RALEIGH — A Richmond County native has put in the first bid for state Sen. Gene McLaurin’s seat, but the freshman legislator says he’s prepared to put up a fight.
“I welcome competition,” McLaurin said Wednesday in response to a recent announcement that Tom McInnis, a Republican business owner from Rockingham, will be running to represent District 25 in the North Carolina State Assembly. “I will be seeking re-election and I’m proud of the record that I’ve built this year in Raleigh.”
McLaurin, a Democrat, said that, despite criticism he has faced locally for his voting record, he has built “great relationships across party lines.”
“A good idea is a good idea,” he said, adding that he has supported several pieces of Republican-led legislature.
That legislature has included the Regulatory Reform Act of 2013, established with the interest of encouraging business to locate to the state by lowering environmental restrictions on operations. At the same time, he said, he has served on an Environmental Review Committee to make sure “sensible regulations” are put into place.
He also supported drug-testing for those applying for workforce development programs.
“Anyone who’s in a workforce program where they’re preparing for the workforce and receiving public assistance for that training should be tested for drugs,” said McLaurin. “That’s what they’re going to be required to do when they apply for jobs.”
McLaurin was taken to task by the Scotland County Democratic Women in December for his vote in support of cutting unemployment benefits, which he said was in the interest of small business who would otherwise have to make hefty payouts.
“As I’ve said before, I vote my conscience first and I’m a businessperson, so that’s my background and I’ve been very supportive of the business community while in Raleigh,” he said. “… But for the most part, I did not support the majority.”
McLaurin said he was strongly against decisions by Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration that led to cuts to education, the state’s decision to opt out of the Medicaid expansion offered as part of the Affordable Care Act and a tax law that was billed as a “reform” but was really a “shift,” giving tax breaks to the rich and large corporations.
McInnis, the owner of Iron Horse Auctions in Rockingham, has been a member of the Richmond County Board of Education since 2006 and vowed in his candidacy announcement to reduce “unnecessary testing” and push for schools to have the ability to decisions on the local level.
“As a small business owner and lifelong North Carolinian, I have seen firsthand the need for a senator who will represent every citizen in our district with bold and decisive leadership,” he said in a statement. “The two issues that are paramount to the success of our community are high-quality, 21st-century schools and more abundant and prosperous job opportunities.”
McInnis was unable to be reached for this story.
McLaurin said the state’s rising numbers of unaffiliated voters — 5,231 in Scotland County — shows that more and more people are eschewing the idea of voting strictly by traditional party lines. A little more than 61 percent of Scotland County’s registered voters are Democrats, with 22 percent of the population registered as Republican.
“I’ve voted 900 times,” he said. “I know not everyone is going to agree with every single vote I took, but I believe I have carved out a good place here in Raleigh.”
District 25 includes Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland and Stanly counties. Democrats outnumber Republicans and unaffiliateds by far in Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties, but in Rowan and Stanly counties, about 42 percent of voters are registered Republican — and unaffiliateds make up at least 20 percent of the voting population.
The filing period for the November 2014 election begins at noon on Feb. 10 and ends at noon on Feb. 28.