Is Sen. Dan Blue even campaigning? Let's put it this way, he's not working up a sweat as he runs for this Senate seat for the first time. No campaign website. No yard signs to speak of. He has money in his campaign account—$103,000 at last report—but he isn't spending it.
WE ENDORSE Blue. For 30 years, he's proven his worth as a member of the House, as House speaker, as the best candidate for U.S. Senate in 2002 (he lost the primary to Erskine Bowles but ran ahead of Elaine Marshall) and as a House member again when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. That's also how he came to this Senate seat, replacing the late Sen. Vernon Malone after his death in 2009.
In the Senate, Blue's taken the lead on legislation to help homeowners whose mortgages are in danger of being foreclosed. Working with the banking commissioner and the N.C. Justice Center, he's helped to bolster consumer protections and give such folks a chance to renegotiate with their lenders. Blue is also working behind the scenes to rally the historically black Southeast Raleigh community against the anti-diversity Wake County school board majority. Blue's list of firsts as an African-American leader include first House speaker and first chair of the board at Duke University, where a diverse student body is a given for educational excellence.
There is a Republican candidate. Geoffrey Hurlburt, a research technologist at Charles River Laboratories, says his main issue is giving parents equal access to their children following a divorce, absent child abuse or neglect. He says abortions are murders. He's anti-gay marriage. Taxes are too high all around, Hurlburt says.
Pros: Blue is widely respected, even by Republicans.
Cons: Why can't the Republicans run a serious candidate in this district?
Campaign finance: Blue has raised $83,000, including $4,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. Employee PAC, $1,000 from Build PAC and $3,000 from Jeff Capel, University of Oklahoma men's basketball coach. Hurlburt has raised $619.
State Sen. Neal Hunt is hoping to hang on to his District 15 seat, but WE ENDORSE Charles Malone, who is trying to wrangle it away from him.
Hunt has co-sponsored legislation that would require marriage to be only between a man and a woman, to print voter registration forms only in English, to make it a crime to not carry alien registration documents ("your papers, please") and to prohibit abortion coverage from the state health plan.
Malone, a Vietnam veteran and N.C. Department of Energy and Natural Resources analyst, is our guy. We think the Legislature could use another licensed mediator in state government among its ranks.
Pros: In Malone's words, "It is only humane for the well off to give a bit more to ensure that all can survive and contribute to society." Malone supports civil unions, the right to choose and collective bargaining. He understands the looming car crisis in the Triangle and backs light rail and expanding public transit.
Hunt, despite his faults, has received support in the past from environmental groups for working to protect natural resources.
Cons: Malone is 62 and yet to serve in elected office, but his experience working in the government and serving in the military give us confidence. And remember, this is the same Neal Hunt who said of Barack Obama in 2008, "All of his associations seem to be radical American haters."
Other endorsements: Malone: Equality N.C., state AFL-CIO, N.C. Association of Educators, Hunt: N.C. Sierra Club
Campaign finance: Malone has raised $4,800, which includes $250 from former U.S. Sen. Robert Morgan. Hunt has $333,000, of which $202,000 he loaned himself. Other Hunt contributors: Blue Cross/ Blue Shield of N.C. Employee PAC ($2,000); Bank of America PAC ($3,000); Wake school board majority attorney Thomas Farr ($450); real estate developer John Kane ($500); former chief justice of N.C. Supreme Court Burley Mitchell ($700).
WE ENDORSE Sen. Josh Stein, who is seeking his second full term representing Wake County. After just one term in the Senate, during which he served as a vice chairman for the Senate's Judiciary I committee, he already has been recognized for contributions on several issues, particularly those affecting the environment. In just his first months in office, a dozen bills Stein introduced in the Senate became law. Prior to being elected, Stein served as the state's Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Protection. He has also worked as legal counsel in the U.S. Senate. Stein faces Republican Mike Beezley and Libertarian Stephanie Watson.
Beezley did not return a questionnaire to the Indy, but according to websites for his campaign, he has lived in Cary since 1992 and owns Apogee Consulting Group, an engineering firm. Beezley says his focus is creating jobs. He supports cutting both personal and corporate taxes, raising the cap on charter schools and paying teachers based on their performance. He also suggests the state employ a health insurance model similar to one he's been using in his own company, in which individuals own their own health insurance and receive reimbursement for the insurance premium from the employer, which is not taxed at both the state and federal level. This format, Beezley says, gives employees the incentive to control their demand for health care and what it will cost them.
Watson is a technical writer in the IT industry who describes her position as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. She advocates for smaller government. She opposes the prohibition of all drugs and supports the legalization of medical marijuana. Watson, who taught middle-school mathematics for three years, also supports raising the cap on charter schools, privatizing mental health in light of failures in the state's mental health systems and doesn't believe the government should intervene in the foreclosure crisis, as mortgages are private contracts. She does, however, support government involvement if an individual can prove his or her rights were violated via, for example, deceptive business practices. In response to questions about whether same-sex marriages should be legal, she suggests removing marriage from state law entirely, as this gives the government power over individual rights. She shared a similar opinion on abortion rights.
Pros: Stein has sponsored several bills in the past two legislative sessions to protect water quality and create incentives for businesses to invest in renewable energy and efficiency. In his first year, he was the primary sponsor of a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the Outer Banks. This year, Stein also pushed for the state to establish a commission on global warming and also worked on a package of changes to campaign finance laws and ethics.
Other endorsements: Stein: Conservation Council of N.C., Equality N.C., NARAL Pro-Choice N.C., N.C.-Pace, N.C. Association of Educators, Planned Parenthood of Central N.C., N.C. Sierra Club, state AFL-CIO. Beezley: National Federation of Independent Business.
Campaign finance: Stein's $158,000 in contributions comes in part from Capitol Broadcasting chief Jim Goodmon ($1,000), K&L Gates PAC ($250), PSNC Energy PAC ($1,000), Bank of America PAC ($3,000).
Beezley has raised $6,700 of which $2,000 came from Robert Luddy, a proponent of the Wake school board majority. Watson has raised $739.
WE ENDORSE Richard Stevens, a four-term Republican in the House who often reaches across the aisle and works with Democrats. We admire and respect his bipartisanship. He is the co-chair of the education/ higher education committee and sits on nine other committees.
A former journalist, David Donovan is an attorney at the large firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.
Pros: Stevens co-sponsored bills on renewable energy and energy-efficiency credits, on establishing a commission to study human trafficking and another to prevent racial profiling. He voted for the puppy mill bill that would have more stringently regulated commercial dog breeders. He did not co-sponsor the Defense of Marriage Act.
Cons: While Donovan's political views are aligned with ours, he is not running a viable campaign. He has not held or run for public office and he speaks in generalities. We encourage him to start with a local race before wading into state waters.
Campaign finance: Stevens has raised $207,000, of which $150,000 is a loan from himself. GlaxoSmithKline and Blue Cross Blue Shield PACs each contributed $2,000; Bank of America PAC kicked in $3,000, Duke Energy gave another $1,500 and Progress Energy gave $2,000.
Donovan has raised $1,578.
WE ENDORSE incumbent senator Bob Atwater, who is again running against Republican Roger Gerber.
Atwater, a Democrat seeking his third term, is focusing on funding public education, aiding homeowners and small businesses and protecting our natural resources.
Challenger Gerber is running on one issue: charter schools. He has co-founded five local charter schools, including Woods Charter in Chatham County, and is the founder of The League of Charter Schools of North Carolina. His slogan reads: "Cap the State Budget Not Charter Schools."
When the Indy questionnaire asked Gerber to define building a just community in the Triangle, he wrote, "Building a just community has been a goal of many of the word's most powerful leaders including, Mao, Hitler, and Stalin." And in this vein, Gerber answered most of our questions with nonsensical answers, including calling for health care to have "tort reform," because government run health care will degrade the quality of healthcare for everyone," and "The impact on the poor will be the harshest, they will become dependent on the morsels handed out by government."
If elected he promises to only serve for four years, but if given a seat on the general assembly with his half-baked ideology, you can be sure it will be the longest four years of his constituents' voting lives. Stick with the thoughtful, serious, and proven leadership of Atwater.
Pros: The former Chatham County commissioner is a lifelong resident who knows the challenges facing rural counties. Atwater's record includes supporting the Racial Justice Act and voting for the School Violence Prevention Act, also known as the anti-bullying bill. "I would support adding sexual orientation and identity as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws," he says. Atwater supports a woman's right to choose and voted for the Healthy Youth Act (comprehensive sex education in public school classrooms) passed by the General Assembly in 2009. He says he will continue focusing on small-business development in his third term by examining new tax credits that would assist what he calls "the fastest and most effective generator of new jobs.
Cons: We'd like to encourage Atwater to focus on local issues of the counties he's representing, including municipal broadband, which is vital to the future success of small businesses across the state, including those in the county he lives in. His opposition to the broadband bill this past session disappointed many of his constituents.
Campaign finance: Atwater has received $29,000 in contributions, including $500 each from the Conservation Council PAC and the N.C. Pork Council. Gerber has raised just $2,708. The Chatham County GOP contributed $750.
Sen. Floyd McKissick is seeking his second full term representing Durham County. He faces Republican John Tarantino, who was appointed by the Durham County Republican Party after McKissick's original challenger, Laney Funderburk, withdrew from the race.
WE ENDORSE McKissick, the son of late civil rights leader Floyd B. McKissick Sr. McKissick is an attorney who was initially appointed to the state Senate in 2007 to fill a vacancy left by late Sen. Jeanne H. Lucas. Prior to serving in the General Assembly, he spent eight years on Durham's City Council.
Tarantino did not respond to the Indy questionnaire. Tarantino ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat earlier this year, and last year he challenged Durham Mayor Pro-Tem Cora Cole-McFadden for her City Council seat.
Pros: McKissick has been heralded by many as the primary sponsor of the 2009 N.C. Racial Justice Act, which allows death row convicts to challenge their sentences if racial bias is believed to be a factor in their sentencing. He is pro-choice and supports LGBT rights, including anti-discrimination laws. McKissick also has advocated for an overhaul of the state tax system, including studies as to whether new taxes and other legislation would burden low-income households.
Cons: Some have criticized the Racial Justice Act as being too broad, allowing claimants to use the law beyond its original intent to evaluate racial bias against black defendants.
Other endorsements: McKissick: Durham People's Alliance, Equality N.C., state AFL-CIO, N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, Friends of Durham
Campaign finance: McKissick's $5,800 came in part from Durham Mayor Bill Bell ($100), Mary Duke Biddle Semans ($250), the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians ($2,000), former Planning Commissioner Don Moffitt ($100), former Durham County Attorney Chuck Kitchen ($100) and Steve Toler, who worked on behalf of Fairway Advertising on the billboard issue ($100).
WE ENDORSE State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a well-respected legislator for seven terms. Her strong environmental record is why the Conservation Council of North Carolina named her the Senator of the Year in 2009.
Ryan Hilliard has mounted an admirable campaign in his first run for office, but North Carolinians need Kinnaird's experience.
Pros: Few in the state have done as much as Kinnaird to promote progressive issues such as the death penalty, social justice and the environment. A former four-term mayor of Carrboro, Kinnaird has served locals well as a legislator.
Cons: Hilliard, a "common sense conservative," contends that, "Government is not the answer. The private sector is the only entity that can create new long-term, sustainable employment." Why should voters put him in office then?
Other endorsements: Kinnaird: N.C. Sierra Club, N.C. Association of Educators, National Association of Social Workers, N.C. PACE, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina PAC, Conservation Council of N.C. PAC.
Hilliard: Can-Do Conservatives of America, N.C. Right to Life PAC, Independence Caucus.
Campaign finance: Kinnaird has raised $13,600, including contributions from N.C. Advocates for Justice ($1,000), Greenbridge developer Frank Phoenix, ($500) Megan Toben, wife of Greenbridge developer Tim Toben ($500).
With $17,000, Hilliard has outraised Kinnaird, but much of that was in the form of in-kind donations to himself or contributions from his family.