Under the Dome

NC senator challenged, giving Democrats candidates in all Wake districts

Mack Paul
Mack Paul Submitted photo

A Raleigh real-estate attorney and former Wake County Democratic Party chairman will run for NC Senate.

Mack Paul planned to launch his campaign Friday, Jan. 5, for Senate District 18, which under the latest redistricting maps includes northern Wake County, Franklin County and a small section of Raleigh. Two incumbent Republican senators, John Alexander and Chad Barefoot, live in the redrawn district but Barefoot is not seeking re-election this year. Alexander said Thursday that he plans to seek a third term this year.

Paul’s announcement means Democrats now have at least one candidate in all of Wake County’s House and Senate districts.

The county’s legislative districts have proven to be some of the state’s most competitive in recent elections, and they could be crucial in Democrats’ efforts to break Republicans’ veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. The new version of District 18 – which isn't expected to change as judges make a final decision on the maps – has a slight Republican lean. In 2016, 49.9 percent of voters picked Republican Donald Trump, while 44.9 percent voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. About 47.8 percent backed Democrat Roy Cooper for governor, while Republican Pat McCrory got 50.3 percent.

Paul says his campaign will focus on economic issues affecting the middle class, and he says the Republican-dominated Senate has “been focused way too much on issues that divide us.”

“This is something that I’ve been watching for a number of years and feel like we've really reached a crisis point in terms of the middle class,” he said. “I got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore.”

Paul voiced optimism in Democrats’ ability to break the GOP’s Senate supermajority. “We’re seeing a change sweep across the country right now,” he said. “You can’t predict the future based on the past. We’ve reached a point where there is a deep hunger for change affecting everyone.”

Paul led the Wake County Democratic Party in 2011, when the party broke a Republican majority on the county’s school board. He was a founding member of Triangle Growth Strategies and the Triangle Smart Growth Coalition, two groups that brought together homebuilders and environmentalists on growth issues.

Paul’s professional work as a partner in Morningstar Law Group has occasionally put him in the spotlight as he’s represented developers before the Raleigh City Council – most notably during a contentious rezoning case in which a North Raleigh neighborhood’s opposition scuttled plans for a Publix grocery store. Asked if he’d support recent legislation backed by developers to limit local governments’ planning and zoning powers, Paul said “I feel like it’s important that our local governments have authority to implement the policies that they need because they understand the issues at the local level,” he said.

Paul isn’t the only Democrat interested in the District 18 seat. Angela Bridgman, a transgender activist from Wendell, said she wants to run, but the redistricting changes shift her home from District 18 to Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue’s District 14. Bridgman said Thursday that she’s considering legal action because she believes the lines were drawn deliberately to prevent her from running against a Republican incumbent – a claim that GOP leaders have denied, noting that their redistricting criteria did not involve the homes of non-incumbent candidates.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter