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U.S. House 12: Malcolm Graham, Vince Coakley

The next representative of U.S. House District 12 faces a daunting job description.

First, he or she must replace popular Democrat Mel Watt, who ably served two decades in the House before taking over the Federal Housing Finance Agency in January.

Even more challenging: The winner in this heavily Democratic district will likely be part of the minority party in the House, with a majority that’s often hostile to progressive positions.

That hasn’t stopped candidates from lining up for the job, of course. Three of those candidates serve in the N.C. General Assembly – Sen. Malcolm Graham of Mecklenburg County and Reps. Alma Adams and Marcus Brandon of Guilford. Two candidates are Charlotte attorneys – George Battle III and Curtis Osborne.

Battle brings an intriguing resumé to the race. He’s general counsel for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a position that has helped him become well-versed in education and health care law and policy, two critical legislative areas. He’s also respected in the schools community for his intelligence and level-headed demeanor – qualities that would serve him well in Washington.

The three lawmakers in the race, like Battle, share progressive positions on most issues. They also have had to work in an unfriendly legislative environment in Raleigh, with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and governor’s chair. A Democratic representative will face a similar dynamic in Washington, with Republicans likely to control the House and possibly the Senate. That will require a leader who is willing to stand up for Democratic principles while working across the aisle for District 12’s interests.

Graham stands out as that candidate. He has a history of collaborating with the opposing party, including as a Charlotte city councilman from 1999-2005. In Raleigh, he worked with Republicans to strengthen legislation that lifted the cap on charter schools, and with then-N.C. Sen. Robert Pittenger and others on gang legislation.

Graham also is unafraid to speak up against the majority. Most recently, he was a strong voice against legislation that tranferred control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city to a regional commission.

Battle shows promise as a future leader in Charlotte, but Graham has served the city for more than two decades as a non-profit executive, councilman, and state senator. He’s engaged in our city and knows it well, and he’s earned the opportunity to represent Charlotte and all of District 12 in Washington. We recommend him.

In the Republican primary, Charlotte pastor Leon Threatt takes on former television anchor and radio personality Vince Coakley, also of Charlotte. Although Threatt is decidedly more temperate than the combative Coakley, the latter has a firmer grasp on the issues and policy prescriptions important to District 12 Republicans.

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