Chuck Edwards is endorsed by retiring State Sen. Tom Apodaca, in his quest to succeed him. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Edwards, Hendersonville-based businessman and Flat Rock resident, aims to ably “fill a void left by Sen. (Tom) Apodaca’s retirement,” he told The Tribune Sunday. “To fight for WNC, this position requires a winning skill-set oriented towards business success, leadership and community service. I possess exactly that … I would be honored to use it to serve a region that I so love.”
Apodaca (R-Hendersonville) endorsed Edwards, as a “great businessman and a no-nonsense, principled conservative who will use decades of private-sector experience to fight for Western North Carolina and solve problems in Raleigh.”
Edwards in his first run for a public office contends with Lisa Carpenter Baldwin and Dennis Justice in the GOP primary March 15. The winner will face sole Democrat candidate Norm Bossert, a school principal from Pisgah Forest, in the Nov. 8 election deciding Apodaca’s successor. The district has all of Henderson and Polk counties, and South Buncombe.
Chuck and Teresa Edwards own seven area McDonald’s restaurants, employing nearly 400 people in Hendersonville, Brevard and Canton. The Golden Arch’s local golden boy worked his way up, starting at age 16 by flipping burgers and cleaning bathrooms at the McDonald’s off Spartanburg Highway. That is the first one he would buy.
Whenever told how fortunate he is to own so many businesses, he quips in return that “the harder I work, the ‘luckier’ I get.”
“Putting leadership and business experience to work for WNC” is one of his campaign slogans. Edwards points to 40 years of “business skills, in understanding how to get things done in Raleigh.” He added that “the conservative values and real-world experience that helped grow a business can help deliver jobs and opportunities for Western North Carolina.”
Edwards, 55, was chairman of the local Chamber of Commerce in 2013, representing about 1,000 businesses, and is chairman of the Raleigh McDonald’s Owners/Operators Government Relations Committee on behalf of 150 franchisees.
“I’m a businessman who has balanced budgets, and signed paychecks. I’ve seen first-hand the challenges working families and job creators face every day. I want to make sure the same opportunities” he had can go to “anyone who works hard, and puts in their time.” He has long “tried to find ways to make a difference for our region.”
He calls for greater career-oriented job training. Expanding the area and statewide economy and tax base are prime goals business and civic leaders highlight to him. He wants this to remain a “business-friendly, freedom-to-work” (non-unionized) state that provides solid infrastructure and a trained workforce.
On the educational front, unlike the other two GOP candidates he favors the $2 billion state bond referendum March 15. It is mostly for college buildings, including nearly $3 million for Blue Ridge Community College. Upgrading collegiate facilities helps in training people for jobs, he said. As in business, it is periodically “necessary to invest capital to ensure infrastructure that is necessary for economic growth.”
Specifically, he sees the bond as urgently needed to “repair long-overdue infrastructure needs, address capacity issues for community and state colleges, prepare students for higher-tech and higher-paying jobs, and allowing municipalities access to funds to rebuild aging and failing water and sewer systems.” He cited school “roofs that are collapsing, walls that are falling, and parking lots with sink holes.”
The portion for agricultural sciences can “help our farmers produce more products in a more cost-effective manner,” and another expands National Guard capacity in crises.
“I have carefully studied the state’s debt service structure” and low borrowing rates, he stressed. “it indicates the time to act on these many issues is now.”
If the bond passes, he insists on “thorough and accurate reporting of how the funds are used” for the nearly 100 projects. “We owe it to our ‘shareholders’ — the taxpayers.”
Cutting tax amounts, excessive regulations and government scope are among Edwards’ “common-sense” priorities. “My goal is to continue to lower the total tax burden for families and businesses,” he told The Tribune. “This can be done by building our economy, broadening our tax base, and eliminating wasteful spending.”
He said at a recent candidates’ forum he would work with other Republicans to “put together legislation that would be passable on the other (Democrats’) side,” to ease tax amounts without necessarily lowering rates. The next step is to “roll up our sleeves and simply go to work, to convince those on the other side that’s what needs to happen.”
He cautioned against over-relying on a specific, targeted tax rate. “It could create a shell game, where taxes are simply moved from one type (i.e. income) of tax to another (i.e. sales). At the end of the day, I want our citizens to have more of their money left over to do with as they wish.”
He said as the “only candidate in this race who has ever had the responsibility of signing the front of paychecks, I have an unmatched understanding of how tax burdens affect families and businesses. I am best equipped to help resolve such issues.”
Edwards has already helped achieve tax relief. He said as local chamber chairman he conferred with state legislators in “listening sessions” as a “trusted voice for tax reform in 2013 — cutting rates, implementing a flat tax … and lowering the employment taxes that all businesses pay.”
Specifically, he noted to The Tribune, “I rallied business owners to make calls and write letters. I assembled a group of business owners in Charlotte. We met with State Sen. Bob Rucho, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. I traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with other business owners at the offices of 12 Senate and House members. I provided feedback and case studies to the N.C. Chamber of Commerce.”
That group asked him to “issue a rebuttal to Obamacare, when Hillary Clinton was expected to visit N.C. and falsely praise its effect on our citizens. All of these are experiences that will enable me to quickly launch into my role in the N.C. Senate, to have a positive influence for our district.”
The state chamber has sent campaign fliers supporting him. Rival Baldwin notes the chamber at several levels has protected cheaper, immigrant labor in farming and other fields and thus favors further work permits and also amnesty for current illegal aliens — which she opposes.
Local Chamber Executive Director Bob Williford told Tribune that a letter Edwards co-signed (and Baldwin cited) about general about immigration and did not call for amnesty. It went to the two parties’ U.S. House leaders.
Edwards explained that “when called upon by our area farmers, I sent a letter urging (Democrat) Nancy Pelosi and (Republican) John Boehner to get off their butts, and do something about illegal immigration. It’s a huge problem, and it is dividing our nation. Our farmers are begging for a legal guest worker program.”
However, he pledged, “I am unequivocally against amnesty. I have always opposed amnesty. I always will. Exactly like (U.S. Rep.) Mark Meadows, I advocate for secure borders and a reliable legal system (for gaining citizenship that) our agricultural economy can count on.” He states he is for enforcing a policy that “cracks down on illegal immigration, and rewards people who work hard and play by the rules” to be guest workers and eventual citizens.
“I support Gov. McCrory and N.C. General Assembly Republican efforts to keep illegal immigrants from taking North Carolinians’ jobs,” Edwards emphasized.
He is for improving the I-26 commercial corridor, and developing the Ecusta Trail which can draw businesses. The longtime NRA member will “defend our values and protect the constitution” such as for gun rights, and as among pro-life/family candidates.
He is on boards of Entegra Bank and the Community Foundation of Henderson County.
Charles Marion Edwards graduated from West Henderson High School in 1978. He moved here from Waynesville, at age 12. He attended Blue Ridge Community College. He and Teresa have been married 34 years. Son Chris, 34, works in the family business. Daughter Kim, 32, is in nursing. “This where I raised a family, built a business, and learned how to work hard and get things done,” Chuck stated.
“I’m not a politician,” Edwards said at a recent GOP breakfast. He has a “clear and unencumbered viewpoint of Raleigh.” He is a “normal mountain boy,” a Christian who learned hard work and sacrifice, to “worship God, and watch out for our neighbors … I want to put that to work for you.”
For more on his campaign, check http://chuckedwardsforncsenate.com.
Polls are open Tuesday, March 15 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The central elections office and main sites in Edneyville, Etowah, Flat Rock and Fletcher have early voting all day this week, then to 1 p.m. Saturday.