A probe of new Gov. Roy Cooper is brewing, over an alleged slush fund. Henson discussed that with The Tribune, but focused on other matters before about 30 Republicans in Dixie Diner off U.S. 64 in Laurel Park.
Henson and District Attorney Greg Newman also up for reelection were main speakers Saturday. Several other candidates briefly spoke.
The Henderson County Republican Convention is on Saturday, March 10 in Apple Valley Middle School, starting 12:30 p.m. Republicans registered (as of Jan. 31) in the county can get involved by seeking to be a precinct delegate; precincts meet at 1 p.m. then send their delegates to the hour-long county convention at 3 p.m. that day, County GOP Chr. Merry Parris Guy noted.
County Democrats convene Saturday, March 31, 9-1.
Their precinct meetings were Feb. 17. They have monthly breakfast meetings on the first Saturday of the month, 9-11 a.m. in their headquarters at 905 S. Greenville Hwy. Their chairman is Mark Case.
Many local Republicans and Democrats alike said they are happy to get younger people to run for office. Henson said that at age 26, he is the youngest state representative in North Carolina. The first-term Republican represents Henderson Countys southern third (such as Flat Rock and Crab Creek) along with all of Transylvania and Polk counties in District 113.
The Rosman native was a Marine Reserve for six recent years, rising to rank of corporal and to infantry machine gun team leader. Henson was a Rosman Tiger point guard, and linebacker-fullback. He and wife Kelsey (Meece) Henson expect their second child, a daughter, on Aug. 4. Son Bo turns three this year. Henson said he has balanced public service with parenting, and handles the four-and-a-half hour drive each way.
He defeated Democrat Maureen Mahan Copelof of Brevard, who was age 62 and 38 years his elder. Hensons predecessors were Trudi Walend of Brevard, then Chris Whitmire of Rosman for a pair of two-year terms before stepping aside.
Walend has said when she first met Henson she could tell he speaks to issues starting with jobs, and picks up details well. Others praise Hensons integrity and sensitivity, to go with candor at the heart of issues.
Henson espouses Christian conservatism. He is on many committees Finance, Homeland Security, Military and Veteran Affairs; Regulatory Reform, Education (K-12), Wildlife Resources, and the pivotal House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting.
Henson pointed to a dozen bills he was primary or co-sponsor on, in his first year in office. He secured money for a National Guard training facility in DuPont State Forest. That will cut the wait time by over half, for a helicopter for emergency rescues. Currently, a copter flies from far-away Salisbury. He was also behind getting employers to provide more paid time off to guardsmen in active duty.
Henson sees a much more cohesive atmosphere among lawmakers in Raleigh, than in Washington. On one hand, Henson told The Tribune there is usually vital bi-partisan cooperation in Raleigh and that most bills and ensuing technical measures attached to them pass with votes from both sides of the aisle and strong support. The vast majority of legislation is passed unanimously.
He cited a consensus issue the classroom size fix of a smaller limit so there is a better ratio of teacher to pupils for enhanced communication and teaching. The bipartisan vote for that bill was just over a week ago.
Ive had good conversations with my Democrat colleagues, as we try to work together, Henson said with a smile.
But on the other hand, guns is an example of a perpetually-polarizing issue, he said. Its a very controversial issue, recently in the news again with a teen shooting pupils in a South Florida school.
Generally, Democrats want tighter restrictions on people getting permits for guns, while Republicans focus on punishing gun-wielding criminals not owners and support law-abiding citizens possessing guns perhaps even in schools for self-protection against crazed gunmen, robbers and others.
Henson co-sponsored a bill last April to provide comprehensive firearm education for select employees in schools. It passed the House on first reading, then went to the Education (K-12) Committee he is on.
A House bill now in the Senate would lower the conceal and carry legal age from 21 to 18. This is an example of bills the GOP has a super majority of over the two-thirds of votes needed to override Democrat Gov. Roy Coopers vetoes.
Henson’s bill that passed the House but not Senate would increase prison penalties for convictions of felons on crimes with a gun, and for the property-related offense of breaking and entering.
A Henson-sponsored bill that passed the House would waive community college tuition for senior citizens. He was behind a bill to help fund a new law enforcement training center in Henderson county. He co-sponsored a bill to put party affiliation back onto the ballot for superior and district court races.
He was one of three who introduced a repeal of sales tax on RMI (repair, maintenance and installation services) that advanced to the Rules Committee. One of his bills introduced last year covered veterans, health care, and youth suicide prevention. Another was to award free license plates to partially-disabled military veterans.
He co-sponsored a bill to make judicial candidates party affiliation open to better understand their likely perspectives, rather than veiled as in current non-partisan elections.
He is pleased the local district gained another district judge. He praised efforts of D.A. Newman and Sheriff Charlie McDonald. He said the sheriff convinced him to change his vote to against a bill to protect whistleblowers in law enforcement, reasoning it could backfire to make it too difficult to justly punish bad officers.
Henson said partisan tensions are rising by coming from new Gov. Roy Cooper, who two years ago dethroned Republican Pat McCrory. On Facebook on Feb. 14, he ripped Coopers now-disclosed letter last October, to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (also Washington Post owner) to try to lure Amazons Eastern headquarters to N.C.
In the letter, Cooper assures Bezos that Democrats more open-minded views will prevail over GOP values on social issues, such as the SB2 bathroom law about transgender people that was a liberal rallying cry. It was not enough. Amazon reportedly narrowed its site choice to D.C. and New York City.
First Hillary called us deplorables, Henson stated. Now Democrat Governor Roy Cooper compares conservatives to the embarrassing uncle at family reunions. There is no respect from the left for people who have a different set of values and ideas. Shameful.
Slush Fund Scandal
An ethics scandal is brewing against Gov. Cooper, the former state attorney general. Cooper as governor is essentially hoarding a $57.8 million personal slush fund, Henson said. Accusations of a pay to play/pay for permit bribe for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a slush fund also comes publicly from McCrory and in a joint letter last week from State Senate Rules Chr. Bill Rabon and House Rules Chr. David Lewis.
McCrory, Coopers predecessor, said he would not have accepted such money from developers. he calls it a culture of corruption, and calls for an ethics investigation.
There is also a constitutional crisis over separation of powers and due process, as the governor cannot directly allocate such funds, Henson noted. Instead, the General Assembly can although the governor can request its allocation.
The money reportedly came behind the scenes from builders of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, for a supposed mitigation fund regarding a required state environmental permit for and impact of the project in eight Eastern N.C. counties in the I-95 corridor.
Even a Democrat, Rep. Pricey Harrison, declared the money a pay-off to Cooper as condition of getting the permit granted, according to the Raleigh News & Observer last week.
Cooper wants that money to go for mitigation over ACP for domestically-produced and purportedly clean-burning natural gas, and its permit process. The 600-mile underground path of 42-inch-wide pipe is to go from West Virginia down across much of Eastern N.C. This project includes Duke Energy.
It has support for creating more energy and jobs, yet question the $1.2 billion stimulus in Eastern N.C. economies and environmental opposition for going through conservation areas.
Republicans instead want that money to go to the eight school districts in the pipelines path. The Senate overwhelmingly voted redirecting the money for that use, and it went last week into the House. Gov. Cooper indicated he may neither try to veto nor sign the bill, instead effectively abstaining and letting it automatically becoming law, Henson said.
Henson quipped to the breakfast crowd Saturday that when he was new in Raleigh, he was once mistaken for an intern and initially kept out of a committee meeting.
The 2018 Election
Henson said 2018 is the most important election of our lives, with political clout at stake. He said Democrats seem fired up and have a $25 million statewide campaign chest, compared to merely $800,000 so far for the GOP. He said core Republicans are who wins the election, by getting people out to vote.
Newman said its important to have conservative people in various public offices. He said Democrats want social programs to solve problems while were about individual responsibility and owning what we do such as breaking the law.
Guy and event host Bruce Hatfield both urged people to network with friends, and to host neighbors to meet and hear candidates. Hatfield said overconfidence resulted in a low voter turnout in Fletcher, and longtime Mayor Bill Moore getting upset by merely about 50 votes.
Other candidates who briefly spoke include Sheriff Charlie McDonald who has served for six years, and first-term Register of Deeds Lee King who has greatly expanded online deed records.
Also, Rebecca McCall looks to succeed retiring Tommy Thompson as a Henderson County commissioner. She noted her roots go back to William Mills, a pioneer settler in the county.
Commissioner Grady Hawkins spoke, and said the county amidst its budgeting is looking at more money to combat the rising opioid epidemic. He noted the N.C. Supreme Court in May will convene in the Historic Courthouse in Hendersonville, and tickets are required from the N.C. Bar Association to attend.
Auto dealer Jay Egolf is running for school board, with a common-sense business approach. Like the others, he spoke Saturday about his passion for local community and policies. Candidate filing in Henderson County concludes Feb. 28.
The HCGOP Womens Club luncheon is Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 11:30 a.m., in The Cedars. The cost is $15. Doris Hawkins leads that group. The next day, Wednesday, has the GOP Mens Club meeting Dutch treat in Dixie Diner at 7:30 a.m. and hearing guest candidates. Hatfield also oversees this function.
The county GOP is now at 170 Four Seasons Blvd. For more on its events, check hendersoncountygop.com/events/. To contact Rep. Hensons office (room 537) in Raleigh, call (919) 715-4466 or email him at Cody.Henson@ncleg.net.