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, or find more information here.