N.C. House, District 63
Republican candidate Nancy H. Brown is about as worthy an opponent as a progressive Democrat could hope for. Eminently moderate and sharing Weiss' commitment to boosting school funding, Brown can boast of having spent years directly involved in early education, her profession. While she clearly has a lot to offer on that front, for the most part she supports the generic GOP program on economic and social issues. Brown would likely fall in line with the conservative rank-and-file on a slew of issues where Weiss would break new ground as a voice for progressive concerns.
N.C. House, District 64
N.C. House, District 62
Ian Sands is a Libertarian and Nortel Networks worker. Largely an ideologue, Sands believes in less government and has not mounted a significant campaign.
N.C. House, District 61
We support M. Jackson "Jack" Nichols in his bid for a House seat in this district covering part of inside-the-Beltline Raleigh, and areas to the northwest, both inside and outside the city. A former Wake County commissioner and attorney, Nichols offers considerable experience, as well as a commitment to regional planning and identifying environmentally friendly transportation options. His diligence is well-documented as is his capacity for inclusion.Nichols is running against Republican incumbent Art Pope, an attorney and businessman who took over Rep. Chuck Neely's seat last session after the latter announced his bid for the governor's mansion. Though liked and respected by legislators on both sides of the aisle, the staunchly conservative Pope falls far short of representing the forward-thinking vision that the district needs.
N.C. House, District 92
But it's time to move beyond Capps' out-of-touch stances and legislative ineffectiveness. The former TV announcer and county planner wants to limit the teaching of evolution in public schools and was recently ranked a dismal 116th out of 120 house members in the Center for Public Policy Research's legislative effectiveness poll.
N.C. House, District 15
Back in April, we said that Democratic challenger Thomas B. Hunt would have to step up his low-key campaign if he wanted to earn our endorsement and unseat the firmly entrenched Republican incumbent Sam Ellis. The 31-year-old businessman and political-science student from Apex did not do so.
Ellis, a four-termer, has a solid base of support in this district that covers southeastern Wake County. But his backward-thinking conservative agenda makes him as unworthy of a vote as his invisible opponent.
N.C. House, District 21
N.C. Senate, District 36
Has anyone seen my old friend John?
That's the question most voters are likely asking in District 36, which covers most of Cary and extends into west and northwest Raleigh. The three-term Republican incumbent and millionaire, John Carrington, has easily outspent his challengers in past races while largely distinguishing himself by not distinguishing himself. During six years in office, he has sponsored only three pieces of legislation, all of which died in committee. Last term, he missed more votes than all but seven senators. He is a consistent no-show at public events in his district and was recently voted the least effective senator in the state by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. Carrington is also the owner of a police equipment company that has supplied riot gear to repressive foreign governments, including South Africa during the apartheid era.
Democratic challenger Jim Crew would provide District 36 with the leadership and attention it deserves. A retired business and economics professor, Crew has campaigned tirelessly to offset Carrington's five-to-one spending edge via door-to-door appeals in this large, conservative-leaning district. The moderate and well-informed Crew is a strong supporter of campaign finance reform, Smart Start and increased environmental controls. He opposes school vouchers, favors impact fees to keep growth in check and feels a mass-transit system would allow for higher-density residential areas while reducing urban sprawl. Crew is much less progressive in one area: He supports the death penalty and refuses to acknowledge the need for a moratorium. But despite this unfortunate stance, Crew's superior work ethic, mostly forward-thinking agenda and accessibility would offer a much-needed breath of fresh air to District 36.
N.C. Senate, District 14
Reeves, also a Raleigh attorney and supporter of the death penalty, favors a moratorium for capital cases that rely on scientific rather than physical evidence. His record is as sound as Miller's in terms of public-school support, especially in the critical area of educational technology. If reelected, Reeves will fight sprawl while continuing to prioritize such environmental issues as improved air quality and better storm-water policies.
Wake County Board of Commissioners
Conservative Republicans have had Wake County in a tizzy for years over school funding. The school system is adding 3,000 students a year, or about three new schools' worth. When the Republicans took control of the Board of Commissioners in 1994, though, they cut the property tax and slashed the school board's funding requests to do it. Democrats have won the two elections since, in '96 and '98, and now hold a 6-1 majority. Nonetheless, when all seven commissioners proposed a $650 million school construction bond in early '99, the conservatives attacked, and the voters massacred it at the polls.
This year, the commissioners are back with a pared-down bond proposal for $500 million, and there's virtually no opposition to it. Below, we endorse it. We note here, however, that the reason there's no opposition is that the new bond won't raise taxes--and the reason it won't is that the Wake commissioners had the guts to raise them by 10 cents a year following the first bond's defeat. That was a red-hot controversy at the time. In retrospect, its wisdom is clear for all to see. One way or another, taxes needed to go back up to cope with swelling school enrollments. The first bond would have increased taxes later. This one won't, because they've already been increased.
The gutsy commissioners who fought for the schools and won were the current chair, Betty Lou Ward, an ex-operating room nurse, and Yevonne Brannon, an N.C. State University official. Both are Democrats. Ward, in her three four-year terms, and Brannon, in one, have been progressive voices for the county, not just on school issues but for social services, for better land-use planning and--in Brannon's case, in particular--for open-space protection. Brannon's been the driving force behind a second bond issue on the Wake ballot this year to acquire undeveloped land for conservation before it's all gone. We're pleased to support their re-election.
Republicans Ray Paquette, who's running against Ward, and Kenn Gardner, who's opposing Brannon, say raising taxes last year was wrong. At least they have the decency not to promise any more cuts, only to "stop the waste"--which is not otherwise identified. Gardner's an oddball candidate. An architect, he ran in the GOP primary four years ago and lost, then endorsed Brannon in the election. Paquette, a businessman, lost to Ward in '96.
Commission candidates are elected to represent districts, but they run countywide. The third race this year is between incumbent Democrat Vernon Malone, the only black commissioner, and a retired CP&L manager, Republican Hildred Hutchins, who is brand new to county politics. Malone, who's retired too, used to be superintendent of the Gov. Morehead School, which serves the visually impaired. He's been a commissioner 16 years and surprised people by running again after saying he wouldn't. He's a little conservative for our taste, but we don't like the idea of an all-white board either, and Hutchins, though appealing personally, is essentially an anti-tax candidate like her GOP colleagues.
Wake Soil and Water Conservation Board
Let's give a cheer, and a vote, to John Y. Phelps, a surveyor by trade who's been a member of this board for 26 years. It's volunteer duty at no pay. "A labor of love," as he says. The board is the local arm of the federal soil conservation service, which helps farmers protect against erosion. It also oversees local sediment-control regulation of construction sites and, in Wake County, has put in flood-control structures at places like Crabtree Valley. Phelps, a former president in the state association of soil and water officers, has volunteered many hours lobbying in Raleigh and Washington for the modest funding the county boards get. His opponent, Marcia Lieber, works for the state division of water quality, so she knows the job. But Phelps is doing it well.
Superior Court Judge, District 10
This is a nonpartisan election for two trial-court positions. Superior Court seats in Wake County have special importance, because lawsuits of statewide significance--like the one going on now that challenges the constitutionality of North Carolina's campaign-finance practices--are heard in Raleigh.
Judge Howard Manning is hearing the campaign-finance suit. He recently issued a blockbuster decision in the Leandro case: that the state constitution's guarantee of equal educational opportunity for children requires that low-income kids be enrolled in a preschool program before kindergarten. It's a good ruling, an example of why he earns high marks from Democrats and Republicans alike for his thoughtful work. We think he's earned another term.
Former District Court Judge Don Overby earns our nod for the second seat. Overby was admired for his creativity in juvenile court cases, finding ways to make kids pay attention without hurting them--as when he removed one miscreant's Duke cap and cut it into pieces as punishment. He's also known for riding his motorcycle across the country to raise money for a center where children could stay when their parents were in court. Overby lost the '96 election to District Court Judge Ann Marie Calabria, which is no disgrace, and since May he's been serving as a fill-in judge. He's got the right stuff to move up.
The two other candidates are Fred Alphin, Jr. who used to work for the state banking commission and for the last 25 years has represented corporations and insurance companies; and Evelyn W. Hill, an assistant Wake County district attorney for 21 years. Hill's prosecuted some high-visibility murder cases. Her skills and temperament aren't considered as good as Manning's and Overby's.
District Court Judge, District 10
Two incumbents have done a good job and merit re-election. Democrat Fred M. Morelock, a judge for 14 years, is considered the county's best at family court issues, and was the first in the state to be given a specialized family law designation within his district court. His opponent, Republican Kris Bailey, has only been a lawyer for five years. Before, he had several jobs, including marriage counselor.
Republican Ann Marie Calabria, elected in 1996, has also done well in her first term, especially by reaching out to Spanish-speaking defendants. It was hard to get them placed with groups where they could do "community service" if they didn't speak English; she sentenced them instead to take English classes, while creating a task force to look for community groups that would take them. She's running against John Tantum, a Democrat and the Wendell town attorney.
The only other contested race is for an open seat. We support Democrat Steve F. Bryant, who has a lot of experience with criminal cases and some in family law, over Republican Jennifer Miller Green, who specializes in divorce cases. Bryant, who's practiced in Raleigh since 1994, worked for 14 years in the state Attorney General's office, first on cases involving Dorothea Dix Hospital, then in the utilities section, and finally as head of the appellate section of the criminal unit. He's supported by, among other groups, the N.C. Association of Women Attorneys and the Fraternal Order of Police. His wife, Dawn Bryant, is the Raleigh police department's lawyer, advising Chief Mitch Brown on personnel matters, and Bryant has pledged to recuse himself in cases where her advice is any factor.
Wake County Bond Issues
We also encourage Wake residents to vote yes on the $15 million open-space bond question. Under the proposal, relatively undisturbed open lands--forests, wetlands, fields, meadows--would be purchased and preserved as a way of protecting water quality and providing more parks. This is certainly a worthy cause, especially given the county's rapid growth.Easily the most contentious of the Wake proposals, the jail bonds would provide $20 million for the expansion of the Hammond Road jail in south Raleigh and the construction of a new facility to be built by fall 2002. Proponents argue the extra space is greatly needed to ease prison overcrowding, reduce tensions between inmates and restore humane conditions. Opponents cite a number of issues, including better utilization of existing space.
Though we are firm supporters of humane conditions for inmates, and acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of them are awaiting trial and have not been convicted, we can't encourage a yes vote on the jail bonds question. The push to build more prisons largely comes from shortsighted, quick-fix political attitudes toward crime. Prison overcrowding will continue to be a problem as long as lawmakers and their policies prioritize incarceration over prevention.
Raleigh Bond Issues
The city council wants permission to borrow $45 million for road projects, $16 million for parks projects, and $14 million for affordable housing. The last of these is the highest priority. Raleigh's long since spent the $20 million the voters approved for housing in 1990. Since then, housing costs haven't gone down, have they? Thus, $14 million is significantly less than what's needed. Theses funds get used to subsidize the work of nonprofit housing developers and to reduce borrowing costs for low-income buyers. Raleigh could be much more creative about integrating affordable-housing unites into upscale developments. With this money, at least voters can signal their interest in the subject. So vote for affordable housing, and for parks, also a priority with open space in the city disappearing fast.
But we recommend voting against the road bonds. We object for two reasons: First, we'd have preferred more money for housing and parks, less for roads. Second, Raleigh keeps approving developments where the roads are inadequate instead of steering it downtown, where transit and existing roads would do nicely. An "against" vote protests the sprawl--and if the city insists on doing the roadwork anyway, it can afford to pay for it without borrowing.