MOREHEAD CITY — A political upstart is hoping his trip to all 100 counties will bring him a primary win in the state’s 2020 senate race.
Raleigh resident Dr. Atul Goel, 59, has spent the last several weeks campaigning in counties throughout the state. A Democrat, Dr. Goel paid a visit to Carteret County early Saturday morning.
“Coming (to Carteret County) you have to go through small roads and you get a chance to see North Carolina,” Dr. Goel said. “It was a very pleasant drive because I got to see more of North Carolina.”
Dr. Goel said his planned trip to all 100 counties serves two purposes. One is to bridge the gap between himself and voter, while the other is to learn more about issues that might not be on his radar. He used a recent talk with a constituent about domestic violence as an example.
“It would never have crossed my mind in this day and age (that) this would be an issue,” Dr. Goel said. “I was kind of embarrassed, I felt like this was an issue I should (have known about) but I didn’t. But, now that I know, it’s on my radar.”
An immigrant from India, Dr. Goel spent much of his childhood in upstate New York. As a young adult, he spent time in the armed forces, first as a reservist and later in the U.S. Air Force.
“When (the 9/11 terrorist attacks) happened, I figured we were going to do something,” Dr. Goel said. “Of course, initially, people were trying to figure out what was happening and so on. I wanted to be part of that war effort so I volunteered to be on active duty. I was on active duty from 2002 to 2007.”
Dr. Goel eventually left the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel. He and his family moved to North Carolina, where they have lived for 30 years.
The primary elections are scheduled for Tuesday, March 3. Dr. Goel will go up against fellow Democrats Erica Smith, Trevor Fuller and Cal Cunningham.
The General Election is in November 2020. If Dr. Goel’s primary bid is successful he will face one of three republican challengers, Sandy Smith, Garland Tucker III or incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis.
Dr. Goel said his main platform centers on improving health care in the state. He said while his background in the medical field gives him some insight, he admits he does not have a concrete plan. He adds that voters should be wary of candidates who claim to have a solution, particularly those without medical experience.
“I really understand the medical space in many perspectives,” Dr. Goel said.
The doctor said the key to finding the best possible solution is to get opinions from all parties with an interest in the matter. Dr. Goel said this could be difficult, due to how polarized the issue has become.
“My first approach is going to be ‘no let’s not do that,’” Dr. Goel said. “Let’s sit down, get people at the table and really think it through. The process may take planning, but we can (come) up with a strategic plan … and then implement it. That’s one important thing we have not been able to do.”
Other important topics include immigration and foreign policy.
“I just feel that we need to have a more humane immigration policy,” Dr. Goel said. “I don’t understand why some people need to feel that Democrats are for porous borders … but we are America, we don’t need to be the Stalinist, Marxist, murderous, dictatorial types of places where our approach to addressing that problem is to say ‘let’s separate the kids from their parents.’”
Dr. Goel added that he regrets the foreign policy turn the country has taken recently, highlighting key issues without directly naming President Donald Trump’s administration.
“I’ll tell you what’s paining me greatly,” Dr. Goel said. “I have served alongside military professionals who are our allies. They have died for us. These are people who have came and (stood) shoulder to shoulder with us and they have no dog in the fight, it’s we that were attacked on 9/11. I just feel that we have treated our allies horribly…we vilify them. And the people who are the leaders of murderous societies, they are our friends. There is just something very wrong with that.”
Dr. Goel said these and other issues won’t be solved in a short period. Despite this, he said he is committed to only serving one term in the Senate if elected, adding that he doesn’t support the idea of career politicians.
“I always feel that people (should) leave their jobs, serve their country as an elected official and then leave and go back to their jobs,” Dr. Goel said. “The reason for that is because I am here to accomplish certain goals in our country and state.”
Ultimately, Dr. Goel said he hopes voters will take note of what he feels is his unorthodox approach to running. He hopes voters will visit his website, atulgoelforsenate.com.
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.