How we see the NC Se­nate races

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE OB­SERVER ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

A key ques­tion in this year’s elec­tion is whether Democrats can break the Repub­li­cans’ grip on the NC leg­is­la­ture. If Democrats flip four House seats or six Se­nate seats, they break the GOP’s ve­to­proof su­per­ma­jor­ity.

Five Se­nate seats ap­pear on the Meck­len­burg bal­lot, in­clud­ing at least one with a solid chance of flip­ping to Democrats. Here’s how we see those races.

SE­NATE 37

Demo­crat Jeff Jack­son seeks a third term in this dis­trict that snakes from east Char­lotte out South Boule­vard to the south­west part of the county. He faces a chal­lenge from Repub­li­can Nora Trot­man. The Con­sti­tu­tion Party’s Stu­art Collins is also run­ning. We rec­om­mend Jack­son.

Jack­son is one of the bright young stars for NC Democrats. Since re­plac­ing Dan Clod­fel­ter in 2014, the at­tor­ney and Army vet­eran has been an en­er­getic, force­ful and rea­soned voice against some of the NC GOP’s ex­cesses. He is a leader of statewide ef­forts to eat into Repub­li­can con­trol of the Gen­eral Assem­bly. And he has rep­re­sented his heav­ily Demo­cratic dis­trict well.

Trot­man does free­lance dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and has lived in Char­lotte for three years. Her two big­gest cam­paign is­sues have been de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing mar­i­juana and ex­pand­ing early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion. She is thought­ful, but she is run­ning against one of the state’s lead­ing leg­is­la­tors.

SE­NATE 38

Demo­crat Mu­jtaba Mo­hammed, who beat Sen. Joel Ford in the pri­mary, is run­ning against Repub­li­can Richard Rivette, who has sought and failed to win this seat each of the last three elec­tions. We rec­om­mend Mo­hammed. Mo­hammed was a staff at­tor­ney at the Coun­cil for Chil­dren’s Rights be­fore be­com­ing an as­sis­tant pub­lic de­fender. Col­leagues de­scribe him as ef­fec­tive, ded­i­cated and calm, and want­ing to em­power peo­ple. He names K-12 pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion among his top pri­or­i­ties.

Rivette has worked in mar­ket­ing, prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and other fields. He has com­pared Democrats with the KKK, and his anti-tax, small-gov­ern­ment views are out of step with a ma­jor­ity in this heav­ily Demo­cratic dis­trict that cov­ers much of north Char­lotte. Mu­jtaba Mo­hammed

SE­NATE 39

Repub­li­can Dan Bishop, a for­mer Meck­len­burg com­mis­sioner and House mem­ber, seeks a sec­ond Se­nate term rep­re­sent­ing this dis­trict that cov­ers much of south Char­lotte, Matthews and Mint Hill. He’s be­ing chal­lenged by small busi­ness owner and Demo­crat Chad Sta­chow­icz. We can­not en­dorse either can­di­date.

We dis­agree with Bishop on al­most ev­ery pol­icy stance he has taken in the leg­is­la­ture, from be­ing a lead spon­sor of HB2 to politi­ciz­ing the ju­di­cial sys­tem to his treat­ment of pub­lic schools.

While we re­spect Sta­chow­icz’s mod­er­ate pol­icy views and his abil­ity to grow a suc­cess­ful tech­nol­ogy com­pany from scratch, we are trou­bled by the lack of judg­ment he has shown. Not only was he guilty of a DWI in 2008 when he drove with a blood al­co­hol level nearly three times the le­gal limit. He also said just three years ago that he drove drunk a lot un­til he was caught and that he now doesn’t drive if he’s over the limit, “which I con­sider to be 3 the first hour.” Vot­ers de­serve a sen­a­tor who shows more dis­cern­ment.

SE­NATE 40

Demo­crat Joyce Wad­dell seeks a third term in a dis­trict that cov­ers much of east Char­lotte. She is chal­lenged by for­mer Meck­len­burg County Man­ager Bob­bie Shields, a Repub­li­can.

Vot­ers in this dis­trict must de­cide what they want most in a sen­a­tor: Some­one who votes the way they like but is oth­er­wise largely in­ef­fec­tive; or some­one who holds dif­fer­ent pol­icy views but would bring ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and bi­par­ti­san­ship to Raleigh. Wad­dell is the for­mer; Shields is the lat­ter.

Wad­dell has ac­com­plished lit­tle in her four years in Raleigh, but she votes in a way that prob­a­bly pleases this heav­ily Demo­cratic dis­trict. Shields holds con­ser­va­tive views about taxes, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion and other is­sues that are out of step with a ma­jor­ity in this dis­trict. But we are im­pressed by the breadth of his back­ground, his un­der­stand­ing of how gov­ern­ment works, and his com­mit­ment to work with both Repub­li­cans and Democrats (of which he was one for 23 years).

SE­NATE 41

Repub­li­can Jeff Tarte seeks a fourth term in this dis­trict that cov­ers north Meck­len­burg County then wraps along the western edge of the county and back into parts of Bal­lan­tyne. He is be­ing chal­lenged by Demo­crat Natasha Mar­cus in what ob­servers call the most flip­pable Se­nate dis­trict in the state. We rec­om­mend Mar­cus.

An at­tor­ney-turned­vol­un­teer who now works at the Ada Jenk­ins Cen­ter, Mar­cus em­pha­sizes her com­mit­ment to fund­ing K-12 pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and her sup­port for Med­ic­aid ex­pan­sion, as well as her con­sis­tent op­po­si­tion to the I-77 tolls con­tract. She demon­strates a deep un­der­stand­ing of the is­sues fac­ing the state and of ef­fec­tive pol­icy so­lu­tions.

Tarte is friendly, pro­vides strong con­stituent ser­vice and por­trays him­self as a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can. But on the Se­nate floor, he votes with Phil Berger and the Se­nate lead­er­ship al­most all the time, giv­ing him an ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive record. He also was for the I-77 tolls be­fore he was against them, and helped make it more dif­fi­cult for Gov. Roy Cooper to rene­go­ti­ate that con­tract. Natasha Mar­cus Tay­lor Bat­ten

Ed­i­to­rial Page Edi­tor

Peter St. Onge

Ed­i­to­rial Page As­so­ciate Edi­tor

Nancy Webb Fo­rum Edi­tor

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