RALEIGH – As Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest terms out of that post, and runs for governor in 2020, the open race to replace him has generated a large field of interested suitors. There are already a handful of expected candidates on either side of the aisle, but we have an interest in getting to know a few Republican candidates better so you, the voters, can make a more informed decision.
We recently profiled the first Republican to declare for the 2020 lieutenant governor race, and now we’ve had the chance to speak with a very intriguing conservative that is currently in the deliberative process of making a run – former vice chairman of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners Jim Puckett.
Puckett’s family has been in Mecklenburg for quite a long time. Actually, he is a descendant of Scottish immigrants who settled in Mecklenburg County in 1755, and two of his ancestors even signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The husband of 30+ years and father of two grown daughters asserts that the love of freedom, personal responsibility, and a healthy distrust of government reside in his DNA.
Now he is seriously considering a run for lieutenant governor, and after picking his brain we think you’ll enjoy learning more about what he brings to the table, should he officially declare himself a candidate.
FFD: You haven’t decided for certain that you are running yet, but many conservatives were intrigued about the possibility. What issues are drawing you in to possibly running for lieutenant governor in 2020?
JP: I have not fully decided, however I am passionately interested in three issues that
I believe need to be addressed and this may be the best path to that end.
North Carolina needs to have a honest conversation about teacher compensation, pay is only one part of the compensation formula. We need to make sure that all teachers understand and appreciate the value of a defined benefit retirement and the related lifetime healthcare benefit. We also need to make sure the funds for those benefits are ironclad. Beyond that we need to have a real two-way discussion to determine if our current plan is still the best way forward or should we start to recognize young adults today are not likely to enter into a 20-30 year single employer career; so how should we redefine compensation to reflect that change? Teachers should be paid what they are worth, compensated in relation to the private sector and have a say in how that looks. Equally, perhaps even more importantly, we need to have honest discussions about the role of teachers in current classroom environment we place them.
Next, we need to take a more market driven approach to infrastructure, such as how road projects impact both positively and negatively affect future industrial/commercial and rural growth. The current I-77 project in Mecklenburg and Iredell for example did not take any negative economic impact into consideration nor did it look past how the design harmed those areas not servicing downtown Charlotte. In a five year old fight I, with the help of others, have brought about fundamental changes in the way NCDOT now structures project rankings as a result of these oversights, but there is still much to do in this area. This blind spot is cheating both rural and urban areas as we are too narrowly focused on automobile only parameters. We must make logistics and the ever changing nature of transportation, like self-driving cars and delivery trucks, into consideration.
Finally, we desperately need, in my opinion, to reconsider how we offer business development incentives targeted to individual businesses. This winner and loser mindset is unfair and by and large unnecessary despite what we are told. I believe I am one of only two people to vote against the $82 million tax giveaway, between state and local incentives, to Honeywell in their move to Charlotte. Paying a Fortune 80 company to relocate into Class A office space in Charlotte – as if it wouldn’t be rented otherwise – is a huge waste of funds and opportunity. Think what the over $40 million from the state could have done in rural areas as loans against infrastructure, shovel ready sites, local road improvements, and so on, in those less affluent rural areas.
FFD: So as you describe your priorities, a theme of becomes apparent of limiting government profligacy in several areas, having a more honest conversation about policy debates that seem perennial. What should our liberty-minded, conservative readers know about you that may inspire their confidence in you to tackle these issues?
JP: I have successfully fought for my constituents since day one against overwhelming odds. I required escort to my car and had to change my phone number due to my stance against forced bussing while being assaulted daily as a racist by the national NAACP during my time on the Board of Education. I have publicly, and eyeball to eyeball, fought tax giveaways under the guise of recruitment, stating I would prefer to offer lower taxes to the companies and citizens who have dutifully supported schools, libraries, human services, and so forth, rather than offer them up to newcomers as payment for coming to town and taking advantage of what current citizens have built. The Charlotte Observer who once famously endorsed my opponent by stating the “Mr. Puckett’s candidacy should be shunned” in my last campaign stated, ““Puckett is a fierce defender of his district’s interest, was an important watchdog on Mecklenburg health department [as well as] the ill-advised flirtation with a Major League Soccer bid.”
Beyond that I have been able to maintain a solid and verifiable conservative record by successfully working with democratic colleagues. Proof? I was elected Vice Chairman on a 2-1 democratically controlled commission as well as receiving the North Carolina Recreation & Parks Association Special Citation Award for 2018 for my “ bipartisan efforts last year to ensure the park bond projects supported overwhelmingly by voters in 2008 received funding during the contentious pro soccer debate. The award is given to those persons who “demonstrate an outstanding interest in and dedication to the field of recreation and parks”. I am the rare individual who has both a personal as well as political skill set that can stay true to my conservative principles and yet still get things done. No bragging, just fact.
FFD: The North Carolina lieutenant governor’s role is historically weak, constitutionally, in the grand scheme of state government. If you decide to run, how do you plan on leveraging this role to maximize impact in your areas of focus?
JP: I have been very successful in using the bully pulpit to bring awareness followed by action to issues I champion. I am the descendant of two signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, I carry the DNA of those would not bend a knee to an unresponsive overbearing government and I continue their fight to this day. I have built a two decades old reputation of fighting the City of Charlotte on behalf of the suburbs and rural areas surrounding it. I have even been successful in changing policy of the NCDOT under the control of a liberal democratic governor due to five years of tenacity fighting an ill-conceived interstate highway project.
I would be looking for issues and challenges on which both the governor and I agree and become the point person in achieving success in those efforts. Having served on boards of education I can relate to educators and communicate the value of conservative principles in the educational field; as a business person active in the manufacturing sector I understand the needs of those industries; as a former county commissioner I know of the good and bad related to health and human services; as husband to a wife with 40 years in healthcare as a nurse and a medical provider I know the challenges of patients and the over-reach of large hospitals; as a father of two successful daughters I know the challenges and the path forward for young women in the workplace; and, hopefully, as a Presbyterian Elder I bring the understanding that all things are dependent upon and only achieved [through] embracing the will of God.
FFD: We’ve covered a lot of ground, and our readers surely know a lot more about you now. Is there anything else you’d like the audience to know about you as weigh a run for lieutenant governor?
JP: I was born to economically modest but determined parents in the rural township
of Long Creek in northern Mecklenburg County. I went to public schools in Durham County and upon graduating high school returned to UNC Charlotte and the area where my Scots-Irish ancestors having settled in 1775 sowed the seeds of independence. Here the people still look to remain free from government interference and unreasonable redistribution of hard earned income. At age 39 I entered the political arena on their behalf and have proudly fought the powers and people that would lay their concerns aside in the name of “progress” at any cost ever since. I have repeatedly entered the arena to fight against the schemes of downtown Charlotte on behalf of those who live outside and who are more often than not unfairly harmed by decisions made solely on behalf of that unyielding urban core.
Soon I will retire to our mountain home in Spruce Pine in Mitchell County where over the last 20 years I have watched how she and similar rural areas have been left behind as the more prominent population centers are overly rewarded by governmental largess. And when permanently settled in the quiet mountain hinterland, either in elected office or as private citizen, I will put my experience to work for those who rarely have the ability to kick open the closed doors of an overly self-serving government, having personally stormed through them before.
In my office an autographed photo of Barry Goldwater looks over my shoulder
with his motto displayed underneath as a reminder.
It says “Noli Permittere Illegitimi Carborundum,” [which means],”Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
My philosophy is equally simple: My job is to support the governed, not defend the government; increase citizen prosperity, not diminish it; protect freedom, not dilute it; and, be bold in the exercise of all three.
So, after learning a lot more about the background and mindset of Jim Puckett, should he run for lieutenant governor in 2020? As he gets closer to his decision, we’ll bring you more from Jim, as well as others that are planning to solicit your votes in what is shaping up to be a crowded Republican primary. Stay tuned.