by Lisa Sorg
This post was updated at 8:23 a.m. on Feb. 16 with comments from Mike Woodard.
The new district, which, according to state documents is 54 percent Democratic voters and 21 percent Republican, includes parts of Durham, Person and Caswell counties. The district is predominantly white.
Woodard was elected to Durham City Council in 2005 and is in his third term; it expires in 2013. Sutton ran for Durham District Judge in 2010.
I know the range of issues the Legislature deals with," Woodard said. "I can hit the ground running."
Although both candidates are well-known in Durham, they will need to build name recognition in Caswell and Person counties. "There is a lot of sharing between Durham and Person counties in terms of economic development and jobs," Woodard said. "And there's a strong Person-Caswell link. I can be an effective advocate for them."
Sutton announced her intention to run last December at the urging of several women activists. "one of the main things that gets to me is the phenomenal and disturbing dearth of women in the Legislature and government in general," Sutton told the Indy today. "I can be an asset to the Legislature. I’m not afraid of the old boy's club."
WRAL's Laura Leslie reported last week that women legislators have been the hardest hit by the GOP's redistricting maps.
"Mike is a great guy I’ve considered him a friend and I will continue to do so," Sutton said. "He's been great on City Council. But I think people need to consider if we need more of the same in Raleigh. If anybody looks at the Legislative pictures, they'll see middle-aged and retired white guys. I don’t think that what's the people of North Carolina need."
Woodard cites his experience with women's issues, including his chairmanship of the city's domestic violence task force and his work in rape crisis centers. He is also pro-choice. "I can be just as effective as any person, man or woman," he said. "the question is, Who can be the most effective state senator? I'm stressing my experience, knowledge and skill."
The long legislative sessions are an obstacle to most prospective officeholders who have to also work day jobs. This has been especially true during the last year when Republicans have run the General Assembly, calling extra mini-sessions that sometimes lasted just a day or two—or holding votes well after midnight.
"The way the Legislature is set up discourages women, single mothers like me and people who aren’t financially well off," Sutton said. "I see myself a little closer to the ground than the average legislator."
Sutton has been in the news recently after filing a request to remove Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline. As the Indy reported in today's edition, Cline is facing a legal petition arguing she should lose her job because she has publicly fueled an ongoing conflict with Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. A judge suspended Cline with pay on Jan. 27. Cline's removal hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20.
"The one thing that I’ve heard the most from people on the street has been that they are grateful for my courage in bringing it to light," Sutton said. "I hadn’t thought of it that way, but once people started to say that, I guess it was kind of courageous. That's a characteristic that will serve me well in the event I get to Raleigh. [Filing the request against Cline] wasn’t going to be popular. It was pretty risky."