voter guide

by Jordan Green

By now, you’ve been constantly bombarded with social-media messages from friends, surrogates and the two major presidential candidates themselves. If you’ve ever voted in your life, you likely have a pile of glossy mailers for state legislative and county commission candidates. You’ve parsed the argument lines from the three presidential debates, mined the memes and ridiculed the rhetorical stumbles of whichever candidate is not in your favor. You know that the balance of power in a fiercely contested ideological battle for the soul of the country rests on your decision in the voting booth. It’s time to get on with it. Go vote. But first take some time to pull your sample ballot. You can find it by visiting The process is simple: 1) Click on the link “show me my voter information.” 2) Fill in the required fields. And 3) Click “submit.” You’ll find a link called “my sample ballot.” You’ll want to review your sample ballot and peruse this voter guide to learn about the particular candidates in your districts. Find out what they stand for. Look for clues in their positions and experience that hint at their character and competency. As you study the candidates you can check off the ones you want to support. Then, when you get ready to vote, pull the voting guide out of this newspaper and take it with you to the polls to use as a reference. A caveat: For brevity’s sake, this guide does not include information about judicial candidates or candidates for soil and water board. Do a little additional research to make an informed decision. You can vote now. Early voting is open through Saturday. Visit the websites for the Guilford ( and Forsyth ( county boards of elections for information about early-voting locations and times. Vote like you have a voice. Like you have a stake. Like you have a future. US President Barack Obama (D, i) Four years ago, Obama carried North Carolina by a razor-thin 14,000 votes, becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Democrats picked Charlotte to hold their national convention this year, hoping to fend off a Republican insurgence in the state. Obama’s economic platform is based on a concept of “growing the economy from the middle out, not the top down.” The campaign is working to ensure that first-time voters, including young people, African Americans and the elderly, turn out again, and appealing to women with the position that health insurance companies should be required to provide birth control, among other stances. Mitt Romney (R) A former governor of Massachusetts, head of the 2002 Winter Olympics and founder of Bain Capital, Romney has made promotion of entrepreneurship through lower taxes and less regulation the cornerstone of his campaign. He signed a healthcare law that many consider to be a model for the 2010 Affordable Care Act, but Romney pledges to repeal Obama’s signature legislation. The candidate wants to cut tax rates across the board, and says the loss could be made up by closing unspecified loopholes, while also preserving military spending and cutting the deficit. The official stance of the candidate is that abortion should be an option in cases of rape or incest, but running-mate US Rep. Paul Ryan holds a more restrictive position.   Gary Johnson (L) The former governor of New Mexico is probably as good a standard bearer as libertarians could ask for. Conservative voters who see Mitt Romney as too “big government” might want to consider that Johnson supports repealing Obamacare. He wants to end the US Department of Education. He would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, and tax personal spending rather than income. Progressives who fault Obama for being too cautious might be interested to know that Johnson would “eliminate the costly and ineffective military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He wants to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, while taking a harm-reduction approach with hard drugs. He favors allowing gays to marry while upholding the religious freedom of churches to perform or not perform them as their beliefs dictate. 5th Congressional District Virginia Foxx (R, i) Foxx is an archconservative whose ideology plays well with voters in her northwest North Carolina district, but redistricting has shuffled more Democrats and Forsyth County residents into the 5th. A fierce partisan, Foxx favors repeal of the Affordable Care Act, takes a tough stance on illegal immigration, and helped block federal funding for programs that provide training for abortion procedures. Elisabeth Motsinger (D) A two-term member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board, Motsinger is as progressive as they come, having opposed President Obama last September in a massive protest against the XL Pipeline. She supports the Affordable Care Act. She favors the DREAM Act, which would provide undocumented young people with a pathway to citizenship. She has said women “have the right to make their own choices about their own healthcare and about contraception.” 6th Congressional District Howard Coble (R, i) Coble has represented the 6th since 1985, but with redistricting shifting his district to the north he’ll have a lot of high school mascots to memorize. The district also includes more of Guilford County, including part of what was once the 13th Congressional District represented by US Rep. Brad Miller. Coble is a reliable conservative, his 2007 vote against the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program because it would increase taxes on tobacco being a prime example. But his affable nature and lauded constituent services have made him a popular congressman across party lines. Tony Foriest (D) Graham resident Foriest served two terms in the NC Senate before being dislodged in the Republican wave of 2010. While Foriest’s platform is somewhat short on specifics, his website emphasizes the importance of access to “quality education and healthcare” and a recovery that isn’t “balanced on the backs of those without a voice.” He supports the creation of a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 12th Congressional District Mel Watt (D, i) Watt has been a steady, center-left presence in Congress since 1993, after he was first elected to this minority influence district, which snakes along Interstate 85 from Charlotte up through High Point to Winston-Salem and Greensboro. He voted with fellow Democrats for the Affordable Care Act and stimulus spending, but angered some progressives by cosponsoring the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was shelved after a public outcry. Jack Brosch (R) A computer consultant and former financial advisor, Brosch has assailed the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform and favors repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. These positions probably won’t endear him with voters from the urban, predominantly minority neighborhoods and liberal, white areas around Davidson College.   Governor Walter Dalton (D) Currently serving as lieutenant governor and with experience in the NC Senate, Dalton is well connected in his Democratic Party and exemplifies the pro-business, pro-education standard set by former Gov. Jim Hunt. Dalton’s candidacy has failed to gain traction possibly because of poor name recognition, but just as likely because of lack of confidence in the current administration of Gov. Bev Perdue and the taint of scandal over the previous administration of Mike Easley. Dalton supports restoring funding cuts to public education. He has a detailed job creation plan that includes tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed people, competing with other states for contracts to repair military vehicles and continuing corporate incentives. He’s lukewarm on fracking, but would assuredly veto a voter ID bill that the Republican-controlled General Assembly is certain to pass next year. Pat McCrory (R) McCrory, a Jamestown native, governed Charlotte as a Republican mayor working with a Democratic-controlled city council. Among his accomplishments is a light-rail system financed by a voter-approved sales tax. But his platform is arguably more partisan Republican than moderate. His economic development plan emphasizes reducing taxes and stripping away regulations while aggressively promoting offshore oil drilling and fracking. He wants schools to achieve improvements in student performance, but is noncommittal about new funding. He favors voter ID. “We cannot accept the status quo of leadership in North Carolina,” the candidate has said. “It is going to take an outsider to break up this good-old boy, good-old girl system that has been in control for far too long.” Barbara Howe (L) Howe is interrupting your regularly scheduled programming with a simple platform of fiscal responsibility and social tolerance that is meant to cut against the skews of both major parties. Emphasizing individual freedom, Howe says North Carolinians should be in charge of their children’s education and allowed to marry whomever they love. She pledges to repeal the marriage amendment, place a moratorium on the death penalty and eliminate corporate incentives. Lieutenant governor Linda Coleman (D) The Democratic candidate for the open seat of lieutenant governor currently serves as director of state personnel for the state and her campaign has received substantial financial support from union that represents those employees. Coleman’s campaign is focused on economic development through workforce training and community colleges; and education through restoring cuts to public education. Dan Forest (R) The son of retiring US Rep. Sue Myrick, Forest has tapped into the conservative anger sweeping the state with bellicose rhetoric calling this year “our generation’s 1776,” arguing that the country is at a tipping point between socialism and freedom and warning against “an enemy within.” In addition to low taxes, Forest supports charter schools, tough restrictions on illegal immigration and medical malpractice reform. Auditor Beth Wood (D, i) Wood came into the office after the Democratic wave election of 2008. Among other accomplishments she says she has saved the state millions of dollars after discovering that North Carolina has been paying for inmate healthcare services that should be covered by Medicaid. Debra Goldman (R) Goldman was elected to the Wake County School Board in 2009 as part of a faction that set about dismantling the system’s socioeconomic-balancing school assignment plan. She pledges to “crack down on the numerous public financial scandals and reports of fiscal mismanagement.” But Goldman’s platform has been overshadowed in recent weeks by revelations that she listed a fellow Republican member of the school board as a suspect in a robbery and kept large amounts of cash in her house as a result of concerns born of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Commissioner of agriculture Steve Troxler (R, i) Guilford County tobacco farmer Steve Troxler got an early start as a Republican elected in 2004 to council of state, which is typically dominated by Democrats. His predecessor, Meg Scott Phipps, wound up serving a federal prison sentence for fraud. Accomplishments cited by Troxler include opening a trade office in Beijing, a food-safety award and preserving farmland and forests, but critics fault his office for tipping off a turkey processor about an impending raid by the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office related to animal cruelty. Walter Smith (D) A native of Yadkin County, Smith formerly directed a county office of the federal Farm Service Agency and taught high school vocational agriculture. He pledges to cut red tape by helping farmers navigate the 21 divisions of the NC Department of Agriculture; assist farmers in diversifying into sustainable farming, agritourism and renewable energy production; and promote rail and port improvements to help North Carolina farmers get their products to market. Commissioner of insurance Wayne Goodwin (D, i) A former state House representative, Goodwin replaced longtime insurance commissioner Jim Long in 2009. Since taking office, he says he has save ratepayers more than $1.3 billion through refunds, restitution and other means and criminal investigators in his office have made more than 600 arrests. Mike Causey (R) A Guilford County farmer and lobbyist, Causey ran afoul of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Markets local growing regulations and started a private produce market. He pledges to make the NC Department of Insurance more responsive, and to “move toward a more free market for the insurers with strict oversight to ensure consumers are protected.” Commissioner of labor Cherie Berry (R, i) Berry, who doesn’t shy away from the fact that her photo is in every elevator in the state, got a jump on Steve Troxler as the only Republican elected to council of state in 2000. She takes credit for improving workplace safety while promoting business interests by fending off new regulations. John C. Brooks (D) Brooks holds the unfortunate legacy of overseeing the NC Labor Department during the state’s worst industrial disaster, the Imperial Foods Plant Fire, which took the lives of 25 workers. Brooks notes that the plant wasn’t registered with the secretary of state, so it was impossible for his office to carry out inspections. Brooks says his current job as staff attorney for the NC Industrial Commission would help him identify and prevent workplace injuries. Secretary of state Elaine Marshall (D, i) Marshall is likely insulated from this year’s Republican tide, having been reelected three times since first winning the office in 1996. Voters will also remember her from her unsuccessful US Senate run two years ago. One of the important functions of the office is to keep accurate records, and Marshall notes that her office has established an online filing system that saves business owners time and energy while also promoting transparency by “shining a light on lobbying activities.” Ed Goodwin (R) A retired Naval intelligence agent who currently serves on the Chowan County Commission, Goodwin is a conservative warrior. His platform of support for traditional marriage and the right to bear arms, and opposition to abortion and tax increases would seem to be more relevant to a bid for governor or Congress than the limited scope of the secretary of state office. Superintendent of public instruction June Atkinson (D, i) Incumbent Atkinson got the best of a fight with Gov. Bev Perdue, a fellow Democrat, for control of the NC Department of Public Instruction early in her second term as superintendent. She counts as accomplishments an improved high school graduation rate, increased choices with a growing number of public charter schools, and increased cooperation between K-12 public schools and community colleges. John Tedesco (R) A rising star of the tea party, Tedesco was part of the faction that took control of the Wake County School Board in 2009 and tried with mixed success to dismantle the system’s nationally recognized school assignment plan based on socioeconomic balancing. He supports merit raises for teachers — a position that his earned him a cold shoulder from the NC Association of Educators. He emphasizes accountability rather than funding as solutions to obtaining better educational results. Treasurer Janet Cowell (D, i) A graduate of Wharton School of Business, the 44-year-old Cowell rose through the Raleigh City Council and NC Senate to become state treasurer in 2008. Cowell’s campaign emphasizes that her office has strengthened the state’s retirement system and maintained North Carolina’s AAA bond rating. Steve Royal (R) Elkin resident Royal highlights the state’s almost $3 billion debt to the federal government to cover unemployment benefits and an alleged pay-to-play culture in the office of treasurer as the basis for needed reforms. He pledges to only serve one term, if elected. NC Senate District 26 (Guilford) Phil Berger (R, i) Berger of Eden is currently one of the state’s two most powerful leaders as Senate president pro tem. He wants to revamp the state’s public education system by placing more emphasis on early literacy, assign grades to schools and replace teacher tenure with performance pay. As leader of the state Senate, he’s partially responsible for imposing a contorted redistricting plan on the Guilford County Commission and scuttling compensation for eugenics victims. Bobby R. Stanley (D) A former member of the Rockingham County Commission, Stanley has said that he’s running for Senate to bring more long-term planning and that he favors investments in education to reduce the cost of administering the criminal justice system and social services over the long haul. NC Senate District 27 (Guilford) Trudy Wade (R) Local voters know Wade — a Greensboro City Council member and former member of the Guilford County Commission — to be a stalwart conservative. District 27 was redrawn to give Republicans a pickup in the Guilford County delegation, and Wade won the opportunity to be its standard bearer after defeating businessman Justin Conrad and High Point City Councilman Latimer Alexander in the primary. She consistently favors low taxes, and bucked her fellow council members earlier this year by supporting the marriage amendment. Myra Slone (D) Despite long odds, political newcomer Slone has run a spirited campaign against Wade. The High Point real estate broker says her candidacy was prompted by concern about the current General Assembly’s efforts “to limit women’s access to healthcare, slash the education budget and try to keep citizens from voting instead of putting people back to work.” NC Senate District 31 (Forsyth) Pete Brunstetter (R, i) Brunstetter replaced Sen. Linda Garrou as co-chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee when Republicans took control of the General Assembly in early 2011. Brunstetter’s professional background as a corporate lawyer for Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice makes him a comfortable fit for business interests in Forsyth County and across the state. He’s also a staunch social conservative, as a sponsor of legislation to put the marriage amendment on the ballot. Delmas Parker (D) Parker, a 74-year-old retired teacher, has long been active in the Democratic Party, specifically the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina. He’s an unabashed defender of government as a force for good, citing early childhood education, teachers’ salaries, roads and commuter rail as worthwhile investments. NC Senate District 32 (Forsyth) Earline Parmon (D) Parmon has served five terms in the NC House and is poised to replace Linda Garrou in the Democratic-leaning Senate district covering much of Winston-Salem. Assuming she wins, she’ll be the only Democrat from the Forsyth delegation with state legislative experience. Liabilities include ties to a manipulative get-out-the-vote effort and failure to pay the tab for catering expenses, but her positions on the issues are right in line with her constituents, including support for early childhood education funding, eugenics compensation, safeguards against putting to death the wrongfully convicted and early voting. Reginald Reid (R) The Republican candidate in this Democratic-leaning district, a tax preparer without political experience, was virtually unknown when he entered the race. He takes a libertarian position on economic issues, favoring a flat tax. On social issues, he describes himself as a “right-wing Christian.” He said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases of rape and incest, that marriage should be only “between a man and a woman.” NC House District 58 (Guilford) Alma Adams (D, i) A state lawmaker with two decades of experience, Adams has supported investments in university building and the nanotech center. She sponsored a modest increase in the state minimum wage that was signed into law in 2006. She led the effort to provide sex education to middle school students. More recently, she was one of two Guilford County legislators that bucked the delegation by opposing a bill snuck in during the final days of the recent short session that would allow local governments an extension to clean up discharge into the Haw River. Olga Morgan Wright (R) Wright has challenged Adams three times in District 58 without putting so much as a dent in the incumbent’s armor. A paralegal, Wright has helped organize candidate forums with the Guilford County Unity Effort on years when she’s not running for election, but this year she hasn’t had a very visible campaign. NC House District 61 (Guilford) John Faircloth (R, i) Faircloth is serving his first term in the House, but he’s a senior statesman of sorts in High Point due to his long years of service on city council and as chief of police. His politics are moderate to conservative. The lawmaker has cosponsored legislation requiring undocumented children to be declared in school, and said he wants to provide support to grandparents who are raising grandchildren. Ron Weatherford (D) The Democratic challenger is a retired clergyman from High Point. He has volunteer experience on the High Point Human Relations Commission and the National Rural AIDS Advisory Board, and has received the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO. NC House District 62 (Guilford) John Blust (R, i) In 2010, Blust worked to fashion a truce between the so-called “establishment” Republicans and the tea party insurgents in Guilford County. Long accustomed to being a lonely conservative in the county delegation, Blust saw his fortunes change when his party took control of the legislature that year and he became the senior Republican from Guilford. He favors fiscal restraint, educational choice and low taxes as an alternative to corporate incentives. Kent Wilsey (L) There’s no doubt a district leans conservative when the challenger is a Libertarian instead of a Democrat. An aerospace engineer with Honda Aircraft, the candidate expresses an interest on his campaign website in removing “whole branches of government.” NC House District 71 (Forsyth) Evelyn Terry (D) A former member of Winston-Salem City Council, Terry is the Democratic nominee to replace longtime lawmaker Larry Womble. A former community organizer, she frequently expresses concern about the widening gap between the poor and rich, and argues that businesses should be willing to pay taxes to finance roads and other amenities that help them prosper. Kris McCann (R) An electronics tech at Lorillard Tobacco Co., McCann is making his first run for elective office. He took a bold stance in this Democratic-leaning district by declaring to a group of educators that “while I wholeheartedly support and want no child left behind, I totally disagree with the part of starting our education level at four years of age.” He wants to reduce taxes so working-class parents can be more involved in their children’s education. NC House District 72 (Forsyth) Ed Hanes Jr. (D) Hanes, who owns a renewable energy development company, emerged victorious from a three-way scrum in the Democratic primary to replace Earline Parmon, who is seeking a seat in the NC Senate. Aspiring to represent a district that brings together the affluent and white west side of Winston-Salem with the poor and black side of the city, Hanes says he is promoting a vision of unity: “Strong on business. Strong on education.” The candidate favors charter schools and tying corporate incentives to wages, and opposes fracking and voter ID. Charlie Mellies (R) While the district leans Democratic, Republican Mellies isn’t making any concessions. The public defender and Army reservist is supports restoring funding cuts to early-childhood education. He supports voter ID, and also supports fracking, provided it’s done with adequate safeguards. As unapologetic pro-life candidate, Mellies supports recent legislation requiring women to undergo ultrasounds before an abortion. NC House District 74 (Forsyth) Debra Conrad (R) A longtime Forsyth County commissioner, Conrad has mixed a pragmatic business approach (support for incentives as an economic development tool) with social-conservative values (fighting the federal courts, unsuccessfully, to allow sectarian prayer before commissioner meetings). Running in a Republican-leaning district to replace Rep. Dale Folwell, Conrad let slip that the more money candidates raise and give to the House’s Republican leadership, the better their committee assignments. A spokesperson for House Speaker Thom Tillis denied any such arrangement. David Moore (D) An aerospace consultant who first registered to vote in Forsyth County about 16 months ago. The Democratic candidate has quarreled with his party and briefly suspended his campaign when information emerged about past assault and DWI convictions. He initially denied the crimes, but later admitted them. Far from being embarrassed by the episode, Moore has continued to campaign energetically, frequently appearing at candidate forums and accusing Republican foes of elitism and arrogance. NC House District 79 (Forsyth) Julia Howard (R, i) A realtor in Davie County, Howard has represented District 79 since 1989, and her seniority has earned her a senior chairmanship on the House Finance Committee. Assuming she wins, her seat on the committee will give her a direct role in efforts to reform the tax structure so that services are taxed along with goods. She pledges that if the Republicans gain a veto-proof majority or win the governor’s mansion, they’ll pass voter ID legislation. And Howard is enthusiastic about eliminating the corporate income tax and reducing the personal tax rate. Cristina Vazquez (D) A recent migrant from the Northeast, Democrat Vazquez is making her second run for NC House. Her campaigns have emphasized strengthening the middle class and conservation, and she has promoted novel initiatives that often don’t directly engage with the current debates roiling the state legislature. She wants North Carolina to establish a state bank, which she said would improve its fiscal bottom line. Vazquez is a proponent of environmentally friendly housing co-ops, an initiative that would seem to be more closely tied to community-level lifestyle choices than state government policy. Guilford County Commission District 4 Kirk Perkins (D, i) The Democratic incumbent is seeking his third term, but redistricting has made this eastern Guilford district markedly friendlier for a Republican candidate. The election could determine whether the Democrats hold a majority on county commission or it tips to the Republicans. Perkins takes a pro-growth stance, and supports incentives as a way of expanding the county’s tax base. A conservationist, Perkins is proud of helping to establish Northeast Park in his home district. Jerry Alan Branson (R) A trucking company operative from Julian, Branson takes a dim view of incentives, and wants to find places to cut spending. He has suggested taking a close look at the county’s spending on social services, but his opponent argues that much of that spending is mandated by the state. Branson has also said he would like to see nonprofits that are supported by the county look to support from churches instead. Guilford County Commission District 5 Paul Gibson (D) Gibson currently serves at large, but the Republican-controlled redistricting process forced him into a new district that resembles a lightning bolt plunging down from Summerfield into downtown Greensboro. Gibson has served three terms on the commission. As a commissioner, Gibson has frequently opposed incentives requests, but ardently defends voter-approved bond projects to build new schools and a new jail and expresses pride in the county-operated dental clinic. He actively participated in community meetings to plan a homeless day center — what came to be the Interactive Resource Center. Jeff Phillips (R) A financial advisor, Phillips joined forces with Conservatives for Guilford County last year and presented a budget that reduced spending reductions. Phillips decries successive increases in taxes and spending under Democratic control. He assails his opponent as being part of a “billion dollar debt club” because of his support for a 2008 bond package that included funding for school construction and a new jail. As a fiscal conservative who likes to say that “Scripture is sort of the litmus test for my life,” Phillips takes the view that compassion is the responsibility of individuals, not the government. So, four years ago, while Gibson was meeting with community groups to find a way to create a public-private partnership to open a homeless day center, Phillips was driving a Salvation Army truck and delivering food and blankets to homeless people as part of the Nightwatch program. Guilford County Commission District 6 Hank Henning (R) An account rep with Brady Services and Iraq War veteran, Henning beat out two other Republican candidates for the opportunity to be the party’s nominee in a newly drawn district covering western Guilford that skews to the right. His conservative credentials are unassailable considering that he has signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. Linda Kellerman (D) A retired project manager with Mack Trucks, Kellerman is a political newcomer. She pledges to work with other commissioners to find common ground “and work through problems without an outside agenda or influence.” That’s a none too subtle dig at Conservatives for Guilford County, which backed Hank Henning’s run-off opponent. Kellerman told the News & Record that C4GC’s “cut-and-gut philosophy is dangerous for Guilford County,” adding, “I doubt Hank Henning will be any different. He will need their support to defeat me, which means he’ll have to make them some promises and sign some pledges.” Guilford County School Board at large Sandra Alexander (i) Alexander won her at-large seat in 2008, when former school board member Dot Kearns retired. She hasn’t maintained quite as high a profile as her predecessor. Among the accomplishments she cites in her first term are promoting the establishment of the UNCG Middle College, helping to raise $850,000 for the new STEM Early College at NC A&T University, partnering with a nonprofit to arrange a visit by students to Timco and adding bowling as a high school sports option. Pat Tillman A marketing and advertising account executive and Iraq War veteran, Tillman comes across as a fresh voice with a range of ideas to both improve the quality of education and cut costs, including converting school buses to biodiesel, harnessing volunteers to improve literacy, using a restorative approach to discipline and giving teachers merit-based pay. Forsyth County Register of Deeds Norman Holleman (D, i) Running in the Democratic wave year of 2008, Holleman unseated Republican Karen Gordon, who is making a bid this year to reclaim the office. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the two candidates have fallen into a nasty squabble over ethics and competency. The particulars on the dispute are somewhat murky, but Holleman displayed courtesy and compassion when dozens of same-sex couples descended on his office requesting marriage applications, while upholding the law of the state and denying them all the same. Karen Gordon (R) Gordon told her fellow Republicans in March that she had more than 27 years of experience in the register of deeds office, including the top leadership experience. “I really didn’t think about running again until about a month ago,” she said. “I had a lot of people that were asking me to, a lot of people that are not happy with the current leadership in the register of deeds office, and so I plan to regain my job with all of your help.” Forsyth County Commission District B (3 seats) Richard Linville (R, i) Linville, a farmer from the Walkertown area, has served on the county commission since 1981. Don’t let his public presentation — muttered non-sequiturs and squinting eyes — deceive you; the man didn’t get to be chairman of the board being anyone’s fool. He’s diligent about polling the board to find out what the majority wants to do, and then hammering out the consensus with minimal drama. This year the majority wanted a budget with no tax increase. And next year, when a punishing tax revaluation hits, the Republican majority will probably again hold the line against taxes, opting for program cuts instead. David Plyler (R, i) Plyler, a former Democrat from Kernersville, is the most moderate of the three Republican incumbents, occasionally voting with the board’s two Democratic members, Walter Marshall and Everette Witherspoon. A recent example was Plyler’s dissent from his fellow Republicans on the issue of voter ID. He reminds conservative voters that the board has not raised taxes in the past four years. Gloria Whisenhunt (R, i) A semi-retired salon owner originally from Stokes County, Whisenhunt has served continuously on the commission since 1996, with six years of experience before that on the school board. She tells conservatives that she is most proud of her vote to defend the county against a lawsuit challenging the use of sectarian prayer. She tells more liberal audiences that the budget approved by the county spared senior services from an across-the-board 5 percent cut.   Gail McNeill (D) The lone Democrat in the race, McNeill is looking to put a dent in the Republicans’ 5-2 majority on the commission. A past chair of NC Million Mom March, she said she “got into this race because the county commissioners made me really mad” by voting to allow concealed weapons in county parks. She’s also concerned about socioeconomic disparities in schools. High Point mayor Bernita Sims Sims has represented Ward 1 on High Point City Council since 2003, and stakes out the progressive wing of current Mayor Becky Smothers’ establishment governing consensus. She wants the city to go to the state legislature to get legal authority to take derelict housing into receivership. She supports the city’s various revitalization initiatives and touts remedial education as a way for the city to address its yawning wealth gap. Chris Whitley Another veteran council member, Whitley occupies the conservative end of the Smothers consensus. He differs with Sims on the appropriate role of local government in addressing derelict housing, emphasizing that low-income housing is someone’s business investment. He wants City Project, an effort to create a vibrant city center, to stand on its own, and says that where parks are concerned, he prefers dog parks and skate parks to soccer fields and greenways. Coy Williard A general contractor, the 67-year-old Williard holds no political experience, but has served on virtually every important institutional board in the city, including the High Point University Board of Trustees, the hospital board of directors and the board of the High Point Economic Development Corp. He presents himself as a cheerleader for the city, but says he would put a break on tax increases. Tammy Holyfield Holyfield launched her campaign with the ambitious goal to make High Point “the single most livable, safe and prosperous community in America” and criticized incumbents for misplaced budget priorities. Less than three weeks before Election Day she wound up suspending a campaign that was supposed to raise and spend more than five times the amount of any previous High Point mayoral candidate had, with a consultant claiming to be owed almost $10,000. Matthew Fowler Sr. This candidate has remained virtually invisible during the short and spirited mayoral campaign, and his name is rumored to be on the ballot for the purpose of drawing black votes away from Bernita Sims. High Point City Council at large (2 seats) Britt W. Moore (i) Moore is completing his first term, but is the only incumbent in the race because Latimer Alexander IV opted for political retirement after an unsuccessful primary run for NC Senate. Moore says his first term has taught him that governing decisions are complex. His vote to raise taxes this year was difficult, but he said it’s important to recognize that the increase was revenue neutral. Becky Smothers After six terms as mayor, Smothers decided it was time to make room for new leadership, but she has said the council needs some continuity with the prospect that there are guaranteed to be several new faces. Under Smothers’ leadership, property taxes have increased while the city has invested in infrastructure and laid out incentives packages to attract major companies. Elijah Lovejoy An ordained pastor and entrepreneur, Lovejoy made his name in the city organizing the Party on the Plank event series, but has concluded that High Point needs a course correction to reduce the cost of government. He proposes a “grand bargain” with voters to first significantly cut spending and then to bring voters a bond referendum aimed at economic development by investing in a new city center that would constitute a “geographic heart transplant.” Cynthia Y. Davis A community volunteer who serves on the city’s planning and zoning commission, Davis contends that the city has neglected the depressed southwest area where she lives. She takes a critical view of Smothers, Sims and other members of the current governing majority for what she considers a lack of transparency and inappropriate relationships with nonprofits. Ed Squires Jr. A daycare operator, Squires is taking his second shot at city council after an unsuccessful bid two years ago. He supports Sims’ initiative to seek authority to take derelict properties into receivership. He wants to see the city establish a business incubator similar to the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship in Greensboro and to provide incentives to employers who hire ex-offenders. High Point City Council Ward 1 Mary Lou Andrews Blakeney A retired registered nurse who, as a high school student, helped launch the sit-in movement in High Point, Blakeney has had mixed success as a politician. She was elected to an at-large seat on city council in 2008 as part of the Obama wave. But two years later, she failed to garner enough votes to keep her seat. She emphasizes services to seniors in her community work. This year, Blakeney is one of five candidates vying to replace Bernita Sims as representative of Ward 1. Jeff Golden Golden challenged Sims two years ago. He takes a critical stance on current council’s recent decision to raise taxes. He suggests that some employees are overpaid and the city has a number of duplicated positions that could be cut. Like his former opponent, he believes the city should take a tougher stance against derelict property owners. Willie Davis First-time candidate Davis wants more sidewalks in Ward 1. When adding jobs conflicts with neighborhood aesthetics — for example a rezoning request to allow Sheetz to build a store in Emerywood — he holds that the city should take the jobs. The candidate wants to see the police take a more community-oriented approach. Larry E. Diggs A former employee of the city’s electrical department, Diggs has served on the board of Project 2015, a regional transportation study. He advocates for more public transit connections so that Ward 1 residents can access employment and shopping opportunities across town, and wants to encourage residents to be more involved in city government. Orrick Quick A 29-year-old fitness instructor, Quick’s civic passion is driven by his Christian faith. He shares Diggs’ interest in expanding public transit and make city government more transparent. His plans to create a two-year plan to help homeless people, he says, reflects his commitment to civic leadership. High Point City Council Ward 3 Michael Pugh (i) Representing Ward 3 — covering the depressed southern tier of the city — since 2005, Pugh has staked out a lonely position against the council majority’s tax increases and economic incentives grants to companies that more often than not set up shop at the prosperous north end. He touts his responsiveness to constituents and focuses on making sure his ward gets adequate attention from the police. Pugh is hopeful that the council majority will swing in his direction with this election. Judy Mendenhall A former mayor with extensive experience working with the social service agency West End Ministries, Mendenhall argues the ward needs someone who works better with the council majority to have effective representation. She says the city should examine how it elects its mayor and council, while also emphasizing job creation and services such as roads and recreation facilities. High Point City Council Ward 4 Jay Wagner Wagner likes to say that his candidacy for Ward 4 is a continuation of his unsuccessful run for mayor against Becky Smothers two years ago. He encouraged his friend, AB Henley, to run for the Ward 4 seat two years ago, and when Henley decided to not seek reelection, Wagner jumped in. As chairman of the Uptowne High Point Association and vice-chair of City Project, Wagner is already intimately involved in the ward’s civic life. He argues for a more conservative fiscal approach while acknowledging that “sometimes it makes sense to prime the pump.” Matthew Brett Moore Like Wagner, Moore is a lawyer. He takes a similarly conservative stance, identifying areas where the city could cut spending and suggesting that volunteer mentors be recruited to help nurture small business development. More so than his opponent, Moore indicates that he’s willing to cut the current council some slack because the job is probably more difficult than it appears from the outside. High Point City Council Ward 5 Jim Davis Davis was appointed to two city boards by the ward’s current representative, Chris Whitley, who is running for mayor. A residential builder, Davis has received Whitley’s endorsement — a mixed blessing, considering that Davis is running in opposition to the tax increases and utility rate hikes that were supported by his political mentor. Gerald Grubb A small-business owner, Grubb ran unsuccessfully for NC House and then High Point City Council in 2010. Like his two opponents he wants to bring an end to the city council’s habit of raising taxes. He also wants the city to become more transparent by televising council meetings, and argues that council members don’t need reserved parking at city hall. Rodney Joslin II Joslin ran unsuccessfully two years ago against Whitley and is refining his approach to retail politicking. A quality analyst with TE Electronics (formerly Tyco), Joslin wants to see the city get lean and mean so that it can compete more effectively for business and residents with Greensboro and Winston-Salem. High Point City Council Ward 6 Jim Corey (i) Corey narrowly defeated Jason Ewing by 46 votes two years ago in a contest to replace John Faircloth, making this race a rematch. Corey voted with the majority to increase taxes and give city employees a cost-of-living raise. He ran two years ago on a platform of establishing a business incubator and promoting solar energy. His first term was a warm-up, he says, and he’ll push his vision more aggressively on his second time out. Jason Ewing A realtor about half his opponent’s age, Ewing is opposed to further tax increases. Although he would represent a ward on the city’s north end, Ewing’s campaign emphasizes “creating a clear vision for our Uptowne, downtown, core city and other geographic areas identified for ‘revitalization,” adding that “these priorities relate directly to our challenge of building a fair and balanced city budget which addresses our essential needs without burdening taxpayers beyond their economic capabilities.” SIDEBAR: Unopposed: Whichever party happens to control the General Assembly gets to draw the maps of political districts every 10 years when the Census count is taken. The name of the game is to maximize your party’s seats to maintain and expand control. The Republicans did it last year and the Democrats did it every 10 years before that, going back at least a century. In Guilford County, that means that so many Democrats are squeezed into NC Senate District 28, NC House District 57 and NC House District 60 that Republicans understand they don’t have a realistic shot at the seats. Likewise, in the newly drawn NC House District 59, the Democrats didn’t bother to put up a candidate, leaving a clear path for Republican Jon Hardister. In Forsyth County’s NC House District 75, Republicans regularly run unopposed. Attorney General Roy Cooper holds a statewide seat, so the fact that he has no challenger is probably a testament to his popularity and name recognition. Similarly with Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen. Guilford County Commission District 8 is a minority-majority district that is overwhelmingly favorable to Democrats, so Republicans don’t typically apply for the job. Five Guilford County School Board candidates, including two newcomers, are running unopposed. The school board in Guilford County is nonpartisan, so the best guess as to why the races are so uncompetitive is that citizens are either happy with the job the board is doing, or local education issues are not making many waves in this election. Only one High Point City Council race is uncontested. No accounting for why Ward 2 is the exception to the rule. • Attorney general: Roy Cooper (D, i) • NC Senate District 28 (Guilford): Gladys Robinson (D, i) • NC House District 57 (Guilford): Pricey Harrison (D, i) • NC House District 59 (Guilford): Jon Hardister (R) • NC House District 60 (Guilford): Marcus Brandon (D, i) • NC House District 75 (Forsyth): Donny Lambeth (R) • Guilford County Register of Deeds: Jeff Thigpen (D, i) • Guilford County Commission District 8: Raymond Trapp (D) • Guilford County School Board District 1: J. Carlvena Foster (i) • Guilford County School Board District 3: Darlene Garrett (i) • Guilford County School Board District 5: Linda Welborn • Guilford County School Board District 7: Rebecca Buffington • Guilford County School Board District 9: Amos Quick III (i) • High Point City Council Ward 2: Foster Douglas (i) Visit Triad Elections ’12 at for additional information and archived stories about individual candidates.