NC Senate 20th district

Senator Jeanne Lucas, who so ably represented the 20th district and Durham County in the State Senate for nearly 14 years, passed away last month.

It falls upon members of the Executive Committee of the Durham County Democratic Party to nominate a replacement to finish her term of office. (I love sentences with so many capital letters. They exude importance.)

On Saturday 3/31, candidates for the seat met in a forum sponsored by Young Democrats of Durham County, and Durham Democratic Women, to answer questions about why they were seeking the seat, and what agenda they would carry out should they earn the nomination.

The big surprises, i guess, were Patrick Hannah withdrawing his name from consideration, and County party chair Floyd McKissick entering his. Patrick is a VP at the Durham Chamber of Commerce.

Other candidates included former County Commissioner Mary Ann Black, former City Councilwoman Brenda Burnette, current City Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden, community activist Le Harve Johnson, and County party vice-chair Brenda Pollard.

How do you get to be an elector?

If you're an elected official, a member of the Democratic Party, and you reside within the 20th District, you're an elector. If you're a member of the County Party Executive Committee, or an office holder in the party, and you reside in the 20th district, you're an elector. If you're a precinct chair or vice-chair, and your precinct is wholly within the 20th district, you're an elector. If you're a precinct chair or vice-chair, and your precinct is partially within the 20th district, and you yourself reside within the 20th district, you're an elector.

Got that?

What it means is that there are 91 people who are able to cast a ballot in this election. Turns out i'm one of them.

When i let my arm be twisted in February to accept the nomination as precinct chair, i was thinking that 2007 was an off-year election, no partisan races in the county, i'd be able to spend some time getting up to speed on how this partisan politics thing works, build up a mailing list and get some communications flowing throughout the registered Democrats in the 19th precinct, so that in 2008, we'd have something resembling an organization that could raise money and get out the vote for our candidates at the local, state, and national levels.

I certainly wasn't anticipating this responsibility.

About the forum. I thought that one of the candidates (Brenda Pollard) was not at this time ready to assume the responsibility of representing Durham County in the state Senate. I thought a second candidate (Brenda Burnette) had positions on a couple of issues, namely gay rights and reproductive rights, that i could not support.

I thought the other four candidates were all worthy of the position, although none stood clearly head and shoulders above the others.

What i imagine will happen is that as the various endorsements come out (the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has endorsed Floyd McKissick) and as the candidates assess their support, at least one, and as many as three or four, will drop out of the race and throw their support to the perceived front-runner. So at this time, i don't see any reason to decide who i think is the best candidate. Let's see which names actually get placed in nomination during the meeting next week.

Finally, i'm curious how i've become a go-to guy for the local media. Reporters for the News and Observer, Herald-Sun, and Independent Weekly all called me over an 8 hour period to ask my opinion about the race. Is it just because there are actually so few of us who can vote that they were able to contact all of us? Am i that outspoken? Does my blog have a titillating name? Do i represent a certain demographic that they're trying to reach?

Curious minds want to know.

(cross-posted at my place)


Thanks Barry!

I like hearing all the inside scoop that won't make the papers.

I FP'd it because it was information worth knowing, but this is my favorite part....

(I love sentences with so many capital letters. They exude importance.)


Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Way to Hit the Ground Running

Even if it wasn't by choice. :)

Good luck with everything - being the 'go-to' guy is a good position but it means you have to keep running to stay out front.


This is great. I really like hearing how the sausage gets made.

Will you please keep us posted? This is an object lesson for anyone who wonders whether it's worth getting involved. One day you're a precinct chair. The next day you're a king/queen maker!

thanks for the word of support, y'all

i appreciate it.

There are some things i'm willing to speculate about and discuss in public (e.g. will the four African-American women candidates coalesce around one candidate in order to challenge the Durham Committee's endorsement of the lone male candidate in the race, a candidate who apparently has some baggage in the gender issues department?), and others on which i'm not willing to speculate (Why did Patrick Hannah withdraw from the race?).

But i'll post updates as they happen, and if Monday night's special meeting takes place in a Wi-Fi enabled hotspot, maybe i'll even live-blog the election.

McKissick's role

Barry- Thanks for posting this. Can you tell us how McKissick is handling his seemingly conflicted roles as County Party Chair and candidate? My understanding is that the party chair should lead the selection process. That doesn't seem like it would fly if he's a candidate.

Floyd has stepped aside, at

Floyd has stepped aside, at least from chairing the meeting that will determine the nominee. I'm not sure what other business there is going on right now from which he would need to recuse himself anyway.

Interestingly, the first vice-chair (Brenda Pollard) is also a candidate for the nomination, so the task of chairing the meeting falls to second vice-chair Kevin Farmer.

So far, the online forum set up by the party to further discuss issues that might not have been addressed last Saturday is not seeing a lot of action.

i remember posting something

saying i liked the sounds of "community activist" i guess it got lost in the shuffle.

Draft Brad Miller -- NC Sen ActBlue :::Petition

"Keep the Faith"

I picked a great time

to stop being a precinct chair. I'm missing all the fun.

It does seem odd to me that 91 people will get to decide who holds this office for the next 21 months, rather than a special election being held.

-Precinct chairs & vice chairs hold 61 of the 91 votes, with party officials and elected officials holding the rest.

-The district was 48% black and 45% white as of 2003.

-Of the 91 electors, 55 are black, 33 are white, and 3 are Hispanic. 48 are women and 43 are men.

-One of the electors is our infamous DA, Mike Nifong.

Our precinct has had an internal discussion, both about candidates we would consider, as well as those we would not consider.

Some additional questions have been posted on the County party website for the candidates to consider. Those questions are:

"How do you intend to address the fact that more than 1 million North Carolinians lack health insurance?"

"Have any of you been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense?"

"What is the No. 1 women's issue facing North Carolinians today that you vow to address as state senator?"

"Do you support mental health parity, i.e. making insurance companies doing business in North Carolina treat all forms of healthcare -- "mental" and "physical" -- the same, especially regarding deductibles,
maximum limits, out-of-pocket expenses, and number of visits allowed? This needs to be addressed particularly with the state employees health plan."

"What actions would you support at the state level to fight climate change?"

"What would you do to get TTA's regional rail plan back on track?"

"What would you do to reduce the drop out rate in NC schools?"

Wow - Loaded Question

"What is the No. 1 women's issue facing North Carolinians today that you vow to address as state senator?"

As a woman, I'm starting to get pissed that people seem to think I have different issues than men do. What is a woman supposed to say. "Well, sometimes, you know, after that time I have a not so fresh feeling. But I dont' know what the state senate can do about it." Sheesh.

Men should care about the same things I do, and vice versa. I realize this is probably a carefully worded way to address the dreaded reproductive rights question, but - dayum.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Not either/or, but both/and.

Something doesn't have to be either a women's issue or something that men care about.

Here's something that I think of as a women's issue: how can businesses provide a job re-entry point for new mothers that doesn't penalize women (explicitly or in effect) for having babies?

Access to abortion is another.

As a man, these things matter to me. As a husband and father of a daughter, they matter to me a lot. But they are both issues that cause problems for women first, and both sets of problems end up harming women more than men.

I agree that men and women should care about the same things. I'd be pretty upset if I spoke with Arica about my risk factors for prostate cancer and she said "whatever! It's your prostate, buddy, not mine!" But that doesn't mean that prostate cancer isn't a men's health issue.

That's kind of what I meant, Lance.

The thing is - there are lots of "women's" issues - and lots of "men's" issues as well. It's just that after 20 years or so of hearing hot-button issues like child care, reproductive rights, and as you mention, re-entry into the job market after having a child, spoken of as "women's issues", I'm sensitive to it.

My thoughts on it are this: child care - Dads have this issue too. It's not just a women's issues. Reproductive rights? It takes a man and a woman to create a viable fetus. While I'm not saying that a sperm donor should have say over a fetus growing in my body, I don't think that abortion/birth control, etc. is only a woman's issue. Pregnancy prevention and planning should be a 50/50 - or rather a 100/100 proposition. Re-entry into the job market affects the entire family, so assuming the family is a heterosexual one, with one mom, one dad and assorted children, this is a universal issue.

Just sayin'.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

We definitely agree on more than we disagree on,

but I think that all of these are situations in which men can abdicate responsibility at a relatively low personal cost and women can't. For example, my wife's reproductive freedom definitely affects me, but if she gets pregnant in a world that doesn't allow abortions, I can walk and by far the largest share of the negative effects stay with Arica.

I think I'd define a women's issue in just that way: a bad situation in which women, because of their gender, bear a disproportionate share of costs or risks.

You're right.

In a perfect world, your manly parts would fall off if you walked away in that situation, but obviously, it's not a perfect world.

We do agree, mostly.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

You can say that again

(The part about it not being a perfect world, that is.)

Brings a whole new meaning to

severance package, doesn't it?

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

My #1 Question

"What would you do to get TTA's regional rail plan back on track?"

and make sure the darn thing makes it all the way out to Johnston!

[LOL at Momo.] I never think of myself as a woman - I'm a person, dammit!

There have been a number of comments

that suggested Sen. Lucas should only be replaced by another black woman.

That really ticks me off. Do all black women have the same positions on every issue? Of course not. I don't give a crap what my representative looks like. What I do care about is how they vote on the issues that concern me.

The leading candidates appear to be former County Commissioner Mary Ann Black and former City Councilman Flyod McKissick.

Only Black has posted answers to the questions above. Among them are these unsatisfactory answers:

What actions would you support at the state level to fight climate change?
"I support carpooling to help reduce emissions"

What would you do to get TTA's regional rail plan back on track?
"I need to do some additional research on this issue. I was involved in TTA and the regional plan while I was a county commissioner and have followed some of the latest developments. I know that the rail plan is going to be extremely expensive. I would be interested in fidning out if there are better alternatives to using light rail in this area. We may need to consider a combination of light rail and other transportation options."

She wants to fight the greatest environmental catastrophe in recorded history with carpooling??

TTA's been studying alternatives for 20 years. It was the Bush Administration's decision to change the rules about which areas qualify for funding that has stalled TTA's plan. Bush will be gone in 21 months, and TTA can get the plan back off the shelf then.

May Ann Black may win, but she needs a lot of education when it comes to transit and the environment.

I too agree that the

I too agree that the candidates' positions are more important than gender or skin color.

Specifically regarding environmental issues, i've had several conversations with Triangle environmental advocates regarding the various candidates' experience and positions, and their thoughts have helped me greatly in my decision making.

It's election night

and the suspense is killing me. Who won?

The winner is: Floyd McKissick


Congratulations to Floyd B. McKissick Jr., who will serve the remaining N.C. Senate term of the late Sen. Jeanne Lucas. McKissick won the majority vote after four ballots.

The N.C. Democratic Party defines "majority vote" as 50 percent of the votes cast plus one.

Thanks to the 83 electors who stayed until close to 11 p.m. to share in this democratic process.

4 ballots? Wow. I can't wait to hear the gory details about the making of this sausage.