Chapel Hill News

Businessman McNeill announces bid for Foushee’s House seat

Rep. Valerie P. Foushee
Rep. Valerie P. Foushee

A businessman and former Orange County political candidate became the first candidate Monday to show interest in state Rep. Valerie Foushee’s District 50 House seat.

Tommy McNeill, owner of Mid-South Medical LLC in Durham, said he told his family about his plans Sunday, and he’s also written to Foushee about his candidacy. His leadership skills and his commitment to giving everyone the chance at a quality education and the right to vote qualify him for the job, McNeill said.

He previously worked as a district sales manager for Southeast Medical Inc. and a hospital sales specialist with King Pharmaceuticals. In 2008, he unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, and in 2012, he also ran for the Orange County Board of Education.

“Our goal now is to work to ensure everyone has the right to vote, continue to provide funding for teacher’s salaries and education, and most important as Democrats, to make McCrory a one-term governor,” McNeill said.

The House seat will be up for grabs this fall once Foushee leaves for the N.C. Senate. A District 23 Democratic Party Executive Committee unanimously chose her Sunday from among seven candidates to replace former District 23 Sen. Ellie Kinnaird. Kinnaird resigned Aug. 19 after 17 years and criticized the Republican legislative agenda. She is leaving to support other candidates and help voters meet the state’s strict new voter ID law, she said.

Only one of Foushee’s Senate opponents – Lynette Hartsell, an attorney from Cedar Grove – lives in the district and is eligible to run for her House seat.

The remaining candidates – former state Rep. Alice Bordsen, who represented Alamance County; worker’s compensation attorney Heidi Chapman; retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; former Carrboro Mayor Jim Porto; and author, educator and business owner Amy Tiemann – live in state Rep. Verla Insko’s 56th District.

Foushee, 57, is a retired Chapel Hill Police Department administrator who previously served as chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board. If she decides to stay in the Senate past December 2014, she will have to file for next year’s midterm elections.

McNeill said she’s a good choice for the Senate, and he looks forward to working with her and Kinnaird to win back Democratic control of the legislature and governor’s office.

“Sen. Foushee will do an outstanding job representing the district. She has our full support going forward,” he said.

Foushee told the Democratic faithful after her appointment Sunday that the first step is taking back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Foushee said. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing.”

“I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present,” she said.

Her nomination will be sent to McCrory for approval. Once she officially resigns from the House, Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Hughes said a N.C. House District 50 Democratic Party Executive Committee will come together to find her replacement. The committee includes Orange and Durham county representatives.

Ted Benson, chairman of the 4th Congressional District Democratic Party, opened Sunday’s meeting with praise for the seven candidates. He also told the crowd that Chatham County representative George Lucier would not participate because he had been chosen in a secret ballot, a violation of Democratic Party rules.

Benson said he did not believe it was a deliberate oversight, but as a result, representative Don Knowles would cast Chatham County’s 212 votes and Orange County representatives Samantha Cabe and Wanda Hunter would cast 223 each.

Although the winner only needed a simple majority, the first vote was split evenly between Foushee and Tiemann. The committee’s second vote was unanimous.

Before the vote, Foushee cited her commitment to serving her constituents and fighting for social justice in Orange County’s economically disadvantaged communities. At an Aug. 28 meeting with other candidates for the Senate seat, Foushee had said the focus should be educating voters, recruiting viable Democratic candidates and helping raise campaign dollars to win back control of the state government.