The state employees association on Monday endorsed two challengers to leading lawmakers – one Republican, one Democrat – as it picked sides in 21 legislative races ahead of the May 6 primary.
SEANC is supporting Democratic challenger Erica Smith-Ingram against incumbent Clark Jenkins, a deputy Senate minority leader and six-term veteran from Tarboro. Smith-Ingram is a member of the Northhampton County Board of Education and teacher in Virginia.
Republican Michael Lavender also received the union’s nod in the Republican primary against Sen. Ralph Hise, a two-term incumbent who is co-chairman of three committees. Lavender is a McDowell County commissioner who is making education a key issue in his bid.
Altogether, the association backed 12 Republicans and nine Democrats through its political action committee EMPAC. The majority (16 of 21) are incumbents. In three open House seats, SEANC picked three Democrats. (The association also recently endorsed Boz Zellinger for Wake County District Attorney.)
“I think these 22 candidates clearly ... have exhibited their commitment to prioritizing public service and helping North Carolina remain strong through its public services,” said Kevin LeCount, a SEANC political strategist.
LeCount said even though Hise was a former SEANC member, he advocated against its issues in the 2013 legislative session, including a bill to give the state treasure’s office broader investment authority over the state pension.
SEANC has supported Jenkins’ opponents in past years and LeCount said he has “never been particularly responsive to state employees’ concerns.”
Here’s the list of primary endorsements: