Orange/Chatham County District Attorney: Jeff Nieman and Kayley Taber (D)
Jeff Nieman and Kayley Taber have a lot in common. Both have worked for the Orange/Chatham District Attorney’s office for many years. Both differ from their predecessor, Jim Woodall, who is not running for reelection, in their opposition to the death penalty. And both are committed to criminal justice reform and would likely make progressive, effective district attorneys who can balance public safety with a commitment to equity. Both are outstanding candidates.
Nieman, a nearly-lifelong Orange County resident, is the better-known of the two candidates. He has a particularly strong reform platform, including mandating racial equity training for all DA office staff, promising to recruit applicants from underrepresented communities, and using rehabilitative and therapeutic approaches to criminal justice. Having co-founded the Driver’s License Restoration Project to help people escape the cycle of court costs and fines, Nieman also has a demonstrated ability to get things done.
With Roe v. Wade currently on life-support, it’s not unthinkable that sanctuary districts for people who receive abortions could be a reality sometime in the not-so-distant future. So, it was striking to us that in her candidate questionnaire, Taber writes, “There is a nationwide movement to enact laws criminalizing access to reproductive care … I will not be part of re-victimizing women and children by prosecuting them for accessing medical care that is appropriate for them, complies with our medical standards of care, and is protected by the Constitution.” Indeed, Taber has worked on behalf of sexual assault victims for nearly a quarter-century, witnessing trauma firsthand and seeing women and girls trapped in abusive relationships with unwanted pregnancies. We commend this work—and Taber’s foresight.
That’s why we’ll leave it up to voters to make the choice between Taber and Nieman.
Orange County Board of Education: Sarah Smylie and Ashley Wheeler
With a slate of conservative (think mask-bashing, “parents’ choice”) candidates on the ballot this spring, it’s not unthinkable that the current progressive majority on the Orange County school board could be under threat. That’s why, although there are four open seats on the board, we’re only endorsing two candidates. All OCS candidates run at large, and progressive candidates Sarah Smylie and Ashley Wheeler need the most votes to win.
Smylie is an incumbent who has, in her first term on the board, played a critical role in developing strategic school improvement and equity plans—including racial and LGBTQ equity and protocols for students who want to transition—for the Orange County school system.
Ashley Wheeler, while a political newcomer, has a solidly progressive platform and understands the county’s pressing needs on infrastructure, teacher and staff recruitment, and equity. An ER nurse at Duke Health, Wheeler says she will take a collaborative approach on the board.
The other candidates we’d recommend (though are not endorsing) are Will Atherton, another incumbent, and André Richmond, a school resource officer.
Though they haven’t espoused explicitly conservative views, Atherton and Richmond have been campaigning with a more conservative slate of candidates on the ballot: Anne Purcell, a former OCS principal who has publicly said she supports keeping controversial books off of library shelves and that she’s observed more racism among students of color than among white students; Penny Carter King, who says on her website that the current board has been “more focused on furthering political agendas;” and Bethni Lee, who’s received a lot of money from “parental rights” group Moms for Liberty. Pass, pass, pass.
Carrboro Town Council: Eliazar Posada
At 29 years old, Eliazar Posada has accomplished a lot. The son of working-class immigrants and the youngest-ever executive director of El Centro Hispano, the state’s largest Latino organization, Posada knows how to work hard. This is why we think he’s the candidate best-positioned to get results around affordable housing, public transit, and racial equity in Carrboro.
Posada has also been politically active for a long time, serving on an exhaustive list of local government boards and commissions, including several in Carrboro. He has also worked on voter registration and education initiatives, on political campaigns, and held leadership roles with the North Carolina Democratic party.
Posada’s opponent, Aja Kelleher, ran for a seat on Carrboro’s council last fall and was unsuccessful. Kelleher, an engineer, has interesting ideas around sustainability, but for this election, Posada is the stronger candidate.
Other candidates: Aja Kelleher
Orange County Register of Deeds: Mark Chilton
Register of Deeds incumbent Mark Chilton is a NC Central law school alum who previously practiced real estate law and served as both a Chapel Hill town councilman and the mayor of Carrboro.
During his two terms in office, Chilton has added passport services, implemented an alert service to guard against real estate fraud, and completed the digitization of every deed book dating back to 1755. He has also worked to digitize records relating to the sales of enslaved people with the goal of uncovering a suppressed history of Orange County.
Chilton’s opponent is Penny Rich, a former personal chef and caterer who has served on the Orange Water And Sewer Authority board of directors, the Chapel Hill Town Council, and Orange County Board of County Commissioners. Rich is running because she believes the office’s website is out-of-date and its procedures should be more streamlined.
While user-friendliness and efficiency are important components of the register of deeds office, Rich’s complaints don’t seem particularly well-founded. We believe Chilton has proven himself to be a competent and caring public servant for the people of Orange County and will continue to expand and protect the office’s database when re-elected.
Other candidates: Penny Rich
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