The Democrats are down to four meaningful candidates in their presidential primary: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders entered Super Tuesday deadlocked in North Carolina, according to an average of polls released by FiveThirtyEight yesterday. They’re at about 24 percent, while Michael Bloomberg’s at 16 and Elizabeth Warren is around 11.
Mecklenburg County has 321,956 registered Democrats, and 254,387 registered unaffiliated voters. That’s more than 576,000 voters who are eligible to participate in the primary. The county has 164,172 registered Republicans, too, but that primary is all but guaranteed for President Donald Trump.
If you’re planning to vote in the Democratic primary and still struggling to decide, we’re here to help.
First thing to note: You’ll still see the names of 15 Democratic candidates who launched presidential campaigns on the ballot, but only the four mentioned above have any realistic hopes. (Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is polling at less than 1 percent in North Carolina, according to FiveThirtyEight.)
We’ve picked six issues that are important in Mecklenburg County, issues that come up nearly every week in meetings at the government center and news reports, and looked to see where the candidates stand on them.
For instance, you’ve probably heard that the county has a shortage of about 27,000 affordable housing units. Or that leaders are proposing to invest more than a billion dollars in constructing an east-west light-rail line from the airport to Matthews.
Here’s how the candidates see the federal government’s role in affordable housing, transportation and climate change, health care, criminal justice, guns, and immigration.
Biden: His plan would invest $640 billion over 10 years to address housing shortages and issues of access in communities of color. The plan would also establish a Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights to end discriminatory practices in the housing market, and create tax credits for renters and homebuyers, including a credit of up to $15,000 for the downpayment on a first home. He says his plan would be funded in part by raising taxes on corporations and large financial institutions.
Bloomberg: The former New York City mayor wants to make housing more affordable for low-income Americans by providing vouchers to everyone who makes 30 percent or less of the area median income (in Charlotte, that’s $23,700 for a family of four). His campaign says he’d build “millions of affordable housing units,” but doesn’t detail how he’d pay for them. Additionally, Bloomberg wants to cut homelessness in half by 2025 by doubling federal spending on homelessness programs, from $3 billion to $6 billion.
Sanders: His plan goes the farthest, at least in terms of size of investment. Sanders wants to put $2.5 trillion in federal tax dollars toward the construction of 10 million permanently affordable units around the country. He also wants to implement a national rent control standard, strengthen the Fair Housing Act to help reduce the long waiting lists for people on Section 8 vouchers, and invest another $70 billion to repair old public housing and build new units.
Warren: Warren says her goal to invest $500 billion into housing would help reduce rents by 10 percent and create 1.5 million jobs. She helped start a conversation on reparations last year when she mentioned using federal funds to bridge the wealth gap between white and black families. In November, Warren added more for renters, outlining a new Tenant Protection Bureau that’s modeled after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Tenants deserve a cop on the beat, too,” she said at the time.
Read more about affordable housing: Brookhill: How one of Charlotte’s most complicated and misunderstood developments could end up a success story
Biden: A priority of Biden’s first year is to spend $50 billion to repair roads. His plan also mentions a push to build more safer “complete streets,” like the recently completed bike lanes along The Plaza in Charlotte, and an expansion of public transportation, including high speed rail. Biden also supports the Green New Deal, and his climate change plan will invest $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years with a goal to get the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg says he wants to repair 240,000 miles of roads and 16,000 bridges by 2025, and provide $1 billion per year to fund emergency pothole repairs. Additionally, Bloomberg wants to triple annual federal spending on public transportation, to $36 billion, over five years. His plan to create a national rail authority would include completing one high-speed rail line by 2025, and three by 2030. On the environment, Bloomberg says working to address climate change would be one of his top priorities. He — like all of the Democrats in the primary — says he’d rejoin the Paris Agreement, intended to strengthen global response to climate change, and accelerate the use of clean energy to replace power from fossil fuels.
Sanders: His proposal to invest $300 billion in transportation would increase public transit ridership by 65 percent over the next 10 years. A Green New Deal supporter, Sanders would invest nearly $700 billion toward buying back old cars, in order to help reduce emissions. Of interest to Charlotte, Sanders also wants to invest $600 billion into a regional high-speed rail system. The Obama-era high-speed rail proposal included a line through the South with stops in Atlanta; Greenville, S.C.; Charlotte; Raleigh; and Richmond.
Warren: Like Sanders, her transportation policies go hand-in-hand with her climate change policies. She, too, is a Green New Deal supporter. She wants to make all new vehicles electric by 2030, and wants to have charging stations at every rest stop. Where she stands apart is that she’s talked specifically about taking public transportation to areas where people of color live.
Read more about climate change: Meet 14-year-old Mary Ellis Stevens, Charlotte’s own Greta Thunberg
Biden: Biden wants to keep and expand on the Affordable Care Act, plus create another public health insurance option. This, he says, would insure more than an estimated 97 percent of Americans and keep health insurance costs down. Biden would roll back Trump’s tax rate cut for the wealthiest tax bracket to pay for the plan.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg’s plan includes allowing Americans with private insurance to keep it; instead, he’d create a “Medicare-like public option” to compete with private plans. He wants to improve and grow enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans by expanding subsidies to cap premiums at 8.5 percent of a household’s income. Additionally, Bloomberg says he’d work with Congress to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug costs.
Sanders: This is the most significant area where Sanders and Warren stand on different ground than Biden and Bloomberg. If you’ve followed this race at all, you’ve heard them use the phrase “Medicare for All.” Sanders proposes an entirely new health-care system in which everyone in the U.S. would receive public health care. It would be paid for entirely by federal taxes, although there’s debate over how much it would cost. Also, it’s uncertain how much less a public system would pay hospitals and doctors, who would remain privately held.
Warren: This fall, she provided a firm cost for her Medicare for All proposal: $20.5 trillion. She says she’ll have the country’s population fully transitioned to the plan by the third year of her first term. Under her plan, you’d be able to supplement your public insurance with private insurance, as long as it doesn’t duplicate the public option.
Biden: Biden often cites his record of “taking on” the NRA and says he’ll do it again as president by holding gun manufacturers accountable, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and enacting and funding universal background check legislation. Biden is also in favor of an arms registry, in order to reduce stockpiling and encourage buyback programs.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg, who has clashed with the NRA for years, wants to tighten oversight of the gun-buying process by requiring point-of-sale background checks for all gun sales, mandating that every gun buyer have a permit, and raising the age of buying a gun to 21. In every state, he’d expand so-called red flag laws, which allow family members to request that courts remove guns from people who pose risks to themselves or others. Bloomberg also says he would reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Sanders: He says he’ll push to expand background checks to all purchases, even those at gun shows, and to essentially make it unlawful to own assault weapons. He also supports red flag laws. Bloomberg recently criticized Sanders for his record on guns, including the time in 1990 when the NRA endorsed Sanders over his opponent.
Warren: Warren says she’ll sign gun violence prevention legislation into law within her first 100 days. Her proposal would require background checks on all purchases, require reporting for bulk sales of weapons, and raise the minimum age for a gun buyer to 18 years old. She also says she’ll pass anti-corruption legislation that will reduce the NRA’s influence on Congress.
Read more about guns: Charlotte has a gun problem. Addressing it isn’t as easy as you’d think
Biden: Biden says his focus would be on prevention rather than incarceration, which he would do through a $20 billion grant program for states to reduce crime and incarceration, investment in education, and the elimination of mandatory minimums. Biden wants to leave legalization of marijuana up to the states, but he does want to decriminalize the drug and expunge all prior convictions. Additionally, he says he would eliminate the death penalty.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg, sharply criticized for his controversial “stop and frisk” policing policy which many deemed to be racist, says he would curb excessive use of force by requiring police departments to conduct de-escalation and bias training. Bloomberg says he would spend $22.5 billion to reduce the country’s incarceration rate by 50 percent by 2030. Included in that funding would be increased investment in public defense, as well as spending on mental health and drug treatment programs. Bloomberg also says he’d provide incentives for companies that employ formerly incarcerated people.
Sanders: He’d aim to end for-profit prisons and detention centers and, like Warren, proposes to eliminate cash bail and other fees for incarcerated people. His overarching goal, he says, is to cut the national prison population in half and abolish the death penalty. He’d also legalize marijuana.
Warren: She would repeal the Clinton-era Crime Bill that increased the number of law enforcement officers and added money to the prison system. The “tough on crime” measures have been criticized in recent years for incarcerating a generation of people, particularly those of color, for minor infractions. Warren proposes comprehensive criminal justice reform that includes, among other things, moving to legalize marijuana and erase past convictions.
Read more about criminal justice: Behind a door with a teddy bear on it, inmates reconnect with their children in the jail’s new child-friendly visitation room
Biden: Biden says in his first 100 days, he will reverse the Trump Administration’s policies that separate children from their parents at the border, restore and expand our asylum system, and protect the Dreamers by reinstating the Obama-Biden Administration’s DACA program. If elected, Biden also plans to implement more effective border screening through technological investments and partnership building with Canada and Mexico.
Bloomberg: Bloomberg says he would protect Dreamers, restore DACA, and end family separation at the southern border, a policy for which President Trump has come under intense scrutiny. Bloomberg also says he would revoke Trump’s travel ban to Muslim-majority countries, which he describes as discriminatory and anti-American. Bloomberg says he would create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents, and put a moratorium on construction of Trump’s border wall.
Sanders: Sanders would decriminalize crossing the border without papers. He was the only candidate to firmly say in a Washington Post survey that he doesn’t believe the federal government should require the use of E-Verify to check the legal status of all hires by private employers. Last week, an important group of immigration activists founded by DACA recipients endorsed Sanders and Warren.
Warren: She, like Sanders, would repeal penalties for people apprehended while crossing the border. Warren also would focus deportation efforts only on criminals and national security threats, reinstate the DACA program for children of undocumented immigrants, and pledges to admit 125,000 refugees in her first year as president.
Read more about this election: Agenda guide to the primary elections, including polling hours and other races on the ballot