Two for the Senate

Raleigh’s Sig Hutchinson and Cary’s Erv Portman have the makings of fine state senators.

October 23, 2012 

For those who represent Wake County districts in the state Senate, there are important issues in terms of state government finance, protecting the environment in a growing area, whether to push more transit options and looking after institutions of higher learning.

Today, we offer editorial endorsements in two Senate races affecting citizens in Wake. Two other such races are uncontested, and that’s good, because the incumbents – Dan Blue of the 14th District and Josh Stein of the 16th, both Raleigh Democrats – are proven legislators and respected Senate figures.

The two contested races feature one for an open seat and another with a well-established incumbent.

District 15

In this district, based in northern Wake County, incumbent Republican Sen. Neal Hunt of Raleigh, now in his fourth two-year term, has been a reliable conservative ally for the GOP’s Senate leadership. He gained considerable influence with the Republican takeover of the Senate and House after the 2010 elections and now is co-chair of the Senate Appropriations and Base Budget Committee.

Hunt as a Raleigh City Council member was a strong environmentalist and open-minded, two reasons he has been endorsed in this space in the past. He is a conscientious senator but he seems mainly to represent an agenda focused around the business community.

Democratic challenger Sig Hutchinson, a sales and media consultant, has been at the forefront of Raleigh’s greenway movement and of efforts to boost the city’s park system. He is a persuasive advocate for environmental protection and the preservation of open space, trumping Hunt in that regard.

Hutchinson also has been an energetic voice on many other positive causes in this community, and his public activism has, in our view, earned him a chance to serve in the Senate. He’d be a fresh voice with a different perspective. The Senate’s Republicans have not distinguished themselves in power, and the party has not distinguished itself with its barrage of mailers attacking Hutchinson. Change is needed. Sig Hutchinson can be part of it.

District 17

In District 17, which takes in a large swath of southwestern Wake, Democrat Erv Portman, a county commissioner, and lawyer and professor Tamara Barringer, a Republican, are battling to succeed Republican Richard Stevens, who quit the legislature before his term expired. Actually, Barringer recently was appointed to fill Stevens’ seat through year’s end. Both candidates live in Cary.

Barringer, who teaches at the UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, seems capable and energetic. But she appears to be a down-the-line advocate of weary GOP causes such as less regulation of business as a salve for the economy.

She also has been supported by a lot of direct mail sponsored by the Republican Party (some of it, frankly, including ridiculous attacks on Portman), and beyond touting her own good qualities she seems to offer little that’s different from Republican boilerplate.

Portman, a successful businessman, has tried to stay positive about things that matter, including more investment in education, job growth and environmental protection. He’s been a member of the Cary Town Council and has served with gumption as a county commissioner (in a rather contentious time to be a Democratic member of that Republican-controlled group). He would bring a well-informed, serve-the-people perspective to the Senate.

We think Erv Portman is a candidate with strong leadership potential, and we endorse him enthusiastically.

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