Asheville City Councilwoman Julie Mayfield is ready to move forward. She handily won her primary and is now the Democratic nominee for Senate District 49. This district is considered safe so we have every reason to expect Julie will be elected come November. Being from Asheville, she is very used to flying the progressive flag and she’s excited to fight for progressive causes on a larger scale.
Julie took the time to chat with our Program Manager Devon Roberts.
Why did you run for the Senate after serving on the Asheville City Council?
I have a few reasons. First, Senator Terry Van Duyn stepped down. I would not have dreamed of running against her, but I wanted to ensure that the next person who represented Buncombe County would be as effective and responsible as Terry. I expected a number of local contenders to throw their hat in the ring, which didn’t happen. So I decided that it was time for me to step in and try to be that person.
The second reason is that as a member of Asheville City Council. I’ve become painfully aware of the limitations on local lawmakers’ ability to address the problems in our community, and to be responsive to the community, because of the limits the legislature places on local government. I loved city council, and I think I’ve been effective, but my ability to be effective is limited by the rules put in place for us in Raleigh. I decided it was time to take the fight to Raleigh to try and give local governments more freedom.
The last reason I am running for Senate, is that it’s a chance for me to work on the issues I’ve been working on (housing, transportation, equity, sustainability) at a higher and broader level with a bigger impact. I’m very excited about that opportunity.
What can the government do now, and into the future, to help people?
The government can shore up and expand safety nets that are supposed to take care of our people. So many people are out of work and hurting and we don’t know how long this will last. The government is uniquely positioned to fund the safety nets and expand eligibility for them. This means healthcare and unemployment benefits. There is no better time to expand Medicaid. The federal government is helping some businesses and workers, but the state can fill in those gaps because not everyone is covered. Some safety nets are normally the purview of the federal government but the state can direct funds as well to help everyone who needs it.
What are you hoping to do for women and families when you are elected?
We need to pass the ERA – this has enormous symbolic importance for women in NC and across the country. We need to look at the host of programs that benefit women, not exclusively or specifically, but benefit women disproportionately. One is expanding Medicaid – currently women are covered when pregnant and a little after. We need to be covering women and particularly low-income women for longer so they have a better chance of having healthier families. We need to raise the minimum wage because women disproportionately are in low wage jobs. We also need to protect a woman’s right to choose and fight continued attempts to restrict that right. Depending on who is in control after the election, we need to roll back some of the abortion restrictions that have been put in place over the last few years. We also need a statewide equality law that makes it clear you can’t fire people for being a member of the LGBTQ community, which obviously includes people who were born female and people who now identify as female. We can have no discrimination on that basis in our state.
What are the advantages or disadvantages you’ve seen while campaigning as a woman?
I’m fortunately in Asheville in that Asheville voters like diversity in their leadership and are intentional about making that happen. I have benefited from that. Our current Asheville City Council is the most diverse it’s ever been. I haven’t felt any impairment or limitations as a female candidate.
Why are you a supporter of reproductive freedom and gender equity?
When it comes to equity of all types, including gender, my overall philosophy is that there are no lesser people. We all deserve the same rights and privileges that the most privileged of us has.
In terms of reproductive freedom, this is so simple. Nobody should get in between a woman and her doctor when it comes to her decisions about her body. For the government to interfere in increasingly stringent ways is incredibly inappropriate. If men could get pregnant, I honestly think abortion would be a constitutional right. The ability to make decisions about our bodies is wrapped in gender equity and these decisions cannot be made by other people.
What would you recommend people do right now to bring themselves joy?
I’ve been spending a lot of time outside. I’m doing this interview from my porch while looking at a beautiful forest. I’ve watched it unfurl over the last several weeks and I’ve seen the wildflowers bloom and the birds come and go. The natural environment gives me life and energy and restores my soul. I recommend getting outside.