Name: Abeni el-Amin
Occupation: CEO and executive director of Project Ricochet Inc. of North Carolina
Time in District: 5 years
Amendment One: I’m against amendment one.
What is the central issue of this election?
I would definitely have to say that amendment one and women’s issues are the biggest social issues and then education would follow behind that.
What are the specific issues facing your district?
Hands down the economy. This is a district that’s probably one of the most unemployed in all of Wake County. My focus in this district and for my activism at the legislature is to increase small business investment and support mechanisms so that people who have been thinking about becoming small business owners can do so. So, that way, they are now employed. Also, supporting other small businesses and encouraging them to hire people through various kinds of incentives.
Why should your constituents elect you?
My constituents should elect me because I really fit a mold that the legislature needs. For instance, I am a woman and we have lost several women in the legislature for reasons of being redistricted out of their districts or they have voluntarily chosen not to serve again in the legislature.
Also, the average age is somewhere around 62 years old at the legislature. So I think that by being under 40, that I bring the youth voice, or at least a young professional’s voice to the legislature, which is needed in terms of trying to make sure our policy making at the state level is representative. Also, I’m African-American. This district is comprised of 63 percent African-American.
I think I’m very representative of this district and there are large populations of voting-age people, people between the ages of 25 and 45 years old. I think that out of all the people I’m running against, I have the most representative qualities of any of them.
What are the biggest accomplishments and failures of the N.C. House during the last two years?
There are several things that I could talk about that are negative, so let me start with those. I think some of the failures, and one of the things that I will certainly be working on once I get to the legislature, is putting pre-K into Health and Human services. I think that was certainly a wrong direction for our past legislature. I think that it needs to stay in public instruction, because, after all, what pre-K is designed to do is to educate those young babies so that they’re ready for the educational structure of pre-K and above. So I think that was a critical move that is going to leave, in particular, low-income families and low-income children out of the larger picture as it relates to being academically inclined moving forward. I hope we can turn that around.
Other failures that I’ve seen form this legislature is the inability to bring the unemployment rate down. Right now, in North Carolina, we are still over the 10 percent mark. I believe that in this district that I live in we are more like the 22 percentile range in terms of unemployment. So I think that regardless, we have to focus on areas, whether it be low-income urban areas or rural areas that have high unemployment, and we have to turn that around. So whether we focus our resources into agriculture or industry or technology depending on where we are, we have to focus.
I think that all the departments, such as the Department of Commerce and the Unemployment Commission and all of these kinds of departments, have to do a much better job and I think the legislature needs to give them the support so that they can do that job. I think that as it relates to improvements in the state, Gov. Purdue and the legislature, they had voted to collapse various departments, such as the commerce department, the Employment Security Commission, and some of these economic departments which accounted to save the taxpayers of North Carolina over $300 million over the next couple of years. So I think that those are some of the kinds of things that we need to do moving forward, especially in downtown economies, especially when we have a deficit in our budget.
I would also say that one of the negative things that has taken place in the legislature is the inability in the past of them working hand in hand. I am the type of person that is needed in a policy making body of this sort because I feel like I can work well across aisles and at the end of the day, I think that’s what it’s about – human respect and respect of one another. But what we can see out of this last legislature has not been that respectful or at least that’s not how it’s played out in the media, so that’s unfortunate.
I think that we can do better because people in these policy making positions, they are an example for everyone else that follows behind them and even in municipal governments. We can do a much better job and that’s why I made the commitment to go to the legislature. A positive aspect is that the legislature did what it set out to do and that is balance the budget or at least move towards balancing the budget.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I like to travel. I’ve traveled to almost 30 different countries. I’ve hit all but two continents. I still need to get over to Australia. Of course, I probably I will not go over to Antarctica. So my guilty pleasure is traveling.