District 33 (Dem.)
Rosa U. Gill, the incumbent, was selected for this seat by the Wake Democratic Party last fall when former Rep. Dan Blue replaced the late Vernon Malone in the Senate. Gill's selection was well-earned, and she merits a chance to win a full term in the fall elections, starting with this primary.
A retired teacher and school administrator, Gill represented her Southeast Raleigh district on the Wake County Board of Education for 10 years, doing the hard work needed to maintain Wake's system of excellent, balanced and diverse schools despite explosive growth and the county commissioners' penny-pinching. The degree of difficulty in that job is now being recognized as a new, conservative school board majority attempts to undo the efforts of Gill and her former colleagues.
Gill is a progressive Democrat. Since taking office in the House, she supported the Healthy Youth Act, improving sex-education offerings in the schools, and the Racial Justice Act, which seeks an end to racially driven executions.
Bernard Allen II, who works for the State Employees Association (SEANC), is a former staffer in two different state offices. His main claim to this seat is that his late father held it before Blue. But when Blue moved up, a party committee chose Gill over Allen, based on her strong record of public service. We see no reason to question that choice.
District 33 (Rep.)
If this district elects a Republican, get ready for hell to freeze over—it's about that likely. But should it happen, we think Republicans voting in the primary would prefer it happen to Paul Terrell III, a regular in the party, rather than his opponent, the nearly unknown Susan Byrd Leventhal.
Terrell was a candidate for this seat two years ago, and he was subsequently appointed to the county's advisory committee on nursing homes. He's a technician at Cree, the LED-lighting company, and an Army veteran with a degree from Old Dominion University. He's conservative to the bone, an anti-choice activist on abortion and not our cup of anything politically, except that he is someone who understands the need for civil discourse at a time when too many Republicans don't.
Leventhal was born in North Carolina and returned here three years ago, according to her otherwise sketchy Indy questionnaire. She was active in a disabled veterans service organization, she says. But she's offered no other information about herself, and if she's campaigning it's not coming through.
Doctor K. Aal Anubia, has a campaign Web site (with no biography) but little else. He's for expanding the tax credits given to film and TV producers in North Carolina, and for "equity."
Four Republican candidates are vying for the chance to challenge Democratic Rep. Grier Martin in the fall. If Republicans are looking for a candidate who will run on the purest of conservative economic positions—flat tax, cap on state spending, vouchers for education—Brian Tinga should get their vote.
Tinga, a former Libertarian, is a UNC graduate with a master's degree in health economics from East Carolina University and a job with a clinical research firm. His clinical analysis: State incomes taxes (corporate and individual) should be a flat 6 percent—no higher rates for the rich. Lottery money should be used for college scholarships, and only in "critical areas of need" (like science majors). State spending should grow no more than inflation plus population growth—the so-called Taxpayers Protection Act. School funding should be tied to students, letting them bill the taxpayers for a private school or a public school.
In other words, put Tinga on the ballot, and Ron Paul-like policies will get a fair test.
Why not? Steve Henion, the "gun-carryin', home-schoolin' dad" and real estate broker backed by some Republican legislators (state Sen. Neal Hunt, for one), urges his fellow Americans to "rise up with our pitchforks," etcetera. He wants to be the "no" candidate. Sorry, Richard Burr's got that title trademarked, doesn't he?
Jamie Earp is a former U.S. Chamber of Commerce officer, a former aide to ex-U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and a former staffer at the N.C. Chamber. Now he has his own political consulting firm. He's backed by some other Republicans in Raleigh (Councilor John Odom, e.g.). But Earp's string of traffic tickets and his 2003 DWI conviction give us a bad feeling.
J.H. (Joe) Ross is a perennial candidate whose platform (cap the gas tax at 10 cents a gallon; get rid of year-round schools; English-only in Wake County) hasn't changed much through his previous campaigns for the Legislature and mayor of Raleigh.
Two solid, progressive candidates are running in this Democratic primary. We think the nod should go to incumbent Darren Jackson, who lives in Knightdale and practices law in Zebulon.
Jackson was appointed to this seat early in 2009 when former Rep. Linda Coleman took a job in Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration. In his first year, he's established himself as an effective representative and spokesman for eastern Wake County's interests. The N.C. Association of Educators, while not making an endorsement in this primary, called him "a rising star." It's a fair call.
Jackson won our admiration with his leadership on the anti-bullying bill, which became law last year only after a bruising fight with Republicans who fought it because it mentioned sexual orientation as a typical reason for bullying. He also stepped up, against party leaders, with a budget amendment to pay for more classroom teachers by hiking the cigarette tax. Good idea, even if Speaker Joe Hackney did gavel it out of order.
Jackson has the backing of the Triangle Labor Council and the N.C. Advocates of Justice, the trial lawyers group.
His opponent, Jeanne Milliken Bonds, is endorsed by the State Employees Association (SEANC). She's also backed by former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell, who knows her from when she was deputy director of the state Administrative Office of the Courts and his special assistant.
Bonds is a former Knightdale Town Council member who served for seven years as mayor pro tem and was briefly Knightdale's first woman mayor. She has an impressive record of volunteer service (e.g., United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County board member) and no doubt would serve well in this seat if elected. But Jackson's already serving well.
Until four years ago, this Northwest Wake County district was represented by the ultimate in conservative Republicans, Wake Taxpayers Association President Russell Capps. Then Capps lost to Democrat Ty Harrell, who was re-elected in 2008. Then Harrell started spending campaign funds on things he shouldn't have, and, long story short, Harrell's out and the seat's back in play.
Three Republicans filed for the chance to win it back from Democrat Chris Heagarty, who replaced Harrell and is running unopposed for his party's nomination. Two of the three Republicans are running active campaigns; we can't find any evidence that the third one is. Between the two, we think Republicans should pick Tom Murry, a pharmacist with a law degree and a two-term member of the Morrisville Town Council.
Murry's platform is pretty general: Clean up corruption; no business incentives that favor one company over another; raise the cap on charter schools. That last one is a bad idea, but you can't be a Republican candidate and oppose raising the cap on charter schools, so we don't hold it against him.
Mainly, we think Murry's the better choice because he's "local"—a local pharmacist, local council member—as opposed to Todd Batchelor, who strikes us as more of a "state" Republican, or perhaps the better word is professional Republican.
Batchelor is the state Republican Party's former finance director, a fundraising job. He ran for Congress six years ago against David Price. Now he's a part-time aide to a state legislator from Harnett County, David Lewis. Batchelor, too, supports raising that cap on charter schools. He's also against forced annexations, another staple of Republican campaigns.
Batchelor's Republican supporters include former state party chair Linda Daves and Wake Commissioner Joe Bryan. Murry has Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley (a fellow pharmacist-lawyer) and state Rep. Nelson Dollar on his side. Not a lot to choose from there.
The third candidate, David Sloane, didn't return a questionnaire.
In the Democratic primary for District 55 representing Durham and Person counties, we endorse incumbent W.A. "Winkie" Wilkins over candidates Fred Foster Jr. and R. Miles Standish.
Wilkins, a retired newspaper editor from Roxboro, has worked his way onto key committees over his past three terms, including the House Appropriations Committee, which makes budget recommendations, and one of its subcommittees, which shapes the budgets of the state departments of commerce, labor, agriculture and natural resources. In his role on the subcommittee, Wilkins has supported several important job creation initiatives, including a grant program that supports businesses that reduce energy use through renewables and alternative fuels. He earned our respect with the votes he cast to create the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission and co-sponsored the N.C. Racial Justice Act, as well as the stand he took last year to ban smoking in restaurants and bars—a vote he says cost him a close friend and one that likely raised eyebrows among constituents in rural Person County, where tobacco is still a commodity. Wilkins also says he would support civil unions.
That said, Wilkins also supports the death penalty and doesn't believe public employees should be able to form unions, two conservative stances we would like Wilkins to re-evaluate. Foster is a more progressive candidate whose ideals more closely align with the social justice mission of the Indy. Foster opposes the death penalty and supports public employees' collective bargaining rights.
Foster, a retired driver's license examiner for the state Division of Motor Vehicles, is a strong community organizer but lacks formal experience in public office (he lost in the 2008 Democratic primary for Durham County Commissioner by an infinitesimal margin). Durham and Person counties need a candidate who can keep the seat when facing Republican challenger Larry Yarbrough of Roxboro this fall. Wilkins is that candidate.
Standish did not fill out a questionnaire. Shortly after filing for office, he informally withdrew his candidacy but changed his mind and has continued to campaign, albeit not noticeably.
Sorry, Orange and Person County residents. If you're looking for someone to back in the Republican primary for N.C. Senate District 23, we can't help you. Greg Bass, who received 29 percent of the general election vote in 2008, didn't respond to our questionnaire. And in his responses Ryan Hilliard expressed a brief, vague "common sense" platform that we can't endorse.
"I was recently working on a few campaign surveys," Hilliard said at the Orange County Republican Party Convention in March. "All I needed to hear was the first five or six words. If the sentence started with "Are you in favor of increasing regulation," that's all I needed to hear. 'No.' And the next question would be, "Would you be in favor of raising the tax to pay for.' 'No.' It's really simple with me."
The idea that all taxes and all regulations are bad is simply befuddling. We understand that some Republicans see the problems facing the state as government-created outgrowths of wasteful spending and burdensome rules. Fine.
But all taxes are bad? Do we really want a world without roads, schools or parks? All regulation is bad? I guess Enron executives would hold that view.
Answering with a blanket "no" to these questions doesn't demonstrate the ability for responsible or serious governing.
On his campaign Web site, Bass, who wants to halve corporate taxes, says he's related to three former presidents: Franklin Pierce and George Bush the 41st and 43rd. Then he touts his history degree and writes that, "Anyone who does not know history is doomed to repeat it."
He took the words out of our mouth.
We're all for "common sense" governing: Who wouldn't be? We just don't think either of these two men has shown the ability to deliver it.
The winner of the Republican primary faces longtime Democratic incumbent Ellie Kinnaird in the fall.