Faison banking on jobs plan to win primary

Posted April 12, 2012 2:24 p.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2012 6:40 p.m. EDT

— Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, was on the campaign trail before he was old enough to vote, but he's engaged in his hardest campaign to date as he seeks the Democratic nomination for governor.

Faison faces Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, former Congressman Bob Etheridge, Harnett County physician Dr. Bruce Blackmon, Matthews college student Gary Dunn and retired federal government auditor Gardenia Henley for the Democratic nomination in the May 8 primary.

Faison's parents were active in the close-knit community around the family farm in Knightdale, where his father was on the school board.

"Being a part of decision-making within the community and doing things to benefit people was sort of a way of life," he said Wednesday.

While serving as student body president at Enloe High School in 1964, he had his first brush with big-time politics as a volunteer on President Lyndon Johnson's campaign.

"I really liked what I saw about what the political world could do for people in terms of setting policies that made a difference," he said.

Faison went on to earn undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, set up his own law practice and operate a small farm in northern Orange County.

In 2004, he won a seat in the state House, where he's been an outspoken critic of Republican legislative leaders.

"This Republican administration did not deal with jobs and the economy. They were off on their radical social agenda," he said.

Faison hasn't always toed his own party's line, voting against a cigarette tax increase in 2005 and ruffling feathers with a statewide tour last fall that looked like a gubernatorial bid – before Gov. Beverly Perdue said she wouldn't run for a second term. He said he simply stepped up because no one else had a plan.

"We are worse off than almost anybody else, any other state, and we've got to have a jobs plan," he said.

His plan includes a 0.7-cent increase to the state sales tax rate to generate money to rehire teachers and state workers and give tax breaks to small businesses. Some of his opponents in the Democratic primary have also proposed sales tax increases, but they want the extra money to go entirely to public schools.

"I think they've got the cart before the horse. I think we've got to work on jobs and the economy," he said.

Faison opposes the proposed constitutional amendment that will also be on the primary ballot. It would define marriage in North Carolina as being between one man and one woman. He calls the proposal a political ploy.

He's also opposed to the controversial method of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

"It's not going to help us in this state. Our geology is different than other places. We are at far greater risk for having adverse consequences from it," he said.

Although most polls show him running a distant third to Etheridge and Dalton, he said his appearance in debates over the next few weeks would change that.

"I think what people will readily see is that the leadership they want and need, that the plan that they need to move forward with this state and its economy and get people back to work and to help folks is the plan that I have," he said.