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A champion of our mountain way of life

To the Editor:

How do we decide whom to vote for? As a recent letter to the Smoky Mountain News says, we should examine actions, not just words. My criteria:

The candidates’ careers prove they make life better for all their constituents. They participate in mainstream community organizations. Their family life shows that they love them, foster their happiness, and guide young people.

Their education and experience match the qualifications of the office. Their degrees represent deep knowledge of history, the Constitution, and law. They practice professional integrity.

Applying these standards, I found candidates I happily support. Here is an ideal example:

From day one in the N.C. General Assembly, he started fulfilling every campaign promise.

A lifelong member of First United Methodist Church of Waynesville, Joe Sam Queen has taught Sunday school over two decades. He’s led Boy Scouts and coached youth soccer. Joe Sam is an architect, a farmer, and a businessman. His wife Dr. Kate Queen, a rheumatologist retired from Haywood Medical, now leads a clinic in the Triangle providing wellness-focused health care for all. Their daughter Sara followed her dad’s profession, architecture, and teaches it at NCSU. Son Charlie is a chemist in the Triangle. 

All his family are proud products of North Carolina public schools and the state’s public university system. Both his parents were teachers who instilled a love of learning in him. He is endorsed by the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE).

Acting on a passion to bring affordable universal broadband and internet to every rural home and business, Joe Sam led in drafting HB1122, which invests $85 million in the successful GREAT Grants Program for universal rural broadband and supports crucial partnerships with local governments. Broadband is needed in this pandemic more than ever for children to learn and adults to work, and online doctor visits (“tele-medicine”). Again, his deep understanding of education and health care inform his advocacy for people throughout WNC.

He’s been a champion of Medicaid expansion so our tax dollars stay in N.C., bring quality employment, keep rural hospitals and nursing homes open, and enable 600,000 more people to have health care. Along with these and other programs bringing new employment, he voted for Cherokee gaming laws to add hundreds more jobs. These actions prove a dedication to improving everyone’s quality of life. 

Joe Sam co-sponsored H.B 1105, COVID-19 Relief. It passed the House with Republican and Democratic backing. (The Senate Republican majority then adjourned indefinitely.) Some of its components are a $50 increase in weekly unemployment (N.C. has the nation’s lowest), a $335 tax credit for families with children, $52 million for public schools, a block on penalizing schools for pandemic-caused enrollment drops, $30 million to expand high-speed internet throughout rural areas, $13 million for farmers hit hard by weather extremes, $38 million for mental health, $59 million to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, $14 million for PPEs, and $23 million for services to seniors. 

 Joe Sam’s opponent? A single man, he had an honorable career as a Charlotte fireman. He earned a two-year degree. As District 119 representative for one term, he describes himself as a states rights advocate” and opponent of “common core” standards for learning. As a retired teacher I know he doesn’t understand what the N.C. Common Core is although it’s easily found online. 

I judge candidates individually by their actions and character. That’s why my husband and I voted for Joe Sam Queen.

Mary Jane Curry

Haywood County

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