5th Congressional District
Candidates: Josh Brannon, Jim Roberts and Charlie Wallin
The 5th Congressional District has been redrawn to capture all of Forsyth County, including the urban Winston-Salem area formerly tucked in the safely Democrat-leaning 12th District. Now, the new district mainly covers a large swath of northwest North Carolina, including Boone and Mt. Airy. Three Democratic candidates from the mountains — a software developer who ran for the 5th in 2014, a pest control man and a college food services director — vie for the nomination.
Josh Brannon is no stranger to this election. The software developer from the Boone garnered 39 percent of the vote against Republican incumbent Virginia Foxx in the 2014 general election. She’s defended the seat since 2004 in a district that has usually rated safely Republican, though a redistricted map drawing urban Winston-Salem into the mostly rural district, along with Trump’s candidacy providing a possible upset for Democrats, may shake that up.
Brannon’s overall campaign message takes a strong stance against income inequality. He regularly mentions “revolution” against the top 1 percent of earners and the 5th District’s place as the poorest in the state. His other campaign promises include true universal healthcare and disposing of the for-profit prison system.
Political newcomer, army vet and pest-control businessman Jim Roberts has held leadership positions in his hometown of Mt. Airy (where his family has resided since 1770), such as the Chamber of Commerce board of directors and the Jaycees, along with serving as the president of the North Carolina Pest Management Association.
“I’m from Mayberry,” Roberts said in a Feb. 3 debate. “Washington needs a whole lot of Mayberry.”
At that debate — for the 6th District before the old maps were thrown out by the federal courts — Roberts proposed the idea of collaboration between local business leaders and universities on a jobs leadership team. He also spoke in support of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, gradually raising the minimum wage to above $10, and more stringent background checks for gun owners.
Looking at 26 years of food services management on his resume, Charlie Wallin might not initially seem to be a fit for this job, but a peek into his extracurriculars suggests otherwise. A staff member of Appalachian State University as assistant director of food services, he serves as president of the university’s Staff Council; he was elected Chair of the 5th District Democrats of North Carolina in 2015.
His campaign pillars include lowering poverty rates through jobs with a living wage and protecting the environment, especially against fracking in rural counties. He supports refugee resettlement programs. He has also earned the endorsement of the Replacements Limited PAC, which advocates for the LGBTQ community.
5th Congressional District
Candidates: Virginia Foxx (i) and Pattie Curran
Virginia Foxx, who claimed the seat left vacant by Richard Burr’s successful US Senate bid in 2004, practically holds the Seal of Good Housekeeping for conservative politics in the 5th District, stretching from the mountains in North Carolina’s northwest corner to Winston-Salem. But tea party-inspired candidate Pattie Curran, a home-schooling mom from Kernersville, might be her most spirited challenger yet. Curran became an internet sensation in 2010 when she ambushed then US Sen. Kay Hagan at a town hall meeting to make known her vociferous opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Now, she’s shifting her sites to her own party.
Although Foxx holds a 96-percent approval rating from the American Conservative Union, her positions as secretary of the House Republican Conference and vice chair of the House Rules Committee, which determines what legislation comes to the floor for a vote, shade her as a member of the dreaded establishment. Running down the list of issues that conservatives care about — from religious freedom and abortion to the Second Amendment, immigration and healthcare, it’s hard to find much daylight between Foxx and her challenger. They split on surveillance — an issue that has hewed the party between its national security and libertarian wings. Foxx is firmly in the former camp, having voted for the 2015 USA Freedom Act, while Curran assails the act as giving the National Security Administration carte blanche to continue its warrantless wiretap program.
“The majority of Americans do not want to be spied on,” Curran told a group of conservative voters in Winston-Salem last year. “The majority of Americans want the Fourth Amendment upheld. And the Fourth Amendment is clear that if you’re going to search anyone’s property, possessions, you must have a warrant.”
6th Congressional District
Candidates: Mark Walker (i) and Chris Hardin
In the Republican primary for the new 6th District — still predominantly rural, switching around Guilford’s neighboring counties but still holding on to half of the county and Greensboro — freshman incumbent Mark Walker, supported by local tea partiers, faces a challenger from even farther on the right in Chris Hardin, a pharmaceutical businessman who criticizes Walker for failing voters.
Pete Glidewell, the only Democrat to file in the 6th, is running unopposed in June, and will face the winner of this Republican primary in November.
After Howard Coble’s long and storied representation of the 6th Congressional District, Mark Walker assumed his seat in 2014 with 58.7 percent of votes against Democrat Laura Fjeld. One of Walker’s first actions in office was to vote yes to keep John Boehner as speaker of the House, displeasing many supporters who saw the move as a betrayal of a campaign promise. But Walker pointed out that his pledge was to “vote against leadership on any legislation that is detrimental to the 6th District” and that he said he would support Rep. Trey Goudy over Boehner for speaker. Goudy was not a candidate for speaker at the time of the vote.
Formerly a music pastor at Lawndale Baptist Church in Greensboro, Walker’s freshman voting record orbits around healthcare and security. Among his eight sponsored bills in 2015 (none of which are law), two of note include HR 460, to improve human trafficking detection, and HR 1022, which would authorize diversion of certain security funds for “countering violent Islamist extremism” in light of recent attacks in cities such as Paris.
Chris Hardin’s critique against Walker: His stances aren’t far right enough. The newcomer candidate from Browns Summit plans to usurp Walker, who he calls a “miserable failure,” through low voter turnout for the special election, banking on former Walker supporters’ votes who would like to see even tougher stances on refugee resettlement and Obamacare.
Hardin works in the pharmaceutical industry and as a reserve police officer in Graham after previously serving in the Coast Guard and working as a street cop, school resource officer and in vice/narcotics before switching to reserve status for the last decade. He earned a master’s degree from Liberty University in 2014 in management and leadership.
Winston-Salem City Council South Ward
Candidates: Carolyn Highsmith and John Larson
If a rebuke to the claim that voting doesn’t matter was ever needed, one can point to the March 15 Democratic primary for the South Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council, which came down to four votes on election night. Once the late absentee ballots were added, the margin narrowed to one vote, and when provisionals were added, the margin changed to six. That’s not to say that every vote is counted: The Forsyth County Board of Elections disallowed 101 legitimately cast absentee ballots because they were postmarked too late. More concerning was a finding that 31 voters in the South Ward were given ballots without the contest, while another 12 voters were allowed to vote in the race despite living outside of the ward. The problems resulted in the State Board of Elections throwing out the results and ordering a new election.
The consequences couldn’t be higher. John Larson, who is retiring from his position as vice president of restoration at Old Salem Museum & Gardens, and Carolyn Highsmith, president of the Konnoak Hills Community Association, are competing to replace Councilwoman Molly Leight, who is retiring from her seat on city council. Leight, an ally of Mayor Allen Joines, has endorsed Larson over former opponent Highsmith, who has challenged city council on rezoning, transportation and public safety issues in the outlying areas of the ward.
Larson has taken advantage of the extended campaign to deepen his engagement with residents in the booming suburban fringe of the district, while Highsmith retains a passionate corps of supporters who believe an independent voice is needed on council.
Republican Michael Tyler will be on the ballot in the general election, but the ward leans heavily Democratic, making the outcome of the primary crucial.
NC Supreme Court associate justice
Candidates: Bob Edmunds (i), Sabra Jean Faires, Mike Morgan and Daniel Robertson
Sitting Associate Justice Bob Edmunds of Greensboro states his record, dating back to his election in 2000, “is an open book,” that he enjoys bipartisan support and nearly every sheriff in North Carolina and remains impartial. However, his tenure contains moments of controversy. In two separate cases in 2010 and 2011, Edmunds ruled in favor of Abbott Laboratories and Wells Fargo and Co., two companies with which he owns stock. Edmunds also owns stock in Duke Energy, but ruled against the corporation in a 2013 decision. Edmunds refused to disclose the size of his investments. Finally, Edmunds’ seat was nearly guaranteed in 2015 after the General Assembly moved for this year’s vote to simply count as a retention election, the first in state history; the courts struck down the law. While judicial elections are nominally nonpartisan, Edmunds, a registered Republican, is part of the court’s conservative majority and holds the support of his party.
Challenger Sabra Jean Faires of Wake County was one of the plaintiffs against Edmunds in the retention-election law’s hearing. While the race for associate justice remains non-partisan, Faires proudly touts her unaffiliated voter registration, declaring on her website: “I will not bring a partisan political agenda to the court.” She argues, “Important decisions are often partisan splits, and that needs to stop.”
A member of Raleigh’s Bailey and Dixon law firm, Faires specializes in government, election and taxation law. As a lawyer, she has worked in state government, under both Democratic and Republican leadership staffs in the NC General Assembly, and under Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt.
Mike Morgan, a registered Democrat, currently serves as a superior court judge in Wake County. He began his career in 1979 as a research assistant with the NC Justice Department, then served as a staff attorney. His court experience includes positions as an administrative law judge, a district court judge, and attained his current seat in 2005. Morgan is a member of the US Supreme Court Bar and the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. He represented the state in the Racial and Ethnic Bias Consortium and served on the NC Association of Black Lawyers’ Board of Governors from 1992 to 1997.
Mississippi native Daniel Robertson, a self-employed attorney from Advance who is a registered Democrat, proudly proclaims his status as “a political outsider who has never held political office.” Robertson touts extensive work with multiple law firms, served as general counsel for the Bank of the Carolinas and helmed the Journal of Space Law as editor in chief. Thanks to this experience, Robertson claims, “I therefore know the struggles most citizens and businesses face to survive in a world filled with burdensome regulations, taxes and requirements imposed by a government clearly divorced from its own people.”