[media-credit name="Keith Karlsson" align="alignright" width="150"][/media-credit]Keith Karlsson — NC State House District 49
Political Party: Democrat
How long in district: 30 years
Occupation: Retired software engineer
Campaign website: http://keithkarlsson.com/
The economy is at the top of voter’s minds this year? What do you think elected officials can do to address it?
Economic policy is not just North Carolina. There’s national and even international, so there’s a lot that’s out of local elected officials' control. What we can do in North Carolina is prepare people for the jobs’ of the future. We’ve got to educate our children and keep our schools up to international standards, not just national standards. We’ve got to maintain the quality of our schools, K-12. And we’ve got to maintain the standards of our public universities. The public universities are what will draw companies to this area. A supply of well-educated university graduates and all the community colleges are what can bring industries to this area.
Why do you think your constituents should elect you?
I think I have the best background for the job. Before, like a lot of people, I was one of the people that was drawn here to work in the high-tech industry. I know what the high-tech industry is looking for in employees and what the employees are looking for out of the area: the schools, a good quality of life. Before I worked as a computer programmer, I was a teacher for a couple of years, so I understand education. What it takes. What our teachers need. And what there talents are.
I’ve also been involved in a lot community service over the years. I was the chair of the Raleigh Telecommunications Commission, which is a citizen board that advises the City Council. I’m on the Raleigh Environment Advisory Board, which advises the City Council on environmental issues. I was on the education committee of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce when I worked at Cisco. I’ve also been in politics. I was the chair of the Wake County Democratic Party. I have a long history of public service.
Since I’ve retired I’ve also gone to law school and learned a lot about the law. How the law is written. How the law is interpreted. I actually interned in law school at the legislature, so I have a good idea of how the legislature operates. And I interned at the North Carolina Department of Justice and I interned at the Court of Appeals, so I have recent experiences with all of the branches of government in North Carolina. I’m the best qualified and have the best background to deal with all of the issues that come up in the legislature.
What do you think of the state’s new fracking law and how do you think it should be implemented?
I’m afraid we’re rushing into fracking. There’s no hurry for us to get involved in it. There’s not that much gas here compared to other places. The price of gas on the market is very low so it’s not going to be economical to drill here. Big companies are not going to come here to drill. They are going to go places where there’s more gas. There’s no hurry to rush into as the legislature did this year. We have plenty of time to study this.
We need to know what chemicals they’re using in fracking. We have to protect our water supply. We have limited water here. We’ve had problems with the water supply in drought years several times over the past 10 to 15 years. We really have to be sure that we don’t rush into something that pollutes the water supply. Finally, I think the makeup of the board was dominated by people who were in the extraction industry. We’re going to have regulations that are written by people who have the most interest in doing fracking. We need a better balanced approach, a better balanced board. We shouldn’t rush into this.
In a recent Supreme Court ruling, the court gave states the option of expanding the Medicaid program to cover many low-income adults, and the federal government will be paying for the bulk of the expansion. What, if anything, do you think North Carolina should do about expanding Medicaid?
We have a great need. We have a lot of people that live in poverty, so we need to make sure that everybody has adequate health care. We’re causing more problems for ourselves down the road by not treating people early on so we need to provide medical care to as many people who need it as possible and particularly provide them preventative care.