Name: Darren Jackson
Time in District: Almost 42 years
Amendment One: Against
What is the central issue of this election?
Well, my election is the primaries in May- it’s not November. So, I would say in May the No. 1 issue is going to be Amendment One. I imagine it will be what will drive turnout. I know there are a lot of primaries and a lot of professional races and things of that nature, but I think the No. 1 thing that we’re going to see people talking about and political ads being run on both sides is Amendment One. It’s already an issue people are asking about. I expect that’s only going to get more intense as people realize more about the pros and cons and unintended consequences. I imagine we’ll get a lot of questions about it.
What are the specific issues facing your district?
Education and jobs — the same things that are affecting everyone’s districts. In my specific district, eastern Wake County, if you were to look at the schools for Wake County, most of your schools with free-and-reduced lunch, high levels of free-and-reduced lunch students are in eastern Wake County and a lot of single parent households, one parent incomes. So we don’t have the advantages that they have in other parts of the county, so education is very important. We’d like to see the opposite of what’s happened in the last couple of years. We need additional help in schools, lower student-teacher ratios. We’re going the opposite direction with the last couple of budgets- we’ve been cutting those kinds of things.
Also, because state government being here in Raleigh, a lot of the affordable housing in Wake County is out in eastern Wake County, so I have a lot of state employees and of course the layoffs in state government have hurt my district particularly hard. The fact that we’re probably looking at another budget hole coming up July 1 and maybe have more cuts concerns me.
Why should your constituents elect you?
I hope I’ve done a good job, I believe I’ve done a good job and I hope they recognize I’ve done a good job. One of the things, especially in a primary election, that I would ask my opponents is “what would they do different?” A vote they could point to that the think that they think I voted against the interests of constituents or that I’ve done something different from something they would have done. I think the answer to that is “no.” in addition to that I’ve tried to be more involved. From the very beginning, I’ve said that one of the things that separates this part of the county is we have a lot of unorganized precincts, it’s just not very politically active, there’s nothing to do with clubs in the area and so I’ve tried to do a good job of reaching out to constituents through various things. I go to everything I’m invited to. Every church event, no matter how many or few people are going to be there, every rotary club event, anything I’m invited to like that. I’ve started a newsletter. If anybody wants to get it, they just send me an email. Every email I get, I add them to my newsletter list. We’re up to a few thousand people on that list. I just sent it out last week, I sent out my 36th newsletter in three years to let people know what’s going on.
In addition to that, I’ve done town hall meetings in every town I represent, because I represent parts of Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, Knightdale, and Garner. In three years, I’ve had eight town hall meetings. Those town hall meetings are not only attended, sometimes covered by the media, they’re also taped and run on local television. So, I feel like I’ve done what I can to let people know that not only am I their representative, but what I’m there to do for them, how I can help, and how they can reach me and try to let them know what I’m doing in Raleigh, what’s going on in Raleigh, how they can be more involved. Because of all those reason, I feel I deserve to be re-elected.
What are the biggest accomplishments and failures of the NC House over the last two years?
I’m going to really struggle to think of an accomplishment. Let’s start with the failures. There are a lot of failures that come to mind. Probably the one that impacts the most people is the budget. It has the widest range of effect. From social services to Medicaid to education, it affects a lot of different people and it’s definitely not the way I would have gone. I certainly could not have voted for a budget like that.
You hear about the war on women. We had a lot of bills that I can understand why women felt like they were targeted, and I think we went just the totally wrong direction on those issues. That was very disappointing. I would have thought that a party that campaigned on smaller, more efficient government and jobs would have come in and focused on that and not all these other various social issues.
They can’t tell you, not in one way, how Amendment One is supposed to bring jobs to North Carolina. The evidence is just the opposite, it’s going to discourage jobs and people coming to North Carolina. There’s companies who have actually spoken out against Amendment One, said that they would consider things like that when they make decisions where to put new server farms and new databases and all kinds of things. That’s very disappointing. I’m still hopeful that people in North Carolina that are going to vote that down in May. It’s really going to depend on turnout, but a lot of people are standing up and talking about Amendment One. So I’m hopeful that that which could be a bad thing could be avoided.
If you would have asked me at one point, the accomplishment, I probably would have said getting out of session shorter, having a shorter session, but the truth is, we’ve gone back so many times, it’s not really been shorter – it’s just been a waste of time. A lot of breaks, we’ll go back for a couple of days, then go back for a day or two- we just need to get our work done and get out of town and let people go on with their lives and plan on things. The way it is now, you can’t plan anything. You can’t plan a vacation, you can’t plan to do things because they might call you back into session for nothing.
Also, the stopping of the red route. The DOT had put out a proposed route that was called the red route that would split Garner in half. It would split the industrial park in half and it was just making a mess of the town. It was cutting some subdivisions off, it was going through a new senior center. Sales of homes and everything had just stopped in Garner while that red route was on the table. Through a bi-partisan effort, we were able to get that bill passed in about a week and a half. As soon as that happened, the developer that was selling the senior community center, he signed a contract, within about two days he had several sales since then. Homes sales have picked up. We’ve had several companies announce that they were coming in the spring to the industrial park. It basically just opened Garner back up to business. Before everyone got so partisan in the session, that was something both sides could work on and get passed. That’s what it’s supposed to happen.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure, but I drink a lot of Pepsi. I love Pepsi. I also like a lot of sweets. I run- I run a lot. I tell people I run just so I can eat whatever I want to eat. But I do often like to have a piece of cake or something like 9 or 9:30, even though you’re not supposed to have that. But I do like to sit and watch TV and have a piece of cake sometimes.