Democratic Rep. Carla Cunningham hopes to win a second term representing northeast Charlotte’s District 106 over first-time Republican candidate Trey Lowe in the Nov. 4 election.
Cunningham, who won her seat unopposed in 2012, is a registered nurse and consultant. Her long career in health care includes serving on the N.C. Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.
Long active in Democratic politics, she’s the widow of longtime Rep. Pete Cunningham, who died in 2010. As a candidate, she’s focused on quality-of-life issues: jobs and pay equality, health care and public education.
Cunningham cites a litany of social ills in the state, from workplace double-standards for minorities to stagnant wages, rising poverty and pay gaps between men and women. More spending is needed on education, she says, while cuts to Medicaid will ultimately hurt children’s learning abilities and future health.
She was a primary sponsor of 11 bills in her first term, many of them on social issues such as domestic violence and suicide prevention among minors and veterans.
Cunningham said she’ll try again on the suicide bill, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate, and on an equal-pay measure. She said she’ll also try to answer a need for training to prepare district constituents for jobs when new industries open.
“We still have a population that is not able to get inside the game, to say, ‘I’m here and I’m ready,’ ” she said.
With Republican super-majorities in both chambers, it’s a hard time to be a Democrat in Raleigh, said Cunningham, who’s 52.
“Even in the committees, the super-majority controls how the committee meets,” she said. “You can still have input, but you have to spend a lot of time building relationships.”
Lowe, 25, also enters politics as an outsider. The Republican is running in a district that is nearly two-thirds Democratic and where about three of four voters are not white.
An assistant account manager at Great Dane Trailers, Lowe moved to Charlotte two years ago from Savannah, Ga.
He considers himself conservative but holds moderate positions on issues such as gay marriage. A certified pistol instructor, he says he’s a member of both the National Rifle Association and the NAACP.
“Sometimes the loudest noise is from people who are on the edges (of political debate), and people need a choice in the middle,” he said.
Lowe supports lower taxes for small business and the middle class, which he said would boost local economies. He’s for better after-school programs for children, training programs for the unemployed and tax-free zones to spur business development. And he proposes a one-cent sales-tax increase statewide for schools.
Lowe said he decided to make his first attempt at elected office, in part, because nobody ran against Cunningham in 2012. He believes his business experience in sales, marketing and management gives him the ability to turn ideas into action.
“People should have a choice. Even if (candidates) don’t have a chance, (voters) should have a choice,” he said. “I think a lot of people in politics do it for selfish reasons. They may be good at politics, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for people.”