PITTSBORO — A Democratic Party committee chose first-term state Rep. Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill on Sunday to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant District 23 seat.
Foushee thanked Democratic Party members and voters. The first thing the party needs to do is take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, she said to thunderous applause.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Foushee. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing.
“I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present.”
Foushee, 57, a retired Chapel Hill Police Department administrator, previously served as chairwoman of the Orange County Commissioners and chairwoman of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board.
Kinnaird expressed criticism of the Republican legislative agenda when she resigned Aug. 19 after 17 years in the General Assembly. She said she will spend her time supporting other candidates and helping voters meet the state’s strict new voter ID law.
Ted Benson, chairman of the 4th Congressional District Democratic Party, praised seven candidates who applied for the job before allowing each one to speak briefly. Any of them would bring great experience and personal qualities to the office, he said.
Foushee’s opponents included former state Rep. Alice Bordsen, who represented Alamance County; worker’s compensation attorney Heidi Chapman; retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; attorney M. Lynette Hartsell; former Carrboro Mayor Jim Porto; and author and educator Amy Tiemann, who runs a Chatham County business with her husband.
Before the N.C. Senate District 23 Democratic Party Executive Committee voted, Benson told the crowd Chatham County representative George Lucier would not participate because he had been chosen in a secret ballot, a violation of Democratic Party rules.
Benson said he did not believe it was a deliberate oversight, but as a result, representative Don Knowles would cast Chatham County’s 212 votes and Orange County representatives Samantha Cabe and Wanda Hunter would cast 223 each.
Although the winner only needed a simple majority, the first vote was split evenly between Foushee and Tiemann. The committee’s second vote was unanimous.
Before the vote, Foushee cited her commitment to serving her constituents and fighting for social justice in Orange County’s economically disadvantaged communities. At an Aug. 28 meeting with other candidates for the Senate seat, Foushee had said the focus should be educating voters, recruiting viable Democratic candidates and helping raise campaign dollars to win back state government in the next election.
Foushee will formally be appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to fill out the remainder of Kinnaird’s term, expiring in December 2014.
A separate House of Representatives District Executive Committee, comprised of Orange and Durham representatives, will choose someone to fill Foushee’s soon-to-be vacant House District 50 seat this fall. Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Hughes said that meeting has not been set yet.