A veteran Republican lawmaker and her Democratic challenger are hotly contesting health care policies and other issues as they fight to represent N.C. Senate District 31, with control of the state Senate potentially in the balance.
Joyce Krawiec is a Republican seeking her fourth term, and Terri LeGrand is a Democrat making her second try for a seat in the General Assembly, after an unsuccessful run in 2018 for a seat in the N.C. House.
The two have sharp differences, even as they talk about some of the same concerns.
Each accuses the other of lying, too.
LeGrand accuses Krawiec of falsely painting her as in favor of "defunding" the police. The charge is made on flyers paid for by outside interests who copied LeGrand's campaign logo and print style, but Krawiec makes the charge on her own as well. She accuses LeGrand of trying to cover up her true stance.
Krawiec points out that LeGrand in 2018 signed a "Future Now" pledge that has a link to a section on model policies, ones that call for "Reimagined Communities" legislation that would "invest police savings" in social programs.
Krawiec shared a LeGrand tweet about a sympathetic video conversation LeGrand had with someone involved in summer protests this year following the death of George Floyd, in which LeGrand said one of the goals of the protests were to reallocate police funding.
LeGrand doesn't deny signing the Future Now pledge, but points out that signers were committing to no specific legislation or policies. She said her conversation with a protester was an act of listening, not an endorsement.
"Part of leading is being open and hearing what other views are," LeGrand said. "My opponent has taken advantage of that. What leadership isn't is just taking things out of context just to scare people. I think the reason she wants to focus on this is that she is running away from her record. She is running for a fourth term. The lives of the people in our community are not demonstrably better."
Krawiec said she doesn't buy LeGrand's explanations: "Why would you retweet and support an organization that contradicts your beliefs?" she asked. "You believe that?"
Kawiec touts her work as chair of the health and human services appropriations committee in the state Senate as proof of success in passing good legislation.
"The Medicaid transition is scheduled to go live in July of 2021," Krawiec said, referring to a plan that transforms the system from a fee-for-service system to one of managed care.
Krawiec sponsored the transformation legislation on the Senate side, and said it is should curb the high costs associated with Medicaid patients using hospital emergency rooms as their main place of treatment. Krawiec said emergency room treatment "is the most expensive care on the planet."
Krawiec said another health and human services issue she's been working on is a bill that would provide some permanency for foster children who, she said, "bounced around from foster home to mom and dad to another foster home" at critical ages of development.
LeGrand looks at the state's health-care system and sees a big hole: the refusal of the GOP-led General Assembly to expand Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
LeGrand and other Democrats blame the General Assembly for leaving millions on the table that the state could get from the federal government with Medicaid expansion, and leaving hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without health insurance.
"Access to health care is a huge issue," LeGrand said. "Even before the pandemic, there were so many people in North Carolina who had no access to health care because of the political decision not to expand Medicaid."
Expanding Medicaid would also create jobs in health care, LeGrand said. In one of her campaign advertisements, LeGrand accuses Krawiec of supporting small business health insurance legislation that would leave people with insufficient coverage. Krawiec brands that a lie.
Krawiec said she and others in the GOP are open to some Medicaid expansion, but that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won't compromise.
LeGrand said she supports "fully funding" the public schools, maintaining that "the issue that affects all other issues is this notion of special interests in corporate tax cuts that have taken money away from the public schools and other investments in our community."
"Underlying that is that you fund what you value," LeGrand said. "I would value health care for people and education, making sure that jobs pay fairly and creating an economy that works for everyone."
LeGrand called school choice "a complex issue," adding that her priority is funding public schools.
Krawiec said Republicans "have provided teacher pay raises every single session," and that while teacher association members have marched in protest (and endorsed LeGrand), not all teachers are in that camp.
"I am a huge proponent of school choice," Krawiec said. "Parents know what is best and what fits. We have some wonderful public schools, but they do not fit for every child."
Using vouchers, Krawiec said, low-income parents can get money to attend "the school of your choice."
LeGrand's endorsements include Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the N.C. AFL-CIO and others.
Krawiec gets the nod from the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, the NRA, N.C. Right to Life and the State Employees Association of N.C. and other groups.
The 31st District includes most of eastern Forsyth County, plus all of Davie County. Although political analysts call the district one that leans Republican in its current configuration, they also say it is one that could be key if the Democrats were to retake the state Senate.
The Old North State Politics blog calls Forsyth County's other state Senate seat, the 32nd District, one that will likely stay in Democratic hands.
In that contest, incumbent Democrat Paul Lowe faces a challenge from Republican Ven Challa. Although the district includes GOP-leaning areas of western Forsyth County, it also reaches deeply into Democratic Party strongholds in Winston-Salem.
Lowe is seeking his third full term. Challa's only other run for office came in 2002, when he ran for U.S. Senate in the GOP primary. Challa finished last among seven candidates.