Through its annual Hometown Debate Series, IOPL raises awareness of key issues by bringing newsmakers to communities across the state.

This four-event series brings elected officials and policy experts together for a balanced debate on some of North Carolina’s most important issues. The 2023 Debate Series focuses on four topics within education.

In its eighth year, the Hometown Debate Series is a collaboration between Spectrum News 1 North Carolina and the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership, with a new topic each year. Spectrum’s Loretta Boniti is scheduled to return as moderator.

An abbreviated version will air on Spectrum News on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. The debates will then be available in their entirety on after their initial airing.

2023 Hometown Debates: Education Issues in North Carolina


The UNC Admissions Decision: What’s Next?
(Vance-Granville Community College)

  • NC State Representative Vernetta Alston
  • Irving Joyner, NC Central Law
  • Kenny Xu, Color Us United
  • George Leef, The Martin Center for Academic Renewal

School Choice in NC
(The Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center)

  • NC State Senator Benton Sawrey
  • NC House Representative Zack Hawkins
  • Dr. Lauren Fox, The Public School Forum of North Carolina
  • Marcus Brandon, CarolinaCAN

Teacher Pay & Licensure
(Meredith College)

  • NC State Representative Ashton Wheeler Clemmons
  • Brenda Berg, Best NC
  • Jill Camnitz, State Board of Education
  • Dr. Deanna Townsend-Smith, The Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity

Education Finance
(Benson Conference Center)

  • NC State Senator Michael Lee
  • NC State Senator Jay Chaudhuri
  • Mitch Kokai, The John Locke Foundation
  • Alexandra Sirota, The NC Budget and Tax Center

2022 Congressional Conversations


NC’s 4th Congressional District

  • NC State Senator Valerie Foushee (D)
  • Courtney Geels (R)

NC’s 14th Congressional District

  • NC State Senator Jeff Jackson (D)
  • Pat Harrigan (R)

NC’s 13th Congressional District

  • NC State Senator Wiley Nickel (D)
  • Bo Hines (R)
NC 11

NC’s 11th Congressional District

  • NC State Senator Chuck Edwards (R)
  • Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

2021 Hometown Debates: Criminal Justice Reform

Capital Punishment
(UNC Greensboro)

  • Representative Pricey Harrison, NC House 61
  • Former Representative Paul “Skip” Stam, NC House 37
  • David Huffman, Retired Catawba County Sheriff
  • Elizabeth Hambourger, Center for Death Penalty Litigation

The Role of a Prosecutor
(Wake Forest School of Law)

  • Jim O’Neill, Forsyth District Attorney
  • Ben David, Pender County District Attorney
  • Nelson Bunn, Executive Director, National Association of District Attorneys
  • Ron Wright, Wake Forest School of Law

Police Reform
(Wake Tech Community College)

  • Senator Amy Scott Galey, NC Senate 24
  • Senator Mujtaba Mohammed, NC Senate 38
  • Kerwin Pittman, Emancipate NC
  • Sheriff Clarence F. Birkhead, Durham County




Juvenile Justice
(NC Central School of Law)

  • Representative Abe Jones, NC House 38
  • Former Representative Tom Murry, NC House 41
  • Adam Sotak, NC Child
  • Dorothy Hairston Mitchell, NC Central School of Law, Juvenile Law Clinic



2020 Hometown Debates: Council of State Races

Lieutenant Governor (Concord)
Mark Robinson, North Carolina State Representative Yvonne Holley

State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Raleigh)
Catherine Truitt, Jennifer Mangrum

Commissioner of Labor (Goldsboro)
North Carolina State Representative Josh Dobson, Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes



State Treasurer (Sanford)
State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, Ronnie Chatterji



2019 Hometown Debates: Healthcare

Should North Carolina Expand Medicaid? (Lexington)
Former State Representative Nelson Dollar, Roy Lenardson (Foundation for Government Accountability) Wayne Goodwin (Executive Director, NC Democratic Party), Brendan Riley (NC Justice Center)

Healthcare Affordability and Access (Salisbury)
NC Rep. Carla Cunningham, former NC Rep. Bill Brawley, Jordan Roberts (John Locke Foundation) Brendan Riley (NC Justice Center)

Issues in Rural Healthcare (Greenville)
NC Senator Jim Perry, NC Senator Don Davis, Tina Gordon (North Carolina Nurses Association) and Dr. Chelley Alexander (Brody School of Medicine)



Delivery of Medical Services (Henderson)
NC Representative Donna McDowell White, NC Representative Terry Garrison, Greg Griggs (NC Academy of Family Physicians), and Jordan Roberts (John Locke Foundation)



2018 Hometown Debates: Proposed Amendments to the NC Constitution

Should the process be changed to fill judiciary vacancies? (Salisbury)
NC State Senator Paul Newton (District 36), NC State Senator Floyd McKissick (District 20)
Wayne Goodwin (Executive Director, NC Democratic Party, Brent Woodcox (Special Counsel, General Assembly)

Should voters be required to present a photo ID before voting? (Washington)
NC State Senator Erica Smith (District 3), NC Representative David Lewis (District 53), Donald Bryson (President/CEO, Civitas Institute), Kareem Crayton (Executive Director, Southern Coalition for Social Justice)

Should an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement be established to administer ethics and elections law? (Clayton)
NC Representative David Lewis, NC Senator Dan Blue, Allison Riggs (Senior Attorney, Southern Coalition for Social Justice), and Dallas Woodhouse (Executive Director, NC Republican Party)



Should the income tax rate in North Carolina be reduced to a maximum allowable rate of 7%? (Gastonia)
NC Representative Kelly Alexander, NC Senator Dan Bishop, Chris McCoy (Americans for Prosperity), and Brian Kennedy (NC Budget and Tax Center)



2017 Hometown Debates: Public Education System

NC IOPL Hometown Debates 2017

Should NC increase the state’s role in financing local school construction? (Rocky Mount)
NC State Senator Rick Horner (District 11), NC State Senator Erica D. Smith (District 3)

NC IOPL Hometown Debates 2017

Should shared performance pay play more of a role in NC teacher compensation? (Newton)
NCAE President Mark Jewell (NC Association of Educators), NC State Representative Craig Horn (District 68)

2016 Hometown Debates: Council of State Races

2016 NC IOPL Hometown Debates - NC Lt. Governor

Lt. Governor (Wilson)
Former NC Representative Linda Coleman, Lt. Governor Dan Forest

2016 NC IOPL Hometown Debates

Attorney General (Asheboro)
Senator Buck Newton (District 11), Senator Josh Stein (District 16)

State Treasurer (Statesville)
Dan Blue III, Former NC Representative Dale Folwell