There are three main candidates vying to become the state’s Democratic nominee for governor. For the next three days, WUNC will profile each of those candidates seeking to hold the state’s highest office. Today we hear from Bill Faison, a state representative who’s a successful plaintiffs’ attorney.
Bill Faison first became interested in politics when he was a high school student at Enloe in Raleigh. As a teenage Democrat, Faison got involved in working on Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign. That’s where he met a number of young, up-and-coming attorneys who were involved in the campaign too.
"What became apparent to me very quickly was that it was attorneys who had time and who could find time and who had the flexibility within their schedule to be involved in politics."
Faison went on to college at UNC-Chapel Hill and stayed there for law school, where he worked multiple jobs to support his young family. He and his high school sweetheart had two children before divorcing. Faison has four more children from a second marriage, which ended almost two years ago after a messy divorce. Right now he has two kids in college, and he says they’re pessimistic about the future.
"When I talk to my college-age kids, what they tell me is they don’t think government works. They understand that when they get out of school there’s a very high probability there‘ll be no job waiting for them. And certainly not a job that would require a college education, and you can’t pay back college loans on jobs that don’t require a college education."
Faison says if he’s elected governor, he plans to introduce a jobs plan to the state. He says he’d increase the sales tax so school districts would have more money in their budgets to hire teachers and other public school staffers whose jobs were cut. He’d close tax loopholes for multi-state corporations to boost state revenue. And Faison says he’d try to bring the tech and manufacturing worlds together in North Carolina to create more jobs. He says the state is struggling with a high unemployment rate.
"And in the midst of that, the Republicans were firing people in their budget. It just makes no sense to me. And then had the audacity to stand up on the floor of the house and say that the centerpiece of their jobs bill was a tax cut for some businesses that could be worth 35 hundred dollars. You can’t hire anybody for 35 hundred dollars."
Faison is known for his fiery speeches on the state House floor, where he first took office in 2005. That’s where his years of experience in the courtroom come in especially handy. Faison had already built a very successful law practice specializing in medical malpractice. But he hasn’t served on major committees at the General Assembly. In terms of his legislative effectiveness, Faison is in the middle of the pack, according to the latest annual survey by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research. But Faison says he has the skills to solve the state’s problems.
"The fact that in this race the putative Republican nominee, McCrory, and both of my opponents, one of whom is the lieutenant governor, and the other a recent former Congressman, would have no jobs plan, that would just be saying hey vote for me I’m a nice guy, life’s going to be good, I don’t believe that. I believe that we have serious challenges that require leadership to try and solve."
The other candidates have discussed how to increase jobs even if they haven’t packaged it into the form of a plan. Faison says Republican lawmakers wasted time in the last legislative session pushing forth a social agenda rather than focusing on jobs. But he thinks that he and many Republicans can work together to improve the state’s economy.
"Now we can slide this radical right social agenda off to the side, and if they won’t do that, the governor has a bully pulpit and if the governor’s willing to do it and has the ability to communicate it, the governor can make it very tough on them. I have the will and the skills and the desire to do that."
Whether he gets to take on that role depends on how effectively he can communicate his message to Democratic primary voters.