The power players
Rep. Thom Tillis, R
The Cornelius management consultant, 52, starts his second term as House speaker. Last session he steered an often unwieldy GOP majority to tax and spending cuts as well as regulatory changes. He battled Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, engineering several veto overrides. He also dealt with scandal, dismissing two staffers after romantic entanglements with lobbyists. He kicks off what he says will be his last term with a veto-proof majority, an ally in GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and rumored designs on a 2014 U.S. Senate race.
Sen. Bob Rucho, R
At 64, the former dentist from Matthews is in his eighth term. A Massachusetts native – who still has his accent despite 37 years down South – he’s a top ally of Senate GOP leader Phil Berger of Eden. He led the Senate’s 2011 redistricting, which helped expand his party’s hold. As co-chair of the influential Finance Committee, he’ll be a key player in any tax overhaul.
Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R
Once a self-described nonconformist who grew up in a Democratic household, Samuelson, 53, has risen steadily since first elected in 2006. She chairs the Banking Committee and serves as House Conference leader, a new party leadership post. In 2011, she sponsored a controversial bill to restrict abortions. Critics argued that it would hurt rape victims. She took the floor to reveal that she’d been a victim herself at 16.
Rep. Kelly Alexander, D
In his fourth term, the 64-year-old former NAACP leader is vice chairman of the Banking Committee. In 2011, he co-sponsored a bill that would have hiked interest rates on consumer loans. Critics – including the Pentagon – called the rates predatory. Breaking with most other Democrats, he and other defenders said it offered credit to those who otherwise might not get it.
Rep. Bill Brawley, R
The commercial real estate broker and former member of the Matthews town council chairs the House Transportation Committee. He’s a staunch advocate for lower taxes and less regulation. Now 63, he ran unopposed in 2012 after winning a bruising battle in 2010.
Rep. Becky Carney, D
In her sixth term the Charlotte Democrat, 68, co-chairs the House Ethics Committee. Her most memorable moment of 2012 was an unintended one. She hit the wrong button and voted to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of “fracking” legislation. House leaders refused to let her change the inadvertent – and ultimately deciding – vote.
Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D
In his eighth term at 62, the former Rhodes Scholar is one of the delegation’s senior members. The Charlotte lawyer (whose firm employed now-Gov. Pat McCrory) co-chaired the Finance Committee for years and had a hand in most major legislation. Like other Democrats, he lost influence after Republicans won control in 2011.
Rep. Tricia Cotham, D
She joined the legislature at 28 when she was chosen to replace disgraced former Speaker Jim Black. Now 34, the former educator is a vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee. Married to former state Democratic Chairman Jerry Meek, she’s the daughter of Mecklenburg County commissioners chairwoman Pat Cotham.
Rep. Beverly Earle, D
The retired phone company employee with a passion for Harley-Davidsons is Mecklenburg County’s longest-serving legislator. At 69, she’s starting her 10th term. She was a leader on health and aging issues when Democrats controlled the House. Normally shying from attention, she ran for Charlotte mayor in 2007, losing to Republican incumbent Pat McCrory.
Sen. Malcolm Graham, D
The new chairman of the county delegation is a five-term senator who turned 50 this month. A former Charlotte City Council member, he’s a special assistant to the president of his alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University.
Rep. Rodney Moore, D
Starting his second term, the 49-year-old small-business consultant generally votes with his party. But he broke last June as one of only two Democrats – with Mecklenburg’s Kelly Alexander Jr. – to support so-called fracking for natural gas extraction. In October, he joined a handful of lawmakers on a tour of fracking operations in Texas.
Rep. Rob Bryan, R
The 41-year-old former Mecklenburg County GOP chairman is a Charlotte lawyer who served in Teach for America. He ousted incumbent Democrat Martha Alexander in a redrawn district that runs south from Dilworth and Myers Park to Interstate 485.
Rep. Carla Cunningham, D
With no primary or general election opposition, she was the only member to essentially win office the day she filed. A 51-year-old native of Wadesboro, she’s a registered nurse and widow of former longtime Rep. Pete Cunningham, whom she considers a political mentor.
Sen. Joel Ford, D
The 44-year-old technology consultant is a former Mecklenburg County Democratic Party chairman who also chaired the Charlotte Housing Authority. As a regular guest on “Flashpoint,” a Sunday talk show on WCNC-TV, he was a frequent foil of another guest, Republican – now governor – Pat McCrory.
Rep. Charles Jeter, R
He’s a former seven-year Huntersville town commissioner who won election in a brand new House district that runs from Huntersville to Lake Wylie. Until last year, he played drums in a rock-’n’-roll band he joined in 1997 called Green Vegas. At 39, he prides himself on working across the aisle.
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R
A newcomer from southeast Charlotte, she won her seat by winning the primary in her heavily Republican district and ran unopposed in the fall. A 31-year-old lawyer, she’s counsel to her family-run executive search firm. She has worked with conservative policy groups, including “Alliance Defending Freedom,” a group that advocates for religious liberty and traditional values.
Sen. Jeff Tarte, R
He’s a former mayor of Cornelius. Like House Speaker Thom Tillis, he got his start on the Cornelius parks board. He ran three times for mayor, twice unopposed. He won a tough GOP primary to become the first senator from a new district that stretches from Iredell County to southeast Mecklenburg County. A health care consultant, he’s 56.
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