NC Senate District 13: Lisa Grafstein (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here

Grafstein and Patrick Buffkin (her opponent in the primary) and are both qualified candidates and agree on many of the big-ticket progressive priorities championed by Democrats in the NC General Assembly: expanding Medicaid, funding the Leandro mandate, investing in renewable energy and public transit, and combating a growing affordable housing crisis that affects not only constituents of this North Raleigh district but residents statewide. We believe Grafstein is the best candidate to tackle them.

A civil rights attorney with a history of representing North Carolinians facing various types of discrimination, Grafstein is an advocate of justice in all its forms. Currently, she works for Disability Rights North Carolina, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of those with disabilities. Her world experience working closely with the mistreated and underserved speaks to a selfless passion to improve the lives of others. It’s a great recipe for a state senator and offsets any concern about her lack of political experience.

As a member of Raleigh’s city council, Buffkin no doubt understands the minutiae of governing and has a deep knowledge of the issues plaguing the city, and state, from housing affordability to infrastructure demands to unaddressed public safety reform. He’s not a bad choice, but we’re swayed by Grafstein’s idealism and force of will.

Other candidates: Patrick Buffkin

NC House District 33: Rosa Gill (D)

Gill has not returned her candidate questionnaire.

Rosa Gill has served in the General Assembly since 2009, when she was appointed to her seat by then-Gov. Bev Perdue. A reliable advocate for public education (and a former educator herself), Gill has championed higher pay for teachers, funding for Pre-K through post-secondary education, and professional development for teachers in order to best serve a diverse student population. Additionally, Gill served on Wake County’s school board, and in the legislature, served as the Democratic Minority Whip and chaired the Democratic House Education Workgroup.

We don’t know much about Gill’s challenger, Nate Blanton, except for what’s on his website. Admittedly, Blanton has an interesting background as a Navy veteran who studied nuclear waste policy and nonproliferation at NC State. Currently, Blanton works as an operator with Duke Energy at Harris Nuclear Plant. Blanton has worked as a precinct chair but is otherwise a political newcomer; we’re going with Gill for her experience.

Other candidates: Nate Blanton

NC Senate District 23: Graig Meyer (D)

Read his candidate questionnaire here.

Encompassing all of Orange County (plus Person and Caswell), North Carolina’s newly drawn Senate District 23 will be fairly blue and the state at large needs as many proven progressives within its legislative ranks as possible.

That’s why we’re endorsing Graig Meyer. Meyer has served as a state representative since 2013 and first ran while working in the state’s public schools on a pro-public education platform. And Meyer has solid accomplishments to show for his time in Raleigh, including leading on legislation that would promote social equity through cannabis legalization, create universal paid family leave for those who have a child or need to care for a family member, and provide voter registration services and other assistance to would-be voters should a voter ID requirement become law. That’s not to mention the important work Meyer has done to pressure the legislature to support the Leandro mandate and to strengthen the Democratic caucus through service as Recruitment, Finance, and Campaign chairs.

Meyer’s opponent, Jamie DeMent Holcomb, has an impressively diverse life experience as a Capitol Hill aide, restaurant owner, farmer, cookbook author, and the director of Chapel Hill’s Kidzu Museum, but she lacks the proven track record and legislative experience that Meyer has. We hope to see Holcomb run for office again in the future.

Other candidates: Jamie DeMent Holcomb

NC House District 37: Elizabeth Parent (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

Elizabeth Parent, a server and host at a local restaurant, is 28 years old and makes $2.50 an hour, plus tips. In a state legislature dominated by geriatric white lawyers and business owners, we need more people like her.

If elected, Parent will represent the younger generation, millennials who are eager for change and ready for more progressive policies. In the most conservative district in Wake County, Parent offers a refreshing take on issues of affordable housing, the environment, and rights for women and LGBTQ people.

Parent supports Medicaid expansion, increased pay for teachers, and investment in renewable energy. She is also in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, independent redistricting, and raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. Parent’s working-class background could make her a solid foil for Republican Erin Parè in the fall.

Christine Kelly, a former member of the Holly Springs Town Council running in the primary, championed slow growth policies during her four-year tenure. Last fall, Kelly  lost her race for mayor by a wide margin to a Republican opponent—that’s concerning. But Kelly is a solid candidate and she would be a reliable vote in the state House.

Mary Bethel, a former AARP lobbyist and candidate in the race, is an advocate for seniors and those with disabilities and is running on a health care-focused platform. Like Kelly, Bethel is also a perfectly good candidate, but neither are as compelling as Parent.

Other candidates: Mary Bethel, Christine Kelly

NC House District 40: Joe John (D)

Read his candidate questionnaire here. 

Again, we’re going with incumbent experience in our endorsement of Joe John, and John has a long record of service to North Carolina. A state representative first elected in 2016, John has also served as a judge on state district and superior courts as well as as an associate justice on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Additionally, John served as the director of the State Crime Laboratory from 2010 to 2014 after he was appointed by then-attorney general Roy Cooper. Formerly, John headed the NC DMV. In the House, John has made the fight to end partisan gerrymandering a signature issue, the topic of the first bill he sponsored. John has also worked on bipartisan legislation that allows inmates to work toward community college degrees and job training before release. John’s platform is straightforward: advocating to fund the Leandro mandate, ending gerrymandering, pushing for Medicaid expansion, and preserving the independence of the judiciary.

John’s opponent, Marguerite Creel, who owns a tutoring company, looks to have a fairly detailed platform around strengthening education, ensuring reliable energy services, and caring for the elderly in the wake of COVID-19. But Creel has no political experience that we can discern. John is the stronger candidate in this race.

Other candidates: Marguerite Creel

NC House District 50: Renee Price (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

This was a tough choice between two hard-working, experienced candidates. In the end, we decided to endorse Renee Price because what we heard most from the people who know and work with her is that Price really cares about other people.

From early on in her career, Price has worked for nonprofits and government organizations in the realms of housing and neighborhood revitalization, environmental justice, farmworkers’ rights, and natural resource conservation. Price has served on the Orange County Board of Commissioners since 2012, and in 2020, her colleagues on the board elected her to serve as chair. Price is also active with the NC Association of County Commissioners, and she received an award for her work as an outstanding county commissioner in 2020.

Matt Hughes, her opponent, would also make an excellent state representative. Appointed chair of the Orange County Democratic Party in 2011 and having served as Second Vice Chair of the NC Democratic Party since 2017, Hughes also serves on the Hillsborough town board after he was appointed following a vacancy in 2018 and then elected in 2019.

Both Hughes and Price are solid candidates. We’re going with Price for her deep connections to, and engagement with, the people of her district.

Other candidates: Matt Hughes

NC House District 56: Allen Buansi and Jonah Garson (D) 

Read Buansi’s candidate questionnaire here and Garson’s questionnaire here

This was truly an impossible choice to make and while it’s somewhat of a cop-out, we didn’t feel we could choose between Jonah Garson and Allen Buansi. And so, as with a few other races, we’re endorsing both candidates in this Democratic primary race.

Buansi, a civil rights lawyer, served on Chapel Hill’s town council from 2017 to 2021 where he helped create and pass the town’s Criminal Justice Debt Fund (see our story on page 3), assist in increasing funding for Chapel Hill’s Emergency Housing Assistance program, and pass the town’s $10 million affordable housing bond and a non-discrimination ordinance.

On top of that, everyone says Buansi is just a really nice guy.

But ditto for Garson, who is popular among college students on UNC’s campus.

Though Garson hasn’t held elected office, he is described by people who know him as a workhorse and his contributions to the Democratic Party are innumerable.

Formerly the chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, Garson has traveled all across the state in the past decade as a field organizer working to get Democrats elected to the legislature. Garson’s tenacity and dedication will serve Democrats—who have been sidelined by gerrymandering over the past decade—well if they are to continue to organize, push a progressive agenda, and win many more future elections with the potential to secure a majority this decade. Garson has a vision for that path forward.

NC House District 66: Sarah Crawford (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

A one-term state senator (whose senate district boundaries changed after redistricting), Crawford is now running for the NC House to represent the residents of eastern Wake County. Currently the CEO of the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities, Crawford worked previously to serve constituents in the congressional offices of US Reps. Bob Etheridge and David Price. Crawford also has significant nonprofit and community leadership experience, including serving on the board of directors for a domestic violence support group. In the legislature, Crawford cites her bipartisan achievements in lowering taxes for families by increasing the child tax deduction, raising the minimum wage to $15 for workers under Medicaid, and investing $1 billion for broadband access.

One of Crawford’s challengers, Jeremiah Pierce, is an 8th-grade teacher at Wake County public schools and a strong advocate for public education. The other challenger, Wesley Knott, is a former precinct chair and district coordinator. While both Pierce and Knott are no doubt strong progressive candidates, Crawford has a record of getting elected—and getting things done—in an area of Wake County that can lean conservative.

Other candidates: Wesley Knott, Jeremiah Pierce

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