Politics & Government

Election plan lumps Wake incumbents together

State Sen. Chad Barefoot’s controversial plan to change how Wake County elects commissioners would put three Democratic incumbents in the same race if they all seek re-election in 2018.

Barefoot and fellow Republicans say the bill would end “outrageously expensive” countywide campaigns that result in a board that mostly lives in Raleigh. But Democrats say the proposal is a power grab launched after all Republican incumbents lost in last year’s commissioners election.

The News & Observer checked where the current commissioners live on the map Barefoot has proposed. Assuming all seven incumbents try to keep their seats through 2019, here’s what would happen if the bill passes:

In 2016, incumbents Caroline Sullivan, James West and Betty Lou Ward could seek re-election in their current districts. If they win, their terms would last for only two years – not the four-year terms they currently have.

Meanwhile, Wake voters would elect two additional commissioners in 2016 – one from a primarily urban district, one from a primarily suburban and rural district. They’d serve four-year terms.

The new system would be fully implemented in 2018. All seven of the current commission seats would be on the ballot, but candidates would have to live within one of the seven districts drawn for the Wake school board. They’d run only within that district – not countywide like the current system.

If Sullivan keeps her seat through 2018, she’d then share a district with two other Democratic incumbents: John Burns and Sig Hutchinson. All three would only be eligible to run for the District 2 seat in 2018.

Four other incumbents would remain in separate districts: Matt Calabria, Jessica Holmes, Ward and West.

There will be two opportunities for the public to weigh in on Barefoot’s proposal next week before the bill gets a vote in a Senate committee.

Wake County’s legislative delegation will take public comments during its meeting at 3 p.m. Monday at the Legislative Building.

The Senate redistricting committee will hear more public comment before it votes on the proposal. Speakers must sign up before the meeting, at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 544, Legislative Office Building, 300 N. Salisbury St. Sign up at ncleg.net under “News and Information.”

Branch confirms candidacy

The first new candidate in this fall’s Raleigh City Council election race has emerged.

Corey Branch, 37, confirmed in an interview that he would run in District C, which covers Southeast Raleigh. The would-be incumbent, Councilman Eugene Weeks, hasn’t yet launched a campaign.

Branch, a network technology manager for AT&T, previously challenged Weeks in 2011, taking a third-place finish. A 2000 graduate of N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University, Branch was raised in the district and wants to bring “fresh leadership,” he said.

Branch cites his engineering background as a strength, saying, “Government should be about finding solutions to problems.” He heads the nonprofit Marrkens Development Center and is on the board of WakeUP Wake County.

One of his goals is economic development. He wants to see the city market Southeast Raleigh more heavily. He also calls for improved bus service in the district.

Reece takes party post

Durham attorney Charlie Reece has been appointed treasurer of the N.C. Democratic Party.

Reece is a former precinct chairman in Durham and has served on the boards of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and the Durham People’s Alliance. He is general counsel for Rho Inc., a contract research organization.

“I’m humbled,” Reece said in a statement. “I will work as hard as I can to make sure that our beloved party has all the resources it needs to fight for all North Carolinians.”

Political events

▪ Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane will deliver the State of the City address Monday in Room 302 of the Raleigh Convention Center as part of the Raleigh Rotary Club meeting. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and the mayor will begin her address about 12:20 p.m. The public is invited. Admission is free, but lunch is $25. The address will be shown live on Raleigh Television Network’s RTN-11.

Compiled by Colin Campbell, Andrew Kenney and Jim Wise.

Got a tip, item or coming event? Send it to Triangle Politics at metroeds@newsobserver.com by noon Thursday.

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