The 2016 election is the most consequential in living memory, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump wreaking havoc on his party and presenting the prospect of an administration organized around white nationalism and populism virtually unprecedented in the United States. In the Republican primary, evangelical candidate Ted Cruz and establishment standard-bearer Marco Rubio are seeking to chip away at Trump’s lead, while economic populist Bernie Sanders is chasing Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate of her party.
While the presidential contest is grabbing the spotlight, there are also contested primaries for US Senate — the first time both a presidential and Senate election have been on the ballot in North Carolina since 2008 — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and a host of council of state seats. And while there are few contested primaries for state legislative seats, several important local races are on the ballot, including Forsyth County Commission, Guilford County School Board and Winston-Salem City Council.
The North Carolina primary is scheduled for March 15, but early voting begins on Thursday. Visit the Guilford and Forsyth board of election sites for information about times and locations for early voting. This is the first year that voters are required to present photo ID before voting, although voters who are unable to obtain photo ID can sign a declaration of “unreasonable impediment” and vote a provisional ballot.
Don’t look for Congressional races on the ballot. Because the federal courts threw out the old district maps, a special primary election for Congressional races has been scheduled for June 7.
Candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Rocky De La Fuente
Chances are you’ve heard of the first two candidates for the Democratic nomination for president — Hillary Clinton has been involved in politics since high school, when she worked for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. She’s been first lady, served in the Senate and as secretary of state. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist whose politicization dates back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, represented Vermont in
the US House from 1991 to 2007, and in the Senate since 2007. The importance of the North Carolina primary in this race hinges on the primaries over the next
two weeks, most notably the Super Tuesday group of a dozen plus states.
Rocky De La Fuente, a California businessman of Mexican descent, landed a position on the ballot by obtaining the requisite 10,000 signatures from North Carolina voters. He describes himself as a conservative Democrat, and has so far garnered enough signatures to also appear on primary ballots in Ohio, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Arkansas.
Candidates: Deborah K. Ross, Chris Rey, Kevin D. Griffin and Ernest T. Reeves
Deborah K. Ross is a Raleigh lawyer who has taught law at Duke University and served in the state House from 2003 to 2013. According to her website, “she was a leader on ethics reform and election law,” and she has been endorsed by the Replacements Ltd. PAC for its LGBT voter guide. Her previous leadership of the ACLU of North Carolina and experience as general counsel for GoTriangle, the Triangle transit agency, is relevant.
Chris Rey is the three-term mayor from Spring Lake. A major in the National Guard with military experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rey has received
“numerous military awards and accolades including the Bronze Star,” according to his website. Rey is the executive director of Cumberland HealthNET, a nonprofit that “helps to coordinate care” for uninsured residents, and an adjunct professor at University of Mount Olive in the criminal justice department.
Durham staffing-company president Kevin Griffin has been involved with the Durham Living Wage Project, Dress for Success, Hiring Our Heroes and more. He helped found the living wage project in 2015, and previously lived in all three Triad cities, according to his website. He is a Forsyth County Day School and UNCG graduate.
A retired US Army captain, Ernest T. Reeves of Greenville ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014. He challenged an incumbent again the next year in a bid to be the mayor of Greenville. After his military service, Reeves worked for United Airlines and later attempted to start Jesusa Coffee and Jesusa Entertainment.
The candidate who wins the Democratic primary will likely face incumbent Richard Burr in the November general election.
Candidates: Roy Cooper and Ken Spaulding
Ken Spaulding, a Durham lawyer and former state lawmaker, has been running for governor for two-and-a-half years, struggling to gain exposure for his campaign. Meanwhile, long before Attorney General Roy Cooper officially announced his candidacy last October, the press was holding him up as the Democratic standard-bearer against Republican incumbent Pat McCrory. The latest poll by Public Policy Polling gave Cooper a 55/10 advantage over Spaulding, which explains why Cooper’s maintaining an
extremely low profile. Cooper refused to debate Spaulding at High Point University, and hasn’t so much as outlined his positions on his website. Spaulding proposes to raise teacher pay and increase the affordability of higher education. He opposes voter ID, calling it “voter suppression.” He supports Medicaid expansion and marriage equality. (previous coverage)
Candidates: Linda Coleman, Holly Jones, Ronald L. Newton and Robert Earl Wilson
Linda Coleman was the Democratic nominee in 2012 and narrowly lost to Dan Forest by only 6,858 votes. With YWCA USA, Holly Jones led initiatives for energy independence and women’s health. Ronald L. Newton is a Durham businessman and self-described populist. Robert Earl Wilson worked in state government for 30 years in the Secretary of State office and in corrections.
Candidates: Josh Stein and Marcus W. Williams
Josh Stein is the legacy favorite to fill the vacuum in the attorney general’s office left by Roy Cooper as he campaigns for governor. Stein served as first deputy to Cooper from 2001 to 2008 and in the state Senate representing Wake County since 2009. As a state lawmaker, he voted against a bill that would redistrict Greensboro for municipal elections, voted for a bill that forbids public-school teachers from working on political campaigns and against the amendment that allows magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriages — though he posted an excused absence on the day of the veto override vote.
Marcus W. Williams, a lawyer from Lumberton with 37 years of courtroom experience, is for better teacher pay and the restoration of tenure, the earned-income tax credit and the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina— none of which are functions of the attorney general’s office. He ran in 2012 for the 8th Congressional District, losing the primary to Jane Smith by 20 points.
Commissioner of labor
Candidates: Mazie Ferguson and Charles Meeker
Mazie Ferguson of Greensboro is a former president of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum, where she helped lead the boycott of K Mart in the well publicized and successful local labor battle. Ferguson, who has been a lawyer since 1978 but isn’t an active member of the bar, served as assistant legal counsel for NC A&T University for most of the 1990s. Ferguson said she was the first woman to pastor a Baptist church in the state — First Baptist Church in Siler City — though she is currently without a specific church. She’s been active on labor issues and fighting for working people for decades, she said, adding that she is following God’s calling.
Charles Meeker spent a decade as Raleigh’s mayor, ending in 2011, and preceded his tenure with eight years on the Raleigh City Council. He has been a lawyer since the 1970s after graduating from Yale University and Columbia Law School, according to his website. Meeker is running “to provide effective, accountable leadership” and would address an array of issues “from worker injuries to employee misclassifications to workers not being paid,” his site says. He has been endorsed by the Replacements Ltd. PAC for its LGBT voter guide.
The winner of the Democratic primary takes on incumbent Republican Cherie Berry in November. You might recognize her from the signs in elevators.
Superintendent of public instruction
Candidates: June Atkinson (i) and Henry J. Pankey
As a three-term incumbent, June Atkinson consistently polls in elections as one of the most popular Democrats in statewide elections. She touts an increase in high school graduation rates from 68 percent to 86 percent under her watch, and is currently working with the Republican-controlled General Assembly to implement changes in the common course of study. Under Atkinson’s leadership the Department of Public Instruction is piloting Proof of Concept, a computerized assessment tool to replace end-of-grade tests, which she calls “20th Century artifacts.” Challenger Henry J. Pankey, a former high school principal in Durham, is running on a fairly standard platform of support for teacher tenure and increased pay, resources for staff development, character development and computer technology. (previous coverage)
Candidates: Dan Blue III and Ron Elmer
Dan Blue III is the son of Dan Blue, the former speaker of the state House and Senate minority leader. Blue III works in pharmaceutical healthcare. Elmer, a CPA with a background in investment management, plans to improve retirement systems pensions.
State House District 58
Candidates: Ralph C. Johnson (i) and Amos Quick
For this large swath of Greensboro, newcomer Amos Quick from the Guilford County School Board challenges incumbent Ralph Johnson. Johnson emphasizes Medicaid, and Quick focuses on school improvement. (previous coverage)
Forsyth County register of deeds
Candidates: Norman Holleman (i) and Lynne Johnson
Norman Holleman, a former real estate agent first elected to the gig in 2008, has implemented several cost-cutting measures since his first term, including the elimination of six full-time positions from the registrar’s office. One of those was held by Lynne Johnson, who now works in the clerk of courts office and is running against her old boss.
The most pertinent issue facing registrars in North Carolina is that they, by law, can opt out of performing same-sex marriages. Both candidates said they would not opt out of this part of their official duties.
Guilford County School Board District 1
Candidates: Aaron Keith McCullough (i) and Dianne Bellamy-Small
Aaron Keith McCullough of High Point was appointed to fill the vacant District 1 seat on the school board after its former occupant won election to the Guilford County Commission. The process was something of a fiasco, with two sequential appointees being disqualified because they lived outside the district, but the third time with McCullough was the charm. Dianne Bellamy-Small served on Greensboro City Council from 2003 to 2013, when she lost her re-election bid to Sharon Hightower. For the first time, District 1 includes parts of both High Point and Greensboro; previously, it lay within the confines of High Point. McCullough argues that it’s important that a High Point resident hold the seat, but Bellamy-Small notes that she’s worked as a substitute teacher in High Point schools and says her track record of public service means she can provided good representation, no matter where she lives. (previous coverage)
Guilford County School Board District 8
Candidates: Deena Hayes (i) and Matthew Stafford
Veteran school board member Deena Hayes may be most known for her anti-racism work, including persistent advocacy around the achievement gap and pushing her fellow board members to more proactively address racism in the classroom and school system. She is also the chair of the board for the International Civil Rights Center & Museum and has been endorsed by the Replacements Ltd. PAC for its LGBT voter guide.
Disability-rights activist Matt Stafford criticizes the school board’s interest in putting tablets in classrooms, arguing that “kids need flesh-and-blood tutors and teachers” on his campaign website. Stafford is a member of Greensboro’s Committee for People With Disabilities and says on his campaign site that he wants to make education more accessible and cut things like homework for kindergarteners.
The winner of the primary takes the seat by default, as no Republicans filed in this district.
Winston-Salem City Council Northeast Ward
Candidates: Vivian Burke (i) and Keith King
Vivian Burke has served on Winston-Salem City Council since 1977, the year the first Clash album was released. As a pioneering public servant — first black woman elected to city council, first female mayor pro tem and first female chair of the public safety committee — Burke is honored with a bust in city hall. With much of her ward covering the economically depressed area to the east of Highway 52, Burke’s recent tenure hasn’t been marked by uniform success — city-supported efforts to open a restaurant at Ogburn Station Shopping Center and a farmers market on Liberty Street remain unrealized. Among her accomplishments, Burke cites launching a scholarship fund and engaging residents in voluntarism. Keith King, a downtown storeowner, contends he could provide more effective representation, and faults Burke for lack of progress on the Liberty Street Market and for not being more visible after a 31-year-old resident died in police custody in the ward in December. The winner of this primary will most certainly serve on the next council. Read more at triad-city-beat.com. (previous coverage)
Winston-Salem City Council South Ward
Candidates: Carolyn Highsmith and John Larson
As the vice president of restoration for Old Salem Museum & Gardens, John Larson is the most proximate to downtown of the two candidates in the Democratic primary for the South Ward, while Carolyn Highsmith has built her political base as president of the Konnoak Hills Community Association further out and to the south of Interstate 40. Larson is comfortable working the inside track and has won the endorsement of Molly Leight, who currently holds the seat and is retiring at the end of the year, while Highsmith is more of a populist outsider, occasionally opposing rezoning requests that come before city council. Both have expressed concern about neighborhood stability. (previous coverage)
Candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson
Donald Trump understands that presidential elections, in many respects, are about entertainment, and though Trump has masterfully manipulated the media as if this election were his very own reality TV show, we’re not laughing. The Donald is espousing fascist positions this campaign season, and it doesn’t help that he’s tweeting Mussolini quotes or waffling on the KKK. Triad City Beat doesn’t endorse political candidates, but
we stand firmly in opposition to the rhetoric of this billionaire jerk, and we urge readers to take him seriously.
Ted Cruz isn’t Donald Trump, but the warmongering, Canadian-born Texas senator is so far afield that even most of his party is distancing itself from him. Though he may not be the Zodiac Killer, Ted Cruz isn’t exactly killing it in the polls either, though he did win Iowa.
The preferred Republican candidate of Triad City Beat readers (according to an unscientific poll on our website this week) and the GOP establishment, Marco Rubio is still hanging onto hope that he can surpass Ted Cruz and eat into enough of Trump’s lead to win the nomination.
Who? Just kidding, but more seriously, by the time the North Carolina primary rolls around, the rest of the states that have weighed in will have already made Ohio Gov. John Kasich completely irrelevant.
Rumor has it that the Republican establishment would like Dr. Ben Carson to stay in the race — and maybe make some more comments about pyramids and fruit salad — because it could take votes away from Trump. Regardless, the only black contender left on either side is a lost cause.
Candidates: Richard Burr (i), Greg Brannon, Larry Holmquist and Paul Wright
As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, two-term incumbent Richard Burr has burnished his national security bona fides by defending the NSA domestic surveillance program and blocking the release of the committee’s secret 6,700-page report on the CIA’s secret prison program and torture activities under President George W. Bush, while making himself an expert on Islamic State. Notably, Burr was one of only eight GOP senators
to support the repeal of the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy that had long forced
gay military service members to keep their sexual orientation secret.
A trio of challengers is assailing Burr from the right. Most prominently, Dr. Greg Brannon received 27.2 percent of the vote in the 2014 Republican primary for the Senate seat then held by Democrat Kay Hagan. Brannon fell short to Thom Tillis, who went on to defeat Hagan in the general election. Public Policy Polling rates Brannon’s chances as worse this go-around, giving him 10 percent to Burr’s 55 percent, and concluding, “The support Brannon got running in the primary against Thom Tillis in 2014 doesn’t appear transferable to a bid against Burr this year.”
Brannon, a self-described constitutionalist, calls the Republican establishment as “the No. 1 foe we have.”
Larry Holmquist similarly accuses Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of enabling President Obama’s supposed agenda of destroying America.
Retired Superior Court Judge Paul Wright’s platform is a bit more esoteric. He calls on supporters to resist what he calls the “de-Christianization of America,” and warns against “antichrist voices of discouragement so prevalent in our media and culture.” The candidate opposes same-sex marriage and warns against provoking war with Russia.
Candidates: Pat McCrory (i), C. Robert Brawley and Charles Kenneth Moss
Pat McCrory has spent one term presiding over a dramatic rightward lean to the state during which we outlawed same-sex marriage (only to have the law overturned as illegal and discriminatory), eased corporate and personal tax burdens while adding service fees and sales taxes, changed the way public school teachers are compensated and refused federal Medicaid funds in order to weaken the effects of the Affordable Care Act.
C. Robert Brawley, a former Iredell County state House representative, was primaried in 2014 — he says over a conflict with the speaker over toll roads. He runs on a platform of governmental integrity and transparency that includes raising teacher pay and opposing corporate incentives and private/public partnerships — as well as a promise to fight against toll roads.
Charles Kenneth Moss, a preacher from Randolph County, ran unsuccessfully in the 2012 primary, attracting about 1.5 percent of the Republican vote. He told the Charlotte Observer that he wants to get McCrory out of office, and that he paid his filing fee with his monthly Social Security check.
Candidates: Buck Newton and Jim O’Neill
Buck Newton is hoping to leave his seat as a state senator, where he sponsored bills such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and one allowing hunting on Sundays. Jim O’Neill is currently Forsyth County’s district attorney, where he’s led initiatives cracking down on chronic violent offenders.
Commissioner of agriculture
Candidates: Steve Troxler (i) and Andy Stevens
Incumbent Steve Troxler, a tobacco-farm owner from Browns Summit who’s held the seat since 2005, faces Andy Stevens, an Army veteran from Greensboro with experience in the propane industry and director of local government affairs for Gun Rights NC.
Commissioner of insurance
Candidates: Mike Causey, Joe McLaughlin and Ron Pierce
Guilford County farmer Mike Causey came within 150,000 votes of beating current Commissioner Wayne Godwin. This time he maintains the same platform, including a pledge to fight “on the front line” against the Affordable Care Act, modernize the department and to minimize the Democrat’s presence in Raleigh. “[T]oo many Council of State offices are firmly under Democrat control,” his site reads.
Joe McLaughlin is a former Onslow County commissioner — the only one in the Republican field who has ever held office — insurance agent and talk-radio show host.
Ron Pierce is an insurance agent who was accused of fraud by the department of insurance in 2014 but later cleared. He’s “mad as hell,” according to his Facebook page, about what he sees as corruption of the department by insurance companies.
Secretary of state
Candidates: AJ Daoud and Michael LaPaglia
Incumbent Democrat Elaine Marshall kept her seat in 2012 by about 7 points against Ed Goodwin, who in turn defeated challenger AJ Daoud and three other hopefuls in that year’s primary. Daoud finished last; this year he and his wife waited 29 hours in front of the state board of elections building so he could be the first to file. The former cop and small-business owner — he has funeral parlors in several states — hopes his fight against burdensome government regulations gets traction this year. He has no elected experience, but he was the Republican Party chair of the 6th Congressional District, Howard Coble’s old turf, and served at the appointment of Gov. McCrory on the Lottery Commission.
Michael LaPaglia is another small-business owner with no elected experience, also looking to “ease the regulatory burden on business,” according to his website.
Superintendent of public instruction
Candidates: Mark Johnson, J. Wesley Sills and Dr. Rosemary Stein
A trio of Republicans is vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent June Atkinson in the November general election. Mark Johnson, who serves as corporate counsel for Inmar, won a seat on Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board less than two years ago. He’s gone on the offensive against Dr. Rosemary Stein, a pediatrician in Burlington and chair of the NC Republican National Hispanic Assembly. First, Johnson took issue with Stein, an advocate for classical education, saying that America is moving towards a “two-class education system.” Then he accused her of mocking teachers by saying their profession “is not that difficult.” J. Wesley Sills, a social studies teacher in Dunn who became fully licensed in 2015, is also running for the seat. (previous coverage)
State Senate District 31
Candidates: Joyce Krawiec (i), Peter Antinozzi and Dempsey Brewer
Joyce Krawiec is seeking re-election after her first term, in which she sponsored a bill to further define the revocation of sexual consent. Dempsey Brewer, an engineer who challenged her in 2014, is seeking a rematch. Peter Antinozzi, a biomedical professor at Wake Forest University, is also a candidate. With no Democrats filing, the winner of the Republican primary claims the seat.
Forsyth County Commission District B
Candidates: Richard V. Linville (i), Dave Plyler (i), Gloria Whisenhunt (i) and Bill Whiteheart
The Republicans have the majority on the seven-member Forsyth County Commission, but a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats actually holds the effective balance of power. Chairman Dave Plyler, an incumbent in the three-seat District B, is one of two moderate Republicans who has voted with the Democrats to raise the debt limit and favors a more robust school bond that would potentially go before voters in November. If Bill Whiteheart, a former commissioner who lost his seat in 2014, edges out Plyler, the conservative faction — in favor of tight limits on spending — will gain clout if not an outright majority. The conservatives make no secret of their desire to send Plyler home. “Bill Whiteheart, Richard Linville and Gloria Whisenhunt have played on the same team, and they have worn the red Republican jersey,” Whitheart said at a recent candidate forum, “while Dave Plyler has played for the other team and worn the blue jersey.” (previous coverage)
Guilford County School Board District 2
Candidates: Anita Sharpe and John Bradley Nosek
Anita Sharpe served on the county school board from 1992 to 2008, deciding not to run in 2008 because the economic downturn meant she couldn’t be away from her job as an accountant and office manager for a high-end builder. But now that Sharpe has the time, she’s back and said she will pick up where she left off. Sharpe also said school employees trust her and raise issues confidentially.
John Bradley Nosek, a first-time candidate grew up locally, attending parochial school and then Page High School. But when he and his wife
decided to live here, he said the only downside was the school system, which he characterizes as suffering from administrative bloat. Nosek also said he is concerned about student safety after a student was allegedly raped at High Point Central High School, which is part of the district. Nosek runs his own real-estate company.
The winner of the Republican primary faces current board member and Democrat Jeff Belton in the redrawn District 2 general election.
Guilford County School Board District 3
Candidates: Brian Pearce and Pat Tillman
Lawyer and parent Brian Pearce has two kids, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, which informs his understanding of the school system’s needs, his website says. He has served as the chair of the Greensboro Board of Adjustment and on the board of the Greensboro Jaycees.
Returning candidate Pat Tillman served as a platoon sergeant and commander in the US Marines and is a combat vet from Iraq. He is the former executive director of the county GOP, a member of the Greensboro Transit Advisory Board, the Safe Schools committee and a precinct chair. He is currently on the board of the Servant Center and Friends Homes, and teaches Sunday school at First Friends Meeting.
The winner of this primary contest will face newcomer Democrat Angelo Kidd in the general election. Read more about this primary in next week’s issue of Triad City Beat.
Guilford County School Board District 6
Candidates: Linda Welborn (i) and Paul A. Daniels
Incumbent Linda Welborn defeated her challenger in the last election. Since then, she’s been criticized for not being conservative enough, primarily because she eschews the GOP stance on charter schools. She has been endorsed by the Replacements Ltd. PAC for its LGBT voter guide.
Paul Daniels, who served on the Guilford County School Board before being defeated by Welborn, is concerned about wasteful spending and student safety. He bills himself as more conservative than Welborn and calls himself a budget hawk. The winner of the Republican primary automatically takes the District 6 seat, as no Democratic candidates have filed. (previous coverage)
Winston-Salem City Council Northwest Ward
Candidates: Eric Henderson and Jimmy Hodson
Jeff McIntosh took more than 58 percent of the vote when he eased into the solidly Democratic Northwest Ward in 2013. Hoping to unseat him is Eric Henderson, a physics professor and PhD candidate at Wake Forest University running on a platform of deregulation, low taxes and solid constituent services. Jimmy Hodson works in software marketing, and is running on a Christian platform of integrity, fiscal responsibility and “putting people first,” according to his website.
Connect NC Public Improvement Bond
Almost half of the $2 billion Connect NC Public Improvement Bond that voters will consider during the March 15 primary is intended for new buildings and repairs in the UNC System. Among the numerous items on the list are community college repairs and investments in local and state parks.
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