Updated: Feb 12
LUMBERTON — One candidate for lieutenant governor of North Carolina says he will use his ideas for improving the state and the lives of its residents to make himself stand out in a crowded 2020 election contest.
“I’m the only candidate in the race that has articulated a vision,” said Greg Gebhardt, one of nine Republicans running for the office.
There also are six Democrats. The field of 15 will be shrunk to one Republican and one Democrat after the March 3 primary election. The race will be decided during the Nov. 3 general election.
“They say alliteration is a good thing in politics,” said Gebhardt, a 39-year-old from Holly Springs.
And there is alliteration in his “vision:” Veterans, Vocational training and Voter ID. The candidate spoke Thursday about his vision during a campaign jaunt through Robeson County.
North Carolina is one of only eight states that is doing nothing to reduce the tax burden on military retirees, he said. Retirees in North Carolina are paying the full tax rate on their retirement checks.
“I want to make that tax-free,” Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt said he wants to expand technical and vocational job training in North Carolina because college is too expensive, something with which he is familiar. Gebhardt said he left college to join the Army because he knew he couldn’t afford it.
“We need to stop telling kids that if they don’t get a four-year degree they won’t be able to make it in life,” he said.
Vocational and technical training is less expensive and leads straight to jobs, he said. He wants to see more programs that allow high school students get job training at local community colleges or vocational schools while still in high school.
“We have a world-class community college system in this state,” Gebhardt said. “We should make use of it.”
He wants to link up more high schools with vocational schools and community colleges so students can get the training they need to find good-paying jobs without incurring massive college debt.
“That’s something I will champion as lieutenant governor,” Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt supports the idea of having to show a photo identification while casting an election ballot. In fact, he helped write the voter ID amendment approved in the 2018 election while working as a policy advisor in the North Carolina General Assembly.
“As a caveat, I’m not a lawyer,” Gebhardt said.
When North Carolina voters approved the voter ID amendment he thought it was over and the amendment was enshrined in law and the state’s Constitution, Gebhardt said. Then “a liberal judge” put it on hold, he said.
“All you are doing is proving you are who you say you are,” Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt also sees a need to expand health-care systems and promote economic development in rural North Carolina. Economic development in rural areas of the state benefits the residents of those areas and the state as a whole because North Carolina can grow only as fast as the rural areas will let it, he said.
“All these issues are near and dear to the hearts of the people of North Carolina, particularly rural North Carolina,” Gebhardt said.
The candidate was in Robeson County Thursday at the invitation of Rennert resident Julius Locklear, who said he wanted to introduce the candidate to “some people in Robeson County.” Their itinerary included stops at Arnold’s restaurant and Starbucks in Lumberton and then stops in Pembroke.
“I enjoy this,” Gebhardt said.
His campaign is built on a foundation of meeting people in person, and speaking with and listening to them.
“I want to press the flesh as much as possible with hard-working, blue-collar North Carolinians,” Gebhardt said.
This is not Gebhardt’s first exposure to political campaigning in North Carolina. He was Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Harnett County campaign chairman in 2012, a job he performed as an unpaid volunteer. Forest, a Republican, is running for governor this year.
“I want to be Dan Forest’s lieutenant governor,” Gebhardt said.
As well as campaigning for political office, Gebhardt is a business consultant who specializes in working with businesses that want to or need to connect with the communities in which they operate. The graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point also is a major in the North Carolina National Guard.
“It’s more than just one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year,” Gebhardt said.
He is working as a guardsmen with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure security at the 2020 Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte.
“We had that mission when the DNC was in Charlotte in 2012,” Gebhardt said.
Gebhardt has been married for more than 20 years to his wife, Carrie, who works as an advanced practice nurse in Fayetteville.
Reach T.C. Hunter via email at email@example.com or by calling 910-816-1974.