Contenders step up for seats in N.C. General Assembly

by Miriah Hamrick
Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Candidates for state office in New Hanover County are preparing for election battles after filing for the 2014 election cycle ended at noon on Feb. 28.

Many candidates said controversial decisions made during the 2013 legislative session spurred an interest in running for office. 

Two seats for the N.C. House of Representatives are unchallenged. Representatives Susi Hamilton, D-District 18, and Ted Davis, Jr., R-District 19, are both running unopposed for third and second terms, respectively.
Rep. Rick Catlin, R-District 20, was the only candidate running for his current seat until a surprise contender stepped up on the last day of filing. 

Democrat Betsy Jordan said although she filed on the last day, it was a decision she wrestled with for weeks leading to the deadline. 

“I’ve been thinking about running for awhile. It was a debate up until the last minute,” she said in a phone interview on March 1.

A bill filed in last year’s legislative session that threatened the state’s film credit ignited Jordan’s interest in running for political office. She said she is a huge proponent of the tax incentive after serving on the N.C. Film Council under Govs. Easley and Perdue.

“This is a district that has largely profited from the film industry. It’s a clean industry, and I support clean industry,” she said. 

Rep. Catlin said he wasn’t surprised or upset by last-minute competition. 

“I think it’s a surprise when people are unopposed,” he said in a March 1 phone interview. “Everybody should appreciate a choice. That’s democracy. That’s important to democracy.”

Catlin said he wants to finish working on environmental issues and educational improvements during a second term.

“I’m not finished with these projects. They are ongoing efforts. I’m working with legislators and government agencies to find important solutions,” he said.

Three Republicans are vying for Sen. Thom Goolsby’s, R-District 9, seat following a surprising announcement that he would retire at the end of his current term. 

Wilmington attorney Michael Lee has been endorsed by Sen. Goolsby, and Reps. Catlin and Davis.

“They got to know me over the years. They know where I stand on issues and they are confident I would able to represent New Hanover County,” Lee said during a March 4 phone interview.

Lee ran for the seat in 2008 and 2010, when he lost to Goolsby in the Republican primary. Lee said his motivation for seeking political office has remained despite the losses. 

“I wanted to give back to the community,” Lee said. “I still want to be involved.”

Michael T. Burns and Justin LaNasa are also contenders for Goolsby’s seat on the primary ballot.

Burns, who has worked in retail for more than 20 years, said he is running for office to raise local concerns that are not being heard at the state level.

“I believe there is a distance between the political party and the citizens of District 9,” Burns said during a March 1 phone interview. 

LaNasa is also interested in legislation that directly impacts the local community. 

“I don’t feel there’s enough legislation being created to protect people. There needs to be a bigger line of communication between state representatives and county commissioners,” he said by phone March 3. 

The winner will face Dem. Elizabeth Redenbaugh in the general election this fall.

Redenbaugh was elected to the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2008 as a Republican. She ran on the issue of redistricting, which she argued would re-segregate school districts. 

As she worked on the issue, Redenbaugh said she realized her views weren’t aligned with the Republican Party in New Hanover County.  She said she spent a year researching and reflecting before changing her party affiliation in 2011. 

“I want to have an impact on a bigger scale,” she said of her decision to run as a Democratic candidate for the state senate seat during a phone interview on March 3.

The primary election will take place on May 6. Election day is Nov. 4.

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