Aldermen Opt For Special Election to Fill Vacancy

CARRBORO- By a 4-2 vote, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday opted to hold a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Lydia Lavelle stepped up to serve as mayor earlier this month.

“It is the principle of democracy,” said Alderman Jacquie Gist. “But it’s also getting out there and figuring out what’s going on. We all learn so much when we are out campaigning. Even though [the board] could do a perfectly great job of it, I’d rather turn it over to the electorate.”

The election will be held concurrent with the May 6 primary next year. The cost to the town will be $1,500. That’s a far cry from the town’s first special election held last March, which cost the town $11,000. In that election, Damon Seils ran unopposed and won with 232 votes.

He urged the board to consider the appointment process instead.

“Having a special election for what will effectively be an eighteen-month term, out of a four-year term, just seems like overdoing it a little bit,” said Seils.

Michelle Johnson also supported the idea of a board appointment. She argued changing the process each time creates uncertainty for the public.

“I think it is important to have a clear process and not change it based on whatever we want to do at a given time,” said Johnson.

Most municipalities in the state fill vacancies through appointment, but in 2006 Carrboro leaders requested the General Assembly grant the board the power to call a special election. This came after a contentious appointment process that lasted six weeks, resulting in the appointment of Dan Coleman.

However, following March’s special election, Aldermen reversed course and asked that the board’s power to appoint be reinstated.

During Tuesday’s discussion, several board members seemed split on the question of which to choose. Though Randee Haven-O’Donnell said she initially supported an appointment, she worried the process could prove divisive.

“I have said in the past I support appointment, but I would not want this decision to erode the trust that we have between us on this board,” said Haven-O’Donnell.

In the end, Haven-O’Donnell, Lavelle, Gist and Sammy Slade voted in favor of a May election, while Seils and Johnson were opposed.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/aldermen-opt-special-election-fill-board-vacancy/

Graig Meyer Appointed To N.C. House District 50 Seat

HILLSBOROUGH- Democratic Party representatives from Orange and Durham counties met Thursday to appoint Graig Meyer to fill the N.C. House District 50 seat formerly occupied by Valerie Foushee.

Meyer is a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school administrator and coordinator of the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program. He says he’s ready to usher in a new wave of Democratic leadership to help win back control of the General Assembly.

“We need Democratic leadership for the state of North Carolina that does more to promote our future than to think about where we are today or our past,” says Meyer. “We need Democratic leadership that thinks about where the state of North Carolina is going to be in twenty, thirty or fifty years.”

Meyer thanks the committee following his appointment to the N.C. House.

Meyer thanks the committee following his appointment to the N.C. House.

Meyer was one of seven candidates seeking the appointment. In the first round of voting, the four member executive committee split its votes between Meyer, attorney Drew Nelson, Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier, Chapel Hill Town Council member Laurin Easthom, and Durham Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Danielle Adams. Candidates Travis Phelps and Tommy McNeill did not receive any votes.

After just a few moments of negotiation, the committee united behind Meyer, appointing him unanimously in the second round of voting.

Meyer’s appointment fills the House seat left vacant when Valerie Foushee was named last month to represent N.C. Senate District 23, taking the place of long-serving former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird.

The term of office expires in December of next year, but Meyer says he plans to run to keep the seat representing most of rural Orange and Northern Durham counties.

“To win the seat in District 50 requires you to get out and get to know people all across the district,” says Meyers. “This district is like microcosm of North Carolina: urban, rural, farmers, scientists- it’s a real mix. You have to make sure you can represent all those people and be aware of all the issues that impact the different communities in District 50. If you can do that, you can solve the problems faced all across North Carolina.”

Because the General Assembly is not in session until May 14, 2014, Meyer could find himself defending his new position in the May 6 primary before the legislature even convenes.

The Democratic Executive Committee will submit Meyer’s name to Governor Pat McCrory for appointment. The governor has a week to make the appointment official, but should he fail to do so, Meyer would automatically assume the office.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/graig-meyer-appointed-to-n-c-house-district-50-seat/

N.C. Senate Hopefuls Vie For Open District 23 Seat

CHAPEL HILL-  The four-member committee that will pick a replacement for former state senator Ellie Kinniard heard  from the seven people who have put their names forward to fill the vacant seat.

Ellie Kinnaird announced her resignation August 19. She was on hand at the forum and spoke briefly, endorsing former Representative Alice Bordsen. Kinnaird said Bordsen, who served five terms in the House and is the current  first vice-chair of the Orange County Democrats, has the experience necessary to step into the position right away. Bordsen also touted her experience representing Alamance County, citing her work to help children and senior citizens.

Heidi Chapman, a personal injury attorney in Chapel Hill, said she’s seen the positive impact the community college system can have in the lives of people who are out of work, but she worries the system is being undermined by the current education budget.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton argued that the role of the appointee should not just be to lobby for specific issues, but to work to win back the legislature from Republican control. He said his campaign experience in Chapel Hill and Carrboro municipal elections can help get the Democratic Party organized in 2014.

State House Representative Valerie Foushee said since being elected to the General Assembly last year she’s built relationships with Republican members of the House that helped move OrangeCounty’s agenda forward. Nonetheless, she said she’d fight to tip the balance back to Democratic control.

Lynette Hartsell, an attorney from Cedar Grove, said she’d champion equality as an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. She called for Democrats to stand up for LGBT civil rights.

Jim Porto, former mayor of Carrboro, said he would not run for re-election if appointed. Instead he would focus on rebranding the Democratic Party to appeal to moderate voters alienated by the GOP’s agenda.

Amy Tiemann spoke of her local business ties to Chatham County and her ability to raise money for Democratic candidates. She said she’ll bring a science background to issues like fracking and climate change.

Committee members also had a chance to ask the candidates specific questions, and while they did touch on policy issues like restoring education funding and protecting women’s reproductive rights, much of the conversation revolved around the need for fundraising and organizing to shore up the Democratic Party ahead of next year’s election.

The courthouse at 179 East Franklin was standing room only for much of the three hour meeting, with many staying until the end to hear public comment. Of the fifteen who addressed the committee, more than half spoke in favor of Valerie Foushee.

The committee will make nominations and vote on September 8 at the Chatham Community Library. The two Orange County representatives control 446 votes between them, while the Chatham representatives control 212. Committee members can split their votes any way they choose. The winning candidate will need 330 votes to secure the appointment.

Committee members say they do want to hear from the public. You can email all four at ncsenate23vacancy@gmail.com, or find more information here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-senate-hopefuls-vie-for-district-23s-open-seat/

Senate Seat Hopefuls To Meet Wednesday,With Final Vote Sept 8

CHAPEL HILL- Democratic Party officials will take two weeks to decide who will replace former state senator Ellie Kinnaird.

Matt Hughes, chair of the Orange County Democratic party, says plans are in place to appoint someone to fill the empty seat.

“I’m very optimistic that most of the concerns and the things that people are uncertain about will be cleared up pretty soon,” says Hughes.

The four-member committee charged with making the appointment will hold an information session for the public and potential candidates this Wednesday at the Post Office/Courthouse on East Franklin Street. Then, the committee will meet in the Chatham Community Library on September 8 to make nominations and formally vote.

Ellie Kinnaird announced last week she would step down from her seat in the Senate representing District 23, a position she held for 17 years.

Since then more than half a dozen people have put their names forward for consideration. The decision will be made by the Democratic Party’s District 23 Executive Committee, made up of two representatives from Orange and two from Chatham County.

But depending on whom the committee chooses, the selection of a successor could launch a new round of appointments.

Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton is not seeking re-election, but his current term runs through December. If he were to take the senate seat, the Board of Aldermen could choose to appoint someone to serve as mayor until the winner of the November election is sworn in. Current mayor pro-tem Lydia Lavelle is the lone candidate in the mayor’s race.

Hughes says if current House Representative Valerie Foushee makes the move to the senate, state party leaders will once again be responsible for choosing a replacement.

“There’s another committee of the Democratic Party, two representatives from Durham and two representatives from Orange, who would move forward with the process to fill that vacancy for House District 50,” says Hughes.

In addition to Chilton and Foushee, five others have declared their interest in the open Senate seat, including former State Representative Alice Bordsen, former Carrboro mayor Jim Porto, attorney Heidi Chapman, author and activist Amy Tiemann, and attorney Lynette Hartsell.

However, that list could grow, as eligible candidates can come forward at any time up until the start of the September 8 meeting.

At Wednesday’s information session, candidates will have three minutes each to make a statement. They’ll also face questions from the committee and there is time set aside for public comment. That meeting starts at 7 o’clock in the old Courthouse at 179 East Franklin Street.

To learn more about the appointment process, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/senate-seat-hopefuls-to-meet-wednesdaywith-final-vote-sept-8/