In the midst of his fourth term, state Rep. Kelly Hastings has announced his intent to campaign for reelection in 2018.
Hastings, a Cherryville Republican and realtor, has served House District 110 since he was first elected in 2010. House District 110 covers western Gaston County -- including Bessemer City, Cherryville and Dallas -- as well as a small portion of Cleveland County that includes Shelby.
“I really enjoy helping constituents, that’s first and foremost,” Hastings said. “Sometimes people get caught up in passing legislation and those types of things, but the ways where we can actually help our constituents with different government agencies and the problems that they’re having, that’s what can be really satisfying ... I really got my start and knew about constituent services because I used to work for Congress many years ago. The congressman I worked for, Charles Taylor up in the mountains, he had me focus on veterans’ issues. That’s where I really learned that, through our liaisons, we can actually help people break through the red tape.”
Hastings is currently serving as co-chairman of the House Finance Committee and House Transportation Committee. Given his leadership role on the transportation committee, Hastings is heavily involved with the Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln Metropolitan Planning Organization, which monitors transportation systems throughout the three counties.
“Before I was elected, North Carolina had what was called the ‘equity formula’ for transportation,” Hastings said. “Even with that formula in place, a powerful politician could insert money into a budget for a pet project even though it might not be the best project for the people. When (Republicans) gained control, we changed the old equity formula to a strategic transportation investment formula, which is a data-driven objective formula … We are just now getting our MPO and division in order so that the highest scoring projects that need to be prioritized are moving forward, but we’re not there yet. I want to continue that process and use my experience and seniority to make sure that Gaston, Cleveland and Lincoln counties move forward with the prioritized projects that are the best scoring projects.”
Some of the projects that the GCLMPO has prioritized include the widening of Interstate 85 in Gaston County and Cleveland County, as well as the Highway 74 Bypass project in Cleveland County. There are several Lincoln County projects of varying significance scheduled to begin within the next 10 years, including the widening of Highway 73 between Interstate 77 and Highway 16 Business.
Hastings has identified several priorities for his fifth term, if elected, which include improved economic security and education.
“One of the issues that we’ve always been focused on, at least since I arrived in 2011, is economic security,” Hastings said. “We’ve cut taxes, we’ve passed tort and regulatory reform, we’ve improved our transportation infrastructure process and so economic security is definitely one of those top priorities … On education, I used to be licensed to teach. We’ve passed pay raises for teachers, increased funding for education and so student learning is definitely one of the most important issues and probably always will be.”
Hastings will be campaigning against Charlene High, a longtime school counselor who announced her campaign earlier this month. High told the Times-News that, if elected, she would like to implement term limits for state legislators as soon as possible. Hastings, who would also be in favor of term limits, noted that the United State Supreme Court has ruled Congressional term limits unconstitutional.
“An amendment process most likely would be required at the state level and I’m supportive of an amendment, however, nobody seems to be able to say how many terms are enough,” Hastings said. “For example, is it one, five, 10 or 20 terms that is the right number?”
Hastings and High will face off in the Republican primary election scheduled for May 8, 2018.