One reason that Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis is having a tough time in his race for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is the dismal and mean-spirited record he helped create as leader of the General Assembly’s lower chamber.
From voter suppression to a ridiculous (and thanks to the courts, irrelevant) anti-gay marriage amendment to the cuts in unemployment benefits to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid rolls at no expense to North Carolina, Republicans in the House and the Senate have been an embarrassment to the state.
For state House seats in the Triangle, The News & Observer is recommending the replacement of sitting Republicans with Democrats. The Republicans have shown no compassion for the disadvantaged, no empathy for the unemployed and a callous disregard for public education.
District 11: In this Cary/Raleigh district, the choice is happily clear. Incumbent Democrat Duane Hall, an attorney, has been a calm, progressive voice and a dutiful servant of his constituents.
Republican challenger Ray Martin, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, is a nice fellow, but he has not mounted a convincing challenge to Hall.
District 33: Incumbent Democrat Rosa Gill is a former Wake County school board chair who has been a sound representative of this Garner/Raleigh district.
Republican challenger Perry Whitlock is a gadfly who says the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were a government conspiracy, one reason he doesn’t even have the endorsement of the county Republican Party.
District 34: This Raleigh district is ably represented by incumbent Democrat Grier Martin, an attorney. He is unopposed.
District 35: Construction manager Brian Mountcastle, a Democrat, is an energetic lifelong resident of the area and deserves the nod in this northeastern and Eastern Wake County district. He brings a fresh and hopeful voice to this race, and this race needs it.
Mountcastle’s opponent is Chris Malone, an incumbent Republican, who previously served without distinction on the Wake County school board.
District 36: We had hopes at one time that incumbent Republican Nelson Dollar, a media consultant, of this Cary district might be a moderating voice for the GOP. Alas, Dollar has dutifully followed the GOP leadership off the ideological cliff.
Democrat Lisa Baker is the best choice. She has been active in her community for 30 years, serving in any number of voluntary roles, and she’s well-tuned on issues and would bring an enlightened compassion to the House, which it sorely needs.
District 37: Incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Stam of Apex has led the House on some foolish adventures, the anti-gay marriage amendment being one.
Sadly, he’s unopposed for re-election.
District 38: Incumbent Democrat Yvonne Lewis-Holley is well-known in this Raleigh district and a retired state employee who has well-represented her constituents. She has been a truly fine and responsive representative.
Republican challenger Joe Thompson has had virtually an invisible campaign.
District 39: Incumbent Democratic Rep. Darren Jackson is a smart, thoughtful young attorney and will grow as a leader in this role. He is unopposed for another term in this Raleigh district.
District 40: Former Morrisville Mayor Margaret Broadwell, a Democrat, has a history of getting things done in her community, and she worked her way into a business career and has done many varieties of community service. The people of this Raleigh/Morrisville district have a chance to add a thoughtful activist to the legislature, and let’s hope they do.
Incumbent Republican Marilyn Avila has been a dependable follower of the misguided leadership in the House, which is too bad because she has shown a willingness to at least listen to other points of view.
District 41: It looked for a bit like pharmacist Tom Murry, a Republican, might turn out to be an open-minded moderate. But House Republicans have not dared to veer from their leadership, and so Murry has been disappointing in terms of asserting any independent viewpoint.
And Murry has a spectacular challenger in Democrat Gale Adcock, a nurse practitioner who is chief health officer at SAS Institute and a savvy public activist, having served on the Cary Town Council. She is the crystal clear choice here.
District 49: Kim Hanchette, a Democrat, is another splendidly qualified candidate for this Raleigh district. She started a nonprofit firm that focuses on helping people with diabetes deal with the disease. Her focus as a lawmaker would be public education, health care access, clean energy and helping the disadvantaged.
Republican Gary Pendleton, former Wake County commissioner and a businessman, has long been a hard-right conservative presence in the county. But he hasn’t brought any fresh or thoughtful ideas to this campaign.
District 50: In this Orange and Durham county district, Democrat Graig Meyer is the clear choice. Meyer, a school administrator appointed to the seat when incumbent Valerie Foushee was named to the state Senate seat held by the retired Ellie Kinnaird, has served capably since November 2013..
Republican Rod Chaney is a minister who talks about “free market” education and tax cuts and the usual Republican party line.
District 56: Democrat Verla Insko, an 18-year incumbent, represents a district that includes parts of Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and rural Orange County, and she’s an unabashed progressive. That voice needs to continue to be heard in the General Assembly, and the popular Insko is happily in little danger of losing her seat.
Republican Dave Pratt Carter can’t make the case against Insko. It’s hard to imagine anyone could.