Chapel Hill News

Lawyer becomes 4th candidate for N.C. House District 50 seat

Drew Nelson, candidate for N.C. House District 50
Drew Nelson, candidate for N.C. House District 50

Raleigh lawyer and Chapel Hill resident Drew Nelson announced his candidacy Thursday morning for the vacant House District 50 seat in Orange and Durham counties.

In a news release, Nelson, 34, said he will focus on three issues if appointed to the General Assembly: education, voting rights and fracking. His background in North Carolina law will make him a strong, effective advocate for progressive values, he said.

“The Republican agenda will do lasting damage to our state if we don’t fight back against it,” he said in the release. “Our challenge as Democrats is to highlight the threat posed by Governor McCrory and the legislature, to engage with parents and families, and to get them involved in the political process. I am seeking this House seat to give those families a voice.”

First-term Rep. Valerie Foushee will resign her District 50 seat and move to the N.C. Senate, where she has been appointed to finish former Sen. Ellie Kinnard’s term in District 23. Kinnaird resigned her seat in August to protest Repulican legislative policies and to dedicate her time to getting voters prepared for the state’s restrictive new voter ID law.

Foushee’s move will become official when she takes the oath of office, said Matt Hughes, Orange County’s Democratic Party chairman.

Nelson joins three other candidates seeking the House seat, which covers parts of Orange and Durham counties: Chapel Hill Town Council member Laurin Easthom, Durham businessman and political candidate Tommy McNeill, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school administrator Graig Meyer.

A four-member N.C. Democratic Party House Executive Committee will appoint one candidate later this year to complete Foushee’s term. Both the House and Senate terms expire in December 2014.

Nelson grew up in Wilmington, the son of a public school teacher and elementary school principal. He graduated with honors from UNC-CH’s School of Law and earned a master’s degree from the Terry Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

He plans to be an advocate for students, parents and teachers, he said.

“The extreme policy changes pushed through by the Republican legislature are undermining our education system and leaving the next generation of North Carolinians unprepared to excel in and beyond the classroom,” Nelson said.

Previously, Nelson worked as in-house counsel at N.C. State University. He now is a partner at Willis Johnson and Nelson in downtown Raleigh, representing indigent clients in appellate court. He also has worked as a presidential campaign organizer and as a staff member for former N.C. Rep. Joe Hackney.

He and his wife Jennifer, a pediatric heart surgeon at UNC Hospitals, have lived in Orange and Durham counties for 16 years. They have a 3-year-old daughter, Laine.