Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today we discuss the latest news on the GOP calling a violent insurrection “legitimate political discourse,” we review a racial gerrymandering case from Alabama and its potential long-term impacts, and then I’m joined by Eddie Aday, Democratic candidate for North Carolina House District 59 in eastern Guilford County.
Learn More About Eddie Aday:
JD Wooten: Why are you running for the North Carolina House?
Eddie Aday: Because we have a duty to do better. I have a duty to do better. Not just for me, but for our communities, for all children, for the future of our state, we have a duty to do better for the men and women that live in this state. And we have the ability to do better, but it's not happening currently.
JD Wooten: Hey everyone, JD Wooten here. Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. Today, we’ll touch on the latest news involving the GOP and their claim that the January 6th insurrection was “legitimate political discourse,” we’ll discuss a racial gerrymandering case from Alabama and the potential long-term concerns stemming from that case, and then I’m joined by Eddie Aday, Democratic candidate for North Carolina House District 59 in eastern Guilford County.
As you may remember, earlier this month, the National Republican Party officially declared the violent and failed attempt to overturn an election at our nation’s capital of January 6th, 2021, which left 140 police officers wounded and 5 people dead, to be “legitimate political discourse.” This declaration was formally adopted by the party while censuring Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for participating in the investigation into that attack. And no, this was not some Twitter post or off-hand remark at a press conference by a random party official or staffer, it was a formal resolution reviewed and adopted by the national party through an official vote at their national meeting. Since then, a handful of prominent Republicans have made statements condemning that language, but most have either stayed silent or embraced it.
And here I’m torn. I don’t want to sound critical of those with enough courage to stand up against their own party in support of fundamental democratic principles. It’s critical that they do so and we need a lot more of them. At the same time, I don’t want it to sound like I’m applauding such bare minimum conduct either. Have we really lowered the bar so much that we applaud those who speak up in favor of fundamental democratic principles like the peaceful transfer of power after an election? Or that maybe we shouldn’t resort to violent insurrection when our preferred candidate loses? Those kinds of things should be a given, and we should hold officials accountable when they don’t take those positions. But that doesn’t mean we go around giving them high fives for doing the bare minimum either. I’ll save those words of support for when they have the courage to stand up and push back against their own party on important democratic reforms like ending gerrymandering or ensuring that we don’t have racially discriminatory voter ID laws suppressing minority votes.
I say all this to recognize that yes, a handful of prominent Republicans have made statements condemning violent insurrection. That’s not great, but it’s a start. Unfortunately, it looks as though even those few are really doing so because they know it’s bad for the Republican Party politically, not because of their convictions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of these individual Republicans may actually be against the resolution on principled grounds, I just don’t really believe that that’s why this small group has actually spoken up.
Take Mitch McConnell for instance. His condemnation certainly sounds like he genuinely disagrees with the resolution and violent insurrection, and I hope that’s true. Last week, he said, “We saw it happen. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next.” However, based on his long track record of political calculation and pure cynicism, I suspect the only reason Senator McConnell actually spoke out against his own party is because he thinks doing so is necessary to maintain political power and electoral advantage going into the 2022 midterms. Let’s not forget, he let the Big Lie about the 2020 election fester for quite a while until it became clear it may hurt Republican chances in the Georgia senate run-off races, despite knowing it was false. Make no mistake, our two-party political system and our democracy itself depend on having healthy political parties on the left and on the right. Right now, we don’t have that. Elected members of one party are staying silent on an official endorsement of violent insurrection for political expediency. I haven’t combed every single social media account for every single Republican elected official in North Carolina, but I have looked at a lot of them, and I have yet to find a single one condemning the resolution or otherwise speaking out against it. Some condemned the violence last year as it was happening, or shortly thereafter, but they’ve been quiet ever since. I’d be ecstatic to be wrong on this, so shoot me an email if you know of an elected North Carolina Republican official who has condemned calling a violent insurrection legitimate political discourse. Maybe we’ll even give them a shout out for doing the right thing.
Now, on to gerrymandering. You may be thinking wait JD, don’t we get a break from gerrymandering updates this week while the North Carolina General Assembly redraws the maps? Sorry, no such luck. You’re right that we don’t have much real news here on the home front right now. We haven’t seen the new proposed maps from the General Assembly yet, but they have until February 18th to submit their maps to the trial court. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you an update by our next episode. There has been a fair bit of complaining that the Supreme Court didn’t give enough guidance on how to redraw the maps, but I think that’s nonsense. If the Supreme Court told the General Assembly how to draw the maps, they’d be up in arms about judicial overreach and the Supreme Court dictating to the General Assembly how to do its job. It’s also common practice for appellate courts to set general guidelines and boundaries on improper conduct, and then leave it to the discretion of lower courts to apply those boundaries to the particular facts of a case. It happens every single day in court. It’s the way our system works. I should know, my entire livelihood revolves around trying to convince trial courts about how to apply general principles and guidelines set by appellate courts to the particular facts of the cases I’m working on. This is normal. And here’s a hint for the General Assembly – maybe don’t submit a map that’s more extreme than 99.9999% of comparable hypothetical maps. And if you really want to make sure your new maps are ok, try working with those challenging the maps to find something everyone can accept. Both sides will have to compromise some, but that’s a good thing, and courts almost never overturn something that's done with the consent of all parties. Just food for thought.
All that said, today’s gerrymandering update actually involves an Alabama case that made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. The Alabama case is relevant to North Carolina on at least two fronts. First, the case involved racial gerrymandering of the U.S. Congressional maps, which impacts Alabama’s representation in Congress, which in turn has a national impact. That’s nothing unique to Alabama, it’s just a good reminder that an attack on democracy anywhere is an attack on democracy everywhere. Which, by the way, is an important consideration for why the Russia-Ukraine conflict matters too. But unfortunately we have quite enough to discuss here at home these days, so I won’t dive into international efforts to foster and promote democracy, at least not today.
The second and more alarming reason that the Alabama racial gerrymandering case matters to everyone, including North Carolinians, is that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court which had found compelling evidence of racial gerrymandering and ordered the Alabama legislature to redraw the maps. The Voting Rights Act prohibits racial gerrymandering. The legal precedent on this is well settled law and even as recently as 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision from right here in North Carolina where the lower court ruled that the legislative maps were racially gerrymandered. Although federal courts have generally refused to hear most gerrymandering cases over the years, the major exception has long been cases involving racial gerrymandering. In this Alabama case, the lower court appears to have applied long-settled law in a very standard way, arriving at a very predictable result. The court found the maps were racially gerrymandered in violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered the Alabama legislature to redraw the maps.
The Supreme Court was considering an emergency appeal, not full briefing and argument on the merits of the case, so we don’t have a full opinion from the majority of the Court explaining their reasoning. Justice Kavanaugh wrote it’s too close to the election to redraw maps, but given how quickly maps can be redrawn and given the timeline of past cases, this may be more of a rationalization than an actual concern. Chief Justice Roberts sided with the 3 more liberal justices and observed that the district court appeared to apply well-settled law with no apparent errors for the Supreme Court to correct. Justice Kagan wrote that the majority had gone badly astray and that the reversal “does a disservice to the district court, which meticulously applied this court’s longstanding voting-rights precedent.”
We don’t know what the Supreme Court is really thinking or what it will ultimately do. I will say that in my humble opinion, the rationale put forward that it’s too close to the primary election to be redrawing maps just doesn’t hold water. Allowing unconstitutional, racially gerrymandered maps to go into effect is an assault on democracy. I don’t really care how close it is to an election, drawing unconstitutional, racially gerrymandered maps and then claiming you don’t have enough time to fix your attack on democracy should never be rewarded with a delay in remedying those maps. Unfortunately for the people of Alabama, and the rest of the country, that’s exactly what has happened.
I will say, this does leave me with a little extra gratitude this week for our own state Supreme Court and their ruling last week ending partisan gerrymandering here in North Carolina. Never doubt that judicial appointments and races matter, a lot. There will be two North Carolina Supreme Court seats on the ballot this year, so be sure to pay attention to those races and lend a hand when the time comes.
Ok, that’s enough from me for now. Let’s turn to my interview with Eddie Aday.
JD Wooten: With me today is Eddie Aday, a U.S. Military veteran and local farmer who works in the biotech industry. Eddie is running to represent North Carolina House District 59 in Eastern Guilford County. Welcome, Eddie.
Eddie Aday: Thanks, JD. How are you this evening?
JD Wooten: I'm well, thanks. I really appreciate you joining.
Eddie Aday: No, thank you for the invitation. I'm grateful to be here. I want to let that you did forget volunteer firefighter or at leas t former volunteer firefighter. I've been working in Sanford lately, so that's kind of put a brief hold on that, but yeah, you can add that to the list.
JD Wooten: Oh, that's great. So before we jump into your full background, why you're running, your platform and so forth I'll ask you a similar question to one I've asked all my guests so far, what's your first memory of politics or getting involved in politics?
Eddie Aday: First memory of politics, so I lived in south Florida for a while, especially around 2000. And so it wasn't necessarily the election. So we had, Bush versus Gore and the court case afterwards, of the hanging chads. if you remember that?
JD Wooten: I do, yes.
Eddie Aday: Yeah. So that was actually, my first real, I guess, a memory of politics or being actually concerned about politics because it wasn't so much the election itself, but it was the fact that a court case literally changed the outcome of the election counter of the popular vote at the time.
JD Wooten: Right.
Eddie Aday: And that a court case would do that, it was really eyeopening for me. So that's like my first real memory of actually taking notice of what was going on in politics at least at a national level. And honestly, as far as getting involved, probably going to say a Trump second election. I kind of thought the first one was just a one-off. I used to actually work for them down at Mar-a-Lago when I first got to the Marines and he wasn't a very nice person then either. But I thought it was kind of a one-off. But then the second time around, and some of the other people who won elections, I really kind of felt that I needed to get involved and started volunteering at the polls as a poll observer. And really just started reaching out and talking to people and decided that, I'd been a public servant my entire life, and it was to take it to the next step. So that's kind of where my actual involvement started.
JD Wooten: I love it. Well, our former president, as I've talked about with other guests so far on this show, the former president evidently inspired a lot of us to get a little more active than maybe we had been previously. So tell us a little about yourself. Where'd you grow up, that kind of thing?
Eddie Aday: So I was actually born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which most people wouldn't guess. But my dad was in the Air Force. And so, yeah. Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, lived all up and down the west coast of the United States; so Southern California, a little time in Oregon, Washington state, lived in south Florida. A lot of places overseas when I was in the military. So I've been around the block.
JD Wooten: Yeah, definitely. Sounds like you've seen most of the world at this point.
Eddie Aday: I've seen a lot of it. I would say, as far as the United States, I really enjoyed Washington, it's beautiful. The fishing is great in Florida. I love North Carolina. Our mountains, our beaches, the people are nice. I actually fell in love with the East Coast when I first was in the military because I actually was training at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Dam Neck, Virginia, and I'd never been to the East Coast before. And so that Dam Neck, Virginia - Chesapeake area was my first exposure, and I just remember like the architecture and there was like water everywhere and creatures. So that was my first exposure to the East Coast. And then South Florida, after I got out of the Marines, My wife's from south Florida. So we lived there for awhile, which fishing down there's great. Little crowded, so we came up here. And then we've been here since 2007. We found a place in Gibsonville, bought our farm, and we've been here ever since.
JD Wooten: So correct me if I'm wrong, but you're actually a veteran twice over. You first served as a Marine, and then later as a Soldier in the Army National Guard. What led you to serving in uniform and serving twice at that?
Eddie Aday: I think it was kind of a family tradition to start off with. Both my grandfathers were in the military as was my father, my maternal grandfather was Navy, my paternal grandfather and my father were both Air Force, but I really wanted something a little louder and preferrably belt fed, so that's how I wound up in the Marine Corps as a machine gunner.
And it goes back even farther than that. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Civil Air Patrol.
JD Wooten: I am.
Eddie Aday: I know you're an Air Force veteran, thank you for your service, by the way.
JD Wooten: Likewise.
Eddie Aday: Thank you. So I've been in Civil Air Patrol since I was in junior high and also there's a, like a Marine Corps, they call it a citizenship program, kind of a summer camp boot camp, sort of a thing called Devil Pups. I'm sure you're familiar that Marines are called Devil Dogs. So yeah, this is for younger teenage boys go in and it was at at Camp Pendleton, I did that for a few weeks, one summer. And so I really, it was always something I wanted to do. Had to fight a little bit to get in because I actually had really bad eyesight, so I had to get a medical waiver. But yeah, ended up going into the Marine Corps and in the infantry and enjoyed most of it, obviously some of it's not too much fun.
JD Wooten: Sure.
Eddie Aday: Then afterwards I got out and I was in Florida and was out about, probably less than three months, and was going to school, and I really wanted to get back into service. So I joined the National Guard and promptly got sent to Iraq with the infantry out to Western Anbar Province. And yeah, ended up spending another six years.
JD Wooten: Well, again, thank you for doing that twice over. It's something special to put on the uniform once. To put it on two different branches. That's a, that's a whole nother level, so I commend you on that.
Eddie Aday: All right. Perhaps I'm a little biased, but I think that there's a lot that veterans can bring back home. I'm curious, what are some of the lessons that maybe you took away from your time in uniform that you'd hope to bring back to the North Carolina General Assembly?
So I was a fire team leader, and infantry squad leader in Iraq, doing ground combat in Anbar Province, and I think if you talk to any of the guys that I served with, they would tell you the one thing that they remember about me is that they would literally follow me anywhere. And I remember my friend Chris, he said that he actually asked my SAW gunner one time something to that effect. And I can't remember how the whole thing goes, but basically he was like, you know I'd follow you anywhere. First time we were ever under direct fire, we were at this governance center in Anbar Province, and middle of the night, no lights, RPG starts slamming into the building behind you, PKM rattling off. First time under direct fire for any of us, chaotic situation to say the very least. And we get a little bit of break in the fire coming in, and I don't know where my squad leader is, so I started calling them on the team, and we're advancing on his position so we can try and start get some fire on this gun so we can kind of loosen the fire off our position. And that's really all I remember about that particular incident. But then afterwards I remember having this conversation where the guy was like, how do you do that? How do you just do it and expect people to follow you? And my only answer I had for him was because you guys are behind me, because there's no way I can do that by myself. My biggest takeaway is that, and of course is metaphorical, but I will always pick up my rifle and march to the sound of the guns, but only because there's people I trust behind me and that I know that they depend on me just as much as I depend on them. I think that's really what it comes down to about going to Raleigh is that we've really got a fight on our hands for the people of North Carolina, for our neighbors, for our communities. And it's not going to be easy, but there's people behind me that I know are depending on me, just as much as I am depending on them, and I think that's my biggest takeaway.
JD Wooten: I love it, brilliant answer, thank you for sharing that.
Eddie Aday: I'm sorry, that got a little long-winded.
JD Wooten: No, it's from the heart. It's wonderful. And, just in case serving in two different branches in the military and all the experiences you just listed off, weren't enough, as I understand it, you actually went back to Iraq and then later Afghanistan again, in a civilian capacity, doing diplomatic security detail for the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Tell us about that experience.
Eddie Aday: And the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.
JD Wooten: Oh, wonderful.
Eddie Aday: Yeah. I guess obviously glutton for punishment, honestly.
JD Wooten: Yeah, kind of sounds like it.
Eddie Aday: Honestly, there's a job that needed to be done. The military left me proficient in a pretty particular skillset. I came back from Iraq in 2004 was going to school, had started a small business doing aircraft detailing down in Florida, was really just working 60 hours a week, trying to go to school, had a baby, pretty full plate. And I remember when I was over there right before we left I talked to these guys that were doing security. I was like, okay, I just kind of put it on the back burner. But after about 10, 11 months of doing what I was doing previously, I was actually up on the tail of this Gulf Stream, so like 30 feet up on the air, polishing out this aluminum down in south Florida, it's hot, I'm tired. And my cell phone rang, and it was actually one of the companies that I had applied for to go work security. And they're like, we want you to come to this. And that was it, that's how it started. So I went, and this was actually working for the State Department as a civilian contractor working for the State Department and doing high-threat mobile security in Iraq at first. Because I had been a designated marksman in the Marine Corps, State Department doesn't really like to use the S word. So I'd done that in the Marine Corps, so I ended up doing that for the State Department. First in Iraq then Afghanistan. Eventually became the Operations Chief for the U.S. Consulate we were building a Northern Afghanistan near Mazar-i-Sharif. Did that for awhile. It was different, very different than being in the military.
JD Wooten: Sounds like it.
Eddie Aday: Got shot at way more doing that than I did in the military. Again, it's one of the things that we do because the job needs to be done.
JD Wooten: I love it. That sense of duty and that call to serve. So turning back to North Carolina then, and this election, here's the million dollar question. I know it sounds simple, but I always found it challenging to answer succinctly when I was a candidate. Why are you running for the North Carolina House?
Eddie Aday: Because we have a duty to do better. I have a duty to do better. Not just for me, but for our communities, for all children, for the future of our state, we have a duty to do better for the men and women that live in this state. And we have the ability to do better, but it's not happening currently. There's a variety of reasons, whether they're political or environmental, or I don't even know what other adjectives I can think of, but there are a variety of reasons, but we can do better. We can do better with our public education. We can do better with our job growth. We can do better with our training and education of our children. We can do better with our healthcare. We can do better all around and we need to do better. Like it's literally our duty for the future of ourselves, for our community resiliency, for our children. It's our duty to do better. That's why I'm running.
JD Wooten: I think that's a great answer. I think that really speaks to what you were talking about, that broader call to service, and the continuity of that theme all the way through. And it sounds like you've identified that continuing call here in North Carolina, and that we need to take to Raleigh.
Eddie Aday: It really, to me, it is because, I've been a public servant my entire life, especially in my adult life. And I really think that's what the people in this district, in my community, in this district in North Carolina, I really feel like that's what they deserve is public servants, not politicians.
JD Wooten: Right. I couldn't agree more. You mentioned it just a second ago. I know your platform is very pro public education. You've also written that you want to see increases in apprenticeships, technical training, public service programs. Basically you want to make sure our youth are ready to enter the 21st century workforce. That sounds fascinating to me. Could you tell us a little more about what you've got in mind there?
Eddie Aday: Yeah, sure. So I am a proud product of the North Carolina community college system here. I think we've got a great community college network and I got a bachelor's degree from Western Carolina and I'm actually more proud of my work at Alamance Community College than I am of graduating from Western Carolina. Not to shame Western Carolina at all. I just, the community colleges to me are like, that's where the metal meets the meat. That's, that's where things happen for people, that's where we get our technical training, our vocational training, our first responders, this is where it happens. And I'm a huge proponent. And I really think that with the community college system we have with the capabilities that they have, that's really something we need to be focusing on. And letting people know that that's an option starting with like our guidance counselors and our teachers. Making sure that students know that this isn't something to be ashamed of, that this is a viable option, especially when we're talking about associates of science degrees and technical training. That you can get an associates of science in biotechnology. We're number three in the country for biotechnology. Something like 700 companies currently are in North Carolina. I have to look at the actual stats. I haven't seen them in a while and just got updated. But the economic engine of like the research triangle park, but then also all the way out in Clayton, down in Sanford, is huge and it's not just for biotech, but they all the support there. The mechanics, the HVAC, the welders, the drivers. Just huge economic engine and there is not enough trained skilled workers to support this industry currently, and it's only growing. And so there's no reason that we are not pushing our youth towards these technical vocations where you can go and get an associates of applied science, not be $60,000 in debt, and have a job that will pay your bills and that you'll be proud of. And it's necessary because manufacturing is here that is high tech manufacturing, and that's really what we need to be training our youth for. And it's what we have the ability for, and I think that we can honestly do it. And this is little pet project of mine. I don't know how likely it is, but so like the California Conservation Corps has this citizenship program where people can go in, do a term of service, learn kind of, I guess, citizenship skills, societal skills. But kind of like grow as a person, but then it's almost like the GI bill. You get a stipend for tuition afterwards. Go and do two years, you get a stipend while you're there, meet some people, learn some job skills, learn living skills, and you go out and you've got tuition paid. And that's ideally what I would love to see something like that. And I don't know how realistic it is, but blue sky scenario, I would love to try and implement a program like that.
JD Wooten: I think that's amazing. It's that is, I used to talk about that on the campaign trail, my family has talked about it for decades. That's what got my grandfather, it was literally the GI Bill, but still that model, that's what got my grandfather off the eastern North Carolina farms and into working for the state as a bank auditor. And then that created a whole new wealth of opportunities for him to go from being the youngest of 12 children born and raised on an eastern North Carolina farm to having a bachelor's degree and being an auditor for banks for the State of North Carolina. And that was pivotal in our family, and I know that it can be for so many others. So I'm really glad to hear that that's a pet project of yours that you want to champion. I'm happy to stand behind you.
Eddie Aday: I appreciate it. I don't know what it would take. I don't know what sort of infrastructure is in place already for within the state laws. But yeah, that is something that I said blue sky, that's something that I would be able to see fruition at some point in my lifetime.
JD Wooten: Right. And for me, the hang up is if you happen to put on the uniform I mean, first off, if you happen to be qualified, earlier, you talked about the difficulties of getting into service because of physical limitations, like even just basic eyesight issues. There are so many people that can't, or perhaps don't want to, serve in uniform, but that doesn't mean they can't serve somewhere else for a similar deal.
Eddie Aday: You hit the nail on the head right there and you do the service does not have to be military.
JD Wooten: Exactly. Exactly. I think that would be great if we had something more like that. So you've got this guy's buy in.
Eddie Aday: Appreciate it.
JD Wooten: So I also really like what you've said about being good stewards of our natural environment. What are some of the challenges facing North Carolina as you see them, especially when it comes to, we've got this tug of war that's always there balancing industry and the environment. I know it's a challenge, , where do we start in trying to address some of those challenges and what are they, as you see them.
Eddie Aday: And that is a great question. And this is one I'm going to be completely honest about. This is probably the subject that I am least familiar with. So I'm an avid outdoorsman. I hunt, I fish, I like to hike, I love to camp, and North Carolina has great opportunities for all these things. And it's something that you know, a lot of people here that that's where they're here for they're for the beaches, for the mountains, for the hunting, for the fishing. I don't necessarily have all the answers to that one. So I work in biotech for a fairly large company, and I know that our company in particular has taken a lot of initiatives on their own to reduce waste, to make sure that we don't have toxic materials coming out into the watershed to make sure that we're not wasting energy with like outdated infrastructure. And I think those are some basic things. I know that the Department of Environmental Quality has an environmental stewardship initiative that has done some pretty good work, as far as I know, over the past 20 years as far as save like 15 billion gallons of water, reduced waste by like four point something million tons. So all those things I think are a really good. I know that we've talked about greener fuels and some other issues. And I will say that some of those are probably a little bit above my, I guess, technical knowledge as far as to what is actually commercially feasible. But I think those are definitely things that we, as a whole, we need to look at and realize that, yeah, we need the industry that we, people need jobs. People have to put roofs overhead, they have to feed them, but there's gotta be some compromise there.
JD Wooten: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with all of that. And also, hey, I can assure you, they're going to be plenty things that come up, and you say, ah okay, I need to get smarter on that, or maybe I need to talk to a different group. What I really heard there, though, that I love is the fact that I think your values are in the right place. And so take that and your past experience. It sounds to me like you're more than willing to sit down with the right people, and that's all we can ask for our representatives. Sit down with the right people to do right by North Carolina. We can't ask them to be experts in everything.
Eddie Aday: Yeah, and I think it's really going to be compromised too. Not just sitting down with the right people, but we're probably gonna be sitting down with people with competing goals if we're talking about the conservationists versus industry. Probably have some competing goals as far as like their primary objectives. But the key to that I think is really going to be finding that middle ground and where we can find a compromise that works for the greatest amount of people.
JD Wooten: Oh, absolutely. You've got to get all the right players in the room. You've got to have that conversation across the spectrum. I commend that approach. I think that's the way we achieve the best North Carolina we can for everyone.
Eddie Aday: Completely agree.
JD Wooten: One last area on your platform that I do want to ask on. This one's obviously a bit personal. Tell me about some of the things you've seen in the veterans' community that you think we need to be doing a better job of addressing as a state?
Eddie Aday: A veteran yourself, I'm sure you're aware that some of the challenges we face, especially, men and women who've suffered some trauma and whatnot. Very, very high propensity for substance abuse and suicide. Way higher than the average population. One of my friends keeps a list of people that we've served with that have been lost, either to combat, to accidents, or to suicide. That list currently says about 50 people or so. I was in the military for what, did two tours or one tour with the military and then another almost 10 years for the State Department, but 50 names is long, especially of people that you personally know, and more than a few of them have been suicide after the fact. It's a lot for the human psyche to deal with. I think there's a culture that the military has tried to change about not talking about things you know taking your feelings and pressing them down. And we all know that basic psychology 101 tells us that that is the exact wrong thing to do. I think the military has really tried to identify that and stop some of that. But those are the problems we're really facing is people trying to reintegrate and then dealing with either substance abuse or depression or suicide. And then the resulting homelessness the VA is trying. I know they are, but they're woefully underfunded. They have the bureaucratic process that people have to go through. And I think that as a state, we're like the most veteran friendly state in the country. I forget what the, 63,000, I think, veterans we have living here. We kind of come back to that duty to do better, especially for our veterans. The depression and stuff that is a very real thing, but it's temporary. And I think that's where some of the substance abuse and stuff comes from, and this kind of goes back to retraining too. Getting people through that darkness, I mean, I've had my own issues with it. I call it the dark times. It was very difficult for me to deal with, took a lot to get over, and I am grateful for my friends and my family. We need to be supporting our veterans because of that, because they need to know that it's okay to reach out. It is okay to say, I need help. And then not only that, but helping them retrain, find jobs, deal with the homelessness, deal with the substance abuse, because we owe it to them. It's probably one of the most difficult things that we have to do and it's going to be expensive, but it's...
JD Wooten: I think we owe it to our veterans. We asked them to serve, we put them in this position, and we owe it to our veterans to take care of them when they come home.
Eddie Aday: I know there's the VA. I mean, the VA tries, but it's a big system. There's a lot of veterans. And I think it's something that as a state, that we could do better. And we had a $6 billion budget surplus.
JD Wooten: Yeah, right.
Eddie Aday: There's obviously funding. There are resources. We just need to make it a priority.
JD Wooten: My personal opinion, we as a society, we as a community, we as a state, we as a nation, you know at all levels, we owe our veterans and especially our combat veterans who are struggling, we owe them. And the right thing to do is to support them after the fact and again, at all levels. So, for instance, when I was at Wake Law, there was a group of students that I had the fortune to tag along with. I don't want to claim credit, we kicked off a new Veteran's Legal Clinic around the time I was a student, because there are so many veterans in North Carolina that just need help with some basic legal issues and admin issues. For example, discharge upgrades, people that got bad conduct discharges or other than honorable and are suddenly being denied certain benefits. And when we look back on it, we say, wow, we just, we just didn't understand mental health issues when these service members came back, largely the Vietnam era. They came back, they acted out, which today we understand as being PTSD and other mental health issues coming back from combat, and then they ended up getting, depending on the severity of that, they got bad conduct discharges or worse and denied benefits, and that has a lifelong lasting impact that contributes to a lot of the things you were talking about.
Eddie Aday: Oh yeah, especially you start getting into debate and law enforcement with fines and court costs. And if you're already unemployed or underemployed, it just snowballs and you're just, then where do we go?
JD Wooten: Right. And so you take a veteran, that's been denied benefits because of a mental health issue that led to a bad conduct discharge. Years later, now they're experiencing homelessness, they're underemployed or unemployed, and it's a spiral. And I think we have a duty to do something at every level. So I appreciate the fact that you sound ready and willing to take that charge on at the state level as well when you get to Raleigh.
Eddie Aday: See, this is why I voted for you, JD.
JD Wooten: All right. I didn't plug that and we're not cutting that. I love it. Thank you.
Eddie Aday: Yeah.
JD Wooten: So what else do you want people to know about you Eddie?
Eddie Aday: I'm about the community. I'm about my neighbors, about my friends. I'm about the people in our state about making sure that people have a voice. I don't care if you have an R by your name a D by your name and I by your name or whatever other letters I'm missing. It's community that means more than anything. And that's one of the things I really hope to bring to not only well that I am bringing to this campaign and that I hope to bring to HD-59 is that that's what really matters. It's community above all else, and not just your neighbors to your left or right, but our community as a state, and on a more macro scale, our community as a nation. That's the important part, not the politics.
JD Wooten: So where can people learn more about you, sign up to volunteer, and donate to your campaign?
Eddie Aday: So first off I want to say we've actually built some pretty good momentum starting off. And I'm really, really happy about that. But yeah, it's definitely going to take all hands on deck to keep this going and to be able to make the difference we want to make. That being said, you can go to adayfornc.com, look at our campaign page, see what we're about, see what issues we're about. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are there also. What I would really grateful for is a donation. First of all, I'd be very humbled and I am every time somebody makes a donation. I don't even have the words to express how grateful I am every single time.
JD Wooten: I'm very familiar with that gratitude.
Eddie Aday: Yeah. I mean, every dollar I'm just humbled that people believe in what we're doing that much. They're like, yeah, I'm going to support you. I do call time all the time. If you want to send me an email, you want to talk in person, I will call you, and we can have a conversation about whatever you want to talk about.
JD Wooten: I'll confirm all of the above. I've been on the receiving end of Eddie's call time. I've made my contribution. I encourage you to go out there and make yours and thank you, Eddie. Thanks so much for taking the time. Thank you for running and fighting for our community.
Eddie Aday: JD, thank you for having me. I'm grateful that you took the time to talk to me and invite me here.
JD Wooten: Thanks again to Eddie for joining me today. Don’t forget to visit adayfornc.com to learn more about Eddie, donate, and sign up to volunteer. I’ll leave links in the show notes for his website as well as his social media accounts so you can keep up with his campaign. As always, if you or someone else you know should be on the show, send me an email at email@example.com. That’ll be in the show notes, too.
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