Photo: (From left to right) Jason Ewing, James Upchurch and Jim Davis

Two former High Point city council members will duke it out in the Republican primary and then face a Democratic political newcomer in the race for the District 6 seat on Guilford County Commission left vacant by Hank Henning.

Neither of the two Republican candidates for the District 6 seat
on the Guilford County Commission is new to politics.

Jim Davis served as a High Point City Council member from
2012 to 2017 and even filled in as mayor for three months in 2014, after
Bernita Sims resigned.

Similarly, Jason Ewing served on High Point City Council from
2013 to 2019, losing his seat to Michael Holmes by just a handful of votes.
Both Davis and Ewing will duke it out in the Republican primary come March 3,
and one will go on to face Democrat James Upchurch in the general election.

Both Davis and Ewing said in interviews that education is at
the top of their list of concerns for the district if they were to win the
seat.

“I know this bond issue for the schools is going to hit us
front and center,” said Davis of the recent $1.5 billion need for Guilford
County schools’ facilities. “I don’t know how the county commissioners is going
to pay for it. It’s going to have to be some sort of tax. I am not an advocate
for property taxes because our county has one of the highest property taxes in
the country.”

Similarly, Ewing also mentioned that he would be in favor of
a sales-tax increase over a property-tax increase if it came down to a decision
between the two to pay for a potential bond.

“Property-tax increases are hard to sell because people who
don’t have kids in the system don’t understand the correlation between property
taxes and education,” said Ewing who has worked as a realtor for years. “We’ve
got to the show the impact that having strong schools has on our community.”

In addition to improving the county’s education system, both
candidates talked about a range of other concerns facing the district.

Ewing talked at length about economic development and how
his experience as a city council member as well as his time on the board of the
High Point Economic Development Corp. makes him a strong candidate for leading
High Point in the right direction for future growth.

“I’m very focused on economic development,” Ewing said. “I’m
focused on bringing new businesses here. But to do that, you’ve got to make
sure you have strong schools and strong infrastructure in place, and be
welcoming to the businesses.”

Ewing points to the success the city has had in using
incentive packages to convince companies to build their businesses in the city.

Davis also mentioned the importance of infrastructure when
it comes to needs at the sheriff’s department or having more nurses in schools.
He also mentioned his concerns about the opioid crisis and how it affects
residents in the district as well as countywide.

Ewing brought up the importance of creating more affordable
housing as well as access to affordable transportation to ensure that
businesses looking for employees and citizens looking for jobs can connect.

“We’ve got a huge workforce housing shortage,” Ewing said.
“We’ve got to find a way to work with the city, transportation, work with PART
and get more workforce housing so we can get these people to jobs where
employees are looking for workers.”

Davis and Ewing also differed slightly in their opinions
about the Forsyth County Commission’s recent decision to pass a resolution in
support of the Second Amendment.

“I would be in favor of it,” Davis said if the possibility
of a similar resolution came to the Guilford County board. “I grew up on a
farm. I’ve hunted and fished my whole life. I had a private shooting range. I
support the Second Amendment.”

Ewing on the other hand, said that while he supports the
right to bear arms, that he understands that the resolution is merely symbolic
and doesn’t have the power to enact any change to local legislation.

“I understand you got to send that message,” Ewing said.
“I’m certainly in support of the Second Amendment but sometimes, adopting
resolutions or measures that don’t really carry any power can be
counterproductive. If there was any concern that the Second Amendment was under
attack at any level, then the more counties that could show support for it, the
better it would be.”

Both candidates pointed to their years of experience as city
council members as evidence of working across the aisle with Democratic
colleagues.

“I’ve never had an issue with working with people across the
aisle,” Davis said. “You can look back at my record on city council. I supported
issues that were good for the public.”

Ewing echoed Davis’ statement.

“I learned early on that there’s nothing Republican or
Democrat about water, sewer, public services or infrastructure,” he said. “I
worked closely with Democratic peers to get things done. Our nation has gotten
so clouded now and there’s so much focus on what this part of this party is
doing rather than getting things done.”

The candidates both mentioned their time on city council and
forming relationships as the reason why they should win the seat.

“I just feel like I have the experience and the knowledge
and willpower to do it and I look forward to serving,” Davis said.

“I developed good working relationships with people at the
local, state and federal level,” Ewing said. “I think that having those
relationships is beneficial to get things done.”

The winner of the Republican primary will face political
newcomer James Upchurch in November.

Upchurch who has worked in the public education system, said
that he was similarly drawn to the race because of education.

“I saw firsthand how our schools weren’t being funded,”
Upchurch said. “So I started going to school board meetings, city council, the
county commissioners. We didn’t have textbooks; we didn’t have school safety.”

Upchurch taught at Ragsdale High School from 2017 to 2018
and then at Smith High School from 2018 to 2019. He said that he was there the
day Smith went into lockdown because of a suspected school shooter.

“Nothing happened but it could have been really bad,” he
said. “That was kind of the final straw for me.”

He said school safety, including increasing safety features
like buzzer systems and cameras, is at the top of his list if he gets elected
to the seat.

As for the $1.5 billion facilities need, Upchurch echoed his
Republican counterparts and said that he would support a sales-tax increase
over a property-tax increase to pay for the bond debt.

“I don’t want to raise taxes but sometimes that’s what we
have to do,” Upchurch said.

Still, he said that he would look for ways to cut costs and
find ways to “spend money more efficiently” if elected.

“I went to school for business,” Upchurch said. “I believe
in fiscal responsibility. I know the issues because I have been through them.”

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