We’re fast approaching Election Day in a midterm with contours similar to 2010. That was the last time a US Senate race was at the top of the ballot. But the terrain is different this year: In 2010, the Republicans rode a wave of conservative reaction against the election of President Obama; this year, partisan lines are hardened and progressives have their own reasons to be mobilized, most stemming from the behavior of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
The top-billed contest between Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis is expected to be the most expensive US Senate race in the history of North Carolina, and could determine the balance of power in the chamber.
The race between Republican Mark Walker and Democrat Laura Fjeld for the 6th Congressional District seat long held by Rep. Howard Coble offers Democrats their best opportunity for a pickup in the state’s congressional delegation.
High Point, the only city in the Triad with a municipal election on the ballot this year, unexpectedly faces a feisty race for mayor and city council that could determine the direction of the city for decades.
In addition, there are races for state legislature, county commission, school board, sheriff, clerk of superior court, a whole host of judges and soil & water board, not to mention a statewide ballot initiative and referenda for voters in Guilford County, Forsyth County, Winston-Salem and High Point to consider.
Study your ballot carefully (see the websites of the state Board of Elections, or the local boards in Guilford and Forsyth). Research the candidates. And then vote.
Mid-term elections such as this one are typically low-turnout affairs. The political consultants and big-money donors are counting on you to stay home. That in itself should be reason enough to show up.
Early voting starts on Thursday and runs through Nov. 1. Official Election Day is Nov. 4.
Urban voters ambivalent about candidates in US Senate race
by Jordan Green
The two leading candidates for US Senate in North Carolina — a crucial battleground state that could determine which party holds control of the chamber — are working hard to turn out their base voters in a midterm election historically marked by low turnout.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican challenger, has relentlessly tried to link Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan to the unpopular President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. Hagan, meanwhile, has attacked Tillis on education funding and a host of unpopular measures passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, labeling her opponent as an “extremist” in language that echoes the Moral Monday protests of the past two years.
Libertarian Sean Haugh in unlikely to win the seat, but his vote percentage could tip the balance between Hagan and Tillis.
Thruway, an upscale shopping center in Winston-Salem, straddles Democratic-leaning Ardmore and Republican-dominant Buena Vista. Hagan, a former banker from Greensboro, was not a household name to many Democratic voters shopping at the pet store and grazing on cupcakes at Dewey’s Bakery, but her signature issues of education and healthcare resonated strongly. Meanwhile, Republicans and independents who said they would likely vote for Tillis expressed marked ambivalence about their candidate.
Genevieve Stearns, a public school teacher who moved to North Carolina from Utah last year, searched herself to recall the name of the Democratic incumbent, with her husband informing her that it was Kay Hagan. She said she hasn’t been paying much attention to the race, but one issue stood out.
“With the ‘7 percent raise’ that didn’t happen, some of the people I work with got a 1.3 percent raise,” Stearns said. “It motivates me to vote against [Tillis].”
The Hagan campaign “is focused like a laser on women: yes, issues like defunding Planned Parenthood, but also education, healthcare, minimum wage and special interests vs. the middle-class,” longtime Democratic strategist Gary Pearce wrote on the blog Talking About Politics recently. “They know that women will decide this election, especially women in the big counties. And they have a huge field operation that is also focused on those voters.”
Forsyth County, where Winston-Salem is located, is the state’s fourth largest county — after Mecklenburg, Wake and neighboring Guilford — and was carried by President Obama by sizeable margins in 2012 and 2008.
Expanding on his anti-Obamacare message, Tillis has attempted to use Islamic State and Ebola against Hagan. A Tillis campaign ad that began airing earlier this month faulted Hagan for missing a February Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Islamic State. And Tillis said during a debate earlier this month: “Sen. Hagan has failed the people of North Carolina and the nation by not securing the border. Ladies and gentlemen, we have an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors who can come across the border.”
In a sign that Tillis is placing his bets on heavy turnout by Republican base voters rather than appealing to independents or moderate Democrats, Tillis has joined state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in a legal challenge against a recent judicial ruling overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“All cycle, Tillis has had difficulty consolidating his base,” political consultant Thomas Mills wrote on the Politics North Carolina blog recently. “Tea Party folks have never trusted him and Greg Brannon, the Tea Party candidate who lost the primary, won’t endorse him. But gay marriage might unite them. The only thing scarier than Ebola and ISIS is gay people getting married.”
Troubling for Tillis, perhaps, none of the dozen or so voters interviewed at Thruway mentioned ISIS, Ebola or gay marriage.
“I typically vote a straight Republican ticket, but I’m questioning whether I’ll do that this year,” Stephanie Stimpson said. She said she will probably vote for Tillis, but her most important issue is one championed by Hagan.
“I would say equal pay for equal work,” Stimpson said. She added, “This is probably where I’ll lose you.”
The polling firm Rasmussen rates North Carolina as one of six states that where the Senate races are a “toss-up,” with 36 races on the ballot across the country, including 21 held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans.
The Republicans would need to pick up six seats to take control of the Senate. The three most likely GOP pickups are Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, which the polling firm rates as “safe Republican,” with additional opportunities in Alaska and Arkansas — rated as leaning Republican. After that, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana and Michigan are considered crucial battleground states.
Polling over the course of the campaign has given Hagan a slight lead, but an Oct. 14 poll released by High Point University gave Hagan and Tillis each 40 percent when likely voters were asked who they would choose if the election were held at that time.
North Carolina’s key role has prompted a flood of campaign cash from outside donors looking to tip the balance of power in Washington, with the News & Observer reporting on Sunday that the cost of the election is likely to top $100 million. As a consequence, voters have been bombarded with a flurry of negative advertising between the two candidates.
Carol and Bill Adair, who recently relocated from Texas to North Carolina to retire, expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity to have a meaningful say in the election.
“We had a bellyful of Republicans,” Bill Adair said, namedropping Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz with wry distaste.
“We think that the Republican Congress has had a tendency to cut education and challenge healthcare reform,” Carol Adair said. “Both are important to us.”
Don Patterson, a registered independent, said he definitely plans to vote and will likely go with Tillis. The candidate’s opposition to Obamacare appeals to Patterson’s libertarian beliefs, but otherwise his enthusiasm is tempered.
“Neither candidate supplies me with satisfactory answers about how they would protect my liberties,” he said.
But another independent voter, Brealon Ashworth, will likely withhold his vote from both of the major-party candidates.
“I’m probably not going to vote for Kay Hagan or Thom Tillis,” he said. “The ads drive me crazy.”
Former minister and retired UNC counsel vie for the 6th district
by Eric Ginsburg
If there is a theme to her life, Laura Fjeld said while sitting in her Greensboro office in front of a wall of her Congressional campaign posters, it’s that she has often been in situations where it is important to hear both sides of an issue and listen carefully.
That skill, which Fjeld said she honed while working for a federal judge in Raleigh and as the vice president and general counsel for the UNC System, is exactly why she thinks she would make a strong member in Congress, because “in some ways we’ve lost that in Washington” and bipartisanship is needed for the elected office.
And that skill, coincidentally, is something she said her opponent lacks, a man who she argues has painted himself into a corner with his “extreme” politics.
Mark Walker, a pastor from Greensboro who is the Republican nominee for the seat, will face Fjeld when early voting starts on Thursday in the race for the 6th Congressional District. His campaign did not make time for an interview and did not respond to an email with questions before press time.
Walker, a tall, affable conservative, defeated Phil Berger Jr. in the Republican run-off election for the district in part by appealing to a populist reaction against Republican machine politics and capitalizing on a nice-guy-next-door image. Part of Fjeld’s campaign strategy, beginning as soon as Walker beat Berger, has been to hammer her opponent on what she says are “extreme views” that don’t line up with voters in the district.
There is a tremendous amount of distance between the two candidates on most issues, and Fjeld and her campaign don’t miss a chance to point that out.
Of the 10 most recent press releases sent out by Fjeld’s campaign manager Andrew Grunwald, eight are focused on Walker, calling him a “hypocrite,” “beholden” to special interests and “too extreme on women’s issues,” while charging that he “ducks” questions on whether he supports the Violence Against Women Act. The other two releases announce an endorsement from the Realtors Political Action Committee and Fjeld’s strong fundraising this quarter, both stopping to take swings at Walker.
Some might consider it negative campaigning or may feel like the approach keeps the focus on Walker and leaves questions about Fjeld, but the candidate disagrees.
“It is my responsibility to be sure people know what the differences are between myself and my opponent,” she said. “I don’t hold back. I don’t think it’s a negative approach. It’s the delivery of information to the voters so they can make an informed decision.”
Fjeld has emphasized several of Walker’s positions that will likely alienate female voters, especially on abortion.
“He’s really on the extreme when it comes to choice,” Fjeld said.
Walker’s campaign website states that he would work to pass legislation “stating that all life begins at conception” and has a specific tab for Women for Walker across the top.
“We reject the Democratic platform that seeks to divide us and define us only by a few ‘women’s issues,’” the page reads. “We believe that Mark Walker’s positions on the economy, taxes, healthcare, national security and much more are best for all Americans — including women — as we work towards a bright future for the next generation.”
In an interview with WXII in March, Walker said there was no situation in which he would approve of abortion. Now during the general election, Walker told the station that cases of incest require more deliberation and said he has no problem with abortion if the woman’s life is on the line.
Fjeld’s campaign has also criticized Walker for his publicized remarks, which were covered by national political websites, about his willingness to send fighter jets to bomb Mexico.
“That is so wrong on so many levels,” Fjeld said. “What does that tell you about somebody’s foreign policy and immigration policy? It’s so out of touch.”
Fjeld is doing more than just trying to position herself as the only reasonable candidate in the race. She’s also spending as much time as she can shaking hands, putting in shoe leather especially in Guilford County, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the district.
Fjeld, who lives in Orange County, said she has been commuting to the campaign’s Greensboro office constantly since the primary ended in early May, talking about her two primary issues — the economy and education.
To Fjeld, they are intertwined. She talks about how investing in children early with programs like universal pre-K will yield tremendous societal benefits down the road, an unsurprising position for someone who was raised by two schoolteachers and who was so involved with the UNC System.
There are plenty of ways the federal government plays a key role in education — she cited the free and reduced lunch program as one of several examples, noting that the majority of students at Guilford County Schools qualify. Fjeld also talks regularly about the importance of the state’s public university and community college systems, particularly the role they can play partnering with industries for research, innovation and job training.
Fjeld touts the differences between the candidates on economic issues, saying she supports raising the minimum wage while Walker doesn’t. She criticizing his support for a flat-tax system that she said would result in a “whopping sales tax” that would “hurt working class and middle class families.”
Walker has brought up his support for a flat-tax approach at candidate forums and listed it on his website. His site also says “one of his top priorities will be to reduce government regulations that are smothering American businesses” and that he wants to streamline the tax code and pass “a constitutional amendment requiring our national budget to be balanced.”
Fjeld is hoping that her positions and experience will help her win the election, but she’s also hoping that if her campaign puts Walker’s positions in front of enough voters, he will talk himself out of the job. It would be the first time a Democrat held the seat, one held by Howard Coble since is was created back in the 1980s, but Fjeld is hoping to put her foot in the door before the opportunity for Democrats swings shut again.
After all, there are more registered Democrats than registered Republicans in the district since it was redrawn in 2011, and it is the most Democratic friendly of all the North Carolina congressional districts currently held by Republicans.
Mayoral and city council elections in High Point find city at a crossroads
by Jordan Green
Thematically, the three candidates for mayor in High Point’s nonpartisan municipal election could hardly be more different.
First at bat: Bill Bencini, a pro-revitalization Republican with past experience on city council. Bencini has been loosely involved in the core-city efforts that have come to be known as Ignite High Point and City Project. His vision emphasizes recruiting talent through urban vitality.
“My vision for the city of High Point is a city that retains its best and brightest young people and brings the best and brightest young people from other communities,” Bencini said during a candidate forum at Phillips Hall at High Point University on Oct. 14. “It does this by increasing employment opportunities. It does it by enhancing lifestyle amenities for those young people and for all the residents that live in the city of High Point. It offers dining, recreation and shopping. It maintains international leadership as the world’s foremost wholesale home furnishings market.”
Second up: Marcus Brandon, a Democrat who is running as a populist, focuses on the poorer areas of the city, takes a more critical view of the furniture market than his opponent, and distances himself from Ignite High Point while touting himself as an outsider who can get things done.
“And like Mr. Bencini said, we do have the biggest impact in the entire state, but we have to understand as your mayor that that’s the state’s impact; that is not your impact,” Brandon said, taking a none too subtle dig at the market. “And so we’ve got to make sure that High Point feels that same type of impact.”
Brandon made his pitch to voters in city’s neglected neighborhoods with a riff on the Ignite High Point master plan, which focuses on the affluent Uptowne area, declaring, “We won’t be able to revitalize as long as we have 27260 as the poorest ZIP code in the entire state.”
And then the candidate, who moved to High Point four years ago for a successful run for state House, made his closing argument.
“And I offer that opportunity to you as someone coming with a fresh perspective, as someone that has no ties to anyone,” Brandon said. “I don’t have any [campaign] contributions from anyone in High Point.” He specifically mentioned Ignite High Point, adding, “All of these people are very important in the conversation, but if you want to get things done you’re going to have to have someone with a fresh perspective.”
Brandon did not mention the $13,026 his campaign has raised through the end of September —almost all of it from out-of-state donors, $5,000 of which came from a Florida venture capitalist active in the charter-school movement.
Third up: Jimmy Scott, a former broadcaster and Democrat who has never before run for office, stakes out a position as a standard-bearer of continuity and a voice of civic affirmation.
“My vision for the city of High Point is the exact same vision that the present council has put forth — to create the single most livable, safe and prosperous community in America,” Scott said, adding that citizens come first.
“I’ve heard the ‘seamless city’ theme; and I’m in favor of that, but that’s never gonna happen,” the candidate said. “There’s not a city in the nation that you could not go from one part of the city to the other and not see a difference in that city. High Point is unique. I hear so much negative about High Point. Why are we always focused on the negative? I think it’s time that we took what is unique about our city, the positive things that are in our city, and let’s accentuate those. We have great resources here in our city. And one of the greatest resources we have is our citizens.”
Eight candidates are vying for the two at-large seats on city council. Latimer Alexander and Britt Moore, both pragmatic conservatives, hold the advantage in name recognition. Alexander previously served at large on council from 2002 to 2012, and Moore is the only incumbent in the race.
Cynthia Davis, a West End resident who chairs the planning & zoning commission, and Edward Squires, an Herbalife sales representative, are both touting the “seamless city” concept — an appeal to the city’s disenfranchised residents.
David Rosen is closely tied to We “Heart” High Point, a citizen’s group that formed to support revitalization in Uptowne, but as a candidate he has placed more emphasis on streamlining the city’s permitting process.
Orrick Quick, who ran previously for Ward 1, emphasizes entrepreneurship and improving permitting, while portraying himself as someone who excels at relationships with a wide array of people. Michael Holmes, a lean-manufacturing expert for Ikea, presents himself as someone with a fresh perspective. And Regina Chahal, co-owner of a trucking company and a candidate four years ago, said she wants to provide more recreational opportunities, proposing a skate park, a dog park and an amphitheater.
Jeff Golden, who is completing his first term as the representative of Ward 1, touts his success in obtaining funds for a new sidewalk on Cedrow Drive and said he wants to tackle substandard housing in his second term. He faces a challenge from Willie Davis, who hasn’t staked out any unique positions, and Jo Williams, who is focusing on constituent services for the elderly and disabled.
The retirement of Foster Douglas creates an open seat in Ward 2, which covers one of the city’s poorest areas on the east side. Chris Williams and Jerry Mingo, two candidates who have run for the seat in previous elections, are the candidates. Williams, a property manager and floor manager for International Market Centers, wants the city to provide incentives for commercial development in the poor, predominantly black area of the city adjacent to the downtown furniture market. Mingo, a community leader who leads his neighborhood association in Burns Hill, puts himself forward as a representative leader.
Alyce Hill is challenging Judy Mendenhall in Ward 3. Hill became engaged in city politics through Ignite High Point, and faults the current council for being unwilling to consider new ideas. Hill argued for a strategic approach to revitalization at the Oct. 14 candidate forum.
“We begin with the place where dollars can make the most impact,” she said. “And then as we begin to affect growth we move to the next place where the dollars can make the most impact. It’s not a one-location deal. It’s not a single event and it’s not a single project; it’s a process, and it’s a process we need to begin quickly in order to make the kind of meaningful economic development to help meet some of these challenges we’re facing.”
Mendenhall countered, “It’s not just a question of the core city; and it’s not just a question of businesses; and it’s not just a question of neighborhoods. If you ride through some of the neighborhoods in Ward 3, and Ward 1 and Ward 2, you’ll see a nice house, a so-so house, a boarded-up house, an empty house. That should not be allowed in the city of High Point.”
Jay Wagner, the incumbent in Ward 4, is promoting an urbanist vision for High Point. He noted during the candidate forum that the city’s tax base has eroded and its population ranking in the state has fallen from 6th to 9th over the past four decades.
“The things that we are doing are not working,” he said. “That’s patently obvious. The cities that are growing in our region and in our country are the cities that are making investments in infrastructure to create an impetus for private investment. They’re the cities that are creating walkability and quality of life. They’re the cities that are attracting entrepreneurs. And that’s the kind of revitalization that we need.”
Taking a position contrary to Wagner’s advocacy for anchoring revitalization efforts in Uptowne, challenger Jim Bronnert argued that the poorest areas of the city need attention first.
“These areas that are poverty stricken,” he said, “these people deserve something better than what they’ve got.”
Jim Davis was serving his first term as representative of Ward 5 when he was appointed to fill Bernita Sims’ unexpired term as mayor. The conservative homebuilder is seeking re-election to city council in Ward 5, pledging to continue to cut taxes and to look for areas where the city can reduce spending. Challenger Roger Sims argues for a strategic plan to revitalize High Point, and an effort to make the city more cohesive.
Jason Ewing, as part of the conservative majority that cut taxes this past year, faces a rematch with Jim Corey. Ewing unseated Corey in the last election, riding a wave of voter discontent over a tax increase during the 2011-12 election cycle. Corey has recast himself in this election as a fiscal conservative who is focused on tightening the city’s budget and only spending public funds on essential services.
The rest of the ballot
Not every election is a game-changer, but you should vote in all of them. Here are a few races — and ballot initiatives — that you should know about.
5th Congressional District
Candidates: Virginia Foxx (R, incumbent) and Josh Brannon (D)
Geography: Winston-Salem and other parts of Forsyth
Skinny: Brannon is the latest in a string of Democratic challengers who have tried unsuccessfully to unseat arch-conservative Republican Foxx, who inherited the seat from Richard Burr. If Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines’ decision to take a pass on the race is any indication of Democratic hopefuls face long odds.
12th Congressional District
Candidates: Alma Adams (D) and Vince Coakley (R)
Geography: Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point and parts of Guilford and Forsyth
Skinny: State House Rep. Alma Adams of Guilford County won a crowded Democratic primary and should have no problems cruising past conservative talk-radio host Vince Coakley. The majority-minority district, which snakes along Interstate 85 to pick up parts of Charlotte, High Point, Winston-Salem and Greensboro was represented by Mel Watt, who resigned earlier this year to accept appointment by President Obama as head of the Federal Housing Finance Committee.
NC Senate District 26
Candidates: Phil Berger (R, i) and William Osborne (D)
Geography: Greensboro, Summerfield and unincorporated Guilford
Skinny: As president pro tem of the state Senate, Berger holds a distinct advantage over Osborne.
NC Senate District 31
Candidates: Joyce Krawiec (R, i) and John Motsinger (D)
Geography: Winston-Salem, Clemmons, Lewisville and unincorporated Forsyth
Skinny: Krawiec was appointed in January to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Pete Brunstetter when he resigned to take a job with Baptist Hospital. Motsinger is running an uphill battle in the heavily Republican leaning district.
NC House District 59
Candidates: Jon Hardister (R, i), Scott Jones (D) and Paul Meinhart (L)
Geography: Greensboro and unincorporated Guilford
Skinny: Hardister won the election to the district two years ago after the Republicans redrew the lines in favor of their party. Jones and Meinhart face steep odds.
NC House District 61
Candidates: John Faircloth (R, i) and Ron Weatherford (D)
Geography: High Point, Jamestown and unincorporated Guilford
Skinny: Faircloth won the election to the district four years ago, succeeding Laura Wiley, who retired from the state House. Though the district strongly favors Republicans, it offers the best opportunity for Democratic pickup in Guilford, and challenger Weatherford is taking his second shot at it.
NC House District 71
Candidates: Evelyn Terry (D, i) and Kris McCann (R)
Skinny: Terry was elected two years ago, replacing Rep. Larry Womble, who retired at the end of his last term. McCann is making his second attempt in the heavily Democratic district.
NC House District 74
Candidates: Debra Conrad (R, i) and Mary Dickinson (D)
Geography: Winston-Salem, Pfafftown, Kernersville and unincorporated Forsyth
Skinny: Conrad beat out a crowded field of fellow Republicans in her primary two years ago in her quest to replace Rep. Dale Folwell. Though heavily favorable for Republicans, the district provides the best opportunity for a Democratic pickup in Forsyth. A progressive activist in Winston-Salem, Dickinson is widely respected within her party.
NC House District 75
Candidates: Donny C. Lambeth (R, i) and David Gordon (D)
Geography: Winston-Salem, Clemmons and unincorporated Guilford
Skinny: A former school board member, Lambeth ran unopposed two years ago to replace former Rep. Bill McGee. He has a Democratic challenger this year.
Guilford County Commission at large
Candidates: Kay Cashion (D) and Larry Proctor (R)
Skinny: Cashion has represented District 6 in Greensboro since 2004. She’s running at large after her district was eliminated through a redistricting plan imposed by the Republicans in Raleigh. Proctor, her Republican opponent, formerly chaired the county Planning Board.
Forsyth County Commission at large
Candidates: Bill Whiteheart (R, i) and Ted Kaplan (D)
Skinny: Kaplan formerly held the sole at-large seat on the commission, but lost four years ago when Whiteheart rode the anti-Obama Republican wave to victory. Kaplan wants to reclaim the seat in a tight contest that is a classic matchup between a conservative Republican and a progressive Democrat.
Guilford County School Board at large
Candidates: Nancy Routh and Jack Kraemer
Skinny: A retired teacher and principal, the 81-year-old Routh has served on the board for 12 years.
Guilford County School Board District 4
Candidates: Alan W. Duncan (i) and Monique Morgan
Geography: Greensboro, Gibsonville and unincorporated Guilford
Skinny: Duncan, a lawyer, has served on the board since 2000, and as chair since 2002.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board at large
Candidates: Elisabeth Motsinger (D, i), Katherine Fansler (D), German D. Garcia (D), John Davenport (R), Robert Barr (R) and Mark Johnson (R)
Skinny: Motsinger was elected to one of the three at-large positions on the board in 2006 — the only Democrat to attain the position since the election system was established in the early 1990s. The two other current at-large members, Republicans Jeannie Metcalf and Irene May, filed to run in District 2, leaving the path clear for two Republicans. Davenport is a favorite because he currently serves on the board as a representative of District 1.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board District 2
Candidates: Jeannie Metcalf (R), Lori Goins Clark (R), Dana Caudill Jones (R), David Bryant Singletary (R), Laura Elliott (D) and Deanna Frazier Kaplan (D)
Geography: Winston-Salem, Lewisville, Clemmons, Tobaccoville, Rural Hall, Kernersville and unincorporated Forsyth
Skinny: The retirements of Jane Goins, Buddy Collins, Marilyn Parker and Jill Tackabery open up opportunities for fresh representation in suburban District 2, which has been on lockdown by the GOP since the district was drawn in the early 1990s. Jeannie Metcalf is a favorite considering that she currently serves on the board as an at-large member. But Irene May, another at-large member who filed to run in District 2, was eliminated in the Republican primary. That clears the way for newcomers Clark, Jones and Singletary, who are each contending for one of the four District 2 seats on the board, along with Metcalf. Democrats Elliott and Kaplan are also giving it a shot.
Guilford County clerk of superior court
Candidates: Lisa Johnson-Tonkins (D) and Janet Wallace (R)
Skinny: Johnson-Tonkins, the daughter of Greensboro City Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson, defeated incumbent David Churchill in the Democratic primary. Wallace, a longtime political aspirant, is the Republican nominee. The clerk administers the county court system.
Forsyth County clerk of superior court
Candidates: Susan Speaks Frye (D, i) and Charlie Mellies (R)
Skinny: Frye unseated incumbent Nick Gordon in the Democratic primary four years ago. A former assistant public defender, challenger Mellies is currently employed as a criminal defense attorney at Dummit Fradin.
Guilford County sheriff
Candidates: BJ Barnes (R, i) and Danny Rogers (D)
Skinny: Barnes’ first successful run for sheriff took place in the Republican wave year of 1994. Since then, he’s won re-election four times with significant Democratic support, earning a reputation as one of the most powerful and respected Republican elected officials in the county. Read more about the race on page 12.
Statewide ballot initiative
Voters across the state will consider an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution. It’s literally worded, “Constitutional amendment providing that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the state is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive the person’s right to a trial by jury.”
Ballot initiative for Guilford County voters
Guilford County voters will vote on a 1/4-cent sales tax. Proponents of the sales tax argue that the county needs the money to maintain small class sizes, pay for textbooks, attract quality teachers and pay for school maintenance. The language on the ballot makes no mention of schools, but proponents argue that voters will be able to hold the Guilford County Commission accountable for ensuring that the money goes to the intended purpose.
Bond referenda for Winston-Salem voters
Winston-Salem voters will vote on five separate bonds, including streets and sidewalks ($42.4 million for 10 projects), public safety facilities ($31.0 million for eight projects), parks and recreation ($30.9 million for 19 projects), economic development ($25.0 million for three programs) and housing ($10.0 million for two programs).
Ballot initiative for High Point voters
High Point voters will vote on a referendum to change the city’s charter to move the city’s municipal elections to odd years, beginning in 2017, including a primary.