Incumbent state Rep. Jason Saine will face a local Republican challenger in Nic Haag in next month’s party primary election.
Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, is seeking his fourth term as Lincoln County’s representative in the North Carolina General Assembly. Saine, who ran unopposed in both the primary and general elections in 2016, has represented Lincoln County in the state House since being appointed to finish Johnathan Rhyne’s term in 2011.
“First and foremost, I’ve enjoyed serving and been very humbled by the support that I’ve received over the years,” Saine said. “My main reason for running again and the reason why I think I’m the most qualified is that I’ve taken the time, as I pledged to do when I was appointed, to foster the relationships necessary to effectively represent Lincoln County in the legislature. During that time I’ve been recognized as one of the most effective legislators in the House and the benefit for Lincoln County is that means that I can have a lot more influence on what happens here at home. I’ve got a proven record of leading in economic development and raising teacher pay all while keeping taxes low and I want to continue that work. It’s been a labor of love to serve in the legislature.”
Haag, a Denver Republican, campaigned unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat as a Libertarian candidate in 2016. Haag received 22 percent of the vote in the 2016 general election against state Sen. David Curtis.
“By and large the Libertarian and Republican parties are very similar,” Haag said. “If you ask anyone to name a famous Libertarian, they’ll give you Ron Paul or Rand Paul, who are both Republicans that lean toward a Libertarian mindset. Even Ronald Reagan said that Libertarianism is the heart of conservatism. The Republican party has kind of morphed, but looking at the attitudes of people in Lincoln County who voted for Donald Trump, they kind of hoped that they could get back to the way things were before George Bush took the Republican party in another direction. The only stance I differ on from the mainstream Republicans is that I believe marijuana shouldn’t be illegal. Other than that, I’m 100 percent economically in line with the Republican philosophy of fewer regulations, less government and lower taxes.”
Saine, who currently chairs the House Finance Committee and House Information Technology Committee, has tabbed continued economic development in Lincoln County as his top priority, if re-elected.
“The one thing that I would love to see accomplished is an economic development recruitment system that is fair to all counties, but most importantly, Lincoln County,” Saine said. “Right now, we’re at a disadvantage given the current tier system and I’m currently working with my colleagues in the House and Senate on revamping that system so that it puts us in a much better place competitively as we seek to recruit business from all across the globe.”
The current system, according to Saine, uses antiquated criteria to determine the different tiers.
“While we may do very well on paper in eastern Lincoln County in terms of wealth, that does not necessarily translate across the county,” Saine said. “As we look to recruit industry to the county, this means that we have less to offer in terms of tax incentives for companies to come here, while our neighbors are at a different tier that gives them an advantage over us. I’ve heard from our city council, county commissioners and economic development folks that this is one of their top priorities and because of my seniority and ability to move up in the House I’ve become someone who is a thought leader in terms of economic development.”
Haag, a Marine Corps combat veteran and cyber security professional, has made it a priority to ensure that the citizen data that the state controls is protected to a better standard than it currently is, if elected.
“The government retains a lot of data about us like our social security numbers and salaries, and the protections they afford that data is very minimal,” Haag said. “Most corporations have regulatory standards that they have to protect your data to a certain level, but state governments often don’t and it’s not like you can opt out of giving them the data because they just take it whether you want them to have it or not.”
Haag is a member of the ad-hoc committee that has been established to facilitate the incorporation of Denver.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is a quality of life issue,” Haag said. “I, along with most others, hate the thought of new taxes, but it seems we are in between a rock and a hard place. We can pay the new taxes via incorporation and get Denver residents control of planning and zoning along with the potential to apply for road improvement grants, or we can continue to waste an ever-increasing amount of time and money sitting in gridlock, which seems to get worse with each passing month all while our commissioners have their hands tied by terrible state laws. My goal is to create leeway in state law that would give unincorporated towns like Denver, Iron Station and Vale the option of more autonomy on matters like planning and zoning without these areas having to meet the state-mandated minimum burdens of full incorporation.”
Saine and Haag will face off in the Republican Party primary election scheduled for May 8. The victor will then advance to challenge Natalie Robertson, a Denver Democrat, in November’s general election.