Green candidate enters tightly contested 13th Congressional race

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Green Party candidate Robert Corriher

Republican lawmakers changed election law in 2017, allowing smaller parties like the Greens and Constitutional Party to gain ballot access. Now, a Green Party candidate is running in the 13th Congressional District, where Democrats are working to flip a Republican seat. 

The 13th Congressional District race will be a four-way affair, with Green Party nominee Robert Corriher joining Republican incumbent Ted Budd, Democratic challenger Kathy Manning and Libertarian candidate Tom Bailey on the November general-election ballot.

Corriher, a labor organizer, received the nomination after making a pitch to party members during a statewide conference call that served as the party’s nominating convention. The 13th Congressional District, which stretches from Greensboro west to Iredell County, has attracted significant interest from Democratic groups, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to Swing Left, who hope to swipe it from Budd, a one-term Republican incumbent.

The Green Party was granted access to the ballot, along with the far-right Constitution Party, by the state Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement in May after submitting the required number of petitions. The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed legislation in 2017 reducing the signature threshold to 0.25 percent of the electorate.

“I feel like in this race we have an opportunity to present a different option, a different way to look at the world,” Corriher said. “We haven’t tried to build the old coalition of labor and progressives. The Democratic Party is not coming along. You see it in race after race.”

Corriher dismissed the notion that he could end up playing spoiler in a race that is considered the Democrats’ best opportunity to pick up a congressional seat in North Carolina.

“I feel like people who disagree with the same old tactics that have been losing for the Democrats — that people like that shouldn’t have an option is absurd,” he said. “So many people understand we have to find a way to deal with problems like healthcare. We need to stop xenophobic Trumpism. [Rep.] Maxine Waters was chastised by the Democratic leadership for standing up to Trump. We can’t appease leaders like Trump because it leads to a slippery slope. None of us want that.”

Elizabeth Oglesby, Budd’s campaign manager, welcomed Corriher to the race in a prepared statement.

“While we disagree on many issues,” she said, “we agree that Kathy Manning is a political insider, bought and paid for by Nancy Pelosi, who will be a rubber stamp for Pelosi’s agenda in Washington.”

Efforts to reach the Manning campaign, along with local and state Democratic officials, for this story were not successful.

Corriher said he worked with the Green Party on a number of successful campaigns to deny rate hikes to Duke Energy. On Monday, he was protesting US Immigration and Customs Enforcement with other Green Party members in Charlotte.

Corriher currently lives in Mebane, which is part of the 4th Congressional District. North Carolina law does not require candidates to live in the congressional district in which their seeking office. Corriher said he moved to Mebane from Greensboro a couple months ago after going through a separation. Before that, he said he’s lived in the Glenwood neighborhood in Greensboro — part of the 13th Congressional District — for four years. He pledged to move back to the district before the November election.

“I’ve organized with just about every labor organization in town,” he said. “I worked to put pressure on the General Assembly in Raleigh to expand Medicaid. I’ve been really involved with the North Carolina Association of Educators and the Guilford County Association of Educators — that’s where most people know me — as well as the Homeless Union of Greensboro. That’s what I want everyone to know: My heart is in Greensboro. It feels like home more than any place I’ve ever lived.”

In addition to contract work as an organizer, Corriher said he’s worked as a caterer, and generally held down two jobs at a time since graduating from college in 2012. He contrasted his work experience with that of Manning, a lawyer and professional fundraiser, and Budd, a gun range and store owner.

“That’s one thing I know Kathy Manning and Ted Budd know nothing about — is struggling on two jobs,” Corriher said.

The Green Party also nominated Justin Miller in state House District 66. The district, covering Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson and Scotland counties, is currently represented by Democrat Ken Goodman.

After filing for the seat on June 28, Miller wrote on his Facebook page that he was running because of “all the fast-food workers across the state who went on strike paving the way towards higher wages for all workers across the country, but are waiting to personally benefit from their own sacrifices. To my brothers and sisters working the line in a restaurant kitchen battling your demons with substance abuse and depression. To my immigrant coworkers who suddenly disappeared never to be seen again, and those who continued to fear that the same will happen to you. To my coworkers currently serving time in prison for stealing from an employer that stole from all of us. To my formerly incarcerated coworkers who were never given a first chance, let alone a second one.”

The party also nominated Keenan Altic for the at-large seat on Forsyth County Commission. The race presents a closely matched contest between Democratic incumbent Ted Kaplan and Republican Buddy Collins, who previously served on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. Altic could not be reached for this story.

Corriher said he hopes he’s not dismissed as a spoiler with no chance of winning his congressional race.

“There’s so much energy in the district from people who want solutions to climate change,” he said. “They want to figure out how to stop some of this rampant inequality. These are things Democrats and Republicans have done nothing about. They’ve left districts like ours out in the cold. The Democrats should be screaming at the top of their lungs about what the Republicans are doing about the safety net. We need someone who’s willing to stand up and fight. People die because they don’t have healthcare. People die because they don’t have food. For someone like Nancy Pelosi to say we need to be civil? It’s insulting and it needs to stop.”

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