Meeting the WNC State House Candidates - TribPapers

Meeting the WNC State House Candidates

Candidates from WNC for the State House who spoke: L-R Caleb Rudow (D), Lindsey Prather (D), Ed Hays, VP of LAF, Everett Pittillo (R), and Pratik Bhakta (R). Photo courtesy of Paul King

Asheville – The Leadership Asheville Forum held a luncheon meeting to find out where the state house candidates from Western North Carolina stand on a number of issues, including abortion and Medicaid expansion. All six candidates from districts 114, 115, and 116 were invited to speak, but only four came to the luncheon. Mollie Rose(R) and J. Eric Ager(D) were not able to attend.

The meeting opened with the President, Nancy Waldrop, opening with announcements about future meetings. She spoke about a Climate Change and Environmental Resiliency Forum to be held on October 12 at UNC—A at the Reuter Center in the Manheimer Room from 5:30–7:30 PM. Ken Brame from WNC Sierra Club, Deke Arendt from NOAA, and six experts on climate change will be at this forum. There is no admission charge, but registration is needed and can be found at the Leadership Asheville website. Then Nancy Waldrop gave Richard Skaggs a plaque for his many years of service and dedication to the organization. He is retiring this year. Shirley White was unable to be present, so she will receive her award at a Board Meeting in November.

Richard Skaggs received a plaque from Nancy Waldrop for his many years of service and dedication to the Leadership Asheville Forum. Photo courtesy of Paul King.
Richard Skaggs received a plaque from Nancy Waldrop, President, for his many years of service and dedication to the Leadership Asheville Forum. Photo courtesy of Paul King.

Ed Hay, Vice President, asked the candidates present to speak: Caleb Rudow(D), Lindsey Prather (D), Everett Pittillo (R) and Pratik Bhakta (R).

Caleb Rudow: I am the current representative for District 114 (North Asheville, Woodfin), but am running for the new 116 in November, because the districts have changed a bit. I grew up in Asheville and am a product of Asheville public schools. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia and have worked in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Spain and have served around the world. I split my time between my day job as a data scientist and researcher and being a representative. Cross-cultural communication is important; affordable housing funding needs to be increased; gun control policies need to be improved; and Medicaid needs to be expanded.

Lindsey Prather is running to represent District 115, which is Southwestern Buncombe County. “I am a public servant at my core.” I have been here since 2007. I got my teaching license at UNC-A and have taught here. I’ve been putting myself in as many places as possible to speak with as many people as possible.

Everett Pittillo said he grew up in Fairview and graduated from Montreat College. I am running for District 114 against Eric Ager. I have been a mechanic, a farmer, and a blue-collar worker. We are being destroyed by so much arguing about everything. I think we need to fix the infrastructure for everyone. We can all agree on this. Fix the simple. “Bring back Western North Carolina to where it once was, 15 or 20 years ago.” Fix the opioid issue, fix the mental health issue.”

Pratik Bhakta, I am Indian by birth, born in 1971 and running for District 115. When I was 6 years old, we came to New Jersey. In 1984, my family found a motel to purchase in Enka, Candler so we moved here. I got my degree in Electrical Engineering at State, but have always been in hospitality. Family values are a core component of my life. We need to respect all faiths. I want to serve the community and make it a better place. We must be able to compromise on many issues. I want to bring my business experience as a hotelier to the legislature.

Do you support Medicaid expansion?

Bhakta — I am for Medicaid expansion. We don’t have an endless supply of money, so we need to have a forensic audit to find out where we can cut and thus save. That is how we can fix it, but we can do a better job.

Rudow: A lot of people talk about having medical debt. When I talk to people, we must think about the people who need it. We should expand it.

Prather: Absolutely, we need to do it. We can do this easily.

Pittillo: This hits me personally, as in 2008 my daughter started having seizures. I would have gone broke if I did not have Medicaid. I would like to see it easier to get and get expanded slightly. I would also like to see hospital systems and drug companies held accountable and stop “charging the heck out of us.”

Do you support or oppose a woman’s right to choose?

Pittillo: Technically, I think it is up to the state to begin with. With me, you can say I am pro choice. I believe up until a heartbeat, it is up to the woman. If something is going to kill the child or the mother, but I am 7 or 8 months along, I have an issue—especially with birth control available now.

Bhakta: Part of my culture is that we value life, the mother, the child. I am pro-life. North Carolina’s law is 20 weeks; I don’t see that changing any time soon. Yes, there are abnormalities. At a certain point, you have to have a cutoff. At a certain point, the child has a right.

Rudow: “I think we really disagree here.  I think the decision should be left up to the family. There are so many stories at Planned Parenthood—moms who cannot afford another child; people who are addicted to heroin and cannot bring another child into the world. We should protect a person’s right to choose. This is not a politician’s decision. We should codify Roe and protect a person’s right to choose.

Prather: I am absolutely in favor of a person’s right to choose. Many laws are intentionally written vaguely. I trust women to make decisions for themselves, with their partners, and with their families. We are the last state in the South where women are coming here. It is incredibly important to know where your representatives stand.

Many other questions were asked–on crime, on inflation, affordable housing– but unfortunately, due to limited space, the answers cannot be included here.