ROCKINGHAM — A write-in candidate for North Carolina governor says his campaign is as much about fixing the state’s fractured mental health system as it is about getting votes.
Daniel Orr, a U.S. Navy veteran who describes himself as an “advocate and activist” for patients battling mental illness and their families, is challenging Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic candidates Roy Cooper and Ken Spaulding in a grassroots bid for the Executive Mansion in 2016.
“They’re not looking out for citizens,” Orr said of McCrory and Cooper. “They’re looking out for fundraisers. They’re looking out for their party. They’re looking out for factions. We need somebody who actually cares about individuals.”
Orr, who lives in Henderson and is a registered Republican, recently made a campaign visit to Richmond County and stopped by the Daily Journal to share his message with voters here. He says he is running as the Statesman Party candidate and needs to collect 500 petition signatures for his write-in votes to be counted on Election Day.
Treatment of mental illness is Orr’s signature issue, and he says North Carolina lawmakers have shuttered mental hospitals and slashed funding for therapeutic care, shifting the burden to the state’s law enforcement, jails and prisons.
“There are so many citizens who need help,” he said. “Fifty to 55 percent of the seriously mentally ill are incarcerated in North Carolina. The beds are filled with disabled adults, which leaves no room for criminals. Prisons and jails have been our real psychiatric hospitals.”
Orr said state officials and social workers are ill-equipped to handle patients’ mental health needs. In some cases, he contends, they even refuse to provide services required by state law.
“Within my own family, there are people who have needed help with social services and mental health services only to find that apathy is ingrained in the status quo,” he said. “They don’t know what the law says, and when you show them the law, they completely and willfully ignore it.”
Orr is the author of “Saving America: The Statesman Party Agenda,” a self-published 128-page book released in January and available on Amazon.com as a paperback and E-book.
If elected, Orr said his veto stamp would see frequent use. He believes North Carolina should stop adding laws he sees as redundant or contradictory and merely needs an executive branch that would prioritize enforcement of the current statutes.
“It boils down mainly to accountability to existing law,” he said. “There’s no need to make new laws in a culture where we don’t follow the ones we already have.”
A self-described conservative, Orr said the federal and state war on drugs are picking taxpayers’ pockets while failing to bring about any meaningful reductions in the availability of illicit substances. He favors house arrest over incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses.
Drug convicts would be required to pay the $3,400 annual tab for GPS monitoring via ankle bracelets, Orr said, saving taxpayers the $27,000 per year it costs to keep a drug offender locked up.
Orr sharply criticized both the incumbent governor and his likely Democratic general election opponent, who is the sitting attorney general.
“Governor McCrory thus far has sided with corporations,” he said. “The Republican Party, including McCrory, has sold our film and television industry to Georgia. They have not been stewards of our citizens. Roy Cooper has spent a dozen years as attorney general and has done a horrible job.”
Orr is the ultimate underdog, with no campaign committee, no PACs and no official website. His campaign handouts are printed from home and his Facebook page has just 27 likes.
“Why would you spend $3 million to make a half a million?” Orr said, noting that the governor receives a salary of $140,000 per year.
Orr said he doesn’t expect to be taken seriously by the media or the pundits, but he believes his message of small government and compassionate care for the state’s most vulnerable will strike a chord with voters from Murphy to Manteo.
“I expect that I will be marginalized,” he said. “However, I have a big mouth and a hard head, and I am incredibly persistent. That’s Navy-taught — you don’t stop till the mission’s done.”
In order to have his write-in votes counted, Orr will have to submit his petition with 500 or more signatures to his county Board of Elections office by next July 26 and file the petition along with a declaration of intent form at the N.C. State Board of Elections by Aug. 10.
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @corey_friedman.