Wake County now will start collecting a much-needed transit tax to bring the county up to speed, so to speak, in terms of developing modern bus service and ultimately, one hopes, rapid transit through light rail and commuter trains. This is critical, and voters were denied the chance to vote on the tax by a previous Board of Commissioners controlled by Republicans. When those GOP members were swept out of office, the Democrats now in charge vowed to give the people a chance to vote up or down.
The vote was up, and that’s good for the county. This increasingly urban area now can look toward a day when the Triangle region will enjoy modern transit that befits a growing area.
This was some of the best news from Tuesday’s election.
Otherwise, the votes for legislative seats, in the House and Senate, and for the Wake school board, were not surprising.
That is, with a couple of exceptions.
Gary Pendleton, a Republican former commissioners’ chairman and the incumbent in House District 49, was narrowly defeated by newcomer Cynthia Ball, a Democrat with a progressive platform who was adamant in her opposition to HB2, the catastrophic measure passed by the General Assembly that came to be known, embarrassingly so, as the “bathroom bill.” Pendleton tried to avoid supporting HB2 by essentially “leaving the room” when it was voted on. But his party did the deed, the Pendleton could not get away from it.
HB2 has cost the state millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, and Wake County certainly stands to feel the effects in lost conferences and concerts and other arts programs. The law reversed an ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council that gave transgender citizens the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify — something they’ve been doing for many years. But GOP lawmakers also stripped away local governments’ rights to offer measures to protect people from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
The reaction has been swift and devastating, with the loss of the NBA All-Star Game and championships from the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference, and until HB2 is repealed, there will be more to come. Perhaps because of HB2, long-time Republican Rep. Marilyn Avila of District 40 lost her seat to Democrat Joe John, a former judge. Republican Linda Hunt-Williams did win an open seat in House District 37.
In other races, incumbents were generally successful, although there was a surprise in the Wake school board District 1 race, with incumbent Tom Benton apparently losing a close race to challenger Donald Agee. Lindsay Mahaffey will be a newcomer from District 8.
In the Wake commissioners’ race, incumbent James West won unopposed and Democrats Erv Portman and Greg Ford won their races. Ford’s victory was something of a surprise, as he was facing veteran Raleigh City Council member John Odom.
But in other races, notably those won by Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer and Republican state Rep. Nelson Dollar, the votes were much closer than those incumbents might have expected. Again, that was likely due to HB2. The uproar, and what happened in Wake County in particular, should be a lesson to the GOP leaders of the General Assembly, Will they learn it? We shall see.