Campaigning for November’s general election to see who will represent the 118th district in the North Carolina House of Representatives has begun.

Running to represent the district are two Haywood County natives, Republican Mark Pless and Democrat Alan Jones. The district covers Madison and Yancy Counties, as well as a large portion of Haywood. It is currently held by Republican Michele Presnell, who announced last year she wouldn’t again seek office. She has since endorsed Pless.

While neither have previously ever run for a state level office, Pless is currently a Haywood County commissioner and Jones has held elected office within the United Steelworkers union’s Local 507 in Canton, where he once served as president.

“It’s been different than county commissioner,” Pless said of the new campaign. “The needs are different here. You are affecting local issues. There, you get a mix between local issues and issues that are controlled by the legislature when people are talking to you.”

“It is different, but it’s also similar in certain ways, because you’re out talking to folks about issues and hearing what’s on their minds,” Jones said, adding that campaigning does require more travel and a broader spectrum of issues.

Both Pless and Jones said they’ve been working to learn more about some of those issues, as well as the legislative process.

“It’s been learning about process … I’ve been down [to Raleigh] and looked around,” Pless said. “I’m getting a bigger idea of how things are and the way to operate.”

Jones said he has a good idea about the legislative process since he’s followed so many bills from his position as a union leader. All the same, he too has been trying to learn everything he can.

“I have talked to folks in the legislature,” he said. “I’ve also been doing research on how it goes, and I watched a few sessions.”

Jones said the believes Medicaid expansion is perhaps the biggest issue he hopes to address in Raleigh.

“One of the top things is the quality of affordable health care,” he said.

Pless said he hopes to bring business to the region.

“I think one of the largest issues that affect Western North Carolina especially is not being able to secure manufacturing jobs and other jobs … we lose a lot of jobs to South Carolina. They have the port in Greeneville, and they also have a lot of support from the state government to help attract business. We don’t have that here.”

Pless added that his campaign was about protecting individual rights.

“It’s very different for people to be able to stand strong and to believe in government, and it seems like their rights are being threatened or violated, especially the second amendment and freedom of speech and right to vote,” he said.

Jones touted his experience looking out for folks in the union who depended on him to be their voice.

“I’m a working fella that’s out here looking out for working folks’ needs,” he said. “We need to be able to give them the opportunity to have safe good jobs and have the opportunity to have a good education, and those things that I think folks understand. I’ve committed my career and life to helping families in the union.”

The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 3 and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. Early voting runs from Oct. 15-31. Election day is Nov. 3.

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