Politics & Government

Could proposed NC election maps lead to shakeups in western Wake?

Jennifer Ferrell talks with attendees at a forum at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary in September 2016. Ferrell announced on Dec. 4, 2017 that she’ll challenge N.C. House Rep. Nelson Dollar again next year for the District 36 seat.
Jennifer Ferrell talks with attendees at a forum at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary in September 2016. Ferrell announced on Dec. 4, 2017 that she’ll challenge N.C. House Rep. Nelson Dollar again next year for the District 36 seat. cseward@newsobserver.com

An Apex Democrat who lost her last campaign to unseat a longtime Republican N.C. House member is running again.

Jennifer Ferrell is the latest North Carolina Democrat hoping to build on momentum Democrats say they gained after the party this year won key races in municipal elections across North Carolina as well as in statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey.

Ferrell, 39, editor of Cary Life, announced Monday that she’ll challenge state Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary next year. Dollar, the lead House budget writer, beat Ferrell in last year’s race, 49 percent to 47 percent.

Dollar “comes across as moderate but votes consistently with his caucus,” Ferrell said in an interview.

Federal judges have asked legislative leaders to redraw districts that they deemed racial gerrymanders. The leaders, all Republicans, earlier this year redrew Dollar’s District 36 in a way that Ferrell says removed her from the district.

But judges said the Republicans didn’t properly fix the problems and asked an expert, known as a special master, to redraw some of the districts. The courts have yet to approve the special master’s proposal. But an analysis by the N.C. Insider found that, if they do, it will benefit Democrats in some races.

Ferrell says the special master’s proposal restores her to the same district where she lost to Dollar last year, where voters favored Democrat Roy Cooper for governor over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory by 7 percentage points.

Ferrell highlights her involvement with local schools as an advocate and member of her children’s PTA, saying that parents are upset with the lack of state money for local schools.

“Over the last few years, I have enjoyed connecting with the people of our district and discussing the issues that matter to them,” she wrote in a statement. “Meanwhile, the long time incumbent continues to be mostly non-existent and completely out of touch with our district.”

Cooper is the state’s top Democrat but the state House and state Senate are controlled by Republicans, who have the votes to override Cooper if he vetoes legislation. Democrats need four House seats or six Senate seats to break the Republican supermajorities.

Proposed maps are already affecting the N.C. General Assembly, prompting some current members to bow out next year. Dollar, for his part, plans to defend his seat.

In a phone interview Monday, Dollar said his record shows that voters appreciate his work on the state budget and tax code to create jobs.

“We’re at-or-near the top of the list for major economic development announcements,” Dollar said, noting that Forbes recently ranked North Carolina as the best state for business.

He said he looks forward to advocating for early childhood education and RDU International Airport, which wants money to build a bigger runway so it can attract flights to China.

Western Wake residents will likely see a competitive state Senate race, too.

The Insider reported Monday that Democrat Sam Searcy, who announced plans earlier this year to challenge U.S. Rep. George Holding, instead will run against Republican state Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary.

Searcy, a vodka distillery owner who lives in Holly Springs, had raised $550,000 for his campaign against Holding. The newly drawn district voted 49 percent for McCrory and 48.6 percent for Cooper.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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