Candidate profile: Jon Hardister
I met Jon Hardister for lunch today at Bear Rock Café at the Friendly Center in Greensboro. He’s a Republican candidate in the NC House District 57 primary. If he wins his primary against Wendell Sawyer on May 4, he gets to face off against Democratic incumbent Pricey Harrison.
At the age of 27, Hardister is not the youngest candidate on the primary ballot in Guilford County. That distinction goes to 25-year-old Michael Garrett, running in NC House District 62. But despite a day’s growth of stubble, Hardister looks every bit the earnest young man.
The candidate holds the title of first vice president at a mortgage company founded by his father. He talked about his political coming of age, and how he came to be a conservative.
“My mom is a conservative Republican; my dad is a conservative Democrat,” he said. “We don’t talk a whole lot about politics. I decided for myself. I was a Democrat when I was a teenager. I supported Bill Clinton. I turned 18 in 2000, and it was the first time I could vote, so I studied the politics six months out. It became clear to me that I’m a conservative.”
Hardister is among those who fault George W. Bush for not being a true conservative.
“When Bush was in office in his second term, I felt he was not a true conservative. He was spending too much money. I didn’t agree with his foreign policy; I was opposed to the Iraq war. Obama was elected — who I have a lot of respect for — but he wanted to expand government too much. Where we live taxes are too high. The government is expanding beyond its constitutional limits.”
I asked Hardister if he felt betrayed by Obama.
He pondered the question, but indicated betrayal might be too strong a word.
“Obama campaigned as a moderate,” Hardister said. “Kind of what I’m looking at is when Clinton was in office, and the Republicans won office in 1994, Clinton moved to the center. Obama is not moving to the center.”
He added that he is also disappointed about the backroom deals the US Senate leadership has cut with noncommittal Democrats to cobble together the votes for healthcare reform. He believes the Democrats’ insistence on passing an unpopular bill is arrogant and shows they are not listening to the people.
I asked Hardister to elaborate on his statement that Obama and the Democrats are expanding government beyond its constitutional limits.
“The healthcare proposal is unconstitutional because it requires people to buy healthcare,” he said. “I don’t believe the Constitution requires anybody to buy anything.”
The conservative revolt against the Obama agenda is the zeitgeist of the current politics, but Hardister is running for office in the NC General Assembly. He said voters will have no trouble distinguishing him from incumbent Harrison.
“She’s definitely one of the most liberal members of the House,” he said. “I would not vote for tax increases, and she voted for the tax increase of 2009.”
As part of Hardister’s conservative philosophy, he wants to cut taxes and reduce the size of government. I asked him which lines of expenditure he would eliminate. The candidate responded that he takes his cues from the John Locke Foundation and will look at the annual budget the conservative think-tank puts out for the state for guidance.
“I have a lot of respect for their research,” he said. “I look at them as a valuable resource. They say they can’t endorse candidates, but I endorse them.”
One cost-cutting initiative pulled directly from the John Locke Foundation’s agenda that Hardister supports is creating a state finance department by consolidating finance functions that are currently spread among five separate departments.
Hardister said he would like to eliminate corporate incentives and discretionary funds such as the One North Carolina Fund, along with earmarks. The candidate said Guilford County should get its fair share of funding for institutions such as its public universities and museums, but he feels that transportation infrastructure and the general economy are higher priorities.
Hardister also wants to shift the tax burden from high earners to low and median earners.
“The best incentive to bring jobs to North Carolina is to cut taxes, cut spending and reform our system of taxation to make it more equitable,” he said.”
I asked him to explain how the tax structure could be more equitable.
“The current tax structure, it penalizes productivity because we have a progressive tax structure, because the more money you make the more you pay in taxes…. To me, that penalizes success.”
He added, “We need to lower the corporate tax because corporate taxes are passed down to shareholders and employees. I don’t think we should tax savings and investments.”
We talked about eminent domain, annexation and the Second Amendment.
Hardister supports a Republican bill filed last year that would ban eminent domain for private use. Several states have passed similar bills in response to the US Supreme Court’s Kelo vs. New London decision, in which the court upheld the city of New London, Conn.’s right to seize private property for economic development purposes. Hardister said North Carolina needs to amend its constitution to prevent such government takings.
The candidate opposes forced annexation — a position that puts him at odds with the city of Greensboro and the NC League of Municipalities. For Hardister, it’s a matter of principle.
“I’m opposed to forced annexation,” he said. “I believe in property rights. I believe people should have more power than government. We should allow people to vote on whether they want to be annexed, or set it up so that county commissions can decide. That way people have a voice.”
Hardister was vague about how the right to bear arms is likely to play out in state policymaking decisions, but said, “Any time the Second Amendment came up I would come down on the side of supporting it.”
On the issue of education, Hardister is true to his conservative principles.
“I believe we need more choice and competition in North Carolina,” he said. “I would favor eliminating or at least lifting the cap on charter schools, which is currently 100. I also support tax credits for home schooling. Education is an investment. If people send their children to public school they don’t pay a tax on it.”
Hardister interned for US Rep. Howard Coble, a bed-rock conservative whose record of constituent services has allowed him to create a wide ideological base of support. The NC House district Hardister seeks to represent includes wealthy West Market Street and working-class High Point Road, liberal Lindley Park and more conservative Sedgefield. The young gun appears to have learned some lessons from the old hand.
“He told us the secret to his success is accessibility,” Hardister said. “You have to go out and talk to people. If they disagree with you, that’s fine. But you get an idea of what their needs are, and figure out solutions.”
Triad Elections ’10
CLARIFICATION: One other candidate besides Michael Garrett is also younger than Jon Hardister. Republican Jon Mangin, 25, is challenging Howard Coble for the US House District 6 seat.