The state House elected eight people to the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday, removing three incumbents while adding five new members.
One Democrat was among the winners. The rest were Republicans, with the exception of one who is politically unaffiliated.
The new members are:
▪ Pearl Burris-Floyd of Dallas, N.C., vice president of the Greensboro Partnership and a Republican.
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▪ C. Philip Byers of Forest City, president of Challenge Foundation Properties and a Republican.
▪ Walter Davenport, a Raleigh accountant and Democrat who previously served on the board.
▪ Joe Thomas Knott III, a Raleigh lawyer and a Republican.
▪ John Alex Mitchell, a Durham developer registered as unaffiliated.
Three current board members – Raleigh businessman James Holmes Jr., Winston-Salem businessman David Powers and Goldsboro businesswoman Mary Ann Maxwell – were re-elected.
Three others – Lumberton business owner Dick Taylor, Wilmington developer Raiford Trask III and Cary businessman Hari Nath – lost their seats.
The state Senate elected eight members on Wednesday. Of the 16 chosen this week, 14 are Republican, two are unaffiliated and one is a Democrat.
The election continues the GOP’s domination of the university system governing board since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010.
The board has been criticized for decisions that some charge are politically motivated. In January, the board took action to force the early retirement of UNC President Tom Ross, a Democrat, without citing a reason other than it was time for a change.
Last month, the board voted to abolish three university centers, including the UNC law school’s Center for Poverty, Work and Opportunity, whose director, Gene Nichol, had been a frequent critic of Republican political leaders. That prompted condemnation from faculty around the state, who are set to organize in Greensboro this weekend in what they’re calling an effort to “reclaim” the narrative for higher education in North Carolina.
Student protesters have also have complained that the 32-voting member board does not reflect the diversity of the university. The current board has seven women, two African-Americans and one Asian. The new board will have seven women and five African-Americans.
The board remains a group of politically connected people and campaign contributors.
Several of Thursday’s House winners gave significant contributions to mostly Republican candidates, but not as large as those given by top donors chosen by the Senate. According to campaign finance reports, Powers gave more than $59,000 and Holmes gave more than $42,000 to candidates since 2010. During the same period, Board Chairman John Fennebresque, re-elected by the Senate this week, gave more than $216,000 to candidates of both parties and the Republican Party.
On Thursday, Democrats reacted to the election in different ways. House Democratic Leader Larry Hall released a statement praising the House’s choice of Davenport, the lone Democrat. Hall’s office quickly sent another email, “recalling” the news release.
Meanwhile, Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, wrote on his Facebook page that the board had failed in its role, citing the ouster of Ross.
“I would have preferred to not vote for any incumbent who either actively participated in this matter or who passively sat by and allowed it to happen,” Martin wrote. “I regret that the applicant pool was diminished to the point that there was no choice but to vote for some incumbents.”
News researchers David Raynor and Peggy Neal contributed to this report.