CHAPEL HILL — Former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird expected someone would be quietly appointed to the seat she left this week.
She didnt expect a race between at least seven candidates.
As of midday Friday, the announced candidates for District 23 were former state Rep. Alice Bordsen, who represented Alamance County; attorney Heidi Chapman; retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; state Rep. Valerie Foushee; attorney M. Lynette Hartsell; former Carrboro Mayor Jim Porto; and author and educator Amy Tiemann.
Kinnaird said she told Democratic Party officials she would like to see Bordsen get the job. The women have been friends for decades and collaborated on public safety and juvenile justice issues. Kinnaird said she will write the party a letter to emphasize pending bills, including a change the two women pushed for in the states handling of juvenile offenders.
(Bordsen) is eminently qualified to carry on what I have done the last term of this session, Kinnaird said.
Bordsen, a Chapel Hill resident, is the first vice chair of the Orange County Democratic Party and a longtime lawmaker from the 63rd District. She decided not to seek re-election last year because changes in her district made it unwinnable, she said.
Bordsen also expressed concern that the process to appoint Kinnairds replacement is becoming too political.
The campaign could create adversities, she said. And I dont think thats healthy for Democrats right now.
Foushee, a first-term Democratic lawmaker from Orange County, has support from 12 local elected leaders and previously chaired the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board and the Orange County Board of Commissioners. She represents District 50, which covers parts of Orange and Durham counties.
Chilton also has early supporters. He and Tiemann both noted the appointment would give them a good platform for recruiting strong, progressive Democratic candidates that could change the balance of power in the state legislature.
Tiemann, a Chapel Hill resident, doesnt have elected office experience. She and her husband own a music studio in Chatham County, and Tiemann also is a member of the N.C. Council for Women and UNCs Sexual Assault Task Force.
Hartsell also has no previous political experience. The longtime Orange County resident is a great admirer of Kinnairds service and said she wants the opportunity to speak out about what is happening in Raleigh and with the people making the decisions. Hartsell has been a private attorney specializing in criminal, civil, personal injury and workers compensation cases since 1981.
Im not sure I have what it takes to fill (Kinnairds) shoes, but there needs to be people over there taking care of things, she said.
Porto, who served as Carrboro mayor for four years before losing to Kinnaird, agreed with that assessment. The policies coming out of Raleigh do not reflect the states values or the public health philosophy of service to your fellow man, said the director of executive programs in health policy and management with the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health. He also served five years of active duty in the Marines, flying helicopters in the Vietnam War, and eight years in the Reserves.
Whats coming out of Raleigh right now is not North Carolina. Thats not the North Carolina I know, and thats not the North Carolina we love, he said.
If appointed, Porto said he would only serve the rest of Kinnairds term and then work with any candidate running in 2014.
In announcing her resignation Monday, Kinnaird, 81, cited state Republicans immoral agenda, including the rejection of federal Medicaid dollars, tax cuts for the wealthy and tax increases targeting the poor and middle class.
If Foushee is elected, the partys four-member House of Representatives District Executive Committee, which covers Orange and Durham counties, would appoint her successor.
Efforts to reach Chapman were unsuccessful Friday.
Kinnairds replacement will be chosen by the 23rd Senatorial District Executive Committee. The Democratic Party committee has two Orange County members, who will share 446 votes, and two Chatham County members with a total of 212 votes.