Durham's PACs have made their endorsements for statewide, federal and local races as well asproposed constitutional amendments on the ballot November 6.
People's Alliance PAC endorsed candidates win elections when Durham voters hear how they will advance our progressive values. We need your help to meet voters at the polls during early voting and on election day.
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State Representative Marcia Morey, Guest Columnist
This column originally appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun
This November, voters will decide if they want to protect North Carolina’s constitution or dramatically change it. Republican leaders hastily wrote and placed six amendments on the ballot with misleading language, hoping you won’t pay close attention to what these constitutional changes will do or why you are asked to vote on them.
None of these amendments are necessary, and some are outright dangerous. More disturbingly, voters are being asked to give a green light to the supermajority to fill in the blanks on how these amendments will actually work in November, before any new legislators are seated. Here’s a closer look.
Anita Earls for NC Supreme Court – PA PAC endorses Anita Earls for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Earls’ legal training and experience make her ideally suited to serve on our state’s highest court. She holds degrees from the country’s very best schools where she earned highest honors. She was editor of the Yale Law Review. She worked as a civil rights attorney with the Ferguson-Stein law firm, one of North Carolina’s leading civil rights firms for ten years. She then worked in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington during the Clinton Administration. She has taught law at the University of Maryland, Duke, and UNC. At UNC she was the director of the Center for Civil Rights. She was the founder and first director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Usually, we do not go over a candidate’s resume in detail like this, but for the Supreme Court, serious legal scholarship is very important. The court’s authority is reposed in it.
Earls’ responses to our questionnaire indicate that she is personally aligned with PA’s views on policy questions. As a Supreme Court Justice, however, she repeatedly cautioned that she will apply the law scrupulously.
Earls is African-American. Only six African-Americans have ever served on the North Carolina Supreme Court in its more than 200-year history.
Most people know Anita Earls from her tireless advocacy for the poor, for people of color, for the disfranchised, for the LGBTQ community, and marginalized people everywhere. The best recent example of her work is her role as lead attorney in Dickson v. Rucho, the case which challenged and overcame the Republican legislature’s racially gerrymandered legislative districts. The litigation lasted six years and went to the United States Supreme Court twice.
Earls is a Democrat. Her principal opponent in the contest is the Republican incumbent, Barbara Jackson. Justice Jackson chose not to participate in PA PAC’s endorsement process. It is important to note that Jackson voted with the court’s majority to uphold the racially gerrymandered districts in the Rucho case on two occasions. Each time, the court’s decision was overturned by the US Supreme Court through Anita Earls’ advocacy.
The other Republican candidate, Christopher James Anglin, did not respond to our invitation to participate in our endorsement process. His candidacy has been controversial because he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican before filing.
John Arrowood for NC Court of Appeals – PA PAC backs Judge John Arrowood for the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Judge Arrowood obtained his law degree from UNC law school in 1982. After graduation, he was a staff attorney for the NC Court of Appeals and rose to become staff director. He was also selected to clerk for the Chief Judge of the court. Appellate court staff and clerk positions are honors reserved for the very best legal scholars. With Arrowood’s years of service, few candidates could be more familiar with the business of the court.
After working for the court, Arrowood worked for nearly thirty years in a broad range of civil practice. His criminal practice was concentrated on post-conviction expunctions and pardons. He has also served as a Special Superior Court Judge at the trial level. Arrowood has been a member of the board of the North Carolina Railroad, the NC Banking Commission, the NC Rules Review Commission, and the NC Arts Council. He is truly committed to public service.
Arrowood has served on the Court of Appeals twice, both through appointments. The first occasion was 2007-8. The most recent followed his appointment in 2017. On a number of occasions, he has dissented from the majority only to have his view of the case adopted by the NC Supreme Court on appeal.
Responses to judicial questionnaires are often guarded. From Judge Arrowood’s questionnaire, it appears that his policy views are aligned with PA’s. He cited cases relating to voting rights and the separation of powers as among the most significant recent decisions of the courts. He is concerned about the legislature’s partisan manipulation of seats on the Court of Appeals and with vacancy appointments.
Judge Arrowood is a Democrat and is the incumbent for this seat. He is the first openly gay person to serve on either of NC’s appellate courts.
Andrew Heath, Arrowood’s Republican opponent, chose not to respond to our invitation to participate in our endorsement process. He was budget director in Governor McCrory’s administration and was then appointed to the Industrial Commission. He now serves as a superior court judge.
Toby Hampson for NC Court of Appeals – PA PAC endorses Toby Hampson for the NC Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Anne Marie Calabria.
Hampson has a Durham connection. He graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He is an honors graduate of the American University in Washington, DC, and from Campbell University law school. Following graduation from law school, Hampson clerked for three judges on the NC Court of Appeals. In private practice, he has concentrated on appellate work and is now head of appellate practice for one of the state’s most prominent law firms. He is an expert in the business of our appellate courts.
Hampson’s questionnaire responses indicate that he agrees with PA on policy issues. He has well-developed views about improving access to the courts and for simplified and less expensive resolution of routine and minor matters. He supports diversion programs and adequate funding for indigent defense. He indicated a desire to use his position as a judge to advocate for equal access to the courts and to address racial disparities in the judicial system. He cited the City of Asheville case in the NC Supreme Court as having special significance because in it the court reasserted its authority and obligation to review legislative acts as a check on the power of the General Assembly.
Hampson is a Democrat. Opposing him are Republicans Jefferson Griffin and Sandra Ray. Both are serving as trial court judges. Ray declined to participate in our endorsement process. Griffin appeared at our candidate mixer and was interviewed. He did not, however, respond to our questionnaire. He lost to Lauren Freeman for the office of Wake County DA back in 2014.
Allegra Collins for NC Court of Appeals – PA PAC endorses Allegra Collins for the Elmore Seat on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Collins grew up in Virginia and was a champion tennis player during her college years. Before attending Campbell Law School, she played professional tennis for a time and worked in the business world. Following graduation, Collins clerked in the Court of Appeals and later worked in the office of the appellate reporter for the NC Supreme Court. She holds a faculty position in legal research and writing at Campbell Law School and has her own successful appellate practice. She represents indigent criminal defendants at the appellate level. Like candidates Hampson and Arrowood, Collins is an expert in appellate advocacy and the business of our appellate courts.
Her responses to our questionnaire on policy issues were guarded. In her interview, she was less guarded. When she did respond substantively, her answers were aligned with PA’s policy views. She indicated a real concern about access to the courts for people with limited means. She is determined to fight against racial bias in the justice system. She wants to remove political maneuvering in the court system and to protect the role of the North Carolina Supreme Court as the highest court in the state.
Allegra Collins is a Democrat. Her Republican opponent, Chuck Kitchen, served for many years as Durham County attorney. His questionnaire responses are extremely guarded. During his interview, he explained that he changed his voter registration to Republican because of what he perceived to be the Obama administration’s persecution of the Alamance County Sheriff for alleged racial and ethnic profiling.
Michael Monaco, the libertarian candidate, did not respond to our invitation to participate in our endorsement process.
Yesterday, more than 500 PA members--our friends, family, and neighbors--voted to endorse progressive voices for North Carolina Supreme Court, North Carolina Court of Appeals, Durham County District and Superior courts, and Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors. PA members also voted to oppose all six Constitutional amendments.
The People's Alliance PAC endorsements are chosen by a democratic vote of our membership. Members had the opportunity to review candidates’ responses to the People’s Alliance PAC questionnaire, and hear a report on each race from an interview committee made up of People’s Alliance members. We choose the best candidates for the job--candidates whose values and work reflect the People’s Alliance vision and mission statement (English, En Español). PA PAC thanks all candidates running for office. Up and down the ballot we made tough choices between strong candidates seeking to represent Durham and the state.Read more
Each election, PA PAC develops candidate questionnaires to better understand the candidates' positions on the important issues facing Durham and the state. The questionnaires and resumes received to date for candidates seeking judicial and Soil and Water Conservation District offices are listed below.Read more
Last week, over 33,000 Durham County voters cast their votes and selected Clarence Birkhead for Sheriff and Satana Deberry for District Attorney. We also chose to send experienced leaders to Congress and the school board. David Price will head to the general election in November, and Mike Lee, Natalie Beyer, Bettina Umstead and Matt Sears will return to the school board.
People’s Alliance PAC would like to thank all the candidates who stood for office in this election. Our democracy functions best when we have the opportunity to vigorously debate the issues that matter most.
We came together to support progressive voices for a better Durham. In all, over 80 pollworkers and volunteers worked on this election. They helped staff 23 precincts on election day and early voting where more than half of all votes were cast. They talked with thousands of voters and told them why they supported PA PAC-endorsed candidates. Other PA members delivered food, helped set up the March endorsement meeting and participated in interview committees. We also sent our endorsement mailer to over 40,000 voters and passed out over 15,000 sample ballots.
Election day turnout made the critical difference. In the race for district attorney, election day voters helped Satana Deberry make up an early voting shortfall and go on to win by eight percent and prevail in over three out of every four precincts. Countywide, Clarence Birkhead won in nine out of every ten precincts, winning his race two to one. Mike Lee won the race for district one school board by 15 percent, Matt Sears won the race for district three school board three to one, and Natalie Beyer won district four with over 56 percent of the vote besting two other candidates by 15 percent. Bettina Umstead faced no opponents in her race for district two school board.
PA PAC continues to work for you. You elected PAC coordinators to make sure the interests of PA members were represented in this election. You elected us to keep you informed and engaged. You asked us to be stewards of our collective resources and to support the campaigns that reflected our values. In the coming weeks, we’ll take stock of what worked and how we can improve. We hope that you will take a moment to share your thoughts.
Mike Lee is thoughtful and patient. He builds consensus: As the leader of a progressive school board, Mike understands that the team will not always agree and he is comfortable with debate. Whether he is working with his school board colleagues, teachers and staff, or kids and parents, Mike really listens. As the father of three DPS students, he is empathic with the issues and needs facing parents and students. He can synthesize information to lead inclusive decision-making forward. In the end, Mike’s eye is always on student welfare and student progress.
Coming from a business background, Mike has a strong understanding of finance, operations, and human resources. He is well versed in technology. His finance skills are important to helping manage the budget and when advocating to the County Commissioners for funding.
Mike has a strong race equity lens: Mike supports and advocates for ongoing professional development for teachers and staff. He recognizes that everyone has unique strengths and will continue to advocate for students for the next four years.
Mike Lee is a steady and effective advocate for Durham Public Schools. As school board chair, he successfully convinced the state that Durham solutions are best for Durham education challenges. He knows our schools, he knows our children, and he knows our community. I am voting to send Mike Lee back to the school board.
I'm supporting Matt Sears for re-election. As a public school parent I've watched up close as Matt and his family has fully embraced public schools. Matt's oldest attends Lakewood Elementary. This neighborhood school was their FIRST and only choice. Matt and Ellen have provided leadership to other parents at Lakewood and helped to grow leadership.
As a school board member Matt brings an innovation lens to his work. In a previous professional position Matt was able to travel the state and the nation to learn about best practice and ideas that lead to real success. As a member of the board he can assist the Superintendent as he learns to lead in Durham. Matt is a former teacher so he fully understands the challenges of the job and is there for teachers but also recognizes that we need not only to support but to transform our schools in Durham.
I proudly serve alongside Matt on the Lakewood PTA and I endorse his continued leadership in Durham.
Durham PTA Parent
Natalie Beyer supports and empowers educators. During her career as a DPS Board Member she has visited my school at the request of staff to hear our concerns and help resolve issues. For example, she met with us when we were concerned about the amount of time the district was using for mandatory trainings on early release days, rather than protecting the time for teachers to utilize at their school for collaborations within their learning teams. She listened to our concerns, helped us figure out the best way to a solution, and the following year the majority of our early release days were protected. On another occasion, she met with distressed staff about our school-based administration. Again, she listened, helped us determine possible solutions, and worked with us through the next steps. Natalie understands that Durham needs to attract, recruit and prepare highly-qualified teachers. As a result, she partners with teacher preparatory programs, such as Duke’s Program in Education. Natalie is a public education advocate and makes sure to attend public events and raise awareness about the issues that public schools are facing in North Carolina. As an educator in Durham, I am casting my vote, without hesitation, for Natalie!
Mika Hunter Twietmeyer