Politics & Government

12th District Democrats push higher minimum wage

All of the Democrats running for Congress in the 12th District called Tuesday for raising the federal minimum wage, with most supporting at least $12 and two saying they would double it to $15.

And all five candidates in the campaign’s only televised debate defended the Affordable Care Act, with some saying it doesn’t go far enough.

The five Democrats – Alma Adams, George Battle, Marcus Brandon, Malcolm Graham and Curtis Osborne – outlined liberal agendas during a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WTVI.

The candidates are vying for the seat held for two decades by Democrat Mel Watt, who took over the Federal Housing Finance Agency in January. They meet again Wednesday night for a forum at Johnson C. Smith University.

While the candidates generally agreed on issues, they differed on specific remedies.

All five support raising the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 an hour, to what they called a living wage.

“Nobody who works should live in poverty,” said Battle, general counsel to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

He called President Barack Obama’s proposal of a $10.10 minimum “a good start.” Brandon and Osborne said it should be $15. Adams, a Greensboro lawmaker who touts her efforts to raise the state minimum wage, would put it at $12. And Graham, a state senator from Charlotte, said he’d raise it to $12 to $15.

Some also said raising the minimum wage alone isn’t the solution to raising living standards in the district that stretches through urban parts of Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

Graham and Brandon called for improving infrastructure and job opportunities throughout the district.

“We’ve raised the minimum wage and poor people are still poor,” said Brandon, a lawmaker from High Point.

On health care, two Democrats decried the General Assembly’s 2013 decision to reject federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Supporters say it would have given coverage to 500,000 North Carolinians.

Osborne, a Charlotte lawyer, said he would remove the “state’s discretion to turn away Medicaid money.”

Adams said it was “unfortunate” that North Carolina chose not to expand Medicaid, adding that states shouldn’t have the authority to do that.

Brandon called himself a fan of a single-payer system.

“We should have Medicare for all,” he said.

Asked where they differed, Brandon argued that he’s the most effective. Of the three legislators in the race, he had the highest effectiveness ranking – 73rd of 120 House members.

Osborne said that unlike three opponents, he isn’t a “career politician.” Graham touted his record as a state senator, Charlotte City Council member and head of a nonprofit.

Describing herself as an advocate of public education, Adams criticized Brandon’s support of vouchers, or tax money that can be used at private schools. And Battle swiped at Brandon’s defense of vouchers and Graham’s support for charter schools.

“I don’t believe we’re going to voucher or charter our way to success in education,” he said.

A sixth Democrat, Rajive Patel of Winston-Salem, did not attend. Two Republicans are also running in the heavily Democratic district.

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