The 2014 election in North Carolina ends today, and if you’re anything like us, you’re saying, “It’s about time.”
Over the past two weeks, the Observer editorial board has made its recommendations in each race and question on the Mecklenburg ballot. We spent many hours interviewing the candidates, reviewing their records, talking to people who have worked closely with them and assessing their policy stances. Here is a recap of those recommendations; more complete explanations of each can be found at www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion.
We endorse Democrat Kay Hagan, primarily because since ascending to N.C. House leadership in 2011, Thom Tillis has consistently shepherded legislation and supported policies that are bad for North Carolinians. We have been disappointed with Hagan’s first term, but we were more disappointed with Tillis’ agenda in Raleigh.
U.S. House, 8th District
We recommend Republican Richard Hudson over challenger Antonio Blue. While we disagree with Hudson on the majority of policy issues, he is a better fit for the solid conservative majority in this district. Hudson has refrained from bomb-throwing and says he wants to work in a bipartisan way.
U.S. House 12th District
We recommend Democrat Alma Adams over Republican Vince Coakley. Legislators drew the 12th District specifically to elect a black Democrat to Congress. Adams, who has a 20-year record in the legislature, holds views that fit the majority of this district far better than Coakley’s.
N.C. Senate District 38
Incumbent Democrat Joel Ford is the clear choice over Republican Richard Rivette. Ford is an independent thinker with relevant experience. Rivette wants to abolish most of the current tax system.
N.C. Senate District 41
We recommend Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte over challenger Latrice McRae. We disagree with Tarte on many policy questions, but we find him to be thoughtful, hard-working and open-minded to bipartisan discussions of issues.
N.C. House District 88
We endorse Democratic challenger Margie Storch over incumbent Republican Rob Bryan. Storch is fluent on legislative issues and wants to undo some of the biggest initiatives Republicans passed in recent years. We find Bryan to be a smart, engaged representative. But he has toed the party line on every major legislative effort that we have decried over the past two years.
N.C. House District 92
We recommend Republican incumbent Charles Jeter over Democratic challenger Robin Bradford. We appreciate Bradford’s passion for public school funding, but Jeter is the kind of thoughtful Republican leader we’d like to see in Raleigh.
N.C. House District 98
Voters have two strong candidates to consider for the seat being vacated by House Speaker Thom Tillis. We recommend Republican John Bradford over Democrat Natasha Marcus. Bradford is a popular member of the Cornelius Town Council who believes state lawmakers may have overreached some on issues involving municipalities.
N.C. House District 104
We recommend Republican Dan Bishop over Libertarian Eric Cable. Bishop, a Mecklenburg commissioner from 2004-2008, is a smart, analytic thinker who agrees in principle with the Republican agenda of lower taxes and smaller government. He’s sensed, however, a lack of humility from some Republicans since they took power in Raleigh.
N.C. House District 106
We recommend Democratic incumbent Carla Cunningham over Republican challenger Trey Lowe.
N.C. Supreme Court
We recommend Mark Martin, Sam Ervin IV, Robin Hudson and Cheri Beasley in these nonpartisan races.
Martin, running for chief justice against Ola Lewis, has been endorsed by five previous chief justices of both parties. He has served on the Supreme Court for 15 years and he is far more prepared for the job than Lewis.
Ervin is a Court of Appeals judge who authors clear, well-reasoned decisions without consideration of political implications.
Hudson has served admirably on the Supreme Court for eight years and on the Court of Appeals for six years before that.
Beasley, an incumbent justice and the only African-American on the court, has been a judge for the past 16 years.
Court of Appeals
We recommend Lucy Inman, Mark Davis and John Arrowood.
Inman’s experience as a Superior Court judge and 18 years in private practice trumps that of opponent Bill Southern, who earned his law degree from Texas Southern in 2006.
Davis is an incumbent Court of Appeals judge and former general counsel to Bev Perdue who has bipartisan backing.
Arrowood, of Charlotte, is one of only two candidates among 19 vying for one seat who has already served on the Court of Appeals.
We recommend Bob Bell and John Bowers.
Bell has been a respected Superior Court judge for 17 years. His opponent, who has withdrawn from the race but appears on the ballot, was admitted to the Bar just last year.
Bowers, who does commercial litigation at Horack Talley, Pharr and Lowndes, leads a pack of four capable candidates in the other Superior Court race.
We recommend incumbent Judges Theo Nixon and Casey Viser.
Nixon can come off as brusque but knows the law and has led several initiatives to make the courts more efficient. Viser was overwhelmingly backed by fellow lawyers for his appointment to the bench and counts 24 former presidents of the Mecklenburg Bar as supporters.
Clerk of Superior Court
Two uncommonly strong candidates vie to replace Martha Curran. We give a slight nod to Martha Efird over Elisa Chinn Gary. Efird ran a law practice for 16 years before working as an assistant clerk to Curran.
Mecklenburg County commissioners
We recommend incumbent Democrats Pat Cotham and Trevor Fuller and newcomer Republican Emily Zuyus in the at-large race. We recommend Republicans Jim Puckett and Matthew Ridenhour in the only two district races.
There is probably no one on the board who works more tirelessly, talks more with voters, and digs more into issues than Cotham.
Fuller has made missteps but he has commission meetings running more efficiently, and he remains a thoughtful, moderate voice on the board.
Zuyus helped bring about the property revaluation review not by bellowing from afar, but by working within the system to effect change.
Puckett, a Huntersville businessman, would bring a conservative fiscal perspective to the board, as well as a detailed knowledge of county government.
Ridenhour is thoughtful about issues, visible in his district and the county and respectful in his disagreements with Democrats on the board.
We recommend Democrat Irwin Carmichael over Chris Hailey.
Carmichael has served as a reserve officer at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years. That is a volunteer role, not a paid position, but Carmichael says it has given him extensive familiarity with how the sheriff’s department operates and what is required to lead it.
Quarter-cent sales tax
We recommend a vote for the quarter-cent sales tax.
It’s no secret that the referendum was poorly conceived, without key input from relevant players. But Mecklenburg voters are not deciding whether commissioners did their job poorly in June. They’re deciding whether the county should take this opportunity to fund education at a time that it’s desperately needed. The answer is inescapably yes.
We recommend voting yes for all the bonds. Their approval would have no effect on the tax rate and would provide responsible investment in the city.
We recommend a vote for the constitutional amendment that would allow defendants to be tried by a judge rather than a jury. Forty-nine other states and the federal courts do so.