Student loans

NC House candidates on COVID policies, homelessness in Asheville

ASHEVILLE — In a meeting a month before the election, Republicans and Democrats vying for the three Buncombe County State House seats disagreed on whether government officials should have shut down businesses during the pandemic, whether homelessness is primarily about housing, addiction, or choice, and whether people should be paying taxes on canceled student loans.

Candidates from Districts 114, 115 and 116 appearing at an Oct. 7 morning forum also debated voter ID requirements, a possible electric vehicle tax and major infrastructure needs in the county. The event organized by the Conservative Council of Independent Business Owners took place at UNC Asheville.

Asked to assess the state’s response to COVID-19, Republicans offered the strongest criticism.

Everett Pittillo, Republican candidate for Broad River-area District 114, said he doesn’t believe there is “a clear answer” to deal with the pandemic and that he will comply with state and local regulations. , “But at times I felt the county was going a little deeper than they should at the local government level when the governor had already released things,” said Pittillo, a heating and air conditioning mechanic from the Broad River community.

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Constituency 114 Constituency 115 Constituency 116

Eric Ager (R) Pratik Bhakta (R) Mollie Rose (R)

Everett Pittillo (R) Lindsey Prather (R) Caleb Rudow (R)

His Democratic opponent Eric Ager de Reynolds called the state’s response “not perfect” but said officials had “handled the situation very well.”

“The real key to moving forward and the way you can do things better is to plan and invest in those plans,” said Ager, a former naval aviator and foreign area officer specializing in political-political operations. military.

NC House District 114 candidates Democrat Eric Ager (left) and Republican Everett Pittillo.

In District 115, Republican Pratik Bhakta said the response was not “effectively managed” and that the government should not decide which businesses should close and which can stay open.

“Leave that to business owners so they have the ability to take the necessary precautions to keep their employees and customers safe,” said Bhakta, a South Asheville hotelier.

His opponent, Candler’s Lindsey Prather, said the state had done its best with the information it had, although “mistakes were made” including not investing enough in public health and not not restarting schools sooner.

“We can’t think of schools as babysitting, like child care – but we have to consider the impact it’s having on our economy,” said Prather, a former teacher who works at the deputy headmaster. of UNC Asheville Admissions.

Republican Mollie Rose of District 116 said Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper had too much decision-making power and there should have been more input from others.

“I think we needed more discussion about virus control measures,” said Rose, a retired school counselor and mental health professional who lives near Weaverville.

Democratic Rep. Caleb Rudow, who was nominated to fill the District 116 seat and is the sole incumbent, did not attend the forum due to a prior out-of-town engagement, organizers said.

All three districts are part of the November 8 back-to-back election to determine the future of the General Assembly. Republicans hope to raise their simple majority to three-fifths in the House and Senate. That’s enough to override the governor’s veto and give him control over issues like abortion, teacher pay and health care expansion.

Below are other candidate responses on the various topics.


Constituency 114

Ager: “The key, really, is to come up with an overall plan to help solve this problem. That means shelters and that means housing. … One of the best examples for me is the food district of veterans here.”

Pittillo: “The first thing as a state legislator, I would look at nonprofits to see if they’re helping or if they’re really using ‘nonprofit’ as a tax filing status. Because it seems like some of them are onboarding them and out and they’re not completing the course, but they’re generating income.”

Constituency 115

Bhakta: “We absolutely have to provide funds to people who want to be helped. But there are people who choose to have the lifestyle they have of being homeless. Frankly, we don’t need to activate this lifestyle if they choose to.”

Prather: invest in the public housing trust fund which can leverage private funds and in drug treatment courts. “And I think we need to expand Medicaid in North Carolina. It would bring money to our mental health programs. It would also help our emergency rooms which have to deal with a large portion of the homeless population.”

NC House District 115 candidates Republican Pratik Bhakta (left) and Democrat Lindsey Prather.

Constituency 116

Rose: Said it was not just a housing issue, but an economic and addictions issue. “One thing Raleigh can do is help the economy as a whole. Support small businesses, create more good paying jobs. That’s one aspect that will help with homelessness.”

Waive state income tax on canceled student loans?

Constituency 114

Agger: Yes. “There’s no real money coming in. … It’s a positive thing that will help empty the books and help people move on with their lives.”

Pittillo: Didn’t say yes or no, but said it was a “tricky issue” and the biggest problem was the mismanagement of the student loan system.

After:North Carolina Sen. Chuck Edwards, with tax break on $1 million PPP loan, opposes student loan tax breaks

Constituency 115

Bhakta: No. Would be willing to hear the arguments for a waiver, “But right now it’s a capital gain because you get compensated for it and therefore I’m in favor of the law as it is .”

Prater: Yes. “Although the law is on the books, our legislature has made an exception for federal business loans for COVID and so we can make the exception for students.”

Constituency 116

Rose: Undecided. “We need to look at the whole student loan system. Because it seems like it has contributed to driving up the cost of education.”

Mollie Rose, Republican candidate for NC House District 116.  Outgoing District Representative Caleb Rudow is not pictured.

The greatest need for local infrastructure


Ager: “I think the roads really need work. I think that’s probably the biggest infrastructure in our county and one of the biggest challenges.”

Pittillo: Roads. “I hear about affordable housing, I hear so many other things. If you don’t have the proper roads and system in place, you can’t do the rest.”


Bhakta: “We’re going to need housing, we’re going to need broadband, we’re going to need all the resources. So to say it’s just a need would be wrong.”

Prather: Broadband Internet. “There are places here in Buncombe County where people can’t access the internet and that means they can’t participate in the local economy.”


Rose: “It’s roads first, of course, but if you’re developing housing, especially dense housing, but you have to look at water and sewage as well.”

Joel Burgess has lived at the WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Do you have any advice? Contact Burgess at [email protected], 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this kind of journalism with a subscription at the Citizen Times.