Incumbents Brawley, Earle among editorial board’s N.C. House picks

The Observer editorial board


Democrats in the N.C. House need to flip four seats to break the Republican Party’s veto-proof “supermajority” in the state’s 120-member lower chamber.

We hope that happens – albeit without sacrificing Mecklenburg’s most influential GOP lawmaker. Such a change would bring a much-needed moderating influence to the General Assembly.

Here’s how we see Mecklenburg County’s seven contested House races.

House District 88

Republican incumbent Rob Bryan squares off against Democrat Mary Belk in this Republican-leaning south Charlotte district.

We have supported Bryan’s legislation creating an “Achievement School District” in which successful charter schools could take over five low-performing public schools. For the most part, however, he adheres to the GOP party line in Raleigh, even on wrong-headed moves such as HB2 and refusing to expand Medicaid.

Belk, a small business owner, has deep community and civic roots, is knowledgeable about the issues and speaks convincingly of the need for more moderating voices in the General Assembly. We find great appeal in her call for an end to socially divisive legislation and a greater focus on education and economic development.

We recommend Belk.

House District 92

Republican Charles Jeter’s sudden resignation in July leaves Democrat Chaz Beasley, a Harvard-educated Charlotte lawyer, facing Republican Beth Danae Caulfield, a real estate agent and former Huntersville town commissioner.

Beasley, 31, brings a sophisticated understanding of economic matters, thanks to his legal training and his work analyzing multimillion-dollar structured finance contracts. His low-income upbringing in Catawba County gives him first-hand understanding of how critical a strong public education system can be to improving lives.

Caulfield has the deeper political resume, but Beasley would bring sharper insights on education, taxation and economic development for District 92, the most Democratic district in the state represented by a Republican.

We recommend Beasley.

N.C. House 98

Incumbent John Bradford, a co-sponsor of House Bill 2, has drawn a challenge from Jane Campbell, a gay retired Naval officer and veteran of Operation Desert Shield. Bradford says he’s a “reasonable Republican” willing to buck the GOP leadership on renewable energy and coal ash legislation. But the American Conservative Union rates his voting record as being on par with that of HB2’s author, Rep. Dan Bishop.

We prefer Campbell, a Davidson graduate who is unaffiliated but backed by Democrats. She helped supervise multimillion-dollar military departments in the Navy, honing leadership and consensus-building skills. She would bring a much-needed new LGBT voice to the General Assembly.

House District 101

Democratic incumbent Beverly Earle faces opposition in this overwhelmingly Democratic district from Republican Justin Dunn, who works for a nonprofit that helps students pay their college bills.

Earle, who is seeking her 12th term, has done a solid job representing her constituents. She is easily the superior choice to Dunn, a political novice who ran unsuccessfully for Charlotte City Council last year.

House District 103

This is a tough one. We disagree with Republican incumbent Bill Brawley on many subjects. Among the most glaring examples: His support for HB2 and his key role in the ill-fated effort to strip Charlotte-Douglas International Airport from the city of Charlotte’s control.

However, with Sen. Bob Rucho retiring, Brawley stands as Mecklenburg’s most powerful Republican lawmaker. He played a key role in stopping rural GOP lawmakers’ plans for a drastic urban-to-rural shift in sales tax proceeds.

His Democratic challenger, entrepreneur Rochelle Rivas, is a compelling alternative. She is socially moderate but fiscally conservative, having built her consulting firm from scratch to a 63-employee operation. She understands budgets and consensus-building, and her long resume of nonprofit volunteer work speaks well of her civic-mindedness.

We need to keep Brawley in Raleigh as a check on the GOP’s heavily-rural leadership. Rivas is an impressive candidate, however; we urge her to continue seeking opportunities for public service.

House 104

This south Charlotte seat comes open because Dan Bishop is leaving it to run for the N.C. Senate. The race pits Republican Andy Dulin, a former Charlotte City Council member, against Democrat Peter Noris, who makes his first run for office.

Dulin is an affable politician with many relationships in state and local political circles. He says he supports HB2 (though he’d like to see "softening" from both sides), and says, incorrectly, that gays and lesbians already enjoy legal protections against discrimination. He backs Donald Trump and applauds the legislature’s work in recent years.

Noris is a lifelong liberal Democrat who worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign in 1972 and was an early Bernie Sanders supporter. A retired manufacturer’s rep in the consumer electronics business, he moved to Charlotte in 2012. He opposes HB2, the voter ID bill and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

If you want a conservative who will do what the Republican leadership demands, you’ll like Dulin. If you want a liberal who will sit in the back row and contest most of what the Republicans do, you’ll like Noris. Neither is as centrist as we’d like, but we give the nod to Noris.

House 105

In this conservative south Mecklenburg district, Democrat Connie Green-Johnson faces Republican Scott Stone, who was appointed to the seat this spring to replace the departing Jacqueline Schaffer.

Green-Johnson, who worked for 30 years as an administrator and clinical instructor of Nuclear Medicine at a Virginia veterans hospital, would be a capable lawmaker. We share her views on many issues, including education funding and HB2.

That's not true with Stone, a conservative who favors lowering taxes even more. Stone didn't vote for HB2, and he's tried to meet with Charlotte officials to talk compromise, but he hews with Republican leadership on the issue.

For District 105 residents, however, Stone is a thoughtful lawmaker who serves on a critical transportation committee. He has a firm grasp of issues surrounding transportation funding and sales tax redistribution, and he's in position to have the ear of other Republicans. Conservative voters would do well by him.