District 30

Incumbent Rep. Paul Luebke is seeking his 11th consecutive term in the statehouse representing Durham County. He faces political neophyte Jason Chambers, a Republican in his first bid for office.

WE ENDORSE Luebke, 64, a sociology professor at UNC-Greensboro who serves as senior chair of the House finance committee. He supports same-sex civil unions and the addition of language to state laws that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual idewntity. Luebke, who also would support collective bargaining for public employees, opposes the death penalty.

Chambers, 24, is a laboratory technician who calls himself an ordinary but concerned citizen. If he is elected, his agenda would include raising the state cap on charter schools and voting against any tax hikes. In fact, Chambers says he would create jobs by fighting regulatory burdens and taxes on businesses. He believes the death penalty is warranted when “there is indisputable evidence that the individual is guilty.” He did not answer the Indy‘s question on whether same-sex civil unions should be legal.

Luebke has built strong relationships and 20 years of institutional knowledge, which serves Durham well. That said, Chambers is a thoughtful contributor, and the Indy would like to see him become more involved locally.

Pros: Luebke supports progressive taxation including raising taxes for families with incomes above $250,000. He favors small-business tax cuts to secure and create jobs, and also has worked on several bills supporting the proliferation of alternative and renewable energy. Luebke also was a primary House sponsor of the 2009 Racial Justice Act and also worked to include sexual orientation in the K–12 anti-bullying laws passed last year.

Cons: The Racial Justice Act has been criticized because it allows N.C. death row inmates the chance to challenge their sentences if they believe racial bias was a factor in their sentencing. The law recently spurred 119 inmates on death row to claim racial bias in their sentencing, including several white inmates. (Editor’s Note: This is not the stance of the Indy, but rather the view of those opposed to the Racial Justice Act. As we stated in our N.C. Senate District 20 endorsement, “Some have criticized the Racial Justice Act as being too broad, allowing claimants to use the law beyond its original intent to evaluate racial bias against black defendants.”)

Other endorsements: Luebke: Durham People’s Alliance, Equality N.C., state AFL-CIO, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, N.C. Association of Educators, Conservation Council of N.C., Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice N.C., Planned Parenthood Action Fund, National Association of Social Workers-N.C. Chapter. Chambers: Friends of Durham, N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, Durham Lodge #2 of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Campaign finance: Luebke’s $9,900 in contributions this election come in part from former planning commissioner Don Moffitt ($250), Judy Kincaid of Clean Energy Durham ($100) and Duke University Vice President of Durham and Regional Affairs Phail Wynn ($500). Chambers has raised $3,466.

District 31

Incumbent Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux Jr. is seeking his 16th full term representing Durham County. He faces Republican newcomer Pat Ladd in her first run for political office.

WE ENDORSE Michaux, an attorney and businessman. He is a Durham native and an N.C. Central University alum, where the school of education is named in his honor. He is the longest-serving black legislator in the state, has served as a U.S. attorney, and in the 1990s ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Michaux serves as senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Ladd did not return the Indy‘s questionnaire. A website for her campaign says she is a lifelong Durham resident who retired from a career in health care. Among her issues: She opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and government-mandated health insurance. She supports raising the state’s cap on charter schools and reducing government taxation and spending.

Pros: Few could rival the experience and relationships Michaux has built in state government. He supports the rights of public workers to bargain collectively, is pro-choice and opposes to the death penalty. He also supports more stringent gun control.

Other endorsements: Michaux: Durham People’s Alliance, Equality N.C., NARAL Pro-Choice N.C., state AFL-CIO, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, N.C. Sierra Club and more. Ladd: America’s Independent Party of N.C.

Campaign finance: Michaux has raised $18,000 this election cycle, including $1,000 each from the Blue Cross Blue Shield PAC, Bank of America PAC, $2,000 each from the Eli Lilly PAC and N.C. Advocates for Justice. Ladd has raised $1,218.

District 33

It’s a clear choice here between a progressive Democratic legislator and a Republican who calls himself conservative to the core. WE ENDORSE Rep. Rosa Gill, a retired teacher and school administrator, who was appointed to this Southeast Raleigh-based seat when former House Speaker Dan Blue moved to the Senate a year ago. This is Gill’s first run for this office, but she was elected three times and served for 10 years on the Wake County Board of Education. In her first year in the House, she supported legislation to strengthen sex education courses in the public schools (the Healthy Youth Act) and aided enactment of the Racial Justice Act, aimed at removing racial bias from decisions about whether a criminal is executed. She’s a strong public schools supporter.

Paul Terrell III served in the Army and works as a technician at Cree, Inc. He’s anti-abortion and pro-Defense of Marriage Amendment, the proposal to write anti-gay bias into the state constitution. Other than that, wasteful spending and government corruption keep him up nights. Terrell’s a nice guy, but we recommend Gill.

Pros: With a $3 billion state budget hole looming, pro-public schools legislators will have their work cut out to avoid deep cuts to classroom teaching. Gill’s a worker.

Other endorsements: Gill: N.C. Sierra Club, state AFL-CIO, Wake NCAE (N.C. Association of Educators). Terrell: Independence Caucus.

Campaign finance: Through June, Gill raised $11,000; Terrell officially pledged to raise and spend less than $3,000. (Source: N.C. Board of Elections); Top/ notable contributors: Gill: AT&T PAC, $250; N.C. Pork Council, $500; Conservation Council, $250.

District 34

Grier Martin appears destined for higher office and is certainly qualified to keep his current job.

For all of his multimedia campaigning, real estate broker Steve Henion still can’t match Martin’s legislative prowess.

WE ENDORSE Martin, who is seeking a fourth term. He has received numerous awards, such as being named 2007 Legislator of the Year by the state chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and given the “Defender of the Environment” distinction from the Conservation Council of N.C. this year and the “Sunshine Award” from Democracy N.C. in 2009.

Pros: Martin’s voting record shows a strong progressive history, including sponsoring legislation such as the Racial Justice Act, expansion of Voter-Owned Elections and establishing regulations on coal ash.

Cons: As reported by The News & Observer in April, Henion has boasted of his business experience yet has omitted a few details, such as the one-year overdue tax bill he paid the day before he filed to run and the $7,000 he owes to BB&T for a failed business venture in 1999. Yet Henion is harping about fiscal responsibility.

Other endorsements: Martin: Equality N.C., Planned Parenthood, N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance, N.C. Association of Educators, NARAL Pro-Choice N.C. PAC, N.C. Sierra Club. Henion: Frederick Douglass Foundation of N.C., N.C. Right to Life.

Campaign finance: Martin’s $77,000 comes from in part, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Director Elizabeth Bennett ($1,000), William Holman (Duke University Nicholas Institute director of state policy, $250), N.C. Advocates for Justice ($1,000).

Henion’s $38,000 includes money from N.C. Family Policy Council (in-kind, $80 dinner), Birthchoice Director Elizabeth Rogosich ($50).

District 35

There are show horses in politics, the old saying goes, and then are workhorses. WE ENDORSE Rep. Jennifer Weiss, a definite workhorse, a fact known to everyone else who works for good causes in the General Assembly. Thus, she’s been named legislator of the year or otherwise honored by a long list of organizations including the Conservation Council of N.C., the N.C. Police Benevolent Association, the N.C. Alliance for Health, Democracy N.C. and the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children.

In her 12 years in the House, Weiss has strongly advocated for mental health, child care and other social services programs that aid the needy and those with disabilities. She’s also counted on by her fellow Democrats to do the heavy lifting at budget time. As one of the finance committee co-chairs (with Durham’s Paul Luebke), it’s her job to balance raising revenues with not overtaxing the needy or small businesses struggling for capital. Her integrity is unquestioned.

Don Frantz has also won awards: for example, Cary News readers recently gave his business their “Best Auto Care” crownfor the fourth time. Seriously, he is a civic-minded conservative (and self-styled conservationist) of the pro-business stripe, as opposed to the tea-party social values kind. To our knowledge, his campaign is all about cutting spending and term limits for officeholders. He is anti-abortion (with exceptions for rape, incest, mother’s health) but supports equal rights for gays; neither is a central issue of his campaign. For a Republican, in other words, not bad. But Weiss is the best kind of Democrat, one with brains, heart and principles.

Pros: Weiss is a lawyer who works full-time as a legislator. She’s whipsmart but a very good listener who doesn’t need to be the center of attention.

Cons: Frantz was elected to the Cary Town Council three years ago. Why go from the non-stick pan of Cary to the fire of a $3 billion state budget deficit that he won’t know anything about?

Other endorsements: Weiss: National Association of Social Workers–N.C. PAC, Sierra Club of N.C., Conservation Council of N.C., N.C. Police Benevolent Association, Wake NCAE (N.C. Association of Educators). Frantz: National Federation of Business–N.C. chapter.

Campaign finance: Weiss has raised $16,000; Frantz, $11,000.Top/ notable contributors: Weiss: Conservation Council and N.C. Dental PACs, $500 each. Frantz: $350 from Wake school board member Debra Goldman’s campaign, at least $2,500 from real estate interests; $300 from Congressional candidate B.J. Lawson, $100 from former Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister.

District 36

Republican Nelson Dollar, who is seeking a fourth term, is not the worst Republican you’ll ever meet. He’s a nice guy and has voted the right way several times. However, his stances on immigration and LGBT rights, for example, are draconian.

WE ENDORSE Robin Anderson, an employment lawyer and Democrat. She wants to reform the state tax code and says current tax structure is based on an outdated manufacturing model. In her questionnaire she wrote the code “should be reformed to reflect changes in the North Carolina economy. I support reforms that are balanced, adequate, stable and fair while supporting cuts to nonessential services.”

Pros: Anderson supports a moratorium on the death penalty and wants to overhaul the state tax code. She supports state workers’ right to collectively bargain. Dollar co-sponsored Davie’s Law, which would have curtailed the use of carbon monoxide gas as a euthanasia method in animal shelters, and a bill that would have compensated the state’s eugenics survivors.

Cons: Dollar perennially co-sponsors the Defense of Marriage Act and also co-sponsored a weak, lame counterpart to the anti-bullying bill. Dollar often votes with his ultra-right cohorts Paul Stam and Marilyn Avila. He needs new friends.

Other endorsements: Anderson: National Association of Social Workers–N.C. Chapter, N.C. Advocates for Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice N.C., N.C. Association of Educators, Planned Parenthood of Central N.C. Dollar: National Federation of Independent Business–N.C. Chapter, Police Benevolent Association.

Campaign finance: Anderson has raised a respectable $26,000, including several thousand dollars from fellow attorneys. Dollar has barely outpaced Anderson through June, with just under $32,000. Contributors include PACs of Progress Energy ($2,000) and Duke Energy, Bank of America PAC and the N.C. Farm Bureau ($1,000 each).

District 37

Two decades ago, when Skip Stam first arrived in the Legislature, the Indy dubbed him the Prince of Pelvic Politics for his opposition to reproductive rights. Now older and stouter, he’s not called Skip anymore. But Paul Stam, the Republican incumbent and current House minority leader, is still at it with his anti-choice and anti-gay crusades. Stam’s the man who injected abortion politics into state and local campaigns with his contention that a 30-year-old court case makes it illegal for government bodies in North Carolina to provide health insurance to their employees unless the coverage excludes abortion procedures. Cost savings to the taxpayers: zero. (Insurance costs the same with or without the coverage.)

And last week Stam refused to apologize for a Republican House member’s e-mailed sluror to call on him to apologizebecause the e-mail was sent only to other Republican members. Actually, it was sent in response to Stam’s agitating e-mail about House Speaker Joe Hackney getting an award from Equality N.C., a gay-rights advocacy group. Wonder why Stam sent it in the first place?

Given how Stam and his party yelp about the Democrats’ budgetswithout providing the first constructive idea of what to do differentlyyou almost want to see them win the House and have to fill that $3 billion budget hole themselves. Almost, but not if you care about education, social services, transportation or the future health of North Carolina.

WE ENDORSE Stam’s Democratic opponent, Debra McHenry, who, while she has never held an elective office, she has been active in Garner for many years on school issues and ran a good, if unsuccessful campaign for a Wake County school board seat in 2005. She’s not very specific about the issues, obviously feeling that Stam’s so far to the right, just the fact that she’s running against him is enough. Not quite, but we know McHenry well enough to recommend her strongly over the pelvic politician we also know so well.

Pros: McHenry is a former state education department aide who managed federal grants to schools with homeless children. She also ran a charter school.

Cons: Her campaign couldn’t be more mushy.

Campaign finance: Stam has raised $112,000 this election cycle; McHenry, $2,905

Top/ notable contributors, Stam: Bob Barker Inc. (correctional industry), $3,000; attorney Thomas Farr, hired by the Wake school board majority, $2,000; charter school proponent Robert Luddy of Thales Academy (he also contributed $23,000 to GOP school board members), $4,000; N.C. Farm Bureau, $4,000.

McHenry: $250 each from the campaigns of state Rep. Verla Inkso and Wake commissioner candidate Jack Nichols.

District 38

House Democratic Whip Deborah Ross, a four-term incumbent, is an effective lawmaker, and that’s why WE ARE ENDORSING her. Madison Shook, 21, does have some political experience, though. She is a member of N.C. State University’s College Republicans.

When a voter asked her on her Facebook fan page if she had “any position papers or information on your candidacy,” she was encouraged to e-mail Madison directly. We favor an eight-year voting record ahead of wall posts.

Pros: Ross supports collective bargaining and has been a leader on strengthening laws to protect domestic violence victims, as well as statewide transportation and ethics reform.

Cons: Shook, who lists herself as “very conservative,” doesn’t have a record to critique. While we are glad to see a young person running for office, she needs a longer résumé before seriously challenging a leader of Ross’ caliber.

Other endorsements: Ross: Wake County Voter Coalition, N.C. Association of Educators, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, Conservation Council of N.C., National Association of Social Workers (N.C. Chapter), NARAL Pro-Choice N.C. PAC, N.C. Sierra Club. Shook: Right to Life N.C.

Campaign finance: Ross has raised $52,000 to Shook’s $610. Top/notable contributors, Ross: Gerda Stein of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation ( $500); Bank of America Corporation PAC ($3,000); PSNC Energy PAC ($1,000). Shook: Gary Shook (Civilstar Inc. civil engineer, $500)

District 39

WE ENDORSE Rep. Darren Jackson, the Democratic incumbent who was appointed to this seat early in 2009 after Linda Coleman accepted a job in the Perdue administration. Jackson, a lawyer from Knightdale, had a good first couple of years, taking a leadership role on the anti-bullying bill, which passed only after a bruising fight with Republicans who insisted that it would give special right to gay kids. Actually, it promised the same protections for gay kids against bullying as for straight kids. Jackson also pushed for a cigarette tax hike to pay for increased teachers pay, a good idea that was gaveled out of order, however, by House Speaker Joe Hackney.

Duane Cutlip, the Republican candidate, ran and lost to Coleman two years ago. A Wendell businessman, he listed his occupation then as real estate investment adviser. It’s not clear from his campaign website what he does now. It is clear that he’s very conservative, warning against socialist government andhe does have a point herea culture of political corruption in Raleigh. He’s also for states rights of the John C. Calhoun variety, arguing that North Carolina should refuse to follow the new health care reform laws.

Pros: The N.C. Association of Educators called Jackson a rising star earlier this year.

Cons: Very bad campaign website for Jackson. (But not much better for Cutlip).

Other endorsements: Jackson: Wake N.C. Association of Educators, state AFL-CIO, N.C. Advocates of Justice.

Campaign finance: Jackson, $7,800; Cutlip, $420. Top/ notable campaign contributors, Jackson: Conservation Council of N.C. PAC, $1,000; Administrative Law Judge Robert Rideout, $300; N.C. Farm Bureau and N.C. Dental PACs, $1,000 each; state Rep. Rick Glazier campaign, $500.

District 40

Republican incumbent Marilyn Avila is running for her third term in the state House representing northwest Wake County. She is being challenged by Democrat Violet Rhinehart. a former educator and new candidate for state office.

Avila did not respond to the Indy‘s questionnaire. In the past session of the General Assembly, Avila sponsored bills to limit driver’s licenses and state identification cards to only those who can proficiently write or speak English and to amend the state constitution to declare that marriage between a man and woman is the only domestic union to be legally recognized. Avila also co-sponsored a bill to amend the 2009 N.C. Racial Justice Act to take away a defendant’s right to a hearing on whether racial bias is a factor in the application of the death penalty. The amendments on that bill also preclude the defendant in a capital case from raising the issue before trialinstead, a defendant would only be allowed to seek relief after trial and sentencing. She also supports raising the cap on charter schools.

WE ENDORSE Rhinehart. She spent most of her career teaching in the state’s public schools and has widespread financial support from teachers, including the endorsements of the state’s association for educators. She lists education as a priority, opposes capital punishment and supports of legal civil unions that would recognize a couple’s rights in situations related to insurance, property and health care decisions.

Pros: As a teacher, Rhinehart has experience in the state-level decisions that trickle down to the classroom. With education being one of the state’s most prominent expenses, the Legislature would benefit from her guidance, particularly as lost revenues and limited budgets chip away at education spending.

Cons: Rhinehart lacks formal political experience; she would not support the right of public workers to bargain collectively.

Other endorsements: Rhinehart: N.C. Association of Educators, Conservation Council of N.C. Avila: National Rifle Association, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, Rural Electric Action Program (REAP).

Campaign finance: Rhinehart has raised $19,635, including $100 each from Congressman Brad Miller, former Wake County Schools Superintendent Del Burns and environmentalist Sig Hutchinson.

Avila’s $10,165 in campaign funds has come in part from PACs such as Bank of America ($500) and Robert Luddy (see Paul Stam’s campaign), who gave $4,000.

District 41

The prospects for political reform in North Carolina brightened when the Democratic Party picked Rep. Chris Heagarty a year ago to fill the vacancy in this district caused by Ty Harrell’s resignation. WE ENDORSE Heagarty, who, for nearly a decade, was one of the leading voices for changeand one of the most knowledgeablefrom his post as executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. His mantra: End the “pay to play” system of campaign contributions that landed ex-House Speaker Jim Black in prison. And put some spine in the state ethics laws.

Heagarty calls himself a pragmatist. Should taxes be increased to fill that yawning budget hole? “We will need to review our overall tax structure for fairness and efficiency, and modernize a [tax] code originally adapted for an agrarian society,” is Heagarty ‘s deft nonanswer. In his first year, he focused on stronger penalties for cybercrimes and helped put digital media firms on the priority list for state economic development incentives (i.e., subsidies). In a word, pragmatic.

Not so pragmatic is Republican Tom Murry, who, despite the state’s budget woes, proposes to cut taxes, especially for small businesses. Oh, and for corporations too, he hastens to add. Murry’s a good fellow and popular in Morrisville, where he’s a second-term town council member and pharmacy owner. (He’s also a lawyer. So is Heagarty.) But he’s hanging with the wrong crowd in this election. Murry says his campaign is “100% community-driven,” conveniently ignoring the fact that a Republican Party adjunct called Real Jobs N.C. has been carpet bombing the district with anti-Heagarty mailings. Not only are the mailings not community-driven, they’re filled with inaccuracies, including a fundamental one: They rip Heagarty for votes he didn’t cast on bills that were enacted in the Legislature before he took office. Murry should disavow the ads. But he won’t, saying only that he’s not responsible for what others do on his behalf. That’s weak.

We support Heagarty and recommend him to all voters, Republicans included, who think the political system in Raleigh is rotten. One thing that’s rotten is fake groups like Real Jobs N.C., whose “real job” is throwing mud at honest candidates and the truth be damned.

Pros: Vote for Heagarty, and Murry can stay on the Morrisville Town Council, away from the mud flying over his head.

Cons: Two nice guys. But GOP thugs are supplying the muscle for Murry. No Democratic muscle in sight.

Other endorsements: Heagarty: Wake N.C. Association of Educators, state AFL-CIO, NARAL Pro-Choice N.C. PAC, Equality N.C. Murry: National Federation of Business-N.C. Chapter, Retail Merchants PAC.

Campaign finance: Heagarty has raised $84,000 this election cycle; Murry, $72,000. Top/ notable contributors, Heagarty: Creecy Johnson, N.C. Attorney General’s office, $100; Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, $250; N.C. Pork Council, $500. Heagarty also loaned himself $30,000.

Murry: Pharmaceutical PACs and private pharmacists, $7,600; Robert Luddy (see Paul Stam’s contributors), $2,000; Stam campaign, $500.

District 50

WE ENDORSE Democrat Bill Faison, who is seeking his fourth term. Faison is an attorney in Durham and lives in Orange County. Challenger Republican Rick Smith is a former U.S. Marine and veteran of the Gulf War; Smith owns and runs Yoder’s Country Market in Caswell County with his wife and seven children.

Pros: As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Faison took the heat and halted Sen. David Hoyle’s proposed moratorium on municipal broadband, and introduced a bill that would allow Caswell County to build its own broadband systyem in the 2010 legislative session.

Cons: Faison can generally be counted on to vote with the Democratic majority, but we are disappointed that as a member of the House finance committee, he is not a member of the progressive bloc that is taking the initiative on fair taxes to mitigate the effects of the state’s revenue shortfall. His stridency and outbursts of temper can make him one of the most difficult legislators to approach on important issues.

Smith is running for a seat so that he can “reduce the size of our State Government, and get it out of the way so the hard working people of North Carolina can return to the business of digging ourselves back out of this recession.”

When it comes to health care, Smith says North Carolina must exercise its state sovereignty and protect its constituents from federal mandates, including the purchase of health insurance. “Forcing individuals to purchase a product is an assault on our individual liberty, and quite possibly a violation of the U.S. Constitution,” his website reads.

Smith does not support gay marriage or women’s reproductive rights and will “work to make North Carolina less of a haven state for illegal immigrants.”

Campaign finance: Faison’s flush with $70,000 in campaign contributions, including $1,000 from the AT&T PAC, $4,000 from N.C. Advocates for Justice and $500 each from Verizon and Time Warner PACs.

Smith has raised $2,500.

District 54

WE ENDORSE House Speaker Joe Hackney. As one of the state’s most powerful politicians and an incumbent since 1981, Hackney should have to defend his record each term. Instead, he ran unopposed in 2008 and 2004 and easily defeated Republican Alvin Reed in 2006 and Libertarian Fredrick Blackburn in 2002.

But while we like that he has competition, we’re not particularly fond of his opponent, tea partier Cathy Wright. She believes that “current health care reform legislation is a massive takeover of our economy and our liberty. It will bankrupt our economy and our freedom.” Enough said.

Pros: Since replacing the infamous Jim Black as speaker, Hackney has helped lead the charge for ethics reform and helped guide the General Assembly through challenging budget negotiations. In September, Equality N.C. gave Hackney its 2010 Legislative Leader Award for supporting LGBT rights. He has represented the state well as president of the National Conference of State Legislators. Wright, in her first run for office, has a well-organized campaign.

Cons: Wright, who gained traction during a fundraiser held for her featuring infamous U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, is focusing on curtailing spending, cutting taxes and reducing regulation. She promotes raising pay for teachers and expanding vocational programs. How can she reduce taxes and raise pay at the same time? We don’t think there’s as much “administrative waste” in the school systems as she does.

Other endorsements Hackney: N.C. Sierra Club, NARAL Pro-Choice N.C. PAC.

Campaign finance: Hackney has raised $743,000, including contributions from Biltmore Estate, CEO and President William A.V. Cecil Jr ($1,000), GlaxoSmithKline PAC ($4,000), UNC Chancellor Emeritus Paul Hardin ($500).

Wright’s $43,000 comes from Joseph Gordon of Gordon Asset Management ($200), Elon University Marketing Professor Margaret Miller ($500), Moore County Republican Women ($1,000).