A tough, evenly matched contest among three Dems in House 72

by Jordan Green

Three political newcomers arefi ghting a tough and evenlymatched contest in the Democraticprimary to replace EarlineParmon in NC House District 72, whichstraddles US Highway 72 across the northernsection of Winston-Salem.Parmon is vacating the House District 72seat to seek election to the NC Senate.

The winnerof the Democratic primary will face RepublicanCharlies Mellies in November, but voterregistration in the district favors Democrats bya 38.3-percent margin, making the primary thecritical contest.Registered voters are split about evenlybetween white and black, and Hispanics andunaffi liated voters have gained greater numericclout in the district over the past decade.

Ed Hanes, a 38-year-old renewable energyentrepreneur; Wayne Patterson, a 40-year-oldlawyer in private practice and president ofthe local NAACP branch; and Jimmie LeeBonham, a 57-year-old barber and employmentconsultant with the NC Commerce Departmentare vying for the Democratic nomination.

Bad blood from an ongoing residencychallenge by Bonham against the other twocandidates and murky efforts to smear thereputations of Hanes and Patterson have overshadowedthe fact that the three share similarpositions on jobs and education and determinationto fi ght for constituents’ interests by takingon the Republican majority in Raleigh.All three support a call by Gov. Bev Perdueto raise the state’s sales tax by ¾ of a cent torestore funding to secondary education. Allthree condemn the marriage amendment on theprimary ballot as a Republican effort to distractand manipulate black voters, and Hanes andPatterson have called it discriminatory.

“There’s a culture in Raleigh who’s tryingto turn back the hands of time,” Bonham frequentlysays on the campaign trail. “And I say,‘Forward forever, backwards never.’”The candidate cites his participation in asuccessful effortto have the city ofWinston-Salemmaintain EvergreenCemetery ratherthan privatize it andto create a policereview board asexamples of hispublic service.Bonham said hewants to continueefforts by Parmonand others to obtaincompensation forvictims of statesponsoredeugenics.

He also wantsto update the computernetworkingtechnology usedby state workers tomake governmentoperations moreeffi cient, and combine all departments that dealwith education from pre-K to college.Bonham wants to index the state’s minimumwage so that it automatically increases withinfl ation and improve legislative oversightto ensure that federal funding reaches thosewho need it most.“I propose we have oversight over thebudget as it relates to supplementing insteadof supplanting,” he told voters at a recentcandidate forum hosted by the Winston-Salem Urban League.

“Poverty and crimeis big business. And therefore there is alot of money made because of poverty andcrime…. I propose that there be oversightover ways that they do funding as it relates tofolk who look like me.”Hanes campaigns as a coalition candidatewho can unite the east and west parts ofthe districts, which are divided by race andwealth, and someone who can work acrossparty lines when necessary.“This is not a time you can go to Raleighas a dove, but what I think you have to do isfi ght constructively, fi ght thoughtfully,” he said.

“You have to do it with the idea that there is anend in sight.”Hanes, who has been endorsed by the StateEmployees Association of North Carolina,said he was part of a committee that helpedhousekeepers at Winston-Salem State Universityobtain pay raises to bring them up to paritywith their counterparts at the UNC School ofthe Arts. As an assistant to the chancellor at thetime, he also promoted a gay-straight allianceon campus.“You cannot let the poorest among youget run over,” he said.

“I don’t think there isanything in my background that shows I’manything less than 100 percent committed tomarginalized communities.”Hanes said he wants to repeal the CastleDoctrine, legislation passed by the GeneralAssembly last year that is similar toFlorida’s Stand Your Ground law.“As your next state representative, I willbe accountable to you,” Patterson told votersat the Urban League candidate forum.“A servant to the people because that’swhat they want — someone to serve them.What their issues [are], not my agenda.”Patterson said if elected he will holdquarterly meetings at rotating locations inthe district to hear from constituents. Hesaid the interests of the district’s residentsare the same from one area to the next.

“No matter what your race, gender, age orsexual orientation,” he pledged, “I’m hereto serve you.”Patterson said as president of the localNAACP he has mobilized members to goto Raleigh to speak out on an array of issues,including redistricting and teachers’ interests.Among Patterson’s goals is cracking downon identity theft against elderly residents byreclassifying such offenses as a felony ratherthan a misdemeanor.Like the other two candidates, Pattersonspeaks often about his commitment to education.

“Somehow, some way, we must increase thesalaries of our teachers,” he said. “If we havea happy teacher, we have a happy child and ahappy classroom.”