Photo (from left to right): Ed Hanes Jr., Derwin Montgomery, Bruce Davis, Rhonda Foxx, Deidre James (Kathy Manning’s surrogate)

Four of the five candidates for the 6th Congressional District answered voters’ questions at a candidate town hall on Tuesday evening.

Four candidates plus one surrogate for the 6th Congressional
District appealed directly to more than 100 voters on Tuesday evening and talked
about topics like marijuana legalization and the expansion of the Affordable
Care Act.

Derwin Montgomery, Bruce Davis, Rhonda Foxx and Ed Hanes Jr.
were all in attendance while Kathy Manning sent a surrogate, Deidre James, in
her place.

While most the candidates aligned on base issues like women’s rights and social security, some marked differences came to light when it came to the topics of affordable health care and how to support rural farmers.

“If we in North Carolina and in across this country legalize
marijuana, North Carolina can be the next exporter for our rural farmers so
that they can have a new cash crop so that they can continue to thrive and move
forward,” said Derwin Montgomery, who proposed legislation that he called the “Farming
Modernization Act,” which would allow farmers to modernize their farming techniques
as well as grow and export marijuana.

Montgomery has served as a Winston-Salem city council person and most recently represented state house district 72.

His answer came as a response to a voter who asked how the
candidates would take care of rural farmers and alleviate tariffs enacted by
Trump in recent years.

Hanes spoke about the importance of education in rural
areas, mentioning how many students in those communities receive free and
reduced lunches. He also mentioned his record of job creation during his time
as a state legislator.

Davis spoke about the impact that climate change has had on
farmers and the importance of addressing environmental issues.

“We’ve got to address climate change,” Davis said. “So many
Republicans do not believe that there is such a thing as climate change. But
ask any farmer and they’ll tell you how climate change is hurting and we need
to address those policies.”

Davis also said he would want to sit down and talk directly
with farmers themselves to hear from them what they need.

Foxx took a more holistic approach, pointing out not only
rural and urban divisions but also racial and economic discord across the
country. She said that people should have equal access to resources, no matter
their background.

She also mentioned the impact that NAFTA has had on trade.

“When it comes to trade, we are still ravaged from NAFTA,”
Foxx said. “NAFTA took our jobs, it ruined our manufacturing infrastructure
that we had our jobs. To have a president that politicizes trade the way that
Donald Trump has done should offend every North Carolinian.”

On surveillance and personal data

When it came to a question on the increasing online
surveillance by technology companies like Google and Facebook, Montgomery
pointed to issues with current representatives who have not had the courage to
stand up to these multi-billion-dollar corporations.

“The fact of the matter is, the reason that we have not had
policy that has come forward that’s really put the data back in our pockets and
back in our control is because it is a money maker for folks out there to sell
the data to another group of individuals,” Montgomery said. “So, until we elect
individuals who have the courage to say that we are not going to commercialize
individual commercial data, we’re not going to have the policy to move
forward.”

Ed Hanes Jr. represented state house district 72 from 2013 to 2018.

Both Davis and Hanes echoed Montgomery’s sentiments and
lamented that incumbent politicians haven’t stood up to companies that sell
consumers’ private information.

Hanes also cautioned against how technology can be used to
manipulate politics, as when Republicans gerrymandered the maps to split
Greensboro between the 6th and 13th Districts.

“If you think they can carve districts now,” Hanes said.
“You wait until artificial intelligence gets involved with it and they can do
it in nanoseconds.”

Foxx talked about how there hasn’t been funding for
infrastructure to ensure security of online information and pointed to 2018
legislation in Europe, also known as the General Data Protection Regulation as
an example of what the United States should be doing.

“Europe did it,” she said. “Why can’t we?”

Social security and health care

One voter, who identified as a senior, asked the panel
questions that speak directly to senior citizens like Social Security and affordable
health care.

Hanes and Davis both advocated for Social Security, as well
as the Affordable Care Act, with Davis mentioning that he wants to ensure that
seniors have access to prescription drugs and that their health insurance
covers preexisting conditions. He said he supports expanding the ACA as an
alternative to Medicare for all.

Foxx mentioned the current push to reauthorize the 1965
Older Americans Act which helps fund items such as nutrition and supportive
home and community-based services, disease prevention/health promotion services
and more. She also noted that if the country is able to pay for prisons and
expensive wars abroad, then it should be able to fund healthcare for all.

Montgomery said that he is in support for universal healthcare
and reminded voters that when the Affordable Care Act came up for a vote, that
both the House and the Senate were controlled by Democrats.

“We got to have advocates in the room who will stand up to our
fellow Democrats to say that if and when we take back control of the Senate, we
cannot fail the American people again by not having the courage to move forward
the policy that’s going to be transformative to people across this country,”
Montgomery said.

Women’s rights

The last question of the evening came from a young woman who
brought up the issues of women’s rights and abortion rights.

Rhonda Foxx has served as a staffer for many politicians including most recently, Alma Adams.

Foxx the only female candidate at the forum, talked about
the importance of women’s rights, saying, “If women aren’t doing well, no one
is doing well.”

In addition to advocating for reproductive rights, she spoke
about the importance of women’s access to capital as well as equal work for
equal pay.

Hanes, who mentioned his female relatives in his remarks,
said that the conversation of women’s rights is one that he has been a part of
for years. He pointed to his record as a state legislator when he voted against
Republican-led legislation meant to undermine and attack reproductive rights,
and said he supported Gov. Roy Cooper’s moves to veto many of those bills.

Montgomery also pointed to his voting record as an elected
official and noted that he was co-sponsor of a bill to ratify the Equal Rights
Amendment in North Carolina.

Bruce Davis served on the Guilford County Board of Commmissioners for three terms.

Davis pointed to members of his campaign staff in attendance
at the townhall, stating that all except for one are women. He then asked the
men in the room to imagine if all of the lawmakers in the country were women
and they made laws restricting how men could use their bodies.

“We shouldn’t have to have this conversation because it’s
not politics,” Davis said. “You should not legislate what a person will do and
can do with their body.”

James, who spoke on behalf of Manning, said that all of the
questions posed by voters would be brought back to Manning and answered and
posted on her campaign website. She also noted how she’s a supporter of Manning
because of her longstanding connection to the district.

“We’re focused on you and your needs and what’s going to
make this a better district,” James said.

Hanes reached out to voters by reinforcing his connections
with the district and also his successful passage of a bill that equipped more
police officers with body cameras.

Montgomery appealed by talking about his connections to
everyday people.

Davis, who is the only candidate that has served in the
military, said that his experience in the Marine Corps makes him the best
candidate to understand the severity of acts of war.

Foxx talked to voters about the importance of this election
because of the newly drawn maps, which are only in effect for one year. She
also argued that it’s important to reclaim seats on the General Assembly,
supporting the Democratic governor, as well as defeating Donald Trump.

“You need someone who has the fire and the tenacity to get
it done,” Foxx said. “and I am that person.”

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