How we see Mecklenburg’s five NC Senate races

Senate leader Phil Berger seeks to keep Republicans’ supermajority in the NC Senate. Five races in Mecklenburg County could help determine whether he does.
Senate leader Phil Berger seeks to keep Republicans’ supermajority in the NC Senate. Five races in Mecklenburg County could help determine whether he does. cseward@newsobserver.com

A key question in this year’s election is whether Democrats can break the Republicans’ grip on the NC legislature. If Democrats flip four House seats or six Senate seats, they break the GOP’s veto-proof supermajority.

Five Senate seats appear on the Mecklenburg ballot, including at least one with a solid chance of flipping to Democrats. Here’s how we see those races (we endorsed in the House races last week).

Senate 37

Democrat Jeff Jackson seeks a third term in this district that snakes from east Charlotte out South Boulevard to the southwest part of the county. He faces a challenge from Republican Nora Trotman. The Constitution Party’s Stuart Collins is also running. We recommend Jackson.

Jackson is one of the bright young stars for NC Democrats. Since replacing Dan Clodfelter in 2014, the attorney and Army veteran has been an energetic, forceful and reasoned voice against some of the NC GOP’s excesses. He is a leader of statewide efforts to eat into Republican control of the General Assembly. And he has represented his heavily Democratic district well.

Trotman does freelance digital marketing and has lived in Charlotte for three years. Her two biggest campaign issues have been decriminalizing marijuana and expanding early childhood education. She is thoughtful, but she is running against one of the state’s leading legislators.

Senate 38

Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed, who beat Sen. Joel Ford in the primary, is running against Republican Richard Rivette, who has sought and failed to win this seat each of the last three elections. We recommend Mohammed.

Mohammed was a staff attorney at the Council for Children’s Rights before becoming an assistant public defender. Colleagues describe him as effective, dedicated and calm, and wanting to empower people. He names K-12 public education and early childhood education among his top priorities.

Rivette has worked in marketing, product development and other fields. He has compared Democrats with the KKK, and his anti-tax, small-government views are out of step with a majority in this heavily Democratic district that covers much of north Charlotte.

Senate 39

Republican Dan Bishop, a former Mecklenburg commissioner and House member, seeks a second Senate term representing this district that covers much of south Charlotte, Matthews and Mint Hill. He’s being challenged by small business owner and Democrat Chad Stachowicz. We cannot endorse either candidate.

We disagree with Bishop on almost every policy stance he has taken in the legislature, from being a lead sponsor of HB2 to politicizing the judicial system to his treatment of public schools.

While we respect Stachowicz’s moderate policy views and his ability to grow a successful technology company from scratch, we are troubled by the lack of judgment he has shown. Not only was he guilty of a DWI in 2008 when he drove with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. He also said just three years ago that he drove drunk a lot until he was caught and that he now doesn’t drive if he’s over the limit, “which I consider to be 3 the first hour.” Voters deserve a senator who shows more discernment.

Senate 40

Democrat Joyce Waddell seeks a third term in a district that covers much of east Charlotte. She is challenged by former Mecklenburg County Manager Bobbie Shields, a Republican.

Voters in this district must decide what they want most in a senator: Someone who votes the way they like but is otherwise largely ineffective; or someone who holds different policy views but would bring experience, knowledge and bipartisanship to Raleigh. Waddell is the former; Shields is the latter.

Waddell has accomplished little in her four years in Raleigh, but she votes in a way that probably pleases this heavily Democratic district. Shields holds conservative views about taxes, government regulation and other issues that are out of step with a majority in this district. But we are impressed by the breadth of his background, his understanding of how government works, and his commitment to work with both Republicans and Democrats (of which he was one for 23 years).

Senate 41

Republican Jeff Tarte seeks a fourth term in this district that covers north Mecklenburg County then wraps along the western edge of the county and back into parts of Ballantyne. He is being challenged by Democrat Natasha Marcus in what observers call the most flippable Senate district in the state. We recommend Marcus.

An attorney-turned-volunteer who now works at the Ada Jenkins Center, Marcus emphasizes her commitment to funding K-12 public education and her support for Medicaid expansion, as well as her consistent opposition to the I-77 tolls contract. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the issues facing the state and of effective policy solutions.

Tarte is friendly, provides strong constituent service and portrays himself as a moderate Republican. But on the Senate floor, he votes with Phil Berger and the Senate leadership almost all the time, giving him an extremely conservative record. He also was for the I-77 tolls before he was against them, and helped make it more difficult for Gov. Roy Cooper to renegotiate that contract.

See all of the Observer editorial board’s endorsements here.
Follow more of our reporting on Charlotte Observer editorial board endorsements

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