PITTSBORO- Valerie Foushee’s voice trembled just a little on Sunday evening as she thanked the committee that appointed her to fill Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant senate seat.
“Thank you, thank so very much. Thank all of you,” said Foushee. “We have a lot of work to do. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, and you know we what we’re facing. We have a lot of work to do and I am ready to do it. I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought.”
Foushee told WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend she was surprised to be selected:
Foushee replaces Kinnaird, who stepped down last month after nine terms in the state senate representing District 23. Kinnaird said she was frustrated by the actions of the Republican majority and planned to focus her energy on voter outreach.
Though Kinnaird said she hoped the process to select her successor would be an easy one, seven candidates put their names forward for consideration by the state Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.
In addition to Foushee, the candidates included former Representative Alice Bordsen, attorney Heidi Chapman, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, attorney Lynnette Hartsell, former Carrboro Mayor Jim Porto and author and activist Amy Tiemann.
The candidates, the committee and a roomful of spectators came together Sunday at the Chatham Community Library for the formal vote to appoint a new state senator.
In the first round of voting the executive committee was split between Tiemann and Foushee, but after a short pause to caucus, the committee voted unanimously to appoint Foushee to represent Orange and Chatham Counties.
In her acceptance speech Foushee said Democrats need to start mobilizing on a local level in preparation for next year’s elections.
“I think the first thing we need to do is to take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, because we start locally, we move up through the state, and then we move nationally,” said Foushee, to much applause. “I’m there with you and I’ll do everything I can.”
Don Knowles, who represented Chatham County on the executive committee, reminded the crowd Foushee herself would soon have to face voters in the May primary.
“The person we have selected will have to stand for election in the Democratic primary and then if successful in that primary, will have to run again in the general election,” said Knowles. “Ultimately the voters will have to decide who best represents them in North Carolina Senate District 23.”
Foushee is well-known to Orange County voters, having served two terms on the Board of Commissioners before being elected to the state House of Representatives last year.
Her appointment to the state senate opens up a new vacancy in House District 50, which covers parts of rural Orange and Durham Counties.
North Carolina Democratic Chair Randy Voller said the process to fill that empty seat will kick off as soon as Governor Pat McCrory officially names Foushee to the senate.
“The committee is going to submit its selection to the governor and the governor has a timeframe to make that appointment,” said Voller. “Once that has finished and she has vacated that seat, we will start the process for House District 50.”
A new committee made up of Democratic Party members from Orange and Durham Counties will come together to make the House seat appointment. Orange County’s representatives on that committee will be Graig Meyer and Phyllis Mack-Horton. The timing for that process has yet to be determined.