Our choices for N.C. Senate

The Observer editorial board

There are five contested N.C. Senate races on ballots in Mecklenburg County. Here’s how we see them:

N.C. Senate 37

Since being appointed in 2014 to finish out Dan Clodfelter’s term, Democrat Jeff Jackson has been one of the most visible, hardworking and freshest Democratic voices in North Carolina politics. The former assistant district attorney has been unafraid to speak out on redistricting, early childhood education, Medicaid expansion and other issues. His thoughtful and collegial approach to his job has won him fans on both sides of the aisle.

Jackson is running against Republican activist Bob Diamond, a Charlotte pharmacist who supports HB2 and more deregulation. In a Democrat-leaning district, Jackson is a superior choice.

N.C. Senate 38

This editorial board is fond of saying how much we like independent thinkers. Democrat Joel Ford tests that notion. He regularly takes positions we don’t share, most recently for HB972, a restrictive body cam footage bill that he believes was the most transparent his constituents could hope to get from a GOP legislature.

Ford also was an architect behind a law we supported that creates a pilot Achievement School District in which struggling public schools are taken over by successful charter school operators. Democrats were unhappy with the bill, but Ford helped negotiate provisions that lets school districts try innovations that could help low-performing schools.

We appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness and creativity, and we believe Ford’s largely Democratic district benefits from his work with Republicans. He’s the clear choice over his opponent, perennial candidate Republican Richard Rivette.

N.C. Senate 39

There’s no Mecklenburg legislator we can remember who has done more damage to Charlotte than Dan Bishop. His frothing response to Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance helped whip up a Republican frenzy that resulted in HB2, a discriminatory law that Bishop authored.

HB2 has cost Charlotte and North Carolina millions of dollars in business and lost events. Bishop has been unrepentant. He’s mischaracterized what Charlotte’s ordinance would have done, and he’s attacked LGBT advocates. Mecklenburg deserves much better.

Bishop’s opponent, Democrat Lloyd Scher, brings his own difficulties to the race. Scher is a former Mecklenburg commissioner (1992-2000) best known for his outbursts against colleagues on the board. Scher, who had long been a colorful personality in Mecklenburg politics, says the outbursts were caused by medication he was taking for a head injury from a 1994 bicycle accident. He says now he should have resigned from the board.

Scher has more recently served without incident on local boards, according to people who spoke to the editorial board. He is knowledgeable about issues affecting his district and county. We hope his troubles are in the past and that he would serve Mecklenburg well.

N.C. Senate 40

Incumbent Joyce Waddell is running for a second term in this heavily Democratic east Charlotte district. Waddell is a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education member who has advocated in the Senate for public schools. We hope she continues to grow as a lawmaker and become a more active, vocal representative for her district.

Republican Marguerite Cooke has not run a legitimate campaign. We endorse Waddell.

N.C. Senate 41

Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte has had a bit of a bumpy tenure representing this district that winds from north Mecklenburg down the eastern border of the county. Tarte’s somewhat belated opposition to the I-77 toll contract brought some ire in north Mecklenburg, and his support of HB2 put him on the wrong side of discrimination.

Tarte rallied to oppose the Cintra toll project, although unsuccessfully. He’s also worked to find an HB2 compromise, and he believes the city and state should start over on the issue. Although he still has qualms about transgender people and bathrooms, he’s amenable to providing gays and lesbians protected status in North Carolina.

Tarte is running against Democrat Jonathan Hudson, an environmental activist and political novice, as well as Libertarian candidate Chris Cole. Tarte is a thoughtful, moderate Republican on most issues, including how the state could find a different way to expand Medicaid and provide more health coverage. We recommend him.