Carolina Democracy

Getting North Carolina Back on Track, Starting with Senate District 7!

April 22, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 15
Getting North Carolina Back on Track, Starting with Senate District 7!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Getting North Carolina Back on Track, Starting with Senate District 7!
Apr 22, 2024 Season 3 Episode 15
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Dr. David Hill, Democratic candidate for District 7 of the North Carolina Senate in New Hanover County. We also kicked off the episode with updates on several of the lawsuits here in North Carolina focusing on gerrymandering and the latest power-grabs by the GOP-led General Assembly.

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Dr. David Hill, Democratic candidate for District 7 of the North Carolina Senate in New Hanover County. We also kicked off the episode with updates on several of the lawsuits here in North Carolina focusing on gerrymandering and the latest power-grabs by the GOP-led General Assembly.

Learn More About Dr. David Hill:

Democracy Docket:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

David Hill: If we win Senate District 7 right here in New Hanover County, we have a golden opportunity to break that supermajority bring all the parties back to the table, restore civility, give the veto back to our next governor who let's just say it has got to be Josh Stein and really just get the state back on track.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re Dr. David Hill of New Hanover County, a physician by trade, who is running to represent District 7 in North Carolina Senate. District 7 includes all of New Hanover County except of course the Wilmington notch, which I know I’ve joked before if you want to know if the Republicans have attempted to gerrymander the maps in their favor, look to see if the Wilmington notch is carved out of the district. If so, then you’ve almost certainly got yourself a gerrymandered map. Now every state senate map for the last several cycles has had some carve out of the county to put a few precincts in with a neighboring county to account for population. However, the more gerrymandered the map, the more pronounced that carve out and the more likely it dipped into the heart of downtown Wilmington. And of course, they’ve got a pretty decent carve out this time around that digs right into some heavily Democratic precincts in downtown Wilmington.

Since this is our first state senate interview of the 2024 cycle, I thought we could also cover the state senate a little like we did the state house a few weeks ago when Ashton Clemmons was on. So here it goes – there are 50 state senate seats across the state. State Senate seats, like State House seats, are drawn such that each district covers roughly the same number of people, give or take a little. Also like the State House, in the process of drawing the districts, the General Assembly first groups the counties, then draws the districts within those grouping so that no district lines cross a county grouping boundary, although plenty of districts include all or part of multiple counties. 

As with the State House and U.S. Congressional maps being used this year, this State Senate map was passed just late last year and is being used for the first time this cycle. If you dump all the available data into a database and analyze the current 50 state senate districts based on past voting patterns, what quickly becomes apparent is that something in the ballpark of 24 of those districts will have a Republican candidate win by 10 points or more in most elections. On the other hand, only about 17 of those districts will see a Democrat win their respective race by 10 points or more in an average election. So right out the gate, we’re looking at a nearly 24-17 split of completely uncompetitive races for the state senate. Since there are 50 seats, a party either needs 26 seats for the majority, or 25 seats and the Lieutenant Governor who breaks the tie, like the Vice President in the U.S. Senate. So all the action for control of the State Senate ends up in the other 9 districts.

Unfortunately, even of those 9 districts, even fewer are probably in play. Why’s that? Well, of those 9 districts, another 3 are still likely to favor a Republican by at least 5 points, though by less than 10. None are likely to favor a Democrat by 5-10 points. That leaves 6 districts, out of 50, drawn in such a way as to favor one party or the other by less than 5 points. Now, a few of these districts are also in areas that are seeing quickly changing demographics, like the coast getting new retirees, which tends to favor Republicans, or Wake and Mecklenburg getting new young professionals with advanced degrees, which tends to favor Democrats. I’m not going into any greater detail on these district break downs or stats because these numbers are based on composites of the last several election cycles and do not take into account candidate strength, fundraising, overall electoral environment like the popularity of the presidential candidates, and so forth. A lot can and will change, from whatever it might be at the moment, and certainly from what it has been in the past. 

But, these numbers are starting points to show that all things being equal, the state senate is not a super competitive field at the moment and the Republicans have gerrymandered such that all they need to do is win the seats that should already favor them by 5 points or more and they have a majority with votes to spare. If they win all the seats that are drawn to favor them by even a fraction of a percent or more, they get to a supermajority. 

I say all that to point out that in districts that will be competitive, and that Democrats are investing in, we need to really make sure to support them, and that includes District 7 in New Hanover County. As you’ll hear me mention in the interview, District 7 is on all the major lists so far for this cycle. Other districts that are getting a lot of attention so far include Districts 11 (Nash, Franklin, and Vance Counties), 13 (Wake County), 18 (Wake and Granville Counties), and 42 (Mecklenburg County). That list again with candidates is District 7 (David Hill), 11 (James Mercer), 13 (Sen. Lisa Grafstein), 18 (State House Rep. Terence Everitt), and 42 (Woodson Bradley).

As I’ve mentioned before, in a presidential election year, when voter turnout is expected to be huge, and down ballot candidates are going to have an extremely difficult time breaking through the noise of all the state-wide and national races above them on the ballot, trying to move the need by more than 5 points in any individual race is a monumental challenge. Even still, these are the races that are at or around that margin, and of course several are much closer, so we need to do everything we can to support them for the best chance of preventing another Republican supermajority in the state senate.

Next, I want to do a quick update on the myriad of court cases impacting democracy working their way through the courts, but I’ll be brief about it. 

First, Pierce v. North Carolina State Board of Elections, a federal lawsuit challenging the state Senate map based on allegations that the map dilutes the voting power of Black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act in northeastern North Carolina. The request for a preliminary injunction was denied and the appeals court affirmed that ruling on March 28th. However, on April 11th, the plaintiffs ask for a rehearing at the appellate court, and no decision has been made on whether to rehear the case. Rehearing is not extremely common, although given the stakes at issue here, they might do it just to give the ruling the full weight of the entire circuit rather than the 3-judge panel which heard the case. That said, even if it were a rehearing, I’d be pretty surprised if anything changed this close to the election, which again was the reason the GOP waited so long to draw the maps in the first place. I hate when people get rewarded for delay tactics, but you’ve heard me rant on that before, no need to repeat it today.

Second is Williams v. Hall, a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s congressional map. This case has been consolidated into the next case, meaning the same court is considering it at the same time because of the overlap in issues, evidence, and so forth. That just makes things fare more economical for everyone. No major updates since the consolidation order last month.

And of course that third case is North Carolina NAACP v. Berger, a federal lawsuit challenging all three legislative maps -- congressional, state House, and state Senate map -- for violating the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. Again, this case was recently consolidated and nothing new since then.

And the fourth redistricting case, Bard v. North Carolina State Board of Elections, the lone state court case. This is the case challenging all three maps arguing that because the North Carolina Constitution guarantees citizens a right to “frequent” and “free” elections, it “surely… guarantees them the right to ‘fair’ elections” as well. It’s a reasonable argument from a logic standpoint, but I have my doubts about the current majority suddenly changing their minds on gerrymandering. Afterall, they did recently just go through the completely unprecedented move of rehearing a case for no other reason than a change of personalities on the bench, so given the extreme activism required to green light gerrymandering in the first place, I’d be shocked if they’ve had a change of heart. But hey, weirder things have happened I suppose. Anyways, that case is in the motion to dismiss phase, meaning the trial court will soon consider and rule on whether the legal theories presented are even entitled to move forward into evidence collection and perhaps a trial. More to come on that as it develops.

Another case that I don’t think I’ve mentioned before, but worth a quick side note and not a gerrymandering case, is yet another case by the name Cooper v. Berger, no telling how many of those exist at this point, but the case to which I’m referring is a challenge to Senate Bill 749 that involved the appointment power to the state board of elections. Under current law, the Governor’s party gets three appointments, and the other party gets two. Come to think of it, I think I did mention this earlier, because I remember pointing out that in effect, this means the majority of voters control the board of elections by way of their election of the governor, a state-wide candidate. The General Assembly tried to take that power from the governor, which would mean that the appointment power rests with the heavily gerrymandered branch of government instead. 

Also, the General Assembly thought it’d be a good idea to have an even number of board members which would, in this divisive partisan environment, mean that effectively any controversial, partisan decision would be stuck at the board without resolution unless it somehow overcame basic partisanship. I think we’ve all witnessed how rare that is, just look at the U.S. Senate’s inability to muster enough votes to convict the twice impeached former president even after he incited a deadly insurrection at the Capitol. I won’t go on a further rant, but suffice to say any board that needs to be able to make decisions should have an odd number, and that’s just a fundamental management principle. 

Thankfully, the Court found this law unconstitutional in March. Legislative defendants are appealing this decision and I supposed we’ll eventually find out just how partisan the current majority in the N.C. Supreme Court wants to be, but this kind of power grab has been struck down so many times in the state’s history that it would be yet another major departure from precedent to reverse this ruling. That said, they are a very activist, partisan majority on some issues, and this has the potential to fall into that bucket, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

And the final case I’ll mention today, at least here in North Carolina, is Democracy North Carolina v. Hirsch, a case challenging part of S.B. 747 and the ways in which is hinders voting rights. This case has been scheduled for trial in September of this year. It’s possible that something happens before then to resolve the case, but if not, that trial kicks off on September 3rd.

Ok, I think that covers at least the major cases in North Carolina at the moment, but speaking of trials, we’ve now had our first full week of the first ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president. This week didn’t see anything unusual or out of the ordinary as far as I could tell, except perhaps the speed with which they actually selected the jury. I would have guessed jury selection could take much longer given a defendant with near 100% name ID. Trying to find people without strong opinions of the former president is no easy feat, but they do exist, and evidently they’ve managed to find at least 12 and a few alternates. Everything about this trial is unprecedented, like so much involving the former president, so there’s no good barometer for these things. That said, I know even in civil trademark and patent trials we usually run into people with biases about local companies or parties to the case, or perhaps the technology at issue (yes, that happens, sometimes in the jury pool somebody knows somebody who loves this product or hates that product, whatever the case may be), and it can take the better part of a day to get a jury of 8 – civil trials don’t require 12 jurors – and in exponentially less notorious cases.

Something else I’ll be watching for in the coming weeks are the judge’s major rulings on evidence, to the extent there are big rulings left to be made. For example, the judge may be asked to rule on admissibility of certain testimony. He’ll have to decide if it’s relevant enough to a claim or defense at issue to overcome any prejudice it might create. For example, evidence of a different affair from the one underlying the current case may or may not be relevant here. Generally speaking, past conduct is not relevant to a current accusation, unless it’s being used to show something like a motive, intent, a common plan or scheme that’s part of something broader, or a few other limited exceptions. However, the affair is not really at issue here anyways, but rather how it was handled. So evidence of how the former president handled affair before he was running for office as compared to when he was a candidate might actually be relevant to establish that his intent was to cover it up and deprive voters of that information. Anyways, we could spend days getting ourselves wrapped up in hypotheticals, but we’ll leave that to law professors and cable news TV pundits. But as you read about evidentiary rulings in the coming weeks, I’d encourage you to really think through the fundamental question of whether something is truly relevant to this alleged crime, and if so, does that relevance make it important enough to overcome any prejudice it might create.

And finally, you may have heard that a UNC board of governors committee voted to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at all 17 campuses. This is a real travesty and it’s hard to see this as anything other than a direct attack on inclusiveness at our UNC schools. Evidently, the move was passed in less than 4 minutes with no discussion. That’s a bad look even if they had a good reason for it, and given the near total lack of comments on this move, I suspect they don’t have a good reason other than just being caught up in the anti-DEI, anti-woke fervor of the moment and those from the General Assembly who appointed them. The full committee will vote on this policy change in May as I understand it, so if you’re in a position to make some noise about this, be all means, please do.

Ok, that’s enough out of me for today. Let’s get to our guest, Dr. David Hill, hope you enjoy! 

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With us today is Dr. David Hill of New Hanover County, a pediatrician by trade who's running to represent District 7 in the North Carolina Senate. Welcome, David. 

David Hill: Thank you so much for having me, JD. I'm really excited to be here. 

JD Wooten: Well, it's our pleasure. And let's start like we always do. What's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics?

David Hill: Oh man, in part, it depends on how you define politics, but my maternal grandparents were Holocaust refugees who came to this country in 1938. So even as a child, I grew up hearing about how they got here and why they came here. And to me, that's definitely political, right? 

I learned about what authoritarianism and xenophobia can do not only to a society, but to individual people in that society, very close to me, from a very young age. And I think that really taught me to value a free and democratic society. Now that was not my only exposure to politics, my dad studied in the early 1960s and he wrote his thesis as a political science major on the Soviet block, the Soviet influence area in Eastern Europe, during the very height of the Cold War.

And he loved to talk about that stuff and sort of related to where we were and our own politics in the country. And so that was a lot of sort of kitchen table conversation again about, you know, what is democracy? What is authoritarianism? How do you define a political system that works for its members? What can you be sent to jail for saying, right? That was one thing that really terrified me. It was like, no, all these countries, they'd toured Haiti, you know, places where, oh, you Criticize the leader, you go to jail. And I found that absolutely horrifying. And then of course, I got to observe in the 1980s as the Iron Curtain fell and as the Berlin wall came down and see what could happen when democracy spread to societies that had not had it. And that was tremendously exciting.

I will also say a third really formative experience was my best friend in late elementary school, Kurosa Smiley. His family had emigrated from Iran shortly after the Ayatollah took over. And I mean, he was actually being bullied by kids who associated him with the hostage situation. And I'm like, no, no guys, he's, he came here. He's like, he's running from that too. But listening to what it was like for him and his family growing up under the Shah and then having to flee the Ayatollah is a real eye opener as to what a society could look like.

I say that I carry all those experiences with me today, because I really believe in the power of a democratic society to defend against tyranny across the world, in our country, in our own state, we are seeing a rightward shift of people trying to normalize the sorts of things that my grandparents fled, that Kouros had to leave, that these Russian client states imposed upon their citizens, even people suggesting that behaving like those states might be a better way to run our country, and I find that really frightening. 

So when we see people being stripped of rights and freedom, when we see the results of a free and fair election, actually being questioned, when we see laws that are designed to keep some people from voting, when we see people using hate and bigoted language to turn people against each other, these things all really bring up in me a very visceral response that it is time to use my voice and make sure that we don't see those sorts of things happen in our own country. 

JD Wooten: Well, I think I also just got the answer to why you're running without even meaning to, but I appreciate all of that. That's a fascinating background.

David Hill: Thank you. There's more in terms of why I'm running, but I think that's really critical to hear. 

JD Wooten: Absolutely. Well, that's a great framing and what fascinating experiences to have as a backdrop. So, as I understand it, you're a Memphis native, educated in Texas for both your undergrad and med school, maybe it was a little hot there, but you made your way to North Carolina by way of UNC for your pediatric residency in the early nineties. You know, I might be a little biased here having a brother and a sister in law who both completed residencies there recently and just being a North Carolina native in general, but what led you to that great decision of picking UNC for pediatrics?

David Hill: Well, I have loved North Carolina since I was a child. I used to come here to the mountains for a camp that was run by the National Wildlife Federation. I flew Piedmont Airlines into Asheville, like in the 1970s. And I just fell in love with the rhododendron bushes, with lifting up rocks in the creeks and catching salamanders, just thought it was an absolute wonderland. 

And then being really quite the geek, I came back to North Carolina in middle school for a computer programming camp that Duke university would run, and that was my first time in the Triangle. And then much later, toward the end of medical school, I realized that I wanted to do a combined residency program in both internal medicine and pediatrics.

And your sister in law may know this. UNC invented that program in 1968, and when I applied, it was the hardest program in the country to get into. And I felt incredibly fortunate and wondered if maybe there'd been some kind of clerical error, but they did let me into that program. And I thought I'd better accept before they changed their mind or recognize their mistake.

So that four years that I spent in Chapel Hill learning to be an internist and a pediatrician were incredibly influential on me. So I've just loved this state for a long time. And I feel incredibly privileged to get to live here and maybe even more privileged to have an opportunity to actually guide how we continue to improve and serve our citizens better.

JD Wooten: Well, I'll make sure to let my sister in law know that her program was much harder than my brother's program, because she was on the internist and peds side and he was on the neurology peds side, and I'm sure that's a nice source of inner house rivalry there.

David Hill: I am sure that they have come to peace. That neurology program is no slack, I know that.

JD Wooten: He certainly has some long hours. So, within a few years of practice, you moved to Wilmington and that's where you've practiced and raised your family. What drew you to Wilmington? 

David Hill: So, like everybody who's been in North Carolina, eventually you vacation here in Wilmington and I fell in love with the place. My wife at the time who was completing her fellowship in nephrology, a kidney specialist, Margaret got recruited to a job here. And I just, I couldn't believe this is a place that you could actually get to live. Not only vacation, but spend the whole year. And so we jumped at that opportunity to move here.

And it has been one of the most rewarding experiences ever. We came in 2002. And since then, I have raised five incredible children, not only with my first wife, Margaret, who has been an incredible co parent and remains a very good friend. She lives about the three miles from where I do but with my wife, Christy as well.

And we have had the chance to send them to public schools in new Hanover County, Hoggard High School. They have had a chance to play sports here, mainly soccer, but a few others. And it's just a spectacular community. The thing that I really love is how easy it is to make friends, to get involved if you want to serve your community. To find food, to find arts, to find outdoor entertainment, my wife and I run, we bike, we swim, we walk our dogs every day, say hi to all the neighbors and it's just an incredible joy to be here. 

JD Wooten: So you went on vacation and you never came or you stayed, it became home.

David Hill: Exactly. 

JD Wooten: I love my visits to Wilmington and it's a wonderful place to be. I can certainly see the draw. Now, I don't get a whole lot of physicians on the show, so I am curious, we'll get to the campaign specifics in a moment, but I'm curious on a broader scale, your experiences in medicine and especially pediatrics and as an internist, how does that contribute to your political activism and political philosophy today?

David Hill: You know, I think any of us who come into contact with patients every day and try to solve their problems very quickly realize that we are not able to do that much in the exam room or in the hospital. So many of the issues that our patients face come from outside of where we work. And that means that we have to get there too. We have to get into communities. 

For example, our patients, our families need just clean air to breathe and safe water to drink, which should be kind of a simple ask. But as we're learning, it can be very complicated. They need healthy food. They need regular doctor visits. They need mental health care. They need a safe place to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

They need schools that support their kids. They need streets that they can bike on and walk on and drive safely on. Everything that they need to live happy, healthy lives depends on the environment around them. And if I'm not doing something to improve that environment around them, I'm really just spending my time putting band aids, band aids on wounds that are inflicted by those in power who either choose to ignore these issues or in some cases, actively oppose policies that would make North Carolinians healthier and safer.

That brings me to a couple of issues that as a doctor, I see firsthand that I would love to go to Raleigh to fix. Obvious is healthcare affordability and accessibility. One of my roles is working in the MedNorth community health center here in Wilmington. That's a center that has a sliding scale. We will see anybody who shows up. And what is remarkable to me is the breadth of families who come to MedNorth. Now that center provides the best care I think I have seen in my entire career, but we're providing care to people who don't think they can afford it anywhere else. And that includes people who are finishing postgraduate degrees. That includes people who have just had a bit of bad luck or recently lost a job. There is a vast population out there of people who should be able to get health insurance and go anywhere they want. And I am seeing them every day that I work there.

Now, Medicaid Expansion was a fantastic start in terms of getting people more care. I think it took a little long, but I am thrilled that it's here. But that is just a beginning. We need to do more to make sure that there are places for those people with Medicaid to actually get their care. Just having a card doesn't mean that you have care. We also need to do more to lower costs for their health care and make sure that these hardworking North Carolinians can enjoy the health that they deserve. 

Additionally, another of my experiences is working as a pediatric hospitalist. And what I do for the most part is run into delivery rooms or see newborn babies, but sometimes we have to respond to obstetric emergencies. What I hear from my colleagues in obstetrics is that when the general Assembly passed this restrictive abortion law  my opponent, his vote was actually critical to breaking the veto that allowed SB20 to pass.

Now, SB20 includes nominally exceptions for the life and health of the mother. But the way my colleagues tell me that is actually enforced means that they have to let women get much sicker than they normally would before they intervene in a pregnancy that is going wrong. Essentially, when they look at sepsis, when they look at hemorrhage, this is the medical equivalent of letting somebody fall off of a cliff and then grabbing their hand and hoping that you get it in time. And it's just the opposite of the way that we take care of patients. We like to catch things early and address them, especially when we know the direction they're going. So to me, if they are gonna come do my job, it is time for me to go do theirs. 

JD Wooten: So I can't think of a better place to transition to your campaign specifically then. You are running for District 7 in New Hanover County for the North Carolina Senate. This has been a nail biter race for the last several cycles. I'm sure it will be again, and you've already made it onto basically all the major lists, and I'm sure several more coming in terms of getting some attention for this race and the importance for Democrats of this race, the D. L. C. C. list, the Carolina Forward list, the Work for Democracy list. And to all the others that I love and support and I forgot to name, I apologize. We can get to specifics in a moment, but generally, aside from, you know, the stories you've just said, what is it about this race and this year that made you decide to jump in? 

David Hill: You know, this seems to be a really critical inflection point for our state. We talked earlier about all of my influences that caused me to value democracy, and why I feel that we need to work so that everybody can be healthy and thrive.

We are seeing attacks, now that we have this Republican supermajority, that are beyond what we have ever seen before. Since the Republicans gained a supermajority in the General Assembly, they have been able to override the Governor's vetoes. What has that led to? It has led to laws that have made it more difficult for some people to vote. It has led to our tax dollars being given to private and charter schools. It has allowed to the restrictive abortion ban that we discussed just a few minutes ago. And it has allowed the rolling back of gun safety measures that could save lives. That I would consider the bad news. 

But, as you said, we have a lot of good news to look forward to in order to break the supermajority and just honestly get the parties to talk to each other again, you know. I mean, if you're in somebody, a magic wand, we know this from all the fables and stories, bad things are going to happen. Right now, they have a magic wand. We just need to bring them back to the table, back to where they have to talk. They have to negotiate. They have to work with the Governor.

We need one seat in the North Carolina General Assembly, one. Many parties feel that this seat is at the top of that list, if not the top. And we are looking forward to getting that. So if we win Senate District 7 right here in New Hanover County, we have a golden opportunity to break that supermajority bring all the parties back to the table, restore civility, give the veto back to our next governor who let's just say it has got to be Josh Stein and really just get the state back on track.

JD Wooten: I could not agree more with any of that. And so, I know that your campaign centers on the idea that successful communities need a clean environment, great schools. You know, you listened to some of these earlier, or at least alluded to most of them. Great roads, good jobs, certainly talking about the affordable cost of living and affordable health care. Let's work backwards through a couple of those issues . The economy, inflation, cost of living are all top of mind for voters right now. What can and should the General Assembly be doing differently to help everyday North Carolinians? 

David Hill: Absolutely. I think with the supermajority, you have seen the General Assembly be distracted by special interest groups and by right wing extremism dealing with culture war issues instead of the bread and butter issues that North Carolina citizens deserve them to take care of. So, there are so many things we can do. We need to lower taxes on hardworking families. That's an obvious. We need to address skyrocketing housing costs and also property insurance rates. Those are hurting a lot of people. As we mentioned earlier, we have got to cut healthcare costs. Now that's on the cost side.

But then the other side of it is wages and jobs. So there's a ton we can do locally here in Wilmington, we love film incentives. I would like to broaden those. We need to support our small businesses. We need to invest in colleges, community colleges, and vocational schools, because we have a population that is ready to be trained for high skilled, good paying jobs, here in new Hanover County and across the state.

JD Wooten: I would love to see some of those film incentives amongst the others that you're talking about come back to Wilmington. That was such a great opportunity for that part of the state and that economy and really driving some local jobs. But more importantly, some economic investment there locally that, you know, really hurt when that left. I'd love to see that be able to come back. 

So our state courts have consistently held for years that the state is underfunding public education, although that could change soon, depending on what the state Supreme Court does with the Leandro case. Regardless, despite the perpetual underfunding of our public education system, the General Assembly is funneling hundreds of millions of dollars or more to charter and private schools, including these Opportunity Scholarships. From your perspective, what should North Carolina be doing to support education for our children? 

David Hill: You know, when I came to North Carolina, one of the huge draws of this state, and I moved here permanently in 1994 was the public education system. And I think that's not just for me. I think when companies are looking to draw employees here, when they're looking to move headquarters here, build factories, one of the top questions they have is can our employees find a good public education? So it absolutely crushes me that we are seeing the Republicans in Raleigh right now undermining this legacy that I think is so valuable both to our whole ethos and to our economy. 

What are we seeing? We're seeing teachers leaving the profession. We just got a report, I think, earlier this week or late last week an 11 percent turnover rate. That's astronomical, higher rates than they have in decades. State funded teacher salaries among the lowest in the region, lagging behind Alabama and Mississippi. Now, JD, I used to live just north of Mississippi. I'm not casting aspersions on Mississippi. But when I moved here, Mississippi and North Carolina were not comparable in terms of their education spending and attainment. And so I would like to put us back in a place like that. 

Per pupil spending in this state is well below the national average. I think, again, you're looking at national and international companies asking if they should send employees here. I don't know what they're going to say if they see that. Many schools lack essential resources like nurses and mental health counselors. And yet what the Republicans have done is opened up this voucher program to all families, regardless of income, okay? We are all paying taxes and this money can now be funneled to families wealthier than yours and mine. They have just proposed an additional 300 million to pay for these families to receive vouchers. Now it's our money, can our kids go to these schools? Nah, that depends in terms of the private schools, they're under no obligation to accept your child. They're under no obligation to provide services to kids who needs special services. This is a privatization of public money that I find frankly, unacceptable. We need to reverse that. Until we can address issues like teacher pay, raising per pupil spending, and you mentioned it fulfilling Leandro by fully funding the comprehensive remedial plan. I say there should be no more public tax dollars going to these vouchers, especially when those vouchers go to wealthy families who can afford these private schools. 

JD Wooten: I couldn't agree more public money for public schools. Private money for private schools. It really doesn't have to be a whole lot more complicated than that. That's how we should make that division. This general assembly clearly does not agree with us, so let's get you there and help hold that up. 

So last question on a specific issue, as a candidate from North Carolina's coast, I'm sure you're thinking about all the same environmental concerns the rest of us are plus a host of others, especially in Wilmington at the end of the Cape Fear River. What are some of the environmental challenges the people of New Hanover County are facing and what do we need to be doing to address them? 

David Hill: You know, the beaches are a huge draw and they certainly brought me here and they are a sensitive environment and one that we need to protect. However, where I live now, I actually look out on the wetlands that surround the Cape Fear River, just sitting at my desk. I can watch the shorebirds go by. I can see the ebb and flow literally of the river and the tides. I can appreciate what that means to our environment. 

So when we think about the environment around us, obviously there is a health impact, right? This directly affects the water that we drink, the air that we breathe, whether we can farm safely, whether we're flooding where we can build houses. So that's obvious. However, it also affects our economy. This is one of the huge draws. People come here because they love what we love. We love being outside. They like to fish. They like to boat. They like to hike. They just enjoy being in a vibrant place. 

Now, quite a few years ago, back around 2011 or so, there was a proposal here in New Hanover County that got some press. A company wanted to build a coal fired cement plant. And I was involved with other community members in sort of opposing this. My angle was as a pediatrician, because we know that these coal fired plants put all sorts of pollutants into the air pollutants that increase illness and even increase rates of death in the communities that have to suffer them. 

They also incidentally keep people from performing as well. On high particle emissions days, people don't do as well on tests, not just kids, but adults like you and me, we're all a bit less productive. I was incredibly inspired to see what this community was able to do in that struggle. Ultimately, that plant was not built. And in my opinion, this community is a better place as a result of it.

But the other thing we learned was that people care deeply about preserving the environment that we all rely on. So we just heard the EPA announced some limits on PFAS emissions in our drinking water. And that is an enormous issue here at the end of the Cape Fear. But how those restrictions get implemented is going to depend very much on investments that local and state governments make in infrastructure. So I really hope that I get a chance to go to the legislature and help design the solution to a problem that has been dogging our area for a very long time. 

JD Wooten: So final campaign question. If a voter asks about the major differences between you and your opponent, what would be the first thing you'd point to?

David Hill: You know, I think I'd have to point to what we do in our day jobs outside of politics. My opponent is a very accomplished lawyer whom I understand focuses on real estate and development. And I think that that is a job that's critical to society. People need people to sort out how they will develop areas profitably, and you know, make money from that sort of endeavor and follow all the appropriate rules. 

However, that puts him in a very different place every day than me. What I do every day is address families in safety net settings, in hospitals and clinics where people come when they are at their most vulnerable, and they come to me with everyday problems they face. We don't have enough food. There's nowhere safe for us to get outside and play or exercise. Our children have needs that our schools are not meeting, what are we going to do? Our house is full of mold or cockroaches, or we just got evicted and we have no place to live, or we can't afford our child's medicine or grandma's medicine. And if grandma's sick, she can't take care of the child. So it's really a whole family thing. Every single day that I work, I am faced with regular people and the very real problems that affect their lives. And it is my job to help them. So I see this campaign as taking the next logical step in that career and helping more people than I can possibly help one at a time in a hospital or an exam room.

JD Wooten: Well, I will say that is about the most polite or closest way I've ever heard somebody come to suggesting that society does in fact need lawyers. And I appreciate that. 

David Hill: Hey, some of my best friends are lawyers. I appreciate lawyers. 

JD Wooten: We do seem to serve a role in society, whether it's self created or not. But I think most of us appreciate the physicians far more. But I appreciate that juxtaposition that you put between yourself and your opponent, where you're coming from and probably the way it impacts your vision of North Carolina and taking care of the people of North Carolina and what we can expect from you, even with issues that we might not have even fathomed yet that will come up while you're in service, knowing that that's the background you're coming from. So I really appreciate that juxtaposition. 

Most important question of the day. Where can people go to learn more about you and your campaign?

David Hill: Thank you, JD. I would welcome them to our website, I have to add, by the way, four is spelled out, F O R. It is not the number four. So There you can read more about my background. You can contact the campaign. And please most importantly, sign up to volunteer and contribute to this campaign.

JD Wooten: Well, we'll make sure to leave links for that in the show notes so that everybody can go find it pretty quickly. David, thank you so much for joining me today. It has been a real pleasure. 

David Hill: Thank you so much, JD. I am honored to be speaking with you today.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to everyone for listening today. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!