Duke Democrats May Primary Endorsements
Of the contested elections in this May’s primary ballot, some provide clear-cut choices, but many require a more nuanced look. These races are Governor, Lt. Governor, Durham County Commissioner and NC Senate 22.
For the post of Governor, former Congressman Bob Etheridge is the best choice.
Three are three important considerations at play in choosing a Governor: (1) Which candidate would make the best policy decisions—signing the correct legislation, and vetoing the correct legislation? (2) Which candidate shows the strongest qualities of leadership, and would be best able to navigate and inspire the state? (3) Which candidate is most likely to be elected?
When those three questions are asked, the crowded Governor’s race is quickly narrowed down to Etheridge, Lt. Governor Dalton and Representative Bill Faison.
Congressman Etheridge, Lt. Governor Dalton and Representative Faison have all served in different roles—it is difficult to directly compare their voting records. It would be accurate to describe Etheridge, Dalton and Faison all as moderate Democrats.
Representative Faison was ranked as the 7th most conservative of 52 Democratic Representatives in the North Carolina State House. Several of his votes are troubling—he voted to create a version of Stand Your Ground in North Carolina (HB650), and he voted to create partisan judicial elections (SB 47). On two of the most important bills to pass before the General Assembly (The Voter ID Bill –HB 351 and the Women’s Right to Know Act, HB 854) Bill Faison was completely absent. We think his tax policy—which favors increased tax cuts—is inappropriate given the need to prevent further cuts to important services. On the other hand, we appreciate Representative Faison’s advocacy on the Racial Justice Act, and praise him for never having sacrificed LGBT North Carolinians on the altar of political expediency.
Congressman Bob Etheridge impressed us for several reasons. We applaud his bold advocacy for lower-income North Carolinians; Etheridge repeatedly received an A+ from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law for his votes in the U.S. House of Representatives. Between Lt. Gov Dalton and Congressman Etheridge, questions two and three motivated us to support Etheridge; we believe his earnestness and enthusiasm will serve him well both on the campaign trail and in the Governor’s Mansion.
For the post of Lieutenant Governor, we support Eric Mansfield, but we feel strongly that Linda Coleman would also be an excellent choice. Both have strong records of public service and are intelligent, knowledgeable, and confident. We believe that women’s voices need to be heard in state government, and for this reason, we have strong reason to support Coleman. Ultimately, we believe that Eric Mansfield would better use the post of Lieutenant Governor to inspire statewide action on important priorities such as improving North Carolina schools and energizing the economy.
For Durham County Commissioner, four candidates stood out as particularly strong – Anita Daniels, Wendy Jacobs, John Owens and Will Wilson. You may select five candidates in this race; for the fifth slot on the ballot, we considered Fred Foster, Stephen Hopkins, and Ellen Reckhow.
Reckhow has distinguished herself on the board of County Commissioners thus far, and we believe her to be the strongest incumbent—she has served the County well in providing her critical voice and strong leadership. We strongly believe that Durham County, though, is ready for a new set of leaders and a new set of voices. Hopkins is an unconventional candidate—while many of the 14 candidates claim to speak for and represent lower-income Durham residents, we believe that Hopkins is among the most truly invested in serving these communities needs. Hopkins, who has a previous record of crime, is less polished than the other candidates. We believe he has a strong and personal understanding of many concerns of Durham residents—something that many candidates have only in the abstract. Hopkins though may lack the policy know-how and education required to participate in running county government. He is nevertheless worthy of consideration.
We are proud to fully recommend Owens, Wilson, Daniels and Jacobs. We believe John Owens is the single strongest candidate; among the fourteen candidates, we appreciate that at forums and in questionnaires, he is rarely evasive, and speaks directly and honestly without obfuscating his beliefs or his intentions. This quality is uncommon in any politician—and is sorely needed given the lack of transparency in Durham government. Some participants in Durham politics accuse Durham’s “progressive left” of being out-of-touch with the needs of low-income Durham residents—Owens’ life-story and background speak directly to his understanding of the role in government in helping to support citizens in their pathway out of poverty.
Wendy Jacobs’ contributions to Durham as a teacher and as a public servant cannot be understated; compassionate, intelligent and knowledgeable, she has all of the essential qualities of a commissioner. Her background as a Durham Public School teacher and a major force in Durham environmental policy will be assets to the board. Will Wilson, a biology professor at Duke, would provide valuable expertise on environmental planning. We are a bit concerned with his campaign’s slogan: “We can have it all: Jobs, Social Justice and Environmental Protections”—this overly optimistic perspective ignores the fact that tough trade-offs are often necessary. We were impressed by Anita Daniels compelling and well-thought out answers to our candidate questionnaire. We were disappointed that she hasn’t given a clear answer on the issue of 751 development—one of the most important political issues in Durham today. It is nevertheless obvious that Daniels knows her way around city and county issues, and we believe her background as a social worker will serve her well on the board.
N.C. Senate 22 offers two very strong options—Mike Woodard and Kerry Sutton. We agree with Kerry Sutton’s argument that after the disastrous 2010 redistricting, in which the Republican state legislature double-bunked almost all of the state’s female legislators, we need more women in the North Carolina General Assembly. Every indicator suggests that Woodard and Sutton would cast similar votes in the General Assembly; either would represent Duke students well.
- Duke Democrats Endorsements Committee (This committee is a group of undergraduate volunteers from Duke Democrats who researched the candidates that will be listed on ballots used by Duke students, and offer informal, unofficial student-to-student recommendations to their peers)