Three candidates are running in the state House District 25 election this year and two of them are pastors.
State Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, holds that seat and is hoping to continue to represent the district for the next two years.
“I am running for re-election to continue the work that I started in the previous legislative session. Specifically, there is work regarding job creation, health care reform and access, affordable housing, systemic inequity, public school funding, rural infrastructure investment, public safety, environmental justice and the constitutional rights of women that are important to the community and state to move forward,” Gailliard said in a recent interview.
Gailliard is being challenged by Republican John Check, who ran against him in the 2018 election. Check said he is running because he feels he better represents the ideals of the community.
“I am running because I believe that my values reflect the values of the average person in the district and to push back on the socialism of the left. Every time the government ‘gives’ us anything, we give up more and more of our liberty,” Check said. “I am a pro-life conservative and will defend our constitution.”
Libertarian candidate Nick Taylor also is running for the seat in this election as he did in 2018. However, he did not respond to a request for information for this article.
In the 2018 election, Taylor garnered roughly 3.4 percent of the vote, Check earned 45.1 percent and Gailliard claimed victory with 51.5 percent of the votes cast in that non-presidential election year.
Check and Gailliard both are family men. Check, 67, has been married to his wife Sheryl for 42 years. The couple has one daughter who is a pediatrician in New Bern. Gailliard, 55, is married and has four living biological children, he said.
They also share a common calling.
Gailliard is the well-known pastor of Word Tabernacle Church, a Rocky Mount-based megachurch that serves thousands of people in the Twin Counties and beyond. Gailliard originally hails from North Philadelphia but moved to Rocky Mount in 2004 for the purpose of planting the church, he said.
“For the past 15 years I have lived, worked and worshipped here. I lived in South Rocky Mount for several years and now in the Oak Level area of Nash County. I am additionally connected to House District 25 through the various organizations and boards I have served on including the United Way, Chamber of Commerce, Tar River Mission Clinic, Kiwanis Club and the Eastern North Carolina Ministerial Alliance, to name a few,” Gailliard said.
Check is a retired minister with 33 years of ministry experience. He currently serves a small church in Robersonville. He also has business experience, having operated a small business and worked for an IBM reseller in the past, he said.
But he has strong roots in the community, he said.
“I have lived in eastern North Carolina for most of my life. I was raised in Tarboro and served churches in Wilson and Rocky Mount as well as other cities throughout eastern North Carolina. I purchased a home in Rocky Mount in 2006 because Rocky Mount is home for me,” he said.
Despite what they have in common, the two responding candidates see quite differently on a number of issues of importance to the district, including the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Given the proven seriousness of this virus, I support how Governor Cooper has managed to lead with both courage and compassion during what is a very difficult time for all of us,” Gailliard said. “As we move forward, it is important that we consider the economy, public education and public health as not being irreconcilable extremes to one another but to factor each in so that the institutions and businesses valuable to all of us remain operational.”
Check maintains that Cooper has taken too high-handed an approach that favors some groups over others.
“It is my understanding that our governor has met with the Council of State less than eight hours in the 7½ months since the shutdown was mandated. If elected, I would press our governor to meet with his duly elected Council of State and quit acting without their consent. I will ask respectfully that a more reasoned approach be taken moving forward. Allowing big box stores to remain open and forcing smaller locally owned businesses to close makes no sense. Allowing protests and rioting to go mostly unchecked while forcing churches to close is incongruent,” Check said.
The two also differ in the way to approach economic growth for the district. Gailliard wants to focus more on developing small businesses while Check favors a more regional approach.
“I currently serve on the Small Business Task Force of the N.C. Rural Center addressing this very issue. If small business struggles then our local economy will underperform. Especially as a result of COVID, the small business climate is declining. The economic future of the Twin Counties will largely be determined by our ability to level the playing field and remove the red tape so there is opportunity for everyone … while ensuring the infrastructure and workforce to attract and retain larger corporations,” Gailliard said.
Check said the district must work together as a region.
“What is good for the tri-counties is good for District 25. I would recommend tax credits for new jobs created and continue to push low taxes and less regulation. I would work to promote that our district is strategically located along the I-95 corridor with rapid access to Norfolk, Wilmington and Morehead City. With CSX and trucking, District 25 is a great location for business,” Check said.
The two responding candidates also have differing views on what is most needed in the district.
Check sees law and order and education as two big priorities.
“Neighborhood safety and whether or not law enforcement needs to be ‘reimagined’ thus being defunded. I am very concerned about the national and statewide movement to reimagine law enforcement. Taking funds from law enforcement and hiring social workers will result in defunding law enforcement,” Check said. “As a pro-school choice candidate, I will also work to create the very best educational opportunities for all of our students.”
But he also sees the need to restore faith in local government.
“Citizens need to be assured that their local governments are being properly run. I will introduce legislation that provides the guidelines for making sure that best practices are in place to restore confidence in our local leadership. The challenges we face in District 25 are challenges being faced throughout our state,” he said.
Gailliard sees the situation differently.
“Although the economy, health care and public education are always at the top of every election, nothing is more important than maintaining the health of our democracy. We must resist any efforts by any candidate to undermine civic trust, sow seeds of racial or social discord and division, manipulate or dilute the meaning of law and order and cause any conflicts with our representative democracy. It is fine for us to disagree on the best policy approaches, but we should all agree to affirm human dignity and advance justice for all people,” Gailliard said.
Early voting already has started in the Twin Counties. Election Day is Nov. 3.