Field Of Potential Nominees Likely Set For Dist 50 House

CHAPEL HILL – Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, says the field of potential nominees is likely set for the now vacant N.C. House of Representatives District 50 seat.

Names on that list include Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier, attorney Drew Nelson, and Graig Meyer, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools’ Director of Student Equity and Volunteer Services. Hughes says one additional person is still contemplating throwing their name in the hat, but he can’t reveal anything more.

At noon Wednesday, Valerie Foushee’s resignation from the State House took effect. She was then sworn into the state Senate District 23 seat, previously held by nine-term senator Ellie Kinnaird.

A selection committee is charged with nominating a replacement for Foushee in the House. The group is made up of four Democratic officials from District 50, which encompasses parts of rural Orange and Durham Counties.

Meyer resigned his seat on the committee to seek appointment to the House. Once his spot is filled, a date will be set to choose who will take the seat in the House.

“We will be having a meeting on October 1 to select the fourth committee member that will help in turn to select the new member of the House of Representatives from District 50,” Hughes says.

Hughes hopes to have a new District 50 representative named by October 14 or 15.

“Domino Effect” For Local Senate And House Seats

ORANGE COUNTY – We’ve had some shake-ups following former state Senator Ellie Kinnaird’s resignation. In less than a month, Representative Valerie Foushee was appointed to the Senate, and in turn, the process to fill her seat is underway.

Ted Benson, Chair of the Fourth Congressional District, is charged with overseeing these complicated processes. It has been a busy couple of weeks for him, and the work isn’t over yet.

“When one member of the body resigns and is replaced, it does have a sort of domino effect,” Benson says.

Sunday the District 23 Democratic Party’s Executive Committee announced that Foushee would be the new Senator to represent Orange and Chatham Counties.

Benson says he mailed an official letter to N.C. Governor Pat McCrory the morning after Foushee was nominated. McCrory has seven days to accept the nomination, after which time it will go into effect immediately by law.

As Foushee steps into her new role as Senator, her House seat becomes vacant, and another nomination process begins with a different Executive Committee. The group is made up of officials from District 50, which encompasses parts of rural Orange and DurhamCounties.

The four-member committee will vote and make the nomination for Foushee’s replacement. Graig Meyer and Phyllis Mack-Horton will be representing Orange County, and Will Wilson and Ann Hedgspeth will represent Durham County. Benson will oversee the process but will not vote.

“We would move with reasonable speed, but also taking time to make sure that we get the candidates who want to get in and that the public gets to know who they are and gets to know who the committee members are, and most importantly that the committee members get to know the candidates.”

Benson says he expects to hold a public information session within the next two weeks to discuss the vacant House seat and to appoint a new Representative within the next 30 days.

“While this [the special appointing process] doesn’t happen normally within any given district, but if you look across North Carolina, this kind of thing happens every year somewhere.”

Benson, who has a professional background in science as a field biologist and biochemist, has been a volunteer with the Democratic Party for years and worked on several campaigns in the state. He credits Don Davis, a state Senator and Chairman of First Congressional District, for being a resource in navigating through complicated procedures.

“It has actually been a really good experience. The state senate piece was a lot of work. It was unexpected and it was a logistical challenge,” Benson says.

Registered Democrats living in the district who are over the age of 21 are eligible for the House District 50 Seat.

If you’re interested in putting your name forward for Orange County or would like to know more about the process, contact Chair Matt Hughes at, or 919-537-9568.

For Durham County, contact Chair Tracey Burns-Vann at, or 919-627-1621.

To reach Benson and the four members of the District 50 Executive Committee, email:

Foushee Appointed to N.C Senate District 23 Seat

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 SD23 for web

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.

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.

Foushee To Seek NC Sen. District 23 Appointment

Pictured: Foushee with family

CHAPEL HILL – State Representative Valerie Foushee (Dem.) will seek appointment to N.C. Senate District 23, according to a statement released Wednesday.

To read about the appointment process, click here.

The seat, which represents Orange and Chatham Counties, was formerly held by Senator Ellie Kinnaird (Dem.), who resigned the post Monday due what she said was frustration over actions taken by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Foushee served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and the Orange County Board of Commissioners, presiding as chair of both groups during her tenure. She also was a member of the Chapel Hill Police Department for 21 years.

“I’m pursuing this seat because Orange County is my home and I want to be able to represent the entire county, as well as Chatham, in the legislature,” Foushee said in a release. “I understand the tensions between the rural and urban areas and as a former representative of both, I am uniquely qualified to represent Senate District 23.”

Foushee was elected to the Board of Education for the Chapel Hill– Carrboro City Schools in 1997, and re-elected to a second term in 2001. She served as Chair from 2001-2003. In November 2004, Valerie was one of eight School Board members selected to the All State School Board by the North Carolina School Boards Association.

In November of 2004, she became the first African-American female elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. She was re-elected in November of 2008 and served as Chair from 2008 – 2010. In 2012 she successfully ran for State House in District 50, representing Orange and Durham counties in the legislature.

According to campaign manger, Evan Degnan, many local elected officials from Orange County and Chatham Counties have announced their public support of Foushee:  State House Representative Deb McManus; members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board: James Barrett, Jamezetta Bedford, Mia Burroughs, Michelle Brownstein, Gregory McElveen, Mike Kelly, and Annetta Streater; Orange County Commissioners Earl McKee, and Bernadette Pelissier; Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow; and Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Michelle Johnson.

Foushee is a life-long resident of Chapel Hill and a 1974 graduate of Chapel Hill High School. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and African and Afro-American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Along with husband Stan Foushee, retired Fire Marshal for the Town of Carrboro and a Deacon at First Baptist Church, the couple have two sons, Stanley II and Terrence.