This is the big one.
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you already know this is the most unpredictable, unstable and consequential election in living memory. We don’t have to rehash the particulars of the choices at the top of the ticket — a political insider with experience as first lady, senator and secretary of state weighted with baggage vs. an erratic reality TV star.

In North Carolina, there are other reasons this is an important election: It’s the first time since 2008 that contests for president, governor and US senator are all on the same ballot. And alll three races at the top of the ballot in North Carolina are razor-thin. That means, of course, that every vote makes a difference.

This year, along with candidates for US Congress and state General Assembly, seats for Council of State, state Supreme Court, county commission and school board are up for reelection, along with judgeships from court of appeals all the way down to district court. 2016 also marks the first year that Winston-Salem City Council elections are timed to coincide with presidential election years. Not least important, voters in Forsyth County have the opportunity to vote on a $350 million bond to pay for new school construction, and Greensboro voters will consider four separate bonds for housing, parks and recreation, transportation and community and economic development.

Early voting is already underway. Depending on where you live, check out the respective websites for the Forsyth County Board of Elections ( and Guilford County Board of Elections ( to find specific times and locations, and to view your sample ballot.

Study your options carefully. How you cast your vote may well determine the future of the republic.

President (open seat)

Donald J. Trump (R), Hillary Clinton (D) and Gary Johnson (L)

g8-pa5kaNorth Carolina is very much in play in the presidential race. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is shooting for a sweep of the swing states, and Trump can’t win the race without North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, makes the ballot here as well.

Is it possible that there are any undecided voters still left in our state that are looking for information on these candidates?

Very well.

Clinton, a former lawyer, has been involved in politics since volunteering for Barry Goldwater’s run for the GOP presidential nomination in 1964. She’s been first lady of Arkansas as well as the United States, served as a US senator from New York and as secretary of state. Her platform, as stated on her website, includes nods to income inequality with a higher tax on corporations, Wall Street banks and the 1 percent; and racial justice as expressed in positions on gun regulation, voting rights, immigration reform and inequalities in the criminal-justice system itself. Detailed positions on more than 50 issues are spelled out on her site, mostly conforming to a progressive agenda.



Trump, a businessman and reality-television personality, lists as his top positions cybersecurity and veterans’ benefits, both of which he’ll transform by creating or overhauling departments. He wants to renegotiate our international trade deals, eliminate domestic regulation that “kills jobs” and build a wall between the United States and Mexico. His economic plan lowers taxes across the board, but will eliminate “special-interest loopholes” to cover the balance. And he favors a heavy-handed approach to the Middle East, suggesting that we invade and “take the oil,” possibly with the aid of nuclear weapons.

There’s more.

Trump’s personal style and brusque demeanor —he’s insulted and berated more than 281 people and institutions since he announced his campaign, according to the New York Times — has lost him support within his own party including former RNC head Michael Steele, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Christine Todd Whitman and dozens of other prominent names. And his casual remarks about sexual assault remain an issue for his campaign.

Johnson runs on a standard Libertarian platform, with elimination of “wasteful spending” after a line-item overhaul of the budget, a consumption tax and term limits, among other small-government stances.

US Senate

Richard Burr (R, i), Deborah K. Ross (D) and Sean Haugh (L)



Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, looked prepared to cruise to an easy reelection to a third term as recently as six months ago, but Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, a former state lawmaker, gained traction with a platform emphasizing economic security that was strategically segmented to reach seniors, families and young people.

Burr has waged a low-key to invisible reelection campaign while dancing an awkward tango with the toxic candidate at the top of the Republican ticket — he received appointment to Trump’s National Security Advisory Council in early October — easing Ross’ path. By mid-summer, North Carolina was ranked as one of only a handful of states needed by Democrats to regain control of the Senate, assuming Clinton wins the presidency. (If Clinton loses, the Democrats would need an additional seat to prevent a Republican vice president from casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.)



To retake the Senate, Democrats need to hold onto their seat in Nevada and pick up control of three seats currently occupied by Republicans. Illinois and Wisconsin look to be in the bag as pickups for Democrats, according to FiveThirtyEight, and Missouri and New Hampshire hold the strongest potential to round out the complement. That means North Carolina is a little less crucial for the Democrats, although FiveThirtyEight predicts it’s “likely to go down to the wire.”

The two campaigns have sparred in TV ads over Ross’ position on North Carolina’s sex offender registry, with Burr accusing her of opposing it as director of the state ACLU. Ross acknowledges raising some concerns about the registry, but argues that she later voted to strengthen it as a member of the state House. It’s unclear how much attention North Carolinians are paying to the issue — or the race in general — and the outcome may well come down to the coattail effect of an electrifying presidential race.

Libertarian Sean Haugh, who appears in YouTube videos candidly chatting at his dining-room table while drinking craft beer, is campaigning on a platform of ending foreign wars and reducing the size of government. He polled 3.7 percent in the 2014 Senate race between Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Kay Hagan — greater than the margin of difference between the two major-party candidates — potentially allowing him to play the spoiler role again. [Read additional coverage here.]

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US House District 5

Virginia Foxx (R, i) and Josh Brannon (D)



The 5th Congressional District is among the most conservative in the state, although it got a little friendlier for Democrats when the General Assembly swapped out urban areas of Winston-Salem that were previously part of the 12th district when they redrew maps earlier this year.

Arch-conservative Virginia Foxx has represented the district since 2005, and ascended to the Republican Leadership Conference after the 2012 election, aligning herself with the GOP’s establishment wing. As a national security hawk, she voted for the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which allows the National



Security Administration to continue to access metadata from domestic phone records. In June, Foxx easily survived a challenge from libertarian-leaning challenger Pattie Curran.

The election is a rematch of the 2014 contest, when Foxx defended her seat against Democrat Josh Brannon, prevailing by a 22-point margin. Brannon, a software developer who — like Foxx — lives in the mountainous west end of the district, is running on an economic populist platform that aligned him squarely with Bernie Sanders during the primary. He’s become an enthusiastic Clinton supporter over the course of the general election campaign; a radioactive standard bearer at the top of the other party’s ticket will do that.

US House District 6

Mark Walker (R, i) and Pete Glidewell (D)



Republican incumbent Mark Walker, a former music pastor at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro who was elected in 2014 after Howard Coble’s long tenure in the seat, prides himself on being one of the most conservative members of Congress. He’s sponsored several pieces of legislation, including the 2015 Define It to Fight It Act that “directs the Department of State to withhold 10 percent of US contributions to the regularly assessed biennial budget of the United Nations until the UN adopts a definition of international terrorism concurrent with US laws.” Like almost every piece of legislation where he’s listed as a sponsor, this bill didn’t go very far,



landing in a committee. Some other pieces of legislation that Walker co-sponsored fared better, including one that became law, naming a Winston-Salem post office after Maya Angelou. Many of the bills he co-sponsored sound more like this: “Criminal Alien Deportation Enforcement Act of 2016,” “Prohibiting the Usurpation of Bathroom Laws through Independent Choice School Act of 2016” and “End Executive Overreach Act,” all of which are in committee.

Democratic challenger Pete Glidewell is a veteran and former CEO “of a business that employed as many as 1,900 in North Carolina,” according to his website. Glidewell believes in a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Walker’s rhetoric on immigration, Mexico and Syrian refugees hasn’t been too far from Donald Trump’s talking points in the past. Glidewell’s website touts environmentally friendly energy generation, starting public education at a younger age, supporting LGBT rights and reproductive freedom, and increasing mental health resources, while outlining his stance on a variety of other issues including food insecurity, battling ISIS and the Second Amendment.

US House District 13 (open seat)

Ted Budd (R) and Bruce Davis (D)



The new 13th Congressional District was created earlier this year when a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina’s previous map was racially gerrymandered and forced the General Assembly to go back to the drawing board. The new district captures the most populated southwest corner of Guilford County, including High Point and most of Greensboro, and stretches west over four counties to Statesville.

Ted Budd, a political neophyte who owns a gun shop and shooting range, bested a crowded field of 16 candidates in the Republican primary. His campaign received some welcome

assistance from the Club for Growth PAC, a conservative group that spent $500,000 in independent ad buys to support the candidate. Meanwhile, Bruce Davis, a former Guilford County commissioner and retired Marine, won the Democratic primary with heavy support from voters in High Point and southeast Greensboro.



Among Republican candidates for Congress in North Carolina, Budd is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Trump-Pence ticket, appearing on the campaign trail with both the nominee and his running mate. During a Winston-Salem rally soon after the Republican National Convention, Budd contrasted Trump’s platform with Clinton’s plan to increase the number of refugees accepted from Syria. “Donald Trump has already made it clear what he’s going to do: Protect the border, repeal Obamacare,” Budd said. “Those are the policies that will make America great again.”

In contrast, Davis emphasizes a compassionate approach to immigration, with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people.

“I’ve been hearing their stories about how their lives are impacted by the rhetoric,” Davis told TCB. “How challenging it is to live an existence in the shadows — going to work, raising a family. We talk about racial profiling in the black community, and they have a double dose.” [Read additional coverage here.]

State supreme court justice

Bob Edmunds (i) and Mike Morgan





Mike Morgan, who has spent about a decade as a superior court judge and as a district court judge, is challenging incumbent Bob Edmunds for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Morgan, who is black, helped integrate the New Bern public school system as a student in the 1960s and is currently a Wake County superior court judge, according to his campaign website. The election is nonpartisan, but Morgan is registered as a Democrat while incumbent Edmunds is a Republican. Edmunds, who lives in Greensboro, almost waltzed to victory when the state General Assembly tried to lock him in with something called a “retention election.” It would’ve been the first in state history, and is hard to describe as anything other than a brazenly partisan move by Republican lawmakers. The courts struck down that plan, however, and after Edmunds and Morgan made it through a primary earlier this year, it’s up to you to choose whether Edmunds stays — not Raleigh.


Pat McCrory (R, i), Roy Cooper (D) and Lon Cecil (L)



The Republican revolution in North Carolina begun in 2010 became complete with the election of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory in 2012. During his time in office he has presided over a movement that reduced corporate and personal taxes, deprioritized education spending from the UNC System on down, de-emphasized the role of cities in the economic and governmental functions of the state and, with his party’s majority, passed several pieces of key legislation that courts have overturned, nullified or otherwise ruled illegal.

McCrory says he’s been the architect of a “Carolina comeback,” adding 30,000 jobs and dropping unemployment to a historic low, creating a $425 million budget surplus and developing a $2 billion bond to invest in infrastructure.



Cooper, the current attorney general, takes heat for a scandal in the State Bureau of Investigations that was discovered on his watch in 2010 in which lab reports were shown to have been falsified to strengthen prosecution’s cases over at least 20 years.

He’s basically running as the anti-McCrory, pledging to overturn HB 2, accept federal Medicaid funding and fighting the environmental problems of coastal erosion and coal-ash disposal. And he’s vowed to roll back the state’s voting legislation, which has already been deemed largely illegal by appellate courts. [Read additional coverage here.]

Lieutenant governor

Dan Forest (R, i), Linda Coleman (D) and Jacki Cole (L)

The position of lieutenant governor in North Carolina is unique in that the post affects both the legislative branch, as president of the state Senate, and, as a member of the Council of State, the executive, along with seats on key committees and boards. This is in addition to be next in line for the governorship should something happen, but this is quite rare.

Forest, an architect, won the post in 2012 by less than 0.2 percent — about 7,000 votes — against Linda Coleman, the current Democratic challenger. His platform remains similar to the last go-round: growth through low taxes, cheap energy and separate and limited government among them. He’s also become active in the charter school movement, and brings that view point to his seat on the state Board of Education.

Coleman, who has been a teacher, director of the office of state personnel under Gov. Bev Perdue, chair of the Wake County Commission and a representative in the state House, is hoping she can overcome that 7,000-vote deficit this time around with a platform heavy on public education, Medicaid expansion and environmental issues. She says she will use her seat on the state Economic Development Board to favor policies that help the middle class.

Attorney general (open seat)

Buck Newton (R) and Josh Stein (D)





Roy Cooper’s ascension to the governor’s race creates a vacuum at the top of the state’s AG office

The heir apparent is Josh Stein, who served as deputy attorney general under Cooper. He has not addressed Black Lives Matter or the racial element of the criminal-justice system. Instead he touts his experience in the AG office and as a state senator from Wake County to position himself as a reasonable successor.

Buck Newton also comes from the state Senate, serving Wilson and Nash counties since 2011. As such, he was a big supporter of HB 2 — in the spring he was quoted as saying the law was designed to “keep our state straight.” He runs on a so-called law-and-order platform, listing among his chief accomplishments his role in the repeal of the Racial Justice Act.


Beth A. Wood (D, i) and Chuck Stuber (R)

Beth Wood has been monitoring the state’s books since she became North Carolina’s first female auditor in 2009. She notes among her accomplishments that she “removed the politics” from her office.

Chuck Stuber, a former FBI agent from Raleigh, has been an investigator for the state Board of Elections since 2014. He says that with access to all of the budgets of the various departments, he’ll be able to ferret out corruption in the same way he did with the BOE — he’s referred more than 30 cases of election-law violations to district attorneys’ offices around the state.

Commissioner of agriculture

Steve Troxler (R, i) and Walter Smith (D)

Steve Troxler, a former tobacco farmer from Browns Summit, won the office in 2004after a bizarre election that came down to fewer than 100 votes, and necessitated a special election in Carteret County to determine the winner.

In his time in office, he says he’s increased the impact of agribusiness from $58 billion to $80 billion, and preserved more than 10,000 acres of farmland.

Challenger Walter Smith, who has a small farm in Yadkin County, sees food security as his top issue, and emphasizes helping family farms to compete against large agribusinesses.

Commissioner of insurance

Wayne Goodwin (D, i) and Mike Causey (R)

The commissioner of insurance oversees all the companies that sell insurance in the state, what they charge and how much they’ll cover. It’s most important in matters of real estate, natural disaster and healthcare.

Wayne Goodwin has been on the job since 2008, through the passage of the Affordable Care Act and what ensued. He’s also led investigations resulting in refunds from health insurance and auto insurance agencies.

Mike Causey, a Guilford County farmer and former state lobbyist, has charged the current office with being outdated, resulting in high rates for consumers across the state. His website does not address healthcare.

The two last faced off in 2012, with Goodwin taking it by almost 4 points.

Commissioner of labor

Cherie Berry (R, i) and Charles Meeker (D)

Democrat Charles Meeker is well known in Raleigh — he spent eight years on city council in the capital, followed by a decade as mayor ending in 2011. Meeker, who graduated from Columbia Law School, wants to tackle a variety of issues as labor commissioner, “from worker injuries to employee misclassifications to workers not being paid,” according to his website.

Meanwhile Republican Cherie Berry, whose name you may recognize from the signs in North Carolina elevators, said in 2012 that she believed in abolishing the minimum wage, according to the Washington Post. She previously served in the state House and says on her campaign website that the state “achieved the lowest injury and illness rate in state history” under her tenure, adding: “As commissioner, she helped lower worker’s compensation costs and continues standing steadfast against the special interests seeking redundant, job-killing regulations.”

Secretary of state

Elaine Marshall (D, i) and Michael LaPaglia (R)

The secretary of state office handles business filings, loans and liens, copyrights and trademarks, lobbyists, international issues, investments and securities, birth and death certificates, and charitable organizations. It’s a big job.

Elaine Marshall has held the post since 1997. She won her last re-election in 2012 by more than 7 points.

Michael LaPaglia, an entrepreneur who has neither held nor run for office before, comes at Marshall from the right, touting deregulation and free-market solutions as the answer to the state’s economic woes.

Superintendent of public instruction

June Atkinson (D, i) and Mark Johnson (R)

June Atkinson, the first woman to be elected to the post, has been superintendent of public instruction since 2004, overseeing all aspects of public education. The status quo is challenged by Mark Johnson of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board, who runs as a reformer emphasizing teachers and technology in the classroom, and local education initiatives.

Treasurer (open seat)

Dale Folwell (R) and Dan Blue III

A vacancy in the council of state due to the retirement of state Treasurer Janet Cowell, a Democrat, has attracted two high-profile candidates.

A former state lawmaker from Winston-Salem, Dale Folwell served as speaker pro tem in the state House for two years. He lost his bid for lieutenant governor in 2012, but his consolation prize was a role critical to the GOP’s conservative agenda in Raleigh. As assistant secretary of commerce, Folwell administered a reversal of the state’s $2.5 billion unemployment insurance deficit to a $1 billion surplus, after the Republican leadership and Gov. Pat McCrory slashed benefits.

The son of state Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue Jr., Dan Blue III worked as an investment banker in New York City before returning to North Carolina where he worked in the pharmaceutical industry and eventually joined his father’s law firm.


State Senate District 27

Trudy Wade (R, i) and Michael Garrett (D)





Republican Sen. Trudy Wade, who gained notoriety for trying to reopen the White Street Landfill while serving on Greensboro City Council, doesn’t like to talk to the press. In the state Senate, she’s attempted to reconfigure Greensboro City Council, supported the discriminatory HB 2 and turned the Guilford County School Board races into partisan contests. She also offered a full-throated endorsement of Donald Trump at one of his rallies this year, enthusiastically stabbing two fists into the air. A veterinarian by trade, Wade emphasizes her support for increased educational funding and lower taxes on her website.

Michael Garrett is a small business owner and the son of Guilford County School Board member Darlene Garrett who’s served on the Guilford County Gang Commission, the United Way’s Education Impact Council, the Guilford County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the UNCG Excellence Foundation Board of Directors. In an interview with TCB, he raised the issues of food hardship, wages and income and constituent services as areas where he would be an improvement over Wade. He also opposes HB 2. [Read additional coverage here.]

State Senate District 28

Gladys A. Robinson (D, i) and Devin R. King (R)

Gadfly Devin King, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Greensboro, is challenging longtime incumbent Democrat Gladys Robinson in this deep blue state Senate district that covers the core of both Greensboro and High Point.

State House District 59

Jon Hardister (R, i) and Scott A. Jones (D)

Jon Hardister has served the district since joining the state House in 2012, after redistricting created a Republican-leaning safe space. He has stayed mostly loyal to the party on initiatives like HB 2 and voter ID, with an active hand in tax reform and education policy, and party-line stances on the Second Amendment and deregulation as an economic stimulus. He also serves on the ABC commission, sponsoring the law that allows distilleries to sell bottles of liquor at their facilities.

His challenger, Scott Jones, got his start in politics when he challenged Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes in the 2010 Republican primary. This was after being detained for assaulting a deputy and calling in a threat; he was later acquitted of both charges. He relies on his Facebook page instead of a website to get his message across, and it’s bereft of information besides listing his credentials as a graduate of Leadership Greensboro and a fellow of the NC Institute of Political Leadership.

State House District 74

Debra Conrad (R, i) and Marilynn Baker (D)





A former Forsyth County commissioner who was elected to the state House in 2012, Debra Conrad can check off most of the hot-button social-conservative boxes currently roiling North Carolina politics. A longtime foe of illegal immigration, Conrad sponsored legislation last year to prohibit local governments from accepting IDs produced by Greensboro nonprofit FaithAction to allow undocumented people to conduct business, voted yes on two bills to restrict abortions, and joined her Republican colleagues in voting for HB 2.

Marilynn Baker, a retired Reynolds Tobacco employee, supports repealing HB 2 and expanding Medicaid, while calling for increased funding for textbooks and other education investments. She’s received the endorsement of the Triad Labor Council, the NC Association of Educators and Equality NC.

12 candidates for General Assembly from Forsyth and Guilford counties are running unopposed: Phil Berger (R-S26), Joyce Krawiec (R-S31), Paul Lowe Jr. (D-S32), Pricey Harrison (D-H57), Amos Quick (D-H58), Cecil Brockman (D-H60), John Faircloth (R-H61), John Blust (R-H62), Evelyn Terry (D-H71), Edward Hanes Jr. (D-H72), Donny C. Lambeth (R-H75) and Julia Howard (R-H79).

Forsyth County Commission District B (3 seats)

Richard V. Linville (R, i), Dave Plyler (R, i), Gloria D. Whisenhunt (R, i), Trent Harmon (D), Selester Stewart (D) and Bob Stitcher (D)

Suburban District B on the Forsyth County Commission is a virtually bulletproof GOP redoubt, but one of the three Republican incumbents, Dave Plyler, has voted with the board’s two Democrats and another moderate Republican on crucial issues like an upcoming school bond. Plyler survived a primary challenge from conservative Republican Bill Whiteheart.

The three Democrats contending for the seats include Selester Stewart, a healthcare CEO who argues the board needs representation from someone who is currently working and raising a family; Bob Stitcher, who contends the aging Forsyth County Hall of Justice needs to be replaced; and Trent Harmon (not the “American Idol” contestant), who has served as an officer with the county Democrats.

Guilford County Commission District 4

Alan Branson (R, i) and Kirk Perkins (D)





The District 4 Guilford County Commission race, covering the eastern part of the county, is a rematch between former commissioner Kirk Perkins and incumbent Alan Branson. In an August reelection message on his campaign website, Branson said that it is “very crucial that all Republican candidates get your support,” adding, “Not only is it important that we elect Republicans in Washington and Raleigh, but we must also elect the Republican candidates right here in Guilford County!” He says the conservative majority on the commission has led to increased school funding and lowered taxes, along with “massive debt reductions and supported fiscally responsible spending.”

Perkins — who graduated from Guilford College and who owns a real estate appraisal, construction and brokerage firm — is an environmentalist, listing his membership in the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy on his website. But other than that, his platform reads as centrist, talking about minimizing tax burdens, and featuring statements like this: “I believe the free market is the best engine for growth and economic development. The market should be regulated fairly to promote balanced and sustainable growth with only limited necessary government interference.”

Guilford County Commission District 6

Hank Henning (R, i) and Rick Forrester (D)





Hank Henning was part of a cohort of Republicans elected to the Guilford County Commission in 2012, after the GOP-controlled General Assembly redrew district lines allowing the party to take control of county government. Henning, who was elected by his fellow commissioners as chair in 2014, is proud of being part of a board that reduced property taxes, increased school spending and paid down the county’s debt. But over the last two years of his tenure, a controversy over the future of the Rich Fork Preserve in High Point has dragged on, and Democratic challenger Rick Forrester, a lawyer who practices in Greensboro, argues his opponents hasn’t exercised effective leadership. Forrester opposes mountain biking in the preserve and argues the county should honor its commitment to the people who sold property to the county. [Additional coverage here.]

Two candidates for Guilford County Commission are running unopposed: Jeff Phillips (R-5) and Ray Trapp (D-8).

Forsyth County Register of Deeds (open seat)

Steve Wood (R) and Lynne Johnson (D)

In one of the biggest surprises of primary season, incumbent Forsyth County Register of Deeds Norman Holleman was unseated in the Democratic primary by Lynne Johnson, who worked in the office in different capacities for more than 27 years and now is deputy clerk in Forsyth County Superior Court.

Steve Wood, who received Holleman’s endorsement after Holleman told the Winston-Salem Journal that he and Johnson had “run-ins about how we do things,” is a former state lawmaker, serving eight terms in the state House, two of them as speaker pro tem.

Both agree that the registrar should be able to opt out of performing same-sex marriages, though neither has said whether they would take that option.

Winston-Salem City Council, Northwest Ward

Jeff MacIntosh (D, i) and Eric Henderson (R)

Democrat Jeff MacIntosh was elected to the Northwest Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council in 2013 as the hand-picked successor to Wanda Merschel. A realtor by profession, he’s quickly taken to the collegial style of the current council, voting with colleagues to incentivize downtown development and support preservation, while occasionally taking more fiscally conservative positions than fellow Democrats on council. Eric Henderson, a graduate assistant at Wake Forest University who teaches physics, argues that council needs to focus more on providing basic services, specifically so the city can free up funds to increase pay for police officers. [Read additional coverage here.]

Winston-Salem City Council, South Ward (open seat)

Michael Tyler (R) and John Larson (D)





John Larson, who is retiring as vice president of restoration at Old Salem Museum & Gardens, won a bitterly contested primary for the Democratic nomination for the open seat representing the South Ward, where Molly Leight is retiring. Larson’s Republican opponent, a restaurant equipment servicer named Michael Tyler, was active in South Carolina politics before moving back to his native Winston-Salem. Notwithstanding Larson’s close ties with the current council — he went into the Democratic primary with Leight’s endorsement — he and Tyler sound a lot alike in their insistence that council needs to move faster on raising pay for police officers, and that the city needs to ensure that residents in the outlying parts of the South Ward receive equitable services. [Read additional coverage here.]

Seven candidates for Winston-Salem City Council are running unopposed: Allen Joines (D-mayor), Derwin Montgomery (D-East Ward), Vivian Burke (D-Northeast Ward), Denise Adams (D-North Ward), Robert Clark (R-West Ward), Dan Besse (D-Southwest Ward) and James Taylor (D-Southeast Ward). 

Guilford County School Board, at large

Alan Duncan (D, i) and Alan Hawkes (R)





Democrat Alan Duncan, who chairs the Guilford County School Board, was first elected in 2002. He has voted with the majority for progressive positions, including a resolution to allow undocumented students to attend state universities at in-state tuition rates, and signed on to lawsuits challenging state legislation that shifts public funds from charter schools and ends teacher tenure. His Republican opponent, Alan Hawkes, is an ardent proponent of charter schools and sits on the board of directors of two local charters. Hawkes also serves on the NC Charter School Advisory Board at the appointment of state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, and his campaign has accepted a $1,000 contribution from the CEO of the Florida-based operator Charter Schools USA. Hawkes said he would like to see the Guilford County School Board apply for a charter and contract with a private company to operate a charter school within the district. [Read additional coverage here.]

Guilford County School Board, District 2

Jeff Belton (D, i) and Anita Sharpe (R)

Incumbent Jeff Belton holds the advantage as a sitting member of the school board. He runs without the benefit of a website, but he has been quoted as supporting higher pay for teachers, and wondered aloud during a candidate forum what the state would look like if teachers made $70,000 a year.

Anita Sharpe previously served as a member of the school board for 18 years. She names teacher pay and student achievement as the district’s biggest challenges, and thinks we should be allocate more of the Education Lottery proceeds to schools.

Guilford County School Board, District 3 (open seat)

Pat Tillman (R) and Angelo Kidd (D)





Like several of the other Guilford County School Board races this season, a newcomer will represent District 3 when this one’s over. Voters will chose between Angelo Kidd — a retired educator and former regional superintendent for the local school system — and Pat Tillman, a school volunteer and Marine who believes the left-leaning school board has stagnated. The candidates predictably differ on charter schools and implicit bias, with Tillman more supportive of the former and Kidd more supportive of tackling the latter. Tillman lists literacy as his top priority and Kidd names mental health while agreeing that literacy is paramount. [Read additional coverage here.]

Guilford County School Board, District 5

Darlene Garrett (D, i), Mary Catherine Sauer (R) and Lois L. Bailey (U)

There may be no more sharply divided school board race on the ballot than the three-way District 5 contest, with 16-year-incumbent Darlene Garrett defending her seat against Republican Mary Catherine Sauer and independent Lois L. Bailey. Garrett opposes providing public vouchers to pay for children to attend charter schools, calling the practice unconstitutional and warning that “there’s an assault on public schools in this state.”

Sauer, who founded two charter schools, points to disparities between successful suburban schools and struggling urban schools, arguing that the board needs to ensure that every student has an opportunity for a quality education so parents don’t feel the need to go the charter route. [Read additional coverage here.]

Guilford County School Board, District 6 (open seat)

Wes Cashwell (R) and Khem Denise Irby (D)

Wes Cashwell was appointed by the Guilford County GOP to fill this candidacy in August after Ed Price withdrew from the race in July, after any primary would have been run. Cashwell is a product of the schools in the district, graduating from Andrews High School in High Point in 1974.

Khem Irby, who lives in the Greensboro neighborhood of Adams Farm, has three children in Guilford County Schools, has worked in the system as a substitute teacher and after-school care worker, and says she will act as an advocate for students.

Guilford County School Board, District 7 (open seat)

Byron Gladden (D) and Bettye Jenkins (U)





Bettye Jenkins filed to run for school board after the deadline, so while she’ll be listed on the ballot as “unaffiliated,” but she describes herself as a lifelong Democrat. The recently retired Guilford County Schools employee is running against Byron Gladden, another Democratic newcomer, who highlights his grassroots activism and a community organizing approach that he says he will bring to the Guilford County School Board. Both candidates are concerned about the achievement gap and disproportionate suspensions. [Read additional coverage here.]

Three school board candidates are running unopposed: Dianne Bellamy-Small (D-1), Linda Welborn (R-1) and Deena Hayes-Green (D-8).

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County

Schools bond referendum

People in Forsyth County have the opportunity to vote on referendum to raise $350 million for public schools, including new middle schools in the Smith Farm area and on Robinhood Road, and the replacement of Brunson Elementary, Konnoak Elementary and Lowrance Middle/Paisley IB Magnet. The school board had initially considered requesting a bond for $552.5 million, but scaled back their wish list to make it more palatable to the Forsyth County Commission, whose approval was needed to put the referendum before voters. The modified request meant scrapping plans to replace Ashley Elementary in northeast Winston-Salem, a move that made some proponents of urban reinvestment unhappy, but also fails to address overcrowding at Kernersville Elementary and Flat Rock Middle School. At the conservative end of the spectrum, the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has come out in opposition to the bond.

Greensboro bond referendum

The city of Greensboro placed four bond items on this year’s ballot, encompassing community and economic development, parks & recreation, transportation and housing. Voters can vote yes or no on each item individually, and each comes with a different price tag. An explanatory paragraph accompanies each bond item on the ballot, and additional information is provided on the city’s website.

The $25 million housing bond is aimed at alleviating part of Greensboro’s affordable housing shortage by funding construction, improvements and rehabs as well as well as loans and grants for affordable housing developers.

The $34.5 million parks & rec bond would fund acquisition, construction and improvements for parks and recreational facilities, which could include greenways, amphitheaters, community centers and athletic facilities.

The $28 million transportation bond would cover everything from street resurfacing to bicycle lanes, targeting public transportation (including possible bus shelter improvements) as well as streetscaping, widening and road construction.

The $38.5 million community and economic development bond — the largest of the four — would cover “urban renewal and community development projects” designed to “induce redevelopment, crime prevention and preservation of older properties,” among other things.

To read about Guilford County district court races, click here.

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