Elections

John Autry, Billy Maddalon tout experience for N.C. House seat

Moderator, Jeff Rivenbark, center, poses questions to Democratic candidates, Billy Maddalon, right, and John Autry during a 20 minute debate segment at WTVI Tuesday, February 16, 2016. WTVI and the League of Woman Voters of Charlotte Mecklenburg partnered for the Election Debate 2016.
Moderator, Jeff Rivenbark, center, poses questions to Democratic candidates, Billy Maddalon, right, and John Autry during a 20 minute debate segment at WTVI Tuesday, February 16, 2016. WTVI and the League of Woman Voters of Charlotte Mecklenburg partnered for the Election Debate 2016. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Democrats John Autry and Billy Maddalon debated Tuesday over who has the most experience to become the new representative for N.C. House District 100, which is an open seat.

The two Democrats are running to succeed Democrat Tricia Cotham, who has held the seat since 2007. She announced last year she wouldn’t seek re-election.

There is no Republican in the race.

Autry, a Charlotte City Council member, said his experience in municipal government would be valuable in Raleigh.

“I wonder if there is enough experience in the General Assembly with those who have served in municipal government,” Autry said. “Their actions aren’t in the best interest of cities and counties.”

Maddalon, who owns the Morehead Inn, is also a former council member. He was appointed to fill the remainder of Patsy Kinsey’s seat in 2013 after Kinsey was appointed mayor. Maddalon lost a bid for a council at-large seat last year.

The two squared off as part of the WTVI/League of Women Voters debates, which were taped Tuesday and will broadcast on PBS Charlotte 2-5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Maddalon said the race is a “unique opportunity” for the state.

Maddalon, who is gay, said he would bring a different perspective to the N.C. House, which he said hasn’t had an openly gay member. (There have been at least two openly gay state senators in the past.)

“I have civic experience and personal experience, as a member of the LGBT community,” he said.

Maddalon said job creation and education are the two most important issues for the job.

“I am a small-business man, and I have made more than 500 payrolls,” Maddalon said.

Maddalon said he and his spouse have raised more than 15 foster children.

Both candidates said they believed the Republican-dominated legislature has exerted too much control over Charlotte and other cities.

Autry said he would work to bring “home rule” to North Carolina, which would give cities and towns more power.

Autry also said the state needs to “reinvest in teachers and education.”

“That’s the way we will be able to attract businesses and employers,” he said.

Both candidates said they would support a living wage for the state. Autry said he experienced poverty growing up, when he lived in public housing after his father was injured while he worked.

Among other races, WTVI also taped a debate between N.C. State Senate District 40 incumbent Joyce Waddell and challenger Nasif Majeed. Both are Democrats.

The two candidates sparred over who is more experienced.

Majeed, a former City Council member, also ran for the Senate seat two years ago.

“I have a long record of service in this community,” Majeed said. “I am a community leader, a business leader. I have been an effective leader.”

Waddell, a former school board member who won the seat in 2014, said she didn’t “sit around and wait” to begin working in Raleigh.

“I have co-sponsored or sponsored 70 bills,” she said.

Majeed countered that many of the bills died in committee. Waddell replied that her “record speaks for what happened” and that “many of the bills passed.”

Majeed said the state needs to “put an emphasis again on education.”

Waddell said the legislature needs to take care of families.

“They are the backbone of our society,” she said.

A scheduled debate between N.C. House District 101 incumbent Beverly Earle and challenger Steven Jones was canceled because Earle couldn’t attend.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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