U.S. House 4: Valerie Foushee

An Orange County native with over two decades of experience in public office, state senator Valerie Foushee has vowed that she will work to enhance equity in education, reform the criminal justice system, expand healthcare access, and combat environmental racism if elected to the U.S. House.

Based on her record of fighting for progressive rights as a school board member, county commissioner, and state legislator, we believe her.

The INDY endorses Foushee as the best candidate to fill Rep. David Price’s vacant seat.

We do have some qualms with Foushee’s acceptance of $2.4 million in Super PAC contributions in the months leading up to the May primary.

The INDY plans to monitor whether Foushee’s corporate backers have an undue influence on the way she votes in Congress and encourages our readers to do the same.

But Foushee is far and away the better candidate than her challenger, nurse Courtney Geels.

Geels has no political experience and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, eliminate vaccine mandates in healthcare facilities, and other nonsense.

State Senate, District 20: Natalie Murdock

We only have good things to say about incumbent Natalie Murdock, a North Carolina native who founded a forward-thinking communications firm and served on Durham’s Soil and Water Conservation board before joining the state senate in 2020.

In the General Assembly, Murdock has proven to be a bright and effective representative whose expertise as a small business owner and environmental advocate has given her an edge in helping to pass legislation that incentivizes renewable energy systems and supports business owners and their workers.

Murdock’s opponent, retired programmer Alvin Reed, is a far-right candidate whose views do not reflect the values of the progressive 20th District.

State Senate, District 22: Mike Woodard

The General Assembly would do well to hold on to Mike Woodard, a former Durham City Council member with five state senate terms under his belt.

We particularly like how Woodard advocates for workers and small businesses.

He supports raising the minimum wage, recognizing that even “$15 per hour is still not providing a living wage” in places like Durham, and has sponsored legislation that would open doors for purveyors struggling to operate under archaic state liquor laws.

We don’t agree with Woodard’s statement that a 20-week abortion cutoff is “about right” but prefer this stance to that of his opponent, Larry Coleman, an unqualified candidate who supports harsher abortion restrictions.

State House, District 2: Ray Jeffers

Seeking his first term in the General Assembly, Jeffers brings a wealth of knowledge to this north Durham County house district, which includes all of Person County.

For more than a decade, Jeffers has served as a county commissioner in Person, most recently as its chair, and in 2013 became the youngest person to serve as president of the NC Association of County Commissioners.

He faces Republican incumbent Larry Yarborough, a candidate he knows well.

In 2014, Yarborough defeated Jeffers for the house district by 14 percentage points.

State House, District 29: Vernetta Alston (unopposed)

A progressive firebrand with the ability to work across the aisle, Alston has accomplished a lot in her two years as a state representative, including securing funds to improve prison conditions and building bipartisan support for affordable housing research.

Alston previously served as a Durham City Council member and an advocate for the wrongfully convicted, both of which get her some bonus points.

State House, District 30: Marcia Morey

Morey is a Democratic stalwart in this Northwest Durham district, which she’s served since 2017.

A retired judge, Morey came to Raleigh with a reformer’s approach to criminal justice and helped champion the legislature’s “Raise the Age” initiative into law.

Gun safety, voting rights, public school funding, workers’ rights, and reproductive freedom are among her legislative priorities as she pursues her fourth term.

This is a slam-dunk endorsement in a reliably liberal district that Republicans have no realistic chance of flipping anytime soon.

State House, District 31: Zack Hawkins

The state GOP didn’t even bother to fund an opponent in the race for this house district, which stretches across Southeast Durham.

First elected to the house in 2018 with a whopping 81 percent of the vote, Hawkins is seeking a third term.

His lone opponent is Libertarian Sean Haugh, whom he handily bested for the seat two years ago.

Hawkins, a former Durham public high school teacher with deep roots in the community, is an easy endorsement in a district he’s represented honorably.

Durham County Sheriff: Clarence Birkhead

When incumbent Durham County sheriff Clarence Birkhead was first elected in 2019, he was one of seven Black sheriffs elected to the position in the state’s largest counties.

Birkhead, who won his primary with more than 80 percent of the vote, is being challenged by retired FBI agent and Durham native Maria Jocys. From the onset of Jocys announcing her campaign, the race has been contentious.

Birkhead has endorsements from the city’s most influential political action committees and a list of first-term accomplishments that include rejecting ICE detainers that “target marginalized communities” and banning “no-knock warrants.”

Soon after retiring from the FBI in December, Jocys started a website and persuaded 4 percent of Durham’s registered voters to sign a petition that would allow her to run as an unaffiliated sheriff’s candidate. Jocys has introduced a “six-point reform agenda” that includes a “total ban” on no-knock warrants. She also questions whether the incumbent has banned “no-knock” warrants as he says he has. Jocys’s experience working for the FBI definitely qualifies her for the job as sheriff.

But as a Durham native, she’s not very well known in the community, and it’s not clear what her contributions have been. So while his tenure as sheriff has been problematic at times, we’re sticking with Birkhead for another term.

Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor: David Harris

As worsening floods pose threats to Durham’s land and water quality, we throw our support behind incumbent supervisor David Harris, a Rougemont native with farming roots and a long history of environmental preservation efforts.

We don’t know enough about the race’s other candidate, Mark Waller, to make an endorsement, but assuming Waller wins the board’s second open seat—and he should, as he’s the only other candidate running—we look forward to meeting him.

Durham County School Bonds: Vote YES

Given the historical underfunding of North Carolina public schools—and given the past three years that educators have experienced—the INDY is excited at the opportunity to endorse this $423.5 million referendum, which will back much-needed renovations for 14 existing Durham schools and fund the construction of a new elementary school in Hope Valley, both of which will help the school system adapt to the city’s rapid population growth. The referendum will also underwrite costs for a new Durham School of the Arts campus, as the magnet school’s current downtown campus is centered on a decaying 100-year-old building with windowless basement classrooms and a host of safety and security risks.

Durham County Community College Bonds: Vote YES

Durham Technical Community College intends to use the bulk of this $112.7 million referendum to construct new training centers for its health and life sciences programs, an initiative that the INDY staunchly supports. As companies bring job opportunities for life sciences researchers, and as Duke Health seeks new workers amid its ongoing staff shortages, it is imperative that Durham offers accessible training facilities to its existing residents. With this bond, Durham Tech would ensure that community members have avenues to high-paying jobs and provide a diverse, localized workforce pipeline.

Durham County Museum Bonds: Vote YES

Given that Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has expressed a desire to remove science curricula from elementary school classrooms, it is critically important that we channel resources toward accessible learning environments like the Museum of Life and Science. The INDY wholeheartedly endorses this $14 million referendum, which will help expand and modernize the museum’s facilities with exhibits centered on climate change and other pressing scientific challenges. These funds will play an integral role in equipping and energizing the next generation for all that lies ahead.

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