Carla Cunningham banks on community ties

Carla Cunningham
Carla Cunningham

Democrat Carla Cunningham has never run against as many candidates as she is in the six-way 12th District primary. In fact, over five elections she’s had just one.

Cunningham, 54, didn’t have a single opponent when she was first elected to the N.C. House in 2012. She won in a newly drawn district. Her late husband, Pete Cunningham, also had served in the House.

Carla Cunningham is a nurse who ran unopposed for re-election to the House in March. She’s also unopposed in November.

Running to help the poor

House District 106 has one of the county’s highest concentrations of poverty. Cunningham says she’s running to bring jobs to her district and to help women.

Among the legislation she’s sponsored: A bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and another to raise the minimum wage. She also sponsored a measure to slow the expansion of corporate tax cuts. None of those bills went far.

Advocate of suicide prevention

Cunningham has also been a regular proponent of measures on domestic violence and suicide prevention.

Fueling her passion about the suicide bill, she says, is the fact that a favorite relative has made attempts on his own life. Cunningham worked with Republicans on the measure, which passed the House but not the Senate.

Cunningham has a relatively low profile. The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research last year ranked her 113th out of 120 members in effectiveness.

“I’m very progressive, plus I’m a lot younger than most of the people up here,” she says. “So those numbers to me are just numbers.”

Polls and fundraising

It’s unclear how aggressive a campaign Cunningham is running. Through March, she reported raising just $20,000 – all in the form of a personal loan from herself. Her only expense to that point was her $1,740 filing fee.

Despite low numbers in at least one poll, she believes years of community activity will pay dividends in the congressional primary.

“I may have a low profile as far as being here (in Raleigh), but in Mecklenburg County, I’ve always been community-involved,” she says. “So lots of people there know who I am. (I) may not poll well but they know who I am and they know who my husband was.”

Carla Cuningham

Hometown: Wadesboro.

Education: CPCC, Gaston College, associates degree; Winston-Salem State University, bachelor of science in nursing.

Family: Widowed, two adult children.

Job: Nurse.

Politics: N.C. House, 2013-present.

Worth knowing: Loves to fish.