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NC Senate District 41 Candidates Vie for Votes


Dr. Donald Copeland, Mayor Jeff Tarte, Robby Benton, John Aneralla and Troy Stafford

The five Republicans running for the North Carolina Senate seat in District 41 met Tuesday evening May 1 for a candidate forum at Cornelius Town Hall.

Event host and moderator Dave Yochum of Cornelius Today organized the event for citizens of the newly drawn district, which encompasses Northern Mecklenburg County as well as the extreme Eastern parts of Central and Southern Mecklenburg. “It’s important for us to meet the candidates. Whoever wins the primary next week will win the election – there are no challengers from the other parties,” he said. If the winner does not receive 40 percent of the vote there will be a second primary run-off.

A synopsis of the candidates’ remarks is below.  A recording of the forum was to air at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. through May 7 on MI Connection Channel 4.

Meet the Candidates

John Aneralla owns and investment advisory firm and is a former chairman of the Mecklenburg Republican Party and the 9th Congressional District. He believes his 25 years in business in addition to his political involvement provide a good blend of business sense and allows him to be a spokesman for conservative values. “I am consistent, I have been out there fighting the battles every year. You can count on me being the same guy every day.”  www.electjohnaneralla.com704-562-4134

Robby Benton is a former NASCAR driver and owns two teams. A Mecklenburg native from the Mallard Creek area and a graduate of North Mecklenburg High School, Benton says he will be a fresh face on the political scene. “I’m from this area, I know our history, I want to be part of the change,” he said. Benton is pleased that so far this race has been “one of the cleanest races”.  He admits it will be a tough choice for the voters., 704-788-7811

Dr. Donald Copeland attended Davidson College and UNC’s School of Medicine. After practicing medicine for over 40 years, he retired in 2002 from the group he started, Lakeside Family Physicians. He currently works at a county health department. Copeland is most concerned with the revaluation process and crippling taxes on the elderly. “I have a lot of experience, I know legislators in Raleigh, I can work with the other senators in Eastern North Carolina to get things done,” he said.  Email Dr. Copeland at, 704-892-3726

Troy Stafford is a Cornelius resident and a partner in a Charlotte Law firm where he has worked for 21 years. He thinks it would be a privilege to serve in District 41 and says it would be the greatest challenge of his lifetime. He believes government should not spend what it doesn’t have. “North Carolina has the highest tax rate, and the lowest education rate. I’m not a career politician. I fight for the people I represent in business, and I would fight for you.”, 704-609-0712

Jeff Tarte is currently serving his third term as Mayor of Cornelius where he has lived for over two decades. Though he does not consider himself better than the other candidates, he says, “My experience makes me the best choice.” He also thinks character and reputation are important in choosing a leader.  Some of his main concerns are reducing unemployment, improving the graduation rate, tax reform and transportation. With Tarte as Mayor, Cornelius has reduced its taxes to the lowest rate in North Carolina.,  704-765-6167

1) If elected, will you have time to represent District 41 as our first senator?

Tarte -Yes. I actually delayed entering the race because I was waiting for my medical consulting business to sell. All three of my children are in college, I will have the time.

Aneralla – Yes. I work for myself, so my schedule is flexible. I believe if you have a passion for running you make the time. That’s what I did in 2010 when I ran in the heavily Democratic 40th District against incumbent Malcom Graham.

Dr. Copeland – Yes. I am retired. I think this position pays about $19,000 a year. I just might be able to pay my property taxes out of that.

Benton – Yes. I’m single – no wife or kids. I’ll make the time for it.

Stafford – Yes. I’ve always made time for community service. I am involved with the DARE program, and the Ronald McDonald House. I will make time because I believe it is important.

2) What would you suggest as a remedy for the revaluation debacle?

Aneralla – The state must correct the problem. We have to limit how much property values can go up. I would also like to see an outside audit.

Dr. Copeland – No one locally has a solution. I want to pass a law saying that taxes can’t go up on retired people. We need to rethink property taxes. We must protect the elderly.

Benton – We have a broken system when taxes go up and land values go down. Government needs money, and this is an easy way for them to take it. There needs to be a study on how to fix it.

Stafford – North Carolina needs a property tax cap. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley is calling for an independent audit. Former Cornelius Town Commissioner Jim Bensman has gotten involved. I think this will end in litigation.

Tarte – There is no way to solve this quickly or easily, and I can’t explain it easily. We have to change the Machinery Act of N.C. to keep this from happening again.

3) How would you improve education?

Dr. Copeland – We have low education standards now like we did before the war. We need an affordable way to fund k-12 as well as the community colleges.

Benton – I have received a lot of phone calls from teachers. We are facing two problems: first, good people no longer want to be teachers, and second, we don’t have a reliable revenue stream to help teachers be successful. I attended Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and I am relatively young, the experience is still fresh in my mind. We have to be able to attract better teachers.

Stafford – I like the Excellent Public Schools Act (Senate bill 795) that was recently introduced by Phil Berger in the General Assembly. The bureaucracy in Raleigh is top-heavy.  We need to redirect the control to the local schools.

Tarte – We don’t need more money for education, we need to start prioritizing. We need to listen to those involved. We need smaller class size. I have been endorsed by a CMS Board member.

Aneralla – CMS has a history of bad priorities over the years. I like the competition that charter schools, home schooling and tax credits bring. CMS is too big. They already admit they run the schools in West Charlotte as a separate system.

4) Do you support the Marriage Amendment that is on the ballot in this election?

Benton – I believe in the way I was raised, one man and one woman. I will be happy to discuss it with anyone, but I plan to vote for it.

Stafford – It seems paradoxical to me. I was raised as a Christian, but I did not vote for it. I believe it will generate lots of litigation.

Tarte – I have struggled with it personally. To me marriage is sacred between a man and a woman. Marriage is “heart”, but I don’t want government dictating what happens in church.

Aneralla – A judge can change the current law. Putting the amendment on the ballot is bringing the choice to the people. We are the only state in the Southeast without a marriage amendment. I will vote for it.

Dr. Copeland – I’m a little old to think of anything else. Marriage is for taking care of children, not a religious ceremony. It is a covenant between two people. I will vote for it.

5) Which endorsements have you received that you are the most proud of?

Stafford – Of course my family, but then Grey Mills, Eddie Knox, Wes Southern, Lee Myers, and the mayor pro tem of Mint Hill.

Tarte – Also my family, the other area mayors, and Thom and Susan Tillis. They did not endorse me, but they said they would vote for me.

Aneralla – All four Cornelius Town Commissioners are supporting me. Thom and Susan Tillis told me they are remaining neutral.

Dr. Copeland – I don’t know if I have any endorsements. A Charlotte Observer endorsement would be the kiss of death.

Benton – Family and friends, and South Carolina Senator Shane Martin. I am very proud of that.

6) Would you be a fair leader to all of the citizens of the 41st District?

Tarte – I currently represent the residents of Smithville, and I would listen to the concerns of people across the community. I will dial back the cynicism so people would respect their leader.

Aneralla – While running for office I have walked neighborhoods in all kinds of communities. The fear of most voters is that if you go to Raleigh you will just turn into another politician. I once ran against a Democrat and spoke to all kinds of groups. I talk the same way to everyone.

Dr. Copeland – Just like I treat all my patients equally, I can talk to and relate to everyone, from the custodian to the C.E.O.

Benton – I think my age helps make me approachable.

Stafford – In my law practice I represent all kinds of people. You have to be able to listen and make sure you understand what they want. You can’t always please everyone, but you can use your knowledge, skill, training and experience to represent them to best way you can.

7) How would you stay connected to District 41 constituents?

Aneralla – I already have an office in Matthews. I’ve been out and about. I was chairman of the entire Mecklenburg Party. This is a much smaller area.

Dr. Copeland – I will be available anywhere, anytime. Call me.

Benton – It will be a challenge to remain approachable and accessible. Call me, email me, if I run into you at the store, I will listen.

Stafford – I can be easily accessible through social media, I already have an office in Mint Hill.

Tarte – I serve on many commissions. My nickname is the “task force mayor”. If elected I will be the “blue ribbon commission” senator.

8. Do you believe in state sovereignty?

Dr. Copeland – Of course I do.  I’m a Southerner. We need to be more self-sufficient.

Benton – “I’m in agreeance with Dr. Copeland.” I don’t believe we have much of a choice now until we are self reliant and can stand on our own two feet.

Stafford – I feel strongly about states’ rights. I particularly don’t like unfunded mandates.

Tarte – If we want more local government we have to get Raleigh to loosen its reins. Right now we can only do what they allow us to.

Aneralla – I support states’ rights, particularly the right to work. Obamacare is the ultimate unfunded mandate. The next four years will be a challenge.

9) Are you in favor of eliminating the Certificate of Need (CON) regulations for health care facilities?

 Benton – I’m not sure. I would like to research that before I reply.

Stafford – I’m in favor of competition. I think we should abolish the CON regulations, but we still need high health care standards.

Tarte – As a matter of fact, Huntersville Hospital opened illegally. There are too many regulations.

Aneralla – I agree. Competition is a good thing. How can we lower the cost of health care? We need to look at out-sourcing things like mental health services.

Dr. Copeland – The CON regulation is ridiculous. It’s used to help big hospitals who pay off politicians. I hate to see what is happening to medicine today. It has gone from Marcus Welby to Grey’s Anatomy, and it’s not good.

10) What is your solution to illegal immigration?

Stafford – We currently have laws on the books that need to be enforced. The big problem now is dealing with the children of illegals.

Tarte – Immigration is a good thing, but we need to do it legally. The 287(g) program is good.

Aneralla – You should not get a tuition break if you are illegal, or other benefits.

Dr. Copeland – At the health department it’s against the law for us to identify anyone as illegal. It’s a horrible problem and should have been taken care of years ago.

Benton – We need to enforce the law, but if someone is really in need we can’t turn them away. It’s a quandary.

The Primary election in N.C. is Tuesday, May 8. To verify your voter registration, view a sample ballot or find your voting location go to this link:


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