Think those down-ballot legislative races aren’t important? The past few years, with legislators reshaping North Carolina in myriad ways, have demonstrated beyond any doubt that they are.
Eight House and Senate seats in Mecklenburg County are on the primary ballot. Today we share how the Observer editorial board sees four of them.
Incumbent Beverly Earle faces relative political newcomer Steven Jones in the Democratic primary for House District 101. The winner in this overwhelmingly Democratic district faces Republican Justin Dunn in November.
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Jones, an electrical design consultant, seems admirably civic-minded, but shows little sophistication in understanding the General Assembly or explaining the kinds of legislation he’d pursue. He offers no convincing reason beyond his youth for voters to choose him.
Earle seeks her 12th term. She’s a seasoned lawmaker who knows how to help constituents. Even though the Democrats’ minority status has greatly reduced her clout, she remains by far the superior choice in this race.
Democrats Rochelle Rivas and Noah Lieberman are competing for the right to face Republican incumbent Bill Brawley in November in a district that covers much of southeastern Mecklenburg. We recommend Rivas.
She has an impressive record, including creating and building a successful business and serving on key nonprofit boards. She is president of Darton Group Consulting, a project-management consulting firm with about 60 employees. She is in Leadership Charlotte’s Class 37 and has been named one of the Top 25 Women in Business by the Charlotte Business Journal.
Lieberman, 21, is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill who commutes back to Mecklenburg County to campaign. He speaks earnestly about his desire to serve and is fluent on the issues. But his lack of experience makes Rivas the better candidate.
Two Republicans – Tim Morgan and Scott Stone – run to face Democrat Connie Green-Johnson in the fall. The seat, which represents most of southern Mecklenburg from Pineville to Matthews, came open when incumbent Jacqueline Schaffer announced she would not seek reelection. We recommend Morgan.
Morgan and Stone agree on the nature of the choice voters face. Morgan touts his ability to reach across lines, be they partisan, racial or other, to get things done. Stone correctly describes himself as the more conservative and Morgan as the more moderate. Stone is backed by many of the most devout hard-right conservatives in the legislature, and would serve in similar fashion.
Morgan served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board for six years, including as vice chair, and has much deeper experience with education issues and the demands of political office than Stone does. And we believe the legislature could use some less-strident Republican voices, elected officials who hold conservative values but are able to work with all types of people. Morgan is more likely to do that.
Democratic incumbent Kelly Alexander faces a challenge from Robert Blok. No Republican is running, so the primary winner will represent the district that curls from uptown, along the west side of I-77 and to the county’s northeast corner. We recommend Alexander.
The son of one of Charlotte’s most prominent civil rights leaders, Alexander has adequately represented his heavily Democratic district and says the General Assembly has been meddling in local affairs. He vows to continue to push for reforming marijuana laws.
Blok, a retired Army doctor, said he is running primarily as a wake-up call to Alexander. He believes the incumbent does not return phone calls or emails reliably, and that he serves only part of his constituency. Though Blok has an admirable record of service to the country, he does not articulate a vision for how he would be an effective legislator. He says he agrees with Alexander on most issues and just wants to send a message by running. That’s not a good enough reason to elect Blok.