Waynesville Democrat Joe Sam Queen lost the most closely-contested state legislative race in 2016. Fewer than 300 votes separated him and Bryson City Republican Mike Clampitt. Now Queen says he'll try to win back his seat from Clampitt in 2018. It will be the fourth contest between the two in the 118th district, which includes Jackson, Swain, and Haywood Counties. Queen won the first two before losing in 2018. He spoke with BPR's Jeremy Loeb about why he's running again.
Queen attributed his 2016 loss to the wave election of Donald Trump.
"There is a good reason for Trump voters to be angry, disappointed, frustrated... They just don't know who to be angry, disappointed and frustrated with."
Queen says he thinks things could be different in 2018, saying he's spent a lot of time listening, and noting he gets support from Democrats and Republicans alike. He's calling for the expansion of Medicaid and increased funding for education. And he says a top priority for him if elected would be pushing for universal high-speed internet for western North Carolina. He says Clampitt hasn't been part of the problem rather than the solution in North Carolina and had harsh words for the GOP majority.
"They have no plan for expanding broadband because they're in the pocket of Time Warner and Charter and AT&T on that issue. We need universal broadband. They're in the pocket of Duke Energy. We need lower cost, greener, sustainable energy."
Queen said he'd work hard to keep fracking out of the state, noting the trout fishing industry in WNC as something to be protected. Queen's announcement instantly makes NC House 118 one of the most closely-watched legislative races for 2018, with Democrats hoping to win enough seats to at least get rid of the veto-proof supermajority Republicans now enjoy.
You can hear the full interview with Queen by clicking the above audio. BPR has reached out to Mike Clampitt for a response. In the meantime, you can listen to an earlier interview with him below, as well as previous interviews with Joe Sam Queen.