’t run cable lines to your part of the mountains – the fact is you still don’t have broadband. While the scenery changes and the face changes behind the issue, the issue still exists. Poverty is poverty no matter where you go.

“Those same issues of addiction, mental illness and domestic violence that exist in cities exist here. They just look a little bit differently. The issues themselves don’t change, and they directly correlate to the lack of leadership and the lack of representation [by elected officials].” 

Fox, who has never run for an elected office before, decided to enter the race for the District 50 Senate seat after receiving a call from Cooper about a week before the filing deadline in December.

“If you’re someone like me, a mom, you really don’t expect to get a call from the governor of your state,” she said. “It was a big deal. How can you say ‘no’ to the governor? I don’t know how my name got on their list.”

While Fox believes western North Carolina needs new representation, she also thinks voters want political outsiders who don’t simply “fill the room with a bunch of rhetoric.”

“People need to see somebody that looks more like them,” she said. “People need to hear from somebody who knows the same struggle that they live and has common-sense solutions on how to fix these problems. I think it’s time we get away from politicians.”

If elected, her top three priorities would be health care, public education and the economy.

“Getting Medicaid expansion passed would immediately begin to help our economy,” Fox said. “People would have access to health care. We would have money for our struggling hospitals and clinics in the area that are on the verge of closing. We would have money to invest in jobs in the health-care industry.”

She also believes the Legislature should raise the minimum wage to a “living wage” that’s based on the cost of living in a particular area and pass legislation that protects workers. 

“With these awful right-to-work laws in North Carolina, they can fire you for whatever reason they come up with,” Fox said. “They don’t even have to have a reason; they can just fire you.”

Fox is also a proponent of legalizing marijuana, which she believes would provide a boon to the state’s economy. 

“You can throw a stone and hit a farmer,” she said. “Why are we not giving our already struggling growers a new cash crop? 

We would be looking at billions in added revenue for the state, and we can use those billions to invest in public education and broadband.”

Fox also would like to end the state’s private school voucher program.

“It’s absolutely abhorrent that we expect taxpayers to subsidize private institutions, when our children don’t even have access to those institutions in most cases,” she said. “In my neighborhood alone, every last one of them will tell you they’ve applied for that opportunity voucher and didn’t get it.”