Danny Hefner, the Ocean Isle Beach Democrat who lost 2012’s Senate District Eight race to incumbent Bill Rabon, has thrown his hat into the same ring again. A former Marine Corps officer and truck driver, Hefner now works as a local delivery driver, an inter-faith minister, and a therapeutic foster parent to abused and troubled children. The third-time Senate candidate recently sat down with WHQR to discuss his plans for a range of social issues—but first, Hefner says he plans to address the economy.
WHQR's Katie O'Reilly: How will you be handling your campaign differently this time around?
Danny Hefner: Well, I’ve been campaigning for this seat for almost three years. I actually have gone out and worked with the constituents in all four counties. I have sat down with them—I actually have plans that are formulated based on recommendations directly from the constituents. Those plans are actually laid out in writing—that’s number one. Number two; submit that plan to the public, so they can give you feedback. I believe in participatory democracy.
KO: Tell me about your main focus during this election cycle.
DH: Jobs are the foundation of our economy. Without those jobs you don’t have a revenue stream to pay for a sound and solid educational system. You don’t have the revenue for the critically needed public services, such as fire and rescue, or even our social services. So all these things I am focused on right now are for our jobs creation, which will help build all of our other critically needed programs.
KO: So, do you have any specific plans to spur job creation?
DH: We need to offer those incentives on the state level. So, here’s what I want to do: You own a manufacturing company you’re thinking about bringing here. For your first five years, I would want to see you receive a zero percent state income tax rate. We’re not getting the revenue now, are we? Because the company is not here. So for the first five years you would receive a zero percent corporate tax rate in this state. For the following ten years, you would receive a tax rate of five percent, built in fail-safe here. It’s got a sunset. At this time, it ends. Period. Two, all of the money that you save on those taxes must be used to either reemploy people, expand your footprint, purchase modern equipment that will make you competitive, and must be North Carolina-based. You must agree to headquarter here.
KO: What are your other top issues?
DH: One is our manufacturing jobs—bringing those back from overseas. As you stated, jobs are the primary focus. Two is education, and three are veterans. Right now, nationally, veterans are at almost a fifty percent unemployment rate. Almost fifty percent.
KO: Do you have any ideas to help reemploy veterans?
DH: One is I have a plan that is a, um, I call it, it’s like a two-for-one deal. Now let’s say you own any type of company and you have a job that is publicly listed. And a veteran comes in to apply for that position. What I would like to do, is, if you, as a veteran, are coming to apply for that job, and the business owner agrees to train you and put you back to work, every penny that that employer pays you in salary and in benefits, they could use as a one hundred percent deduction on their state corporate income taxes. Then the following position that is to be filled, they may use that same money to help reemploy a non-veteran.
KO: And circling back to the second priority you mentioned, how would you work to improve public education?
DH: In this state we have come to a point where we have a schools-to-prison mentality. We are spending more money on incarceration than we are on educating. My first goal is to bring our teachers’ salaries up to the national average—that should be one of the first items on this list. Not this twenty-five percent plan that they’ve got, with the four-year mandatory contracts that has no protections for the teachers. Not the thirty-sixty-ten plan that was bandied about, again that has no protections for the teachers. You need to have someone who’s going to go in there, who’s going to fight for a teacher. Teachers are surrogate parents, in many regards. That teacher should also not be held accountable for the failings the parents are not providing their child.
KO: Danny Hefner, thank you for joining us today.
DH: Thank you; I do appreciate it.
Third-time candidate Danny Hefner is one of three vying for incumbent Bill Rabon’s seat in North Carolina Senate District Eight. Hefner, an Ocean Isle Beach Democrat and former Marine Corps officer, works as a local delivery driver, inter-faith minister, and therapeutic foster parent to troubled children. Hefner says he’s passionate about spurring job creation and education reform. And he also cites transparency and collaboration as key legislative priorities.
Not only does Hefner publicize his proposed legislative plans and encourage the public to weigh in on them, but he says that as senator, he would insist upon a rotating schedule of weekly meetings with all of District Eight’s county commissioners. That’s because each county has its own very specific set of concerns, according to Hefner. For example, in Brunswick County, beach renourishment is a key topic.
"Bladen County is rural and agricultural. How are we going to help keep that infrastructure sound? In Pender County, schools, as well as expansion to help increase tourism there. The part of District Eight that is in New Hanover County, is actually a rather economically depressed area, and I want to meet with the county commissioners here, in this county, to ask how can we do improvements in that area?"
Hefner adds that he’s particularly concerned about District Eight’s New Hanover County citizens, as he says they were illegally redistricted out of District Nine—the precinct serving the rest of New Hanover County.
"That’s four thousand voters that are not able to vote with their county. It is an unconstitutional split of an area that is predominantly African-American. Truth is truth. Those voters were carved out of District Nine to protect the District Nine Seat."
Hefner says that he plans to work with District Nine’s senator to return those voters to their constitutional precinct—even though this would mean he would lose voters.