NC House District 92: I-77 toll lanes among top issues in GOP primary

Traffic on I-77 near Exit 30 at Davidson. Interstate 77 toll lanes are a top issue in the March 15 GOP primary for House District 92.
Traffic on I-77 near Exit 30 at Davidson. Interstate 77 toll lanes are a top issue in the March 15 GOP primary for House District 92. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Interstate 77 toll lanes are a top issue in the March 15 GOP primary for House District 92.

For voters in the north Mecklenburg end of the district, they are the top issue.

The district stretches down the Catawba River from Huntersville to Lake Wylie.

Two-term incumbent Charles Jeter of Huntersville faces the same challenger he beat in the 2012 Republican primary, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Davis of the Mountain Island Lake area. Jeter won by 454 votes, out of 5,440 votes cast.

The winner faces Democrat Chaz Beasley in the November general election.

Many voters in the northern part of the district are upset about the I-77 toll lanes project. Anger grew after revelations about the state’s contract with Spain-based Cintra. One clause bars the state from adding any general purpose lanes for 50 years without a stiff financial penalty.

The project will add two toll lanes in each direction from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to Exit 28 in Cornelius, and one toll lane in each direction to Exit 36 in Mooresville.

Work started on the $655 million project in November in the Lake Norman area. But Jeter said it’s not too late to stop the lanes and that he continues to work hard on a legislative solution.

He also organized a toll lane summit and arranged meetings in Raleigh for Lake Norman business leaders who oppose the lanes.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a legislator who’s done more work on this in the last six to months than I have,” Jeter said.

Davis also opposes the project. He criticized Jeter for being among legislators “who all bought into” the toll concept. “And they still bought into it until Danny Phillips cleared out the Huntersville town board,” he said.

Phillips is an incumbent Huntersville commissioner who opposes the project and was the top vote-getter in the November general election. Two other commissioners and Mayor Jill Swain lost their seats in an election that Phillips and others saw as a referendum on the toll lanes project.

Davis said he supports adding one general purpose lane in each direction. That would allow time for a “comprehensive transportation strategic plan” to be developed for the region, he said, and would cost about $130 million. “A $655 million road experiment is not the answer,” he said.

Widening N.C. 160

On the southern end of the district, voters have a different road priority: Widening N.C. 160.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2022. But Jeter said work could start two or three years sooner thanks to the $400 million that was added for road improvements statewide to this year’s state budget. The $400 million will continue “in perpetuity,” he said.

As a result, N.C. 160 could likely move up on the schedule, Jeter said.

Jeter, meanwhile, touts how the Republican majority in Raleigh has put more money in people’s pockets by lowering the personal income tax and raising the standard deduction. “People are keeping more of their income,” he said.

Davis counters that legislators “socked it to us” with steep DMV fee increases and numerous new fees. He noted how legislators eliminated the $50,000 exemption on the taxes of small businesses.

Teacher pay

Concerning education, Jeter said he “was in the forefront of making sure we keep teacher assistants in the classroom” and noted how “we’ve increased education funding by $1.5 billion a year” since he’s represented the district.

Still, he said, “we’ve got to do a better job with teacher pay ... and I will continue to fight for increases in teacher pay.”

“He’s had four years to do it,” said Davis, who’s served on numerous Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools committee and other education panels, including former Gov. Jim Martin’s School Building Solutions Committee.

“We’re spending half of our tax dollars on education, but teachers aren’t being paid right,” Davis said.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

Charles Jeter

Age: 42

Education: Bachelor of Arts in business economics, Wofford College

Professional experience: President, Intermodal FCL Inc. since 2004

Political resume: Huntersville town commissioner, 2005-2012; N.C. House member, 2013-present

Family: Wife, Jennifer, children ages 14, 12 and 9

Website: www.votejeter.com

Tom Davis

Age: 70

Education: Military: Air University (Air War College); Air Command and Staff College; Squadron Officers School, Air University. Civilian: Bachelor of Science in business, University of the State of New York; Associate of Arts degree in business/accounting, Gaston College

Professional experience: Retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, strategic planner at the Pentagon and manager with Yellow Corp. Founder and owner, Laurel Creek Campground, Damascus, Va., which partners with the nonprofit Rescued Heart to provide a retreat for veterans and their families.

Political resume: Ran in the GOP primary for House District 92 in 2012. Community involvement includes leading the Catawba River Group; as a veterans leader; serving on various school committees.

Family: Wife, Marsha, four children, six grandchildren

Website: www.votetomdavis.com