Daughtry faces primary challenger

pseligson@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2014 

Leo Daughtry wants to continue serving Johnston County in the N.C. House of Representatives.

Daughtry, 73, is in his 11th term in the House, representing District 26, which encompasses northwestern Johnston County, including all of Clayton and most of Smithfield. He is running against Dennis Nielsen in the May primary, and whoever wins the primary will win the November election because no Democrat filed.

Daughtry is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on a handful of other committees, including Appropriations, Banking and Education. He is on the short list for speaker of the House.

In his career, Daughtry has been both the minority and majority leader in the House. Now that Republicans control both houses of the legislature, “I think I can get a lot accomplished not only for my district but for the whole county,” he said.

If re-elected, Daughtry said, he would focus on three issues: job creation, health care and removing burdensome regulations on North Carolina farmers.

To bring more jobs to his district, Daughtry wants to work with Johnston Community College to make sure workers here are prepared for jobs. A strong workforce attracts industries, he said. So does a good school system, and he said Johnston County schools are some of the best in the state.

Daugthry said the county, especially the Clayton area, is lucky to have so many industries already. “I’d like to recruit additional jobs, but that’s the hard part, and that’s the uncertain part,” he said. “The main thing we need to do is ensure that we have the industry here that we presently have and they are expanding.”

Daughtry also wants to help Johnston Health improve and add more services. “I’d like to see what we can do to make sure our hospital is healthy, and health-care delivery is good,” he said.

For instance, the hospital wants to offer new services, including certain heart procedures. “Whenever they call, I want to be able to navigate the state government for them if they need for me to,” he said.

Daughtry’s other main focus is agriculture. “I’d like to make sure that the those farmers and agribusiness people are not burdened with regulations that don’t make any sense,” he said, citing for instance laws restricting runoff. “I want to be sure that we protect the environment, but I also want to make sure our farmers are able to function without burdensome regulations. It doesn’t make sense.”

Daughtry stands by most of the legislature’s decisions last session, including eliminating teacher tenure and adding a voter ID requirement.

“This is 2014,” he said. “Everybody has to have an ID to cash a check; it’s just a necessary part of life. And it protects voters from voter fraud. It is not intended to chill anybody’s ability to vote. ... Everybody has an ID, and the state has been willing to give you a free ID if you don’t have one.”

As for the education changes, Daughtry said four-year contracts for teachers are better for schools than teacher tenure. He supports raising pay for teachers and other state employees.

Daughtry said the recession has been severe, and the legislature first had to balance the budget while dealing with a deficit in Medicaid. “We had to find a way to run state government at a time when we had very little money, and we did it,” he said. “And fortunately, now we have gotten to the point where we can start looking at the teachers.”

Daughtry also supports reinstating extra pay for teachers with master’s degrees, as long as those degrees have to do with the teacher’s subject.

In 2011, Daughtry sponsored legislation that limits the amount of money public power towns can transfer from their electric funds to their general funds. The bill only applies to Smithfield, Clayton and Selma. He said he would like to end the transfers for all public towns in North Carolina because the transfers keep electricity rates too high.

“It’s a false echo that you are having lower taxes when in fact you are raising your power bill rather than taxes,” he said.

Daughtry practices law in Smithfield at Daughtry, Woodard, Lawrence & Starling. He earned his law degree from Wake Forest University in 1965 and served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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