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.

Replacing Valerie Foushee’s State House Seat

ORANGE COUNTY – It’s a case of musical chairs for our local state leaders. Now that Valerie Foushee has been appointed to fill Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant Senate seat, the process to find a new representative for N.C. House District 50 has begun.

Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, explains that “three or four people” have contacted him, expressing interest in the House seat, which covers parts of rural Orange and Durham Counties.

Registered Democrats living in the district who are over the age of 21 are eligible.

“The folks who have approached me are still in their private deliberations. They are talking with friends, families, and supporters,” Hughes says. “They are determining if going to the Legislature is something they’d like to do, and if so, if this is the seat that will allow them to go to Raleigh.”

North Carolina Democratic Chair Randy Voller told WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend Sunday that the process to fill the House District 50 seat will kick off as soon as Governor Pat McCrory officially names Foushee to the Senate.

Hughes says Chair of the 4th Congressional District, Ted Benson, will preside over a House of Representatives District Executive Committee to appoint someone to serve the remainder of Foushee’s term. Graig Meyer and Phyllis Mack-Horton will be representing Orange County.

“The Sixth Congressional District is undergoing a leadership change at the moment, so it will fall into the lap of Fourth District Chair Ted Benson again to oversee this process,” Hughes says.

Benson will moderate the meeting, as he did Sunday night when Foushee was appointed to the Senate seat, but he will not vote.

“I’m going to have a better sense of what all the moving parts are earlier on and a better sense of how to set it all up,” Benson says.

Hughes says that the committee members’ votes are based on population and that the numbers mirror the split that was used in the Senate District 23 appointment process: one vote for every 300 people residing in the county, which gave Orange County about two-thirds of the vote.

“Orange has a similar proportion of the votes in this House District Committee and actually the district is slightly more favorable [in number of votes] to Orange and the Senate district,” Hughes says.

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 email the House District directly, email house

Kinnaird’s Seat Likely To Be Filled Within 30 Days

Pictured: Ellie Kinnaird 

CHAPEL HILL – Following Ellie Kinnaird’s resignation Monday, questions remain of who will fill her seat in the state senate and how long the process will take.

Chair of the 4th Congressional District, Ted Benson, will preside over the meeting of the 23rd Senatorial District Executive Committee, the group charged with nominating someone to serve the remainder of Kinnaird’s term, which is up in 2014.

“Neither [state] statute nor the [N.C. Democratic Party’s] Plan of Organization has a firm time limit on that process, but I would hope to have it done within 30 days,” Benson said.

He said the Committee meets only in rare circumstances such as this. After the committee nominates a replacement, Benson said it is state law that N.C. Governor Pat McCrory must formally appoint the Committee’s nominee.

Benson said he will have to give five day’s notice to the Committee members once the date for the meeting is set.

The 23rd Senatorial District Executive Committee is made up of four Democratic officials, two from Orange and two from Chatham County. Samantha Cabe and Wanda Hunter will represent Orange County.

Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, explained that Orange County will hold 446 votes and Chatham will hold 212.

“Those votes are weighted based on population. The counties receive one vote for every 300 people residing in their county, and that gives Orange County about two-thirds of the vote,” Hughes said.

Benson said it is his job to moderate the meeting, but he will not vote.

According to a statement on the Orange County Democratic Party’s website, the group said Monday, “The Orange County Democratic Party will treat filling this vacancy much like a primary election. We will be fair and impartial to all candidates and allow the process to work.”

Benson said registered Democrats over the age of 25, residing in the 23rd District, are eligible for consideration to fill Kinnaird’s vacancy. He clarified that they must go through the process with their respective presiding Democratic Parties.

Before a replacement is named, though, Benson said one of Chatham County’s Executive District Committee slots is currently vacant and has to be filled.

Jan Nichols, Chair of the Chatham County Democratric Party, said Monday that an emergency meeting is planned for Thursday.

“Thursday the Executive Committee of the Chatham County Democratic Party will meet, and we will meet for the purpose of electing somebody to that committee. We will then submit that name to the state party,” Nichols said.

Both Benson and Hughes said Kinnaird served the Democrat Party of North Carolina well during her nine terms as State Senator.

“I tremendously respect both her service and her decision to focus her energies on voter registration and counteract the most difficult aspects of the Voter ID Law that was recently passed,” Benson said.

Hughes echoed the sentiment, adding, “I’m pretty sure we will have a champion of the people who will be the people’s senator as Senator Kinnaird was, and I look forward to working with that person.”

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 Chatham County, contact, or visit the Chatham County Democratic Party’s website.

Cuts To Early Voting/Voter IDs Pass Sen Committee

RALEIGH – You might see some changes in the way you vote in future elections, and some say these proposed changes are not for the better, calling it an attack on voter rights.

The Senate Rules Committee passed House Bill 589 Tuesday after two hours of debate, which has been in limbo since the House approved it several months ago. Now it is back and has been revamped to include provisions that go far beyond the initial controversial voter I.D.’s proposal.

Matt Hughes, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, says the new version of the bill will impact how North Carolinians vote on multiple levels.

“The long title of the Voter I.D. Bill is about restoring confidence in elections,” Hughes says. “Unfortunately, the actions of the legislature are not doing a lot for the confidence in our elected and political leaders in North Carolina. In fact, I believe it is diminishing that confidence significantly.”

In addition to legislation requiring specific photo identification, it proposes to shorten the two-and-a-half week early-voting period by a week and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, among other provisions.

“In 2008, I think the party that benefited the most from early voting was the Democrats. However, by the 2012 election, everyone, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, it doesn’t matter who you poll, they are supportive of it,” Hughes says. “They are supportive of expanding early voting. It’s convenient, it makes voting more accessible, and it really allows people to go in and vote at their convenience.”

About 57 percent of the votes cast in last fall’s election in North Carolina were done during early voting, WRAL reports.

“It’s really convenient to be able to go and early vote and possibly change or update your registration, or maybe register for the first time during the early voting period,” Hughes says. “And that’s another thing that is removed from this bill is that you will not be able to do the same-day registration that is currently allowed under the law.”

Hughes says he questions the motives behind this bill and feels that the legislature strategically waited for a ruling by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act. The election law changes normally would have to be subject to authorization, but the Supreme Court’s decision exempted North Carolina from federal review until a new process is created by Congress.

“There are just a lot of bad ideas in this Voter I.D. Bill, which itself is just a terrible idea. I think it comes down to maneuvering the electorate in a way that continues to perpetuate the status quo.”

Some have criticized bringing this bill up during the final days of the legislative session, but Hughes says it is symptomatic of this General Assembly.

Voting rights groups planted plastic pink flamingos in the lawn outside the Legislative Building Tuesday morning to remind N.C. lawmakers that Florida reduced its early voting period in the 2012 election, cutting early voting from 14 to eight days. According to state officials, this led to six-hour lines on the final day of early voting, and an estimated 200,000 Florida voters gave up with out casting their ballots.

If the Senate passes this bill, it will then have to pass in the House, where many anticipate disagreement over certain provisions.