Congressional candidate Tate MacQueen shared his vision for a united North Carolina with Lincoln County residents Tuesday night at the county’s Democratic Headquarters in Lincolnton.
For the past 20 years, MacQueen has served as a public school history teacher in Washington D.C., Maryland and North Carolina, and he has taught at the collegiate level at the University of Delaware, where he earned a Master’s of Fine Arts degree. It was not until 2008, when an environmental fiasco plagued his Asheville community, that he realized his voice was needed in the political sphere.
“The reason I got involved is because we had a major groundwater contamination event that has been ongoing for decades,” MacQueen said. “I did not know that when we purchased our home, and in 2008, I became aware that there may be a problem with the water supply for well users in the South Asheville area. Since the summer of 2008, I’ve been traveling to Washington every year, sometimes several times a year, sometimes with my children and sometimes with people from the community, begging and pleading for help from our federal officials, particularly those who are our elected officials, and we never got any help. In the end, our community, 24 of us, took on this corporation known as CTF Corp. out of Elkhart, Indiana. They operate on five continents, and they average $550 million in annual sales. We took this company on, and we just returned from the United States Supreme Court.
“There are people that are dead and buried, and when we didn’t get that help, it became something that, as one of the community advocates, people began asking me to consider running,” MacQueen continued. “I take it very seriously, and it’s not something I’ve found myself wading into. The more I looked at our needs and the fact that it was being met with a kind of apathetic disconnect, I had no choice. So, with the support of my family and community members, I made the announcement back in February that I would challenge Patrick McHenry for the 10th Congressional District.”
Since the start of his campaign, he has made it a point to visit every county in the 10th District at least twice.
Throughout this environmental conflict, MacQueen feels that his community has demonstrated what effective leadership and representation looks like.
“But, in our community’s darkest time and greatest time of need, our representative can’t find his way to our neighborhoods,” he said. “To me, you forfeit that title of representative. And he may say that he’s only been working in the 10th District as it was redrawn, and I use that loosely, for the last two years. But now, if you’ve had two years with your new district, you ought to have been in our community to ask what it is we need and what it is you can do for us as our representative.”
MacQueen said he felt the state’s leaders have failed North Carolina’s citizens.
“When you have less than an 18 percent turnout for a primary, it means that the amount of cynicism that’s being created has delivered enough apathy that people just don’t care,” he said. “They don’t think that their vote counts, and they’re just throwing their hands up. I can’t function that way in a classroom. I can’t be a teacher who sits and remains silent; I have to stand and speak. I just want to set an example where I can and follow the example of others where I should. But this is an opportunity to not only be inspired, but to use that inspiration for others.”
As a teacher, MacQueen said he experiences the consequences of policies coming out Raleigh and Washington every day.
“We just passed the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas,” he said. “Our schools are more segregated today than they were in 1953, a year before the ruling. Because of the rise of for-profit schools mixed with private school vouchers, in conjunction with high stakes exams, the majority of kids in this country go to school with kids who look just like them. It is now de facto segregation as opposed to de jure.
“I am proud to have my kids in public school,” MacQueen said. “We campaigned in a retired school bus. The number of that bus…is renumbered 1964-2013, so that everywhere we go, we can pay homage to those who paint a broad spectrum of our country in 1964 during the Freedom Summer Movement, when people were advocating for the voting rights of all people.”
During his speech, MacQueen also expressed his concern regarding the future of the United States, particularly in regard to green technologies.
“We should be taking the lead in green technologies, particularly in western North Carolina, where we have so many vacant furniture plants and textile mills,” he said. “We could be employing thousands of western North Carolinians in producing solar panels, personal solar powered chargers. We could be looking at providing incentives for farmers to switch over to peanut oil, so that we could grow our own fuel source in North Carolina, which would certainly burn cleaner with much less CO2 emission.”
“I think we’re all tired of the manufactured crisis that provides the opportunity for some people to do very well,” he continued. “And as a candidate, I want to make it clear that I support businesses doing well. I just believe that when businesses do well, they should do good. And by doing good, they should invest in their community. They should pay their employees a living wage and invest in the cities that they are making their money from, so that money is not divested from the community but invested back into it. We need to get back to what Teddy Roosevelt once called a ‘square deal,’ where the needs of the people, the needs of consumers, are balanced with the needs of big business.”
MacQueen hopes to bridge the chasm between the Democrat and Republican parties.
“There is no reason for our country to be divided the way we are, in two camps, reds and blues, like we’re living in 1860, or like we’re living in a gang land,” he said. “Democrats care about their families the way Republicans care about there. We want what’s best for our children and our families…this really doesn’t have to do with Republicans and Democrats; this has to do with morality. This has to do with compassion, and to have policies that are so out of kilter, it really is to me shocking that there could be that kind of audacity.”
Ultimately, MacQueen believes that the election in November will come down to the faults in Rep. McHenry’s record.
“I look forward to defeating Patrick McHenry in the fall and giving him the opportunity to see how the other 95 percent live,” he said. “November 5, he and I will be transitioning positions and hopefully working very close together.”
Those interested in learning more about MacQueen and his political platform should visit http://www.tatemacqueen.com/.