By Todd Wetherington, Sun Journal Staff
Posted on the New Bern Sun Journal on Jan. 29, 2018
A New Bern resident is throwing his hat into the ring for the upcoming N.C. House race.
Thirty-four year old Bryson Jones, a former Marine gunnery sergeant who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is running for the newly formed N.C. House District 79, which encompasses the western portion of Craven County and all of Beaufort County.
Jones, a Democrat, left the Marine Corps in April due to a spinal injury after serving 14 years as a combat cameraman. The Billings, Mont., native and father of three said he plans to continue to serve his community and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at East Carolina University.
“I loved North Carolina so much I decided to make this my permanent home, a place to raise my children and a place to live with my wife until we’re old and gray,” said Jones.
After the charged presidential election of 2016, Jones said he decided to become “a part of the solution versus sitting back and watching as a mere bystander.”
“Our district is plagued with poverty, lack of jobs, and many of us wondering where the prosperity has gone,” said Jones. “We cannot stand by and watch as the world evolves and leaves us behind.”
The N.C. House primary election will be on May 8, with the general election on Nov. 6. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 28.
The Sun Journal sent Jones a series of questions concerning his qualifications for the N.C. House seat and his views on some of the issues facing our region.
Sun Journal: Why have you decided to seek a N.C. House seat at this time?
Bryson Jones: “I decided to run for the North Carolina General Assembly, District 79, because I care about my neighbors and my community. I care about putting people first and being a voice for those in need.
“I’m a service-oriented person. I separated from the Marine Corps after 14 years due to a spine injury, but I feel like I have a lot more to give to my country. During my time in the military, my role as a gunnery sergeant was to keep things moving forward with a focus on mission accomplishment.
“Partisan extremism in our state politics is halting progress. I believe I can reach across the aisle to negotiate on tough matters affecting North Carolinians and bring fresh ideas to the table to benefit our area.”
S.J.: What qualities make you well suited to serve in the N.C. House?
Jones: “I am a proven leader. I have led Marines in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. I have traveled the world and seen the worst and the best of humanity. I am a father of three, soon to be four, and live an everyday working man’s life. I relate to the women and men in my district. I’m a hard and dedicated worker willing to put in the work to better our district. I am focused on making today better for tomorrow for the children, families, workers and people from every walk of life in Beaufort and Craven counties.”
S.J.: What are some of the most pressing issues you believe currently face the state legislature, and your district in particular?
Jones: “People are hurting, they’re hurting for healthcare, they’re hurting in their pocket books due to lack of quality jobs and fair wages, and they’re tired of watching chaos resulting in stagnation in Raleigh.
“First and foremost, it is my sincerest belief that everything starts with a quality education. We were just recently ranked fortieth in education nationally, and that is a tragedy. We need to properly fund our schools, prioritize STEM and vocational skills, and pay our teachers fair wages. We do a disservice to our children and future generations by not giving them the education they deserve. We miss out on increasing home values, emerging job opportunities and companies coming to our area because they don’t believe we have qualified workers or the proper infrastructure in place. Our future is bright, and our prospects will be plentiful if we simply invest in and prioritize education.
“The General Assembly has failed to expand Medicaid in our state. I don’t believe this is the right thing to do for the people who so desperately need quality healthcare. If expanded, we can provide coverage for an additional 800,000 North Carolinians. Furthermore, the opioid crisis has hit our area hard. It is ripping families apart and wreaking havoc within our community. We need to look into establishing rehabilitation programs that will end this problem and not perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
“I also think it’s past due that we mandate an increase in the minimum wage to provide working families in Eastern North Carolina with a wage they can live off of. While it’s true that unemployment nationally has dropped, decent paying jobs in our area are still scarce.
“Lastly, I think it’s important that we look at judicial reforms, transition and family reintegration programs, and additional training and resources for law enforcement. Everybody deserves a fair shake in life, and we need to recognize there are racial injustices happening within our district and in our communities. We need to uplift each other and build a level of trust, friendship, and community with all races, faiths, creeds, and sexualities. At the end of the day, we are all Americans, and we have more in common than we have differences.”
S.J.: Given the almost overwhelmingly partisan nature of politics at this time, how would you work with members of the other party to move important legislation forward?
Jones: “Everything in life is compromise, whether that’s deciding a state budget, or budgeting your family finances with your significant other. I think the key to compromise and working with people with differing views is to keep an open mind, stick to your values, and practice empathy. I believe that camaraderie, friendship, and building relationships with those across party lines are also important. North Carolinians demand bipartisanship, but we focus so heavily on the extremes of each party. I have no doubt that my professional life has prepared me to work across the aisle, and compromise to create positive change in our communities.”
S.J.: Where do you stand on the legislature’s mandate calling for smaller class sizes in the state’s public schools?
Jones: “Education is one of my biggest priorities, not only as a candidate, but as a father. A good public education leads to a better educated state, which means a more desirable environment for businesses and jobs available for our residents in the future.
“I would love for our children to have smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with their awesome teachers, but only with proper planning and funding.
“The class size mandate for kindergarten-3rd grade without proper funding might increase class size for higher grade levels in order to move teachers to the lower grades, eliminate computer science programs, physical education and art classes so teachers can be reassigned to cover other classes. It can also result in our children being moved out of traditional classroom settings into cafeterias or trailers. This is not acceptable and does not foster an encouraging educational environment for our children, the future of our state.
“Unfortunately, school systems are being forced to make these tough decisions now because budgets are due soon. This requires immediate attention, and I call upon our current state legislators to act now while in special session, not in the short session in May, so school districts can properly plan for the 2018-2019 school year.”