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Democratic congressional candidates talk issues at video forum

The two Democratic candidates for the First Congressional District were part of a recent candidates’ forum of party hopefuls for Congress hosted by the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women.

Hunter Avery and Dianne Dodson Black were part of the Zoom forum of seven candidates from across the state on their respective ballots in the June 7 primary.  The winner of the Democratic primary between Avery and Black will face the Republican nominee, either incumbent Rep. Trent Kelly or Mark Strauss of Olive Branch.

Avery is a resident of Belmont who has career experience working in manufacturing at Caterpillar. Black is a small business owner of 40 years living in Olive Branch. 

Among the issues brought up during the forum were women’s healthcare choices, the minimum wage, voting rights and prison reform.  

The abortion rights issue came up, especially in light of the recent leak of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion draft that indicates the justices would move to end the Roe v. Wade abortion decision.  

“The choice to abort or not should be the woman’s choice, full stop,” Avery said. “We must guarantee the right to an abortion in law. We must make it illegal for any state or local government to restrict access to abortion in any way, as well as join the rest of the world and outlaw harassment of women seeking an abortion.”

Black said abortion rights are covered by the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, and if need be, she would work to protect those rights through legislation.

“Women have the right to have control of their reproductive health, it’s the law,” Black said. “If elected, I would support legislation that protects the healthcare rights of women.”

Black said she supports early voting and would work to make it mandatory nationwide.  

“If elected, I would introduce a bill that would require all states to have no fewer than 10 days of early voting, with two of those days being a Saturday,” Black said. “That’s in person early voting, with no excuse.”

Avery felt that the legal voting age should be lowered and that technology should be introduced to expand voting opportunities.  

“We have 16-year-olds whose paychecks are taxed and they are not able to vote,” Avery said. “Either they should not be paying taxes or they should be allowed to vote. We should also be able to vote from any smart device and I still believe it should be a federal holiday.”

Avery said he believed the minimum wage should be raised to at least $20 an hour and states should determine if it should be higher. He also said some power needs to be returned to workers. 

“I want to put forth legislation that would basically protect workers from being fired for no reason, even in ‘right-to-work’ states,” Avery said. “I think the idea of ‘right-to-work’ needs to be completely demolished.”

Black, as a small business owner, answered by saying a mimumum pay scale should be introduced, depending on the size of the business. She believes small businesses could afford to pay a $12 an hour minimum wage, but large corporations afford a minimum living wage of at least $18-$20 an hour.

“Small businesses are the backbone of America,” Black said. “Large corporations continue to profit because they can give bonuses to their executives. If elected, I would support legislation for affordable healthcare, insurance, and tax breaks for small businesses.” 

The other candidates who participated in the forum included the current 2nd District Congressman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, along with Dr. Johnnie DuPree, Gerald Kerner, David Sellers, and Shuwaski Young, all running in their respective districts.

The complete video recording of the candidate forum has been posted on the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women website.  

In person absentee voting for qualified voters began April 25 and will end Saturday, June 4 at 12 noon, ahead of primary election day on June 7, from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

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