Staff photo by Allison Potter
Susi Hamilton and challenger Louis Harmati, candidates for the State House of Representatives, District 18, debate the issues at a forum held by the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear and moderated by Jon Evans on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center.
Education cuts, energy sources and infrastructure needs were among topics the two candidates for North Carolina’s 18th District House seat discussed during a forum Tuesday, Oct. 2, which was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear and WECT-TV and held at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center in Wilmington.
“Energy independence is probably one of the most important issues facing not just the state of North Carolina but the country,” said incumbent Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover. “We should be exploring all forms of energy so that we can, as a country, be prepared for total energy independence at some point in the next couple of generations.”
Hamilton and her Republican challenger, Louis Harmati of Leland, were asked several questions during the candidates forum. Similar forums were held that night for other local candidates running for General Assembly seats.
Questions included candidates’ positions on jobs that could come from the state’s natural resources, such as natural gas, wind and oil off the coast.
Harmati agreed the state must look at a mix of all energy sources.
“We utilize every aspect of it to keep prices down, keep inflation down, keep people working,” Harmati said.
Harmati legally immigrated to the United States from Hungary as a child during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet Union. He lived in California before moving to North Carolina in 1967.
He is retired and has formerly worked as an IRS internal auditor, defense contract auditor, finance and accounting officer, insurance agent and real estate Broker. Harmati also taught public administration and management at Shaw University’s Cape program in Wilmington and served 20 years in the U.S. military, including in Vietnam and as an Army Reserve Center Commander.
Hamilton, who lives in downtown Wilmington, runs her own marketing, governmental relations and business development consulting company, Hamilton Planning, and has served as executive director of Wilmington Downtown Inc.
She also has served on boards for the Carousel Center for Abused Children, Cucalorus Film Festival and the Brooklyn Arts Center.
Hamilton defeated Northwest Mayor James A. Knox in the Democratic primary for the 18th District, which includes parts of Wilmington and Brunswick County. She was first elected to the House in 2010.
Both Hamilton and Harmati said Tuesday they favor film tax incentives and recognize the importance of funding infrastructure projects such as bridge and road repairs
Other questions focused on the General Assembly’s budget that cut public education funding and aid for disabled residents.
Harmati spoke about his six children and 14 grandchildren, saying education is critical not only to children throughout the state but for bringing jobs to North Carolina.
“I also support higher pay for teachers,” Harmati added. “Teachers shouldn’t have to pay for classroom material.”
Hamilton, who has a daughter, said programs like Smart Start and More at Four were cut for political and philosophical reasons.
“We’ve cut community college budgets, we’ve cut scholarships, we’ve cut the university system,” Hamilton added. “We’ve cut classes back in the university systems, which makes it harder for people to graduate on time, which adds expense to them.”
Hamilton said she was sorry General Assembly leadership cut services to disabled residents, saying most people receiving public benefits in the state include families facing developmental disabilities or severe injuries.
“They’re human beings,” Hamilton said. “They have serious illnesses and/or conditions that must be dealt with.”
Harmati said he supports funding such social programs but would need to look into how to find the money.
“It’s critical that we take care of these families,” he said.
Both candidates also were asked about regulation concerns.
Hamilton said she has supported regulatory reform and more clarity to help businesses, as areas left open to interpretation can create conflict and confusion and slow the process.
“I do not support the gutting of our environmental regulations,” she added.
Harmati agreed North Carolina needs a strong environmental system but added there are too many regulations in all government fields.
“That’s one of the reasons that business has been stifled,” he said. “With more regulations it costs more and more money for business people, especially small business people, to get into business to create jobs.”