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2012 Primary Endorsements 

The primary election is May 8

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U.S. House

District 1, Democrat (Durham County)

Some Durham residents may be surprised to learn they are no longer in David Price's 4th Congressional District but in G.K. Butterfield's 1st instead. Ah, redistricting. Rest assured, though, you'll be well-represented by Butterfield, who has been in Congress since 2004.

Butterfield had a whole other life before entering politics. An Army veteran and graduate of N.C. Central University, Butterfield became a successful attorney and won several voting rights lawsuits in Eastern N.C. He rose to Resident Superior Court Judge and presided over civil and criminal courts in the First Judicial Division, which includes 46 counties.

In his questionnaire, Butterfield lists job creation as the most important issue facing North Carolina. He wrote:

"To sustain 23 months of job growth under the Obama Administration, I will continue to support providing tax relief to businesses who hire the long-term unemployed, extending payroll tax cuts, accelerating investment in innovation, and increasing access to capital to small businesses, among other initiatives. Building a better workforce for growth industries such as energy and telecommunications will place our state and nation on more competitive footing. Lastly, we must make an investment in our future by rebuilding our infrastructure and investing in education."

On other issues, Butterfield says the federal government should undertake immigration reform, not individual states creating a patchwork of laws. He opposes Amendment 1. An Army veteran, he is not hawkish on the war(s) but still leaves the door open for military intervention: "It is imperative that we carefully withdraw our military forces from Afghanistan, working to transition the responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons must be met by broad multilateral discouragement, including sanctions, inspections, and multi-party talks. Military action should always be the last resort; however, I support the President's position that all options must be considered to protect our troops and our country."

In Congress, Butterfield serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and is the ranking Democrat on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade and Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. Butterfield supports developing legislation that will spur development of renewable energy and the new green energy economy while reducing greenhouse gases.

His Democratic opponent, Dan Whitacre, did not return a questionnaire, despite several attempts to reach him.

In the fall, the winner will take on Libertarian Darryl Holloman and Republican Pete DiLauro.

District 2, Republican (parts of Chatham and Wake counties)

Consider this a qualified endorsement of Renee Ellmers in the GOP primary for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.

She's likely to win handily in her second primary, and if the redrawn and much more Republican-leaning 2nd District sends her back to the Capitol, we hope she'll carry the message to the rest of her caucus that she opposed Amendment 1 without cost.

We also hope she'll get around to fully apologizing for her ad from 2010 that used "Muslim" and "terrorist" interchangeably, but we're not holding our breath.

Ellmers is one of the most conservative members of Congress, judging from her voting record. She lists the repeal of "Obamacare" as a top priority. But she's proven to be different from other members of the tea party-heavy Class of 2010. She's not been a bomb thrower and, like the rest of us, appears weary of the tactic of serial confrontations with the administration.

If she can drag herself and her party away from the edge of crazy and act a little more like Walter Jones and a lot less like Virginia Foxx, this state would be better served. Standing up and saying she'll vote against Amendment 1 was a good start.

Still, she shouldn't expect such kindness from us in the general election.

Sonya Holmes, Clement Munro and Richard Speer are the other GOP candidates.

District 2, Democrat (parts of Chatham and Wake counties)

In the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District, the Indy endorses Steve Wilkins, a retired career military officer from Whispering Pines. Wilkins is the only candidate in the Democratic primary who lives in the redrawn 2nd District.

A Bronze Star recipient with 22 years in the Army, including combat deployments in Iraq and Kuwait, Wilkins would be able to add his insights in representing a district with many active and retired military residents. As a former legislative liaison for the military, he has the kind of experience to put that experience to work in Congress quickly.

He is no Blue Dog. In his questionnaire, he said he was strongly opposed to Amendment 1, writing: "I am opposed to Amendment One as it is unnecessary government interference in peoples' lives and does nothing to improve anything about North Carolina. It is a terrible waste of the General Assembly's time and our tax dollars at a time when their energies should be spent on the economy, jobs, and education."

Nicely put.

Wilkins also said he would fight efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and would work to protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and programs for veterans.

We think Wilkins has the kind of experience and grasp of the issues to make a likely race against Ellmers in the fall competitive.

Toni Morris of Fayetteville is the other Democratic candidate.


N.C. Senate

District 18, Republican (parts of Wake and Franklin counties)

Three Republicans want the nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Doug Berger in this redrawn Franklin County-Northern Wake County district. All three present themselves as Christian-believing, government-fearing conservatives. Of the three, we believe that Michael Schriver offers the best hope of not being a totally backward senator if elected. Not a guarantee, mind you. A hope.

Schriver was Berger's Republican opponent two years ago in a different version of this district. He's been in the Marines, a cop in Wake Forest and a community college teacher, and now he owns a construction company. Even though his stated positions are thoroughly right-wing ("freedom is never more than one generation from extinction," he warns), we're trusting that his real-world experience will temper his world-is-ending outlook if he should win this office.

We have no such hope for state Rep. Glen Bradley, who is so far to the right even his fellow House Republicans have no idea what he'll do next. Bradley, in his one term, garnered attention when he proposed that North Carolina issue its own "legal tender"—that's money to those of us not trapped in the 18th century—backed by gold and silver. Great idea, and maybe the Pony Express will deliver the gold?

Bradley's also a fan of nullification, the idea that the states can decide for themselves whether a federal law is constitutional. Bradley did vote against Amendment 1 in the House, not because he's pro-gay but because he considers marriage "the domain of God" and not subject to civil law. In fact, he considers almost everything government does to be in violation of the Articles of Confederation, er, Constitution.

Bradley is a self-employed computer technician.

Then there's Chad Barefoot, who's a junior version of perhaps our least favorite legislator, House Majority Leader Paul Stam. Barefoot, in fact, worked as a staff aide to Stam until recently, when he took a job with a political public relations firm. Barefoot favors "school choice." That's good, because one of his firm's new clients is pushing for more charter schools. Barefoot holds a master's degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, home base for the Christian right. SEBTS might've written his campaign platform. Or maybe Stam did.

District 20, Democrat (parts of Central and Southern Durham County)

There was a time when Floyd McKissick Jr. could get no respect. When he ran for Senate for the first time in 2008, his name was conspicuously omitted from election flyer mailed by the State Democratic Party.

Five years later, that has changed. While McKissick won several awards during his first term as a legislator, his legacy (so far) rests in his co-sponsorship of the historic Racial Justice Act (RJA). That alone earns him McKissick our endorsement.

The RJA allows death row inmates who believe their sentence is a result of racial bias to appeal it; the inmates would be resentenced to life without parole. The Republican majority assaulted the RJA, repealing it via Senate Bill 9, but Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the measure. (A judge's ruling on the first RJA case could be announced as early as Friday, April 20.)

He opposes Amendment 1 and voter ID.

In addition to co-sponsoring the RJA, McKissick has earned leadership positions in the statehouse, including chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and Deputy Democratic Leader of the Senate.

McKissick, an attorney, was appointed to the N.C. Senate in 2007 to fill the seat previously held by the late Sen. Jeanne Lucas, and before that served on the Durham City Council for eight years. During his first full term in office in 2009, McKissick won several awards, including honors from the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. Housing Coalition and the N.C. chapter of the NAACP.

Perennial candidate Ralph McKinney is opposing McKissick in the primary.

District 22, Democrat (parts of Durham, Person and Caswell counties)

Oh you lucky residents of the newly drawn state Senate District 22, you can't lose in the Democratic primary. Both candidates, Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard and Durham attorney Kerry Sutton, are solid progressives; in fact, their answers to the Indy questionnaire are similar in political outlook.

They both support the Racial Justice Act and a woman's right to choose. They both oppose Amendment 1 as well as voter ID, which would require any voter to show government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot, on the grounds that it will disenfranchise low-income, elderly, young and minority North Carolinians. (Many people in these groups don't have a driver's license and would be required to pay for an official identification card.)

Woodard and Sutton also oppose fracking because the environmental impacts are uncertain.

So how do you, lucky and progressive residents of District 22, decide between these fine candidates?

We think Mike Woodard has definitely earned the next step in his political career, and that is why we're endorsing him. Elected to City Council in 2005, Woodard has served Durham well—if you follow his Twitter feed, he is always at a city function, a community gathering or a constituents' meeting. His civic record—United Way, Red Cross, Jaycees, InterNeighborhood Council—is outstanding.

Woodard has strong environmental bona fides—he's on the Environmental Affairs Board as the Council liaison—and favors a comprehensive mass transit plan. He spent two years as chairman of the Joint City-County Planning Committee.

He also is familiar with the machinations of the Legislature. As a City Councilman, he is a member of the Council's legislative committee. He has sought additional funding for city police and other crime-prevention initiatives; he sits on the Durham Crime Cabinet.

Woodard also has ties to the business and arts communities via his appointments to the boards of Downtown Durham Inc. and the Durham Arts Council.

A Duke Health System administrator, Woodard can use his experience in these many facets of the community to leverage the city's interests in Raleigh.

Woodard's City Council term ends in 2013. If he is elected to the Legislature, City Council would vote on an appointee to finish his term.

That said, there are many good reasons to vote for Sutton. She is unafraid to stand up for her beliefs, which, given the lack of backbone among some Democrats, is in short supply in the Legislature. Exhibit A is Sutton's complaint against Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline, which recently resulted in Cline's removal from office. While a judge found Sutton's arguments compelling enough to dismiss Cline, Sutton likely alienated some potential voters, particularly in the African-American community. She could have chosen not to run, or not to complain, but she opted to do both.

In addition to Sutton's progressive stances, she would help rebalance the Legislature in terms of gender. WRAL reported in February that as a result of Republican redistricting, "women Democrats were hit hardest" by the new maps. At least six women retired from the Legislature. Considering the Republican Party's so-called war on women—and yes, we do think war is the appropriate term—North Carolina needs progressive, assertive women like Sutton in political power.


N.C. House

District 33, Democrat (Southeast Raleigh)

Rep. Rosa Gill won the 2010 primary for this seat over Bernard Allen II by a 3-to-1 margin. This is a rematch, and Gill should win again. She is a retired teacher who served for 10 years on the Wake County Board of Education. She was appointed to this Southeast Raleigh seat in 2009, replacing Dan Blue when he was appointed to fill a vacant state Senate seat. Gill was an effective legislator when the Democrats controlled the House, helping to enact the Racial Justice Act and bolster the sex-education programs in the schools. Since the Republicans have been in charge, Gill's been front and center in the opposition to their agenda.

Allen's father once held this seat. The son is a former state employee who now works for the State Employees Association of NC. This district is heavily Democratic, and no Republicans filed for the seat.

District 35, Republican (parts of Wake County)

Two conservative candidates, with one difference: Chris Malone has experience as a former Wake Forest council member and current member of the Wake County school board. Duane Cutlip doesn't, though not for lack of trying. Cutlip was the Republican nominee for the House in a different district in 2008 and 2010, losing first to former Rep. Linda Coleman and then to current Rep. Darren Jackson.

Malone was part of the Republican school board majority that roared into office in 2009 and, before they knew where the pencil sharpeners were, tossed out the county's pro-diversity student assignment policy. Two years of turmoil ensued before Democrats reclaimed the majority in the 2011 elections.

During that time, Malone was a card-carrying proponent of the Republicans' neighborhood-schools philosophy. Still, he did help to steer a center course between a pure "neighborhoods" position and the old diversity plan. What resulted was the compromise "choice" plan developed by new Superintendent Tony Tata—on which the jury is still out. But there's no doubt the outcome could've been worse.

We view Malone as a practical-minded conservative whose ideology is tempered by the knowledge gained from actually serving on two governing bodies at the local level. Slashing school spending sounds great when you're running for the General Assembly. It's not so great when you're on the business end of those cuts as a member of a county school board—as Malone's been.

So look for Malone to go after the "out of control state spending" but also to realize that state aid to schools should not be in the crosshairs.

Malone works as a case manager for a private investigations firm and is active in civic affairs in Wake Forest.

Cutlip, who formerly listed his occupation as real estate investment advisor, now says he has worked with finances in several small businesses in North Carolina. He lives in Rolesville. His campaign, he told the N.C. Center for Voter Education, "is rooted from his personal experience that small businesses are the engine of our economy." Cutlip added, "God. Family. Government. In that order."

District 38, Democrat (parts of Eastern Wake County)

Wake County's growth and Republican gerrymandering combined to produce the new 38th district, located in East Raleigh and East Wake, which is so packed with Democratic voters that no Republican candidate even filed. Thus, the winner of the three-way Democratic primary is all but certain to be elected in November.

A case can be made for all of the candidates. We think the strongest one is for Lee Sartain, who's been active in Wake County politics since his debut in 2009 as a candidate for Raleigh City Council. Though he didn't win, Sartain impressed voters with his energy and grasp of issues. With his strong background in educational policy—an N.C. State graduate, he's a policy analyst at NCSU's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation—Sartain seemed better suited to a legislative post than a council seat. Now, that legislative seat can be his.

If elected, Sartain would be a progressive voice in the House and its second openly gay member.

For voters who want more experience, or who think this majority-black district should have an African-American representative, Yvonne Holley is a solid pick. Recently retired from a career in state government as a procurement specialist, Holley has a record of public service in Southeast Raleigh, including being a board member (in better days) at the now-defunct YWCA. She's a past president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, the black community's political arm. She, too, ran for a seat on the Raleigh Council in 1999.

Abeni El-Amin, the third candidate, has good intentions but her record shows more starts than finishes. The nonprofit organization she created, Project Ricochet Inc., is aimed at helping minority youth find jobs in Southeast Raleigh. That's work worth doing. She's also a fitness coach and a former adjunct teacher at Shaw University and St. Augustine's College. In this campaign, she showed poor judgment by hosting a community television program that aired on a city of Raleigh cable-access channel—before it was pulled—and proved to be a thinly disguised infomercial about her candidacy. She was not its producer. Programs promoting candidates aren't allowed on the cable-access channels.

East Raleigh doesn't lack for veteran public officials, what with Sen. Dan Blue, Rep. Rosa Gill, Wake County Commissioner James West and Raleigh City Councilor Eugene Weeks. It does lack for younger representation. Sartain or El-Amin would provide a chance at younger leadership. We think Sartain merits the nod.

District 39, Democrat (parts of Wake County)

Rep. Darren Jackson's earned re-election. Don Mial, his opponent, is a good man, but he's in the wrong race.

Jackson was appointed to his seat in 2009, replacing Linda Coleman when she left to work for the Perdue administration. He was elected in 2010. A lawyer from Knightdale, he was a rising star when the Democrats held power, taking a leading role on education issues, including enactment of a landmark anti-bullying bill with an emphasis on protecting gay kids from bullies. With the Republicans in charge for the last two years, Jackson's been less visible—like many Democrats. But his voting record is solid, especially on education and environmental protection issues, and he retains the support of the N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the Triangle Labor Council.

Don Mial, a retired Army veteran who now works as a manager in the state Division of Juvenile Justice, has run twice for the Wake County Board of Commissioners—the second time with our endorsement. He resigned his seat on the Wake County Board of Elections to get into this race. But he hasn't done anything to persuade us he should win it.

Michael Slawter, a documents examiner in the N.C. Secretary of State's office, is a first-time candidate without much support or much of a campaign. He told the N.C. Center for Voter Education he's in the race to advocate for kids and minorities and to expose the waste he's seen in state government. Waste? Really?

District 49, Republican (parts of Wake County)

Oh, my. It's Dr. Jim Fulghum III—a neurosurgeon, John Locke Foundation board member and star of his own TV ads, where he plays the role of a curmudgeonly doc who hates Obamacare—against former state Rep. Russell Capps—who invented the role of curmudgeonly opponent of all things liberal.

Actually, we've always loved Capps, who in real life is as pleasant and, yes, we'll say as sweet as a right-wing conservative can be. That's his Christian conservative nature, of course, the thing that unfortunately also causes him to think evolution is a fraud and the world started, oh, not that long ago. (Don't be teaching the kids that scientific stuff, now. If Capps had his way, creationism would be the new science.)

Capps, when he was in the House, did author the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a landmark piece of anti-gay legislation. But he is most famous for his years and years and years as president of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, the rabid anti-tax group. He still is its president, though the WCTA's influence has waned over the years as its opposition to school bond issues made it look ever more silly.

Put it this way: At age 80, soon to be 81, Capps has earned the retirement he began when he lost his old House seat in 2006. But that was then, and this is now an essentially new House seat brought to us by Wake County's population explosion. Capps wants back in, but we think it's time to give someone else a chance. Even if he does look like a slightly younger version of the old curmudgeon himself.

District 50, Democrat (parts of Northern Durham and Orange counties)

In the newly created North Carolina House District 50, which includes parts of Orange and Durham counties, the Indy endorses Valerie Foushee.

A lifelong resident of Orange County, Foushee served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education from 1997 to 2003, followed by eight years on the county board of commissioners. A retired public information officer for the Chapel Hill Police Department, Foushee has built her résumé in public life the hard way. She's negotiated school budgets, prioritized county services in the face of deep state cuts and sought common ground among local governments in a county with three very different municipalities.

Her style is calm and, in a county where people like to talk, she is refreshingly succinct. She has been an active negotiator in county matters and shown a willingness to compromise, but she's no pushover.

A few years back, when new colleagues on the county board wanted to revisit expanding the current landfill in the Rogers Road neighborhood, Foushee firmly told them she would fight any attempt to back out of the commitment.

Her public and professional experience gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by county governments, law enforcement and educators in times of constrained budgets and economic uncertainty. Rarely do you see a candidate with that kind of breadth.

Her opponent, Travis Phelps of Durham, made the task of endorsing Foushee easy. Phelps, a 22-year-old student who has come out strongly in favor of Amendment 1, is running as a "Conservative Democrat" and in forums has said his opposition to gay marriage is based on his Christian faith. He did not return our questionnaire.

District 50, Republican (parts of Northern Durham and Orange counties)

In the Republican primary for District 50, we are endorsing no one, but commend Lewis Hannah, a community banker from Efland and a board member of the Triangle Transit Authority, for his no-nonsense approach. In recent remarks to the N.C. Chamber of Commerce Hannah said the state needs to invest in infrastructure and that the Triangle's water supply should not be put at risk by fracking.

Hannah's opponent, Jason Chambers, was the only one of four candidates to return our questionnaire.

Chambers, a 25-year old Durham County resident who ran against Democrat Paul Luebke in 2010, declined to take a position on Amendment 1, saying "the people will decide." He supports Voter ID rules and recent abortion restrictions such as ultrasound requirements, and he opposes the Racial Justice Act.

Also running are Hillsborough minister Rod Chaney and Thomas Wright of Mebane.

District 54, Democrat (Chatham County)

In the race for the new House District 54 we endorse Jeffrey Starkweather, a longtime champion of the environment, social justice and sound growth policies.

The retirement of Rep. Joe Hackney, who represented the district in its various forms for more than three decades, leaves a need for a candidate who has a deep familiarity with the issues facing this Chatham County district. We think Starkweather's views on energy and growth could continue Hackney's work; his willingness to defend public education and to stand up to social conservatives are also impressive.

If elected, Starkweather would represent all of Chatham County and a chunk of Lee County near Sanford, some of the main areas targeted for fracking. He would add a strong voice in opposition to the fracking frenzy in the General Assembly.

In any other race, Deb McManus, a third-term school board member from Siler City, would have been an easy pick. She served both as chair and vice-chair on the school board amid escalating state budget cuts and speaks passionately about reversing that trend.

McManus' support of women's health and her strong stand for Planned Parenthood and against ultrasound requirements and other abortion restrictions helped earn her an endorsement from Lillian's List.

Both Starkweather and McManus have deep roots in the community and would make good representatives. We think Starkweather is the better choice given his history as an advocate for the environment and his expertise in the growth pressures facing the district. He would be a counterbalance to pro-growth local governments and has the kind of fire Democrats need in the Legislature.

  • Vote like the future depends on it. Because it does.

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