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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Darren Jackson: Trying again in House District 39

Posted by on Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 4:51 PM

On Friday we reported that Don Mial, a Democratic candidate for Wake County commissioner in '06, was seeking support to be state Rep. Linda Coleman's replacement in House District 39 -- Coleman is vacating the seat, two months after being re-elected, to take the job of personnel director in the new Perdue administration. We saw Mial last night at the Wake Democratic Men's monthly meeting and he confirmed that his hat's in that ring and he's working hard.

But now, the plot thickens. We also heard last night that several other folks are interested in this seat. Prominent among them is Darren Jackson, an attorney who practices in Zebulon and who's run twice before in the district -- in '02 and '04 -- both times with the Indy's support. Jackson confirmed today that he's "going to give it a try" and is working the phones.

The district's changed its shape a lot since Jackson first ran. Back in '02, before the post-2000 reapportionment, Jackson won the Democratic primary but lost to Republican incumbent Sam Ellis in what was then a Republican-leaning district. Since reapportionment, though, the new district -- now focused in eastern Wake County -- has leaned Democratic, and in '04 Jackson was defeated by Coleman, herself a former county commissioner, in the Democratic primary. Coleman went on to oust Ellis.

Coleman's vacancy will be filled by a vote of Democratic officials who live in District 39. They include precinct chairs and vice chairs, elected officials, members of the state executive committee and board members of the state party and the Wake party--about 35 people in all, according to Wake Democratic Chair Doris Weaver.

Jackson said many of the District 39 precincts don't have any chairs or vice chairs. (They're "unorganized," in the parlance.) And even in some that do, he added, the officers didn't know Coleman's plans until he called them. Others did know, however, and he wasn't the first to contact a number of them. "I might be playing a little catch up," he conceded.

Jackson's a lifelong resident of the Wendell-eastern Wake County area whose family lives, he said, next door to his parents' house. He worked his way through UNC-CH and Duke Law, but then wanted to come home -- unlike most of his law school classmates, he noted. He's got kids in the Wake schools and has been active with the East Wake Education Foundation board. His wife, who's from Pennsylvania, shakes her head whenever they go out because he knows everybody in town, he said.

Issues he's interested in? Well, Jackson said, given that the state is facing at a $3 billion-plus budget hole, "we're probably looking at how to do no harm, or how to do the least harm in budget cuts." But growth, and needed infrastructure investments --in roads and water -- are the biggest concerns in eastern Wake, he said.

Then there's Wake County Commissioner Lindy Brown, currently the commission's vice chair. She was interested in Coleman's seat too, several Democrats told us. Brown arrived late at the Dem Men's meeting -- the county commissioners met Monday and they ran long -- and she said, when we asked her, that her interest is in finding the strongest replacement for Coleman ... someone who can hold the seat in the 2010 elections. She suggested that she is that candidate. However, she said, she's withdrawn her name from the list. But she added that many Democrats agree with her that she'd have the best chance in '10 against the Republicans.

Weaver said two other men, whom she declined to name, contacted her about the vacancy but have not sent in their resumes as yet. Thus far, Mial and Jackson are the only active candidates. But Weaver said any District 39 official can nominate someone else when the time comes. And that time will be Jan. 22, 7 pm at the Goodwin House -- Democratic headquarters -- in Raleigh.

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