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).
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.