N.C. House candidate Jonah Garson hosted a campaign rally in the Pit last week, where he discussed a variety of issues such as criminal justice, reproductive health care and more.
Garson is running for office in District 56 against former Chapel Hill Town Council member and civil rights lawyer Allen Buansi in the May 17 Democratic primary for the open seat.
The two are looking to fill a seat that will soon be vacated by N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, who is planning to retire this year.
Garson noted that he felt motivated to speak at the UNC campus event because he believes elected officials should carefully listen to students and highlight their concerns.
“You cannot be the focused voice of advocacy for this University without centering student leadership,” he said in an interview with The Daily Tar Heel.
He was previously the chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party, but stepped aside to run for the seat. He has also served as an attorney — where he was involved in voting rights litigation — and as the state Democratic voter protection director.
Ian Young, a campus organizer for Garson’s campaign, said that he appreciates the efforts that volunteers and other students have made to assist the campaign.
“I’m just very happy that we are getting students involved in organizing,” he said. “And with our volunteers and with our organizers, we are giving students the tools that they need to also take organizing to their own communities.”
During the event, Garson took questions from UNC students and other audience members.
One attendee asked for his thoughts on reproductive health care and abortion access in North Carolina, to which he expressed support for protecting abortion rights.
“Health care is a right, and I believe that reproductive health care is health care,” he said at the event. "I believe that abortion is part of reproductive health care, and so abortion is a right.”
Garson also spoke in favor of marijuana legalization.
“I believe that cannabis should be legalized entirely within an equitable framework that reinvests in the communities that have been so, so, so deeply harmed by the over-policing and, frankly, the racist policing of low-level drug offenses,” he said at the event.
This means that licenses for marijuana growers — whether for medicinal or recreational use — should be reserved so that people from communities of color that have been harmed by over-policing can obtain those licenses, Garson said.
He also advocated for using the licensing money to reinvest in communities of color across the state.
In a separate interview with the DTH, Garson spoke about some of the other key tenets and policies of his campaign, such as voting rights, redistricting reform to promote fair maps and climate action with a strong equity framework.
“I am running because I believe strongly that we need legislators who are also organizers,” Garson said.
‘Center student leadership’
Garson spoke about the need to fight for UNC System governance reform. He added that — if elected — he will have quarterly meetings with student leaders to discuss items on the legislative agenda and ask them for their input.
Tyler Smith, campus field organizer for the Garson campaign, said there were a lot of questions during the event that reflected how Jonah would represent students in the legislature as an elected official.
“We had a lot of really good questions," he said.
Beyond the event, Garson also emphasized the importance of the May 17 primary.
“For everything that I just mentioned, the primary is the ball game because there’s going to be no serious GOP opposition, but there are real differences in the candidates.”
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