The North Carolina Senate should be the more deliberative and moderate chamber of the General Assembly. Instead, under the leadership of Republican President Pro-Tem Phil Berger, the Senate controlled by Republicans 34-16 has been the source of radical legislation and the most austere budget proposals.
Wake County residents should hope that their Republican senators would temper the actions of the Senate majority, especially in those cases where proposed laws pit rural against urban counties. But they have failed to fulfill that role in almost every instance. That failure outweighs any advantage of Wake having a voice in the Senate’s majority caucus.
Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot has failed to defend Wake, and he’s openly attacked its governing bodies. He sponsored bills to revise county school board and board of commissioners elections in ways that a federal panel of judges found discriminatory against African-American voters. He is a staunch supporter of HB2.
Voters in the district that includes southeastern Wake and all of Franklin counties are fortunate to have the option of Democratic candidate Gil Johnson, a longtime member of the Franklin County school board. Johnson’s election – and Barefoot’s removal – is the most significant and needed change Wake voters can make in the state Senate.
Cary and southwestern Wake voters face a difficult choice between two dedicated public servants in District 17. We have endorsed Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer in the past because she has worked in a bipartisan way to promote the interests of children. But she has hardly brought the same intensity to her support of Wake County in the face of legislative proposals to meddle in local elections and pass HB2. As Cary and the state recently lost lucrative sporting events over HB2, Barringer called for repeal of the law six months after its passage. It was too little, too late.
Barringer is being challenged by Wake school board member Susan Evans, who has served the schools well and would do the same for her district. It’s crucial to send to the Senate candidates like Evans and Johnson who know first-hand the effects of state budget cuts on public schools. Evans, an accountant, is stepping up to fight similar chaos in the state Senate. Electing Democrat Evans will help return balance and good judgment to the upper chamber. Libertarian Susan Hogarth is also running in District 17.
First-term Republican Sen. John Alexander has deep Raleigh roots, and he deserves credit for fighting off efforts to block Wake from putting a half-cent transportation tax on the November ballot. But on other issues, Alexander has been content to go along with a Senate agenda that is anti-urban. His greatest failure was voting for HB2.
Despite those lapses, we could support Alexander on the strength of his support for Wake’s transit vote. But the senator has drawn an exceptionally appealing candidate in Democrat Laurel Deegan Fricke. A native of North Dakota and the daughter of a Native American mother, Deegan-Fricke will make fairness in taxation and budgeting a priority. We offer her our endorsement.
Deegan-Fricke, who has lived in Wake County for 14 years, is founder and CEO of the National Coalition of Native American College Placement Services.
Brad Hessel, a libertarian who supports nonpartisan redistricting, easier ballot access for third-party candidates and the legalization of marijuana, is also running.
Democratic Sen. Jay Chaudhuri was first appointed to the chamber in April to replace Josh Stein, a Democrat who resigned to run for attorney general. Chaudhuri, a Raleigh attorney, has extensive experience in state government. He has served under Attorney General Roy Cooper and state Treasurer Janet Cowell. A strong progressive, he is well-suited to his district, which stretches from central Raleigh to the Durham County line. Chaudhuri is opposed by Republican Eric Weaver.
In District 14 covering central and Southeast Raleigh and portions of eastern Wake, Democratic Sen. Dan Blue, the Senate minority leader and a strong voice for progressive issues, is unopposed.