Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: PAC wants to turn Wake Board of Commissioners for Democrats

From staff reportsMay 23, 2014 

A political action committee that helped elect the Democratic-backed majority on the Wake County school board in 2011 now is working for a Democratic takeover of the Wake County Board of Commissioners this year.

Wake Citizens For Good Government says its attention is focused on “reclaiming a progressive majority on the Board.” The political action committee says its “goal is to ensure the election of candidates who support public education and understand the need to pay teachers a competitive salary.”

Four of the seven seats on the board of commissions are on the November ballot. All four seats are held by Republicans, who hold a 4-3 majority.

“Wake County’s economy and brand as a progressive hub of innovation is at stake,” said former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker in a written statement for the PAC. “We cannot continue to lead the nation in growth unless we can attract and maintain quality teachers and expand critical infrastructure, including schools and transit.”

Meeker is one of the hosts for a fundraiser the group is holding Wednesday in which the four Democratic candidates for commissioner are listed as “special guests.” Other hosts include Raleigh City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin, Democratic pollster Dean Debnam and Ron McFarlane, husband of Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

Debnam formed the PAC in 2009 in an unsuccessful bid to keep a Republican-backed majority from taking control of the school board. The PAC refocused its efforts in 2011, noting it “played an instrumental role” in the school board races that flipped the board majority.

Rift over appointment

McFarlane and Baldwin sparred Tuesday over who should represent Raleigh on the RDU Airport Authority board.

McFarlane had nominated former Mayor Tom Bradshaw, a current candidate for state Senate who has headed the State Ports Authority and the Department of Transportation. “He has an incredible wealth of knowledge, and he’s got a background in financing,” she said.

But Baldwin says it’s time for some diversity on the all-male airport board. She has nominated Heather Denny, president and CEO of McDonald York Building Co.

After the council split 4-3 over the two picks, Baldwin voiced her frustration during Tuesday’s meeting. “I would really ask that there be female diversity as well,” she said.

McFarlane said she’s open to a nominee “who can bring the same expertise” as Bradshaw. “I’m just trying to find the right person,” she added. “It’s just a difference of opinion.”

Council members can still make nominations, and another vote will be taken in a few weeks. Raleigh appoints two of the eight airport board members.

Texas-size raise for Cooke

Former Wake County Manager David Cooke is getting a hefty raise from his old salary to run the city of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Fort Worth City Council hired Cooke this week to be the new city manager with a base salary of $315,000. Cooke’s base salary in Wake County before he retired in November was $239,000.

Cooke will make more than outgoing Fort Worth City Manager Tom Higgins, whose salary was $233,400, and new Wake County Manager Jim Hartmann, whose salary is $220,000.

On June 30, Cooke will take over a city with a $1.4 billion budget and 6,300 city employees. That compares with Wake County’s $1 billion budget and 3,600 workers.

Political events

• Willie Rowe, candidate for Wake County sheriff, will speak to a Ladies Night Out event for the Democratic Women of Wake County on Wednesday. Other local candidates and elected officials also will be on hand. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at Shucker’s Oyster Bar and Grill in Wake Forest, 3309 Rogers Road. RSVP to rebllew@gmail.com. Questions: Call Rebecca at 919-834-3773.

• Secretary of State Elaine Marshall will speak at the next Durham Democratic Women meeting on Sunday, June 1, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Southwest Regional Library, 3605 Shannon Road in Durham. The meeting will also feature a presentation by Stephen Gheen and the launch of a get out the vote letter-writing campaign, now called Power of the Pen.

Compiled by Colin Campbell and T. Keung Hui.

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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