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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