A loss of conscience in state Senate

August 20, 2013 

It takes a lot to wear down Ellie Kinnaird.

The Democratic state senator representing Orange and Chatham counties pushed back against the General Assembly’s Republican majority at every turn during the last session. That’s impressive at age 81.

But on Monday, even the determined, white-haired carrier of the liberal torch said she’d had enough of the Republicans’ relentless marching of the state backward. She announced her resignation after 17 years in the General Assembly.

In a final newsletter to her constituents, Kinnaird wrote: “What led me to this decision are the actions taken by the Republican majority in the legislature that has been a shocking reversal of the many progressive measures that I and many others have worked so hard to enact: measures that over the years had made North Carolina a model of moderate-to-progressive, pro-business but also pro-people public policy in the South.”

No doubt some Republicans smiled at the news. They don’t care to hear more from the former mayor of Carrboro about her opposition to the death penalty and her support of laws to protect the environment and ensure social justice.

But it is a relief Republicans shouldn’t welcome. Kinnaird was part of the Senate’s conscience. Losing her voice may make lawmaking easier, but it won’t make it better or the results more humane. The General Assembly should be a place of debate where both sides listen and learn. It has become a Republican rally that drowns the dissent within and ignores the protests without.

The good news is that Kinnaird is resigning but not quitting. She will take her voice to where she can be heard so all can be heard. Her first step is to join a grassroots effort to fight Republican efforts to suppress the vote.

We thank Sen. Kinnaird for her service. And wish her luck as she continues the good fight.

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