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State Chuck Edwards: Developing jobs and fiscal sense are ‘in my wheelhouse’

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State Sen. Chuck Edwards is shown last week in George and Pam Danz’s home, at a fundraiser for state rep GOP candidate Cody Henson. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas- New State Sen. Chuck Edwards said constituents he speaks to are most alarmed about refugees from the Middle East coming into the state and nation with potential for a few terrorists to sneak in.

That issue is raised even more than ongoing quests for more jobs and lower taxes — two priority issues for the Hendersonville bearded businessman.

The 1979 West Henderson grad won a three-way GOP primary March 15, with 56 percent of the vote. His next opponent, Democrat Norm Bossert of Pisgah Forest, has been principal of Black Mountain Elementary for 10 years. District 48 has Henderson and Transylvania counties, and South Buncombe.

GOP candidate Edwards is already succeeding local State Sen. Tom Apodaca before the general election — getting appointed to finish Apodaca’s term from Sept. 13 to Dec. 31, with his fate beyond that up to the election Nov. 8. “I’m honored, and glad I accepted,” after initial reluctance, he told The Tribune. He said “I want a clear win by election.”

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Edwards Aug. 19, a month after Apodaca stepped down and five days after a special GOP district-wide executive committee for those three counties voted to recommended their party’s nominee. Votes are proportional (one per 300 residents) to population in the 48th District; Henderson dominates with 110,000 of 191,000 residents.

Apodaca stepped down this summer with lawmakers out of session, after seven two-year terms. He stated he left early to weigh state lobbyist job offers, and get going on the legally-required six-month wait before he can accept such work.

Apodaca stated it was a “privilege to serve.” He led the powerful Rules Committee that screens potential bills. He was right-hand man for Senate Leader Phil Berger. Apodaca endorsed Edwards, to fill his term and be elected.

Like former bail bondsman Apodaca 14 years before him, Charles Marion Edwards joins the Senate as a Republican and Hendersonville businessman.

The General Assembly is off until Jan. 11. But Edwards is going to Raleigh weekly for a day or so, so by then — if elected— “I’m ready to go to work.” He multi-tasks with his first run for political office, family and business here, learning his way in Raleigh, positioning for committee assignments, and consulting with staff. He feels much more energetic to stay on the go, after resuming regular exercise he let go in the primary race.

Getting Edwards in place well ahead of Nov. 8 gives him a sliver of incumbency, as a bonus. With Apodaca gone, it continues constituent service. Edwards said he is tackling issues and case work to “get people straight answers,” such as when state-funded highways and bridges are to be built or where to turn to solve personal, state-affected dilemmas.

The most common concern — voiced by hundreds of constituents — is that Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees are welcomed into this country and that some burgeoning terrorists may blend in, he said. Citizens want steps to keep them from coming directly into N.C., he said. This is a national problem. As he notes, anyone getting into one state legally can easily relocate to N.C.

Edwards said Sen. Berger asked him to serve on the pivotal Finance and Commerce Committee — due to “my business experience.” Workforce and Economic Development is also “in my wheelhouse,” he told The Tribune using a baseball slugging metaphor, due to years of running his own business and as a business consultant to others.

Sen. Berger lauded Edwards’ “tireless work ethic, sharp business sense and drive to tackle tough policy challenges.” In praising Edwards’ appointment, he stated “Chuck Edwards is an embodiment of how hard work and perseverance pays off,” he stated. “He started working at McDonald’s while in high school, learned the business from the ground up, and went on to open several of his own franchises.”

The Golden Arch’s local golden boy first flipped burgers in the McDonald’s off Spartanburg Highway, the first one he would buy. Now, Chuck and wife Teresa Edwards own seven area McDonald’s restaurants in Hendersonville, Brevard and Canton. They employ nearly 400 people. They have two grown children.

Apodaca earlier 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 spoke to The Tribune last week at a private fundraiser in Flat Rock for Cody Henson, who is running to succeed fellow Republican Chris Whitmire in State House District 113. Guests included Dist. 117 State Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hen. Co.). This reception was held Sept. 21, eight days after Edwards’ 56th birthday.

Edwards’ priorities start with the economy and jobs, and overall budget. He already helped achieve tax relief as local Chamber of Commerce chairman three years ago. Then in a state Chamber project, he organized business owners to lobby for business tax relief by phone and letters and to confer with state legislators in “listening sessions” in Charlotte, and with congressional staffs in D.C.

“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 wants to “put together legislation that would be passable on the other (Democrats’) side,” to ease tax amounts without necessarily lowering rates.”

Edwards also wants to serve on the Senate Education Committee. He wants “to be sure we have the resources in the classroom. This doesn’t simply mean spending more money. We should better empower our school boards to make these decisions, on how to best spend money.”

Specifically, he wants less-stringent earmarking that he said backfires and results in excessive spending in some areas and not enough in more-needed ones. School systems spend money that they otherwise lose. Instead, he said, “they should be able to move money to where they need it most.”

Bossert’s campaign issues include environment — such as greater alternative energy tax credits for businesses — and for the state to expand Medicaid benefits to fill in mandated health care coverage cracks. Edwards counters that “Obamacare” needs reform first, not greater Medicaid federal funding via this state. He said rules keep changing, and attached strings would cost N.C. a hefty $6 billion extra in the next decade. In case work, he helps people “navigate” Medicaid guidelines and procedures.

Edwards said area farmers want him appointed as WNC’s only senator on Agriculture and Environment. The voter-approved state bond referendum’s portion for agricultural sciences can “help our farmers produce more products in a more cost-effective manner.”

On labor and immigration, he said, “our farmers are begging for a legal guest worker program” for those following the law. He emphasized he opposes “amnesty” for those here illegally.

He is for enforcing policy that “cracks down on illegal immigration that takes North Carolinians’ jobs” and burdens benefit programs. “I believe that citizenship must only be obtained through completely legal means — which means entering our country legally, then following the appropriate legal process,” he said. “A ‘guest worker’ program should be just that. Migrant workers should be properly vetted, then allowed to work as a guest in our country for a limited period of time — with no implication that they are entitled to citizenship, on that basis alone.”

For more on Edwards’ campaign, check http://chuckedwardsforncsenate.com.

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