Residents in Eastern North Carolina are less than three months away from casting their ballots in the mid-term elections. This PRE elections' series spotlights their voices on the issues that matter most to them. In the first part, voters in Craven County express their views on state and local issues.
New Bern resident Catherine Crossley, 67, is a grandma, retired dental hygienist and a registered Republican.
Like most members of her party, Crossley says she supports a statewide voter identification law. “North Carolina is behind the times that they don’t show your driver’s license or some identification every time you vote,” Crossley said.
In November, the state’s voters will either approve or reject a proposed state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would require voters to show ID at the polls.
Crossley says she plans to vote in favor of the ballot measure. “We all need to be accountable for our vote.”
Another issue she cares about is the environment, Crossley said. Specifically, she’s opposed to offshore drilling. She says she’s witnessed the negative effects from offshore drilling in Florida’s Gulf Coast, where she grew up. “It really destroyed a lot of our ecosystem down there and the fishermen and the oyster beds,” Crossley said. “I’m not for it.”
Crossley says she is in favor state efforts to boost solar panel installation. She and her husband recently added solar panels to their home, Crossley said. “We want to leave it better than we found it,” she said. “We’re excited about doing anything we can to help the earth and energy, so we can leave it to my grandchildren.”
Ryan McKinney, 22, lives in James City and tutors students at Craven Community College. He's also a registered Republican, but says he's considering changing his party affiliation to Libertarian.
For him, one of the most important issues is health care, McKinney said.
After he was no longer eligible for to stay on his parents’ TriCare health insurance plan, he applied for Medicaid, he said. But he was denied coverage because the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid to residents who would qualify under Obamacare.
“I could totally get insurance, the state just doesn’t want to give it,” he said.
McKinney says he thinks state lawmakers should accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. “Seeing that change would be a huge step because I know that it’s very difficult if you don’t have that option [Medicaid] to find something else because insurance is expensive.”
Denise Powell, 50, is a retired New Bern police officer and a registered Democrat.
She says she’s mostly concerned about jobs and local infrastructure.
Powell says she’d like to see more local job opportunities for ex-offenders. “We don’t want them going back into that criminal element to try to make a dime,” Powell said.
She’d also like to see infrastructure improvements in the city’s poor communities, Powell said. “Having a road paved, or better proper lighting, things like that. Drainage – we have areas here in New Bern, where if it rains two times a week, it is a flood zone.”
River Bend resident Matthew Rappaport, 49, is disabled and says he's always been an independent voter.
He says he's mostly concerned about the health of democracy. "It’s not what it was 40 years ago. We have so much greed," he said. "If we were to take away money from politics, then it would be better."
Rappaport says politicians should work harder to earn the public's trust. "They really need to let people know what they're going to do, but they can't falter from that. That's the only way we're going to be able to change the baseline in politics and make it better and make it so that people want to come out and vote," he said.
Dick Gatchel, 78, lives with his wife in the Taberna community. He's a retired salesman and a registered Republican.
Right now, he's concerned about how future construction on an interchange along Highway 70 will affect his commute into town.
"It's going to be a nightmare as far as traffic, but we've got to have progress," he said. He says he hopes the city will provide extra police officers to help speed up traffic and prevent accidents during construction.
Another important issue to him is the environment, Gatchel said. He says he and his wife enjoy relaxing in the evenings by the Neuse and Trent Rivers in Union Point Park. "I want to see the water clean and pure as possible," he said.