New Bern resident Eric Queen has announced he will challenge N.C. District 3 House Representative Michael Speciale in the May primary elections.

Queen, a Republican, retired in New Bern after serving 21 years in the Marine Corps, where he worked 14 years as a military police officer and seven years as an infantryman. Queen spent seven of those years at Cherry Point, including his final duty station serving as the Military Police Services Chief.

Queen also served in Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star.

After serving his country in the Marine Corps, Queen said he was inspired to continue that service by seeking elected office.

“I believe the voters in Eastern North Carolina are ready for a change and want to put a common-sense conservative in the General Assembly. It is time to elect a representative that has beliefs and priorities that are actually in line with the voters he or she will represent. I am confident the voters will see that I am that candidate,” said Queen.

The Sun Journal emailed Queen and Speciale a series of questions concerning qualifications for the N.C. House and views on some of the issues facing the region. Queen responded, however, Speciale did not, saying by telephone that since candidates haven’t officially filed to run yet, the questions were “irrelevant.”

Speciale did briefly address the issue of the legislature’s class size mandate. He acknowledged that there is still disagreement between parties on both sides of the issue and said the legislature was working to find a solution.

The N.C. House primary election will be May 8, and the general election will be Nov. 6. The candidate filing deadline is Feb. 28.

Here are Queen's responses to the questions.

Sun Journal: Why have you decided to seek a N.C. House seat at this time?

Eric Queen: “To be honest I never saw this coming myself. Sure, I have always been interested in politics, but never considered running for public office. That was until my daughter told me to. When I take my kids to their after-school functions, clubs, sports events, or whatever, I use that time in the car to talk to them and provide guidance. One day while taking my youngest daughter to cheer practice we were listening to talk radio. I had expressed anger at what we were listening to at which time my daughter said to me, ‘Dad, you should just run for office, you’re retired from the Marines now and there is nothing stopping you.’ I have always told my kids to be part of the solution not the problem. I immediately decided that I had the opportunity to set the example. After talking to my wife, the decision was made.”

S.J.: What qualities make you well suited for this position?

Queen: “I utilize a common sense approach to everything. I could list off all the intangible leadership qualities I possess, but the one thing I think matters most is that I have no problem identifying my own weaknesses. I don’t pretend to know everything or assume I know better than anyone else. I seek out the subject matter experts. If the topic is education I will talk to teachers, If the topic is crime I will talk to law enforcement, If the topic deals with business I will talk to business owners. The number one quality any representative can have is the ability to involve the community in the decision making progress for any law or regulation that could impact all our lives.”

S.J.: What are some of the most pressing issues you believe currently face the state legislature and your district in particular?

Queen: “The most pressing issue facing the General Assembly (and all government really) is that they have created a perception that a lot of their members have a complete lack of ability to work together as adults. Something all us average citizens have to do every day. Until they fix themselves (or we fix it on election day), they will never be able to address the problems that face everyone across our state regardless of political affiliation.

“I don’t just say that as a Candidate Queen, I say that as Eric Queen who honestly is just some random guy from James City, N.C. I am confident that most of the people in this community feel the same way. The reason I am confident of this is that unlike most elected officials I socialize with people outside my bubble.

“Our district, like all others across the state, wants to address important issues. My priority is public education. Creating a highly educated diverse society will have a positive impact on every other issue, including, but certainly not limited to reductions in drug abuse, reductions in crime, and reductions in unemployment.”

S.J.: Given the almost overwhelmingly partisan nature of politics at this time, how would you work with members of the other party to move important legislation forward?

Queen: “I fully intend to lead by example in this area. The idea of leadership is to motivate a group of people to work together to reach a common goal. I personally don’t care if someone has a R of D after their name. A good idea is a good idea. We are never going to agree on everything, but a refusal to work together or even listen to someone simply because they are not part of your political party is ridiculous and any member of the General Assembly that operates that way should seek employment elsewhere.

“I look forward to having both Republicans and Democrats in my office to talk about how we can do something positive for the communities we represent.

“I can assure the voters that I am not going to Raleigh to be a part of any good old boy’s club or to simply fall in line. I have plenty of friends and most of them have four legs.

“There is no one currently serving in Raleigh or any lobbyist that will be able to convince me to do anything other than what the citizens of the communities I will represent want me to do. I will not cast my vote, I will cast their vote.

S.J.: Where do you stand on the legislature’s mandate calling for smaller class sizes in the state’s public schools? Should the state provide the funds for more teachers or should that money be made up by cuts to school courses such as art, music and P.E.?

Queen: “I think this mandate is an example of putting the cart before the horse. If the state wants to mandate smaller class sizes they first need to create the atmosphere to support the regulation. In other words, ensure the facilities are in place and the required teachers are hired and in place first. Once you accomplish that goal then institute the mandate.

“If we are going to mandate it then the state should absolutely pay for it completely. At no time should anyone be considering making cuts to Art, Music or P.E. To even consider cutting these valuable programs is a non-starter for me.

“It is my opinion that the mandate was created as a way for elected officials to tell their voters that they reduced class sizes. However, for some reason they decided it was not important to tell them that the teachers and classrooms to support it did not actually exist in real life.

“The General Assembly needs to stop working against our public schools and start working for them. It is completely unacceptable that our state is among the lowest in per-pupil spending and teacher salaries. I understand that progress is being made, but as I always say, ‘Don’t confuse effort with results.’ It's time to have the courage to put public schools first in our state funding priorities.”