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BENSON — With tax cuts that favor the wealthy and corporations, Corey Stephens thinks the N.C. General Assembly has lost its way.
“If elected, I am going to focus my efforts on the working-class people of the great state of North Carolina,” said Stephens, a Democrat who hopes to unseat N.C. Rep. Larry Strickland in November. “These are the people who haven’t seen a meaningful increase in their wages in four decades, the people who are working two or three jobs just to barely scrape by.”
“One of the major pillars of my campaign is that we are going to do better for these folks,” Stephens added, “the folks who are working so hard but can’t seem to make it on the federal starvation minimum wage of $7.25.”
Stephens said it’s time to raise that wage floor. “I will be championing the ‘radical’ idea of a $15 minimum wage passed at the state level,” he said in an email response to questions from the Johnstonian News. “Considering the average North Carolinian is far more productive than in the 1970s, it’s time their wages kept up with the cost of living and inflation, instead of going into the pockets of major corporations.”
Stephens faults the current General Assembly for leaving the working class out of North Carolina’s prosperity. “It is a shame that the GOP-led General Assembly has done nothing to help these people out,” he said. “It is one of the most glaring failures of the House that I have ever seen.”
“I am running for office because I believe that it is time that a new generation, with new ideas and new voices, start taking on these leadership roles within our government,” Stephens added. “I believe that it is long overdue that everyday, working-class North Carolinians have a true representative in the General Assembly.”
Stephens is a progressive Democrat in a county that has long elected conservative Republicans. He has a plan to overcome that apparent disadvantage.
“Our plan to win this seat involves running a grassroots progressive campaign powered by the people instead of the big-money interests,” Stephens said. “We are going to knock on every door and preach our message, hoping that it resonates with enough people.”
That message is decidedly progressive.
“We plan on tackling the issues of climate change and major criminal-justice reform involving the legalization of marijuana in the state,” Stephens said. “I see this as an opportunity to move forward with bold action that is long overdue so that we can finally right some of the wrongs that have taken place in our criminal-justice system, especially disproportionately locking up people of color.”
Stephens’ progressive platform extends to health care and education too. “We plan on leading the fight in making sure that health care is a right afforded to all people, not just the wealthy who can afford it,” he said. “It is time to make sure that every North Carolinian has adequate and affordable health insurance.”
It’s also time to make college accessible to all who want to attend, Stephens said. “We are going to tackle the issue of making public colleges, like the University of North Carolina, tuition free,” he said. “It is long overdue that we take the incredible and almost insurmountable burden of college tuition off of the backs of young students who are just trying to do the right thing in pursuing their education.”
North Carolina should treat college like it treats K-12 public education, Stephens said. “We all have seemed to agree that publicly funding schools K-12 is the appropriate way to handle education,” he said. “Why not extend that out to a K-16 program? It would be a huge burden lifted off of the backs of young students in North Carolina, making them more economically stable as well as being able to contribute more to North Carolina’s growing economy.”
About Corey Stephens
Born Feb. 23, 1993, in Raleigh, Stephens now makes his home in Benson with his girlfriend of three years, Terri. He has a daughter, Marilyn, 6, and two sons, Hendrix, 4, and Morrison, who was born in the fall.
“So there is always something going on the in the Stephens household,” he said.
Stephens attended Leesville Road High School in Raleigh. “I did not attend a university,” he said. “My mother was involved in a work-related incident that left her handicapped and struggling to walk. She was a single mother raising me, and I ... elected to say home and tend to her needs.”
Stephens is a personal shopper for Walmart in Smithfield.