NOVEMBER 4, 2014

SHORTCUT: Click here to see how I will cast my ballot. Click here for a printable PDF "Pam's Picks" marked sample  ballot for the November 4th elections (PDF file--2 pages). If you like, you can take it with you into your polling place.

Click here to read "My Take on This Year's Election."


The North Carolina General Assembly and the Watauga County Board of Elections have made significant changes to voting locations and opportunities. These changes are designed to suppress voting options for progressive voters in hopes you will be too discouraged to cast a ballot.

Progressives cannot afford to become discouraged.  The future of our public schools, our air and water quality, our constitutional rights, our voting rights and quality of life are at stake. We must fight back - hard - against local and state voter discrimination efforts.

YOU DO NOT NEED AN ID TO VOTE in this year's election, but you are not allowed to vote outside of your assigned precinct on Election Day. If you have moved from the address at which you are currently registered to vote, YOU CAN STILL VOTE AS LONG AS YOU DO SO DURING THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD.

For this reason, I strongly encourage you to vote before Election Day and do one of the following (in order of preference):

(OPTION #1): VOTE BEFORE ELECTION DAY AT THE "Price Lake" Room in the Appalachian State University Student Union or in downtown Boone:

The ASU Student Union early voting site was approved by the State Board of Elections the afternoon before early voting began. It is important that we demonstrate high use at the Student Union early voting site to ensure its continued availability in future elections. There is plenty of voter dedicated parking for those wishing to cast ballots at the ASU Student Union site, more than are available at the downtown early voting site. There are over 60 parking spaces dedicated to early voters off Howard Street right behind the the Student Union site.

Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8AM–4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Early voting is also available in downtown Boone:


Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8AM–5PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 7AM–7PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

I do not recommend casting a ballot at any of the other satellite early voting locations.


Go here: print out and fill out the Absentee Ballot Request form and mail it to:

Watauga County Board of Elections • PO Box 528 • Boone, NC 28607

OR print out and fill out the Absentee Ballot Request form, sign it, scan it, and email it to janeann.hodges@watgov.org

NOTE: Once you receive your absentee ballot, you will need two witnesses (or one notary) to sign it before you return it to the Board of Elections. Your witnesses do not have to be registered voters. Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and can be family members. Witnesses do not have to be residents of Watauga County. Candidates for the election CANNOT be witnesses to your Ballot.  It will cost you 98 cents (two "forever" stamps) to return your ballot.


This is not a good option for some Watauga County voters. Transfer and provisional voting are no longer allowed "out of precinct." This means in order to cast a ballot on election day, you MUST vote at your assigned precinct. ASU students, faculty and staff can no longer cast a ballot provisionally on campus. Boone 2 precinct voters (students living in dorms on the east side of campus) must vote at Legends on Election Day.  Boone 3 precinct voters (students living in dorms on the west side of campus) must vote at the Agricultural Conference Center if casting a ballot on Election Day. If you have moved from one precinct to another you must vote during the early voting period or your ballot will not be counted unless you vote in your assigned precinct. If you do not know the location of your new precinct, call the Watauga County Board of Elections at 828.265.8061.


New River 3 Precinct Voters: Your polling location has  changed yet again.  On Election Day, you vote at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, located at 3505 Bamboo Road. Click here for directions.

Boone 3 Precinct Voters: On Election Day you vote at the Agricultural Conference Center on Poplar Grove Road. NOTE:  Boone 3 precinct voters should vote before Election Day at the Administration Building in Downtown Boone. You cannot vote by provisional ballot at Legends on Election Day.

Boone 2 Precinct Voters: Your polling location has  changedOn Election Day you vote at the ASU Legends Building.

THE NOVEMBER 4TH BALLOT (how I will cast my ballot):

Click here for a printable PDF "Pam's Picks" marked sample ballot (2 page PDF file). If you like, you can take it with you into your polling place.

US SENATE (you may pick one)
Kay Hagan

Joshua (Josh) Brannon

NC STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 45 (you may pick one):
Jim Sponenberg

Sue Counts

DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DISTRICT 24 (you may pick one):
No Pick

Billy Kennedy

Larry Turnbow

Barbara L. Kinsey

Diane Cornett Deal

COUNTY SHERIFF (you may pick one):
Len (L.D.) Hagaman

Ola M. Lewis

Sam J. Ervin IV

Robin Hudson

Cheri Beasley

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#1) (you may pick one):
John S. Arrowood

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#2) (you may pick one):
Lucy Inman

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#3) (you may pick one):
No Pick

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#4) (you may pick one):
Mark Davis

NC DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, DISTRICT 24 (you may pick one):
Warren Hughes

COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION (you may pick three):
Jay Fenwick
Ronald (Ronny) Holste
Kurt D. Michael

Al Childers


The Disclaimer: What is Pam's Picks?
“Pam’s Picks” is simply one person’s opinion about the 2014 General election races.  I am a progressive Watauga County resident and have long held interest in local politics. I have researched candidate campaign platforms and records where available. I have also supplied candidate web site references and Facebook links where available. For additional information, you can follow the provided links or contact candidates directly with your questions.

What's in Pam's Picks?
Below you will find:  general voting information (when and where) and information on candidates whose names will appear on your November 4th General Election ballot (the candidates are presented in the order they will appear on your ballot). 

SHORTCUTS to The Information On This Site:

Click here for the Pam's Picks disclaimer.
Click here for IMPORTANT INFORMATION about voting changes for this year's election.
Click here for recommendations on how to best cast your ballot this year.
Click here for recommendations on Voting Information (who can vote this ballot and early voting locations and hours).
Click here for your Election Day polling location.
Click here for "My Take On This Year's Election."
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for US Senate.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for US House of Representatives, District 5.

Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC State Senate, District 45.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC House of Representatives, District 93.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for District Attorney, District 24.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for Board of County Commissioners, District 3.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for Board of County Commissioners, District 4.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for Board of County Commissioners, District 5.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for County Clerk of Superior Court.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for County Sheriff.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Supreme Court Chief Justice.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice (#1).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice (#2).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Supreme Court Associate Justice (#3).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Court of Appeals Judge (#1).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Court of Appeals Judge (#2).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Court of Appeals Judge (#3).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Court of Appeals Judge (#4).
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Court Judge, District 24.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for County Board of Education.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor.
Click here for a full discussion of my endorsement for NC Constitutional Amendment.

Who Can Vote this ballot?: All registered voters who reside in Watauga County. This includes ASU students who live in dormitories on campus as well as those who live in off-campus housing.

When and Where to Vote: Election Day proper is Tuesday, November 4th, BUT YOU SHOULDN'T WAIT UNTIL THEN TO VOTE!   We are recommending that progressive voters cast ballots at the ASU Student Union early voting site.

The "Price Lake Room" in the ASU Student Union:
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8:00AM-4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

The Watauga County Administration Building (beside the Courthouse on King Street)
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8AM–5PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 7AM–7PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Western Watauga Community Center:
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8:00AM-4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Blowing Rock Town Hall:
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8:00AM-4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Deep Gap Fire Department:
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8:00AM-4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Meat Camp Fire Department
Thursday, October 23 and Friday, October 24: 8:00AM-4PM
Monday, October 27 through Friday, October 31: 10AM–5PM
Saturday, November 1: 8AM–1PM

Not Registered to Vote?: The last day for registering to vote for the November 4, 2014 elections has ended. YOU CAN NO LONGER SAME-DAY REGISTER AND VOTE.

If you vote on Election Day, where do you vote?”:
Bald Mountain: Todd Fire Department
Beaver Dam:
Beaver Dam Fire Department
Beech Mountain:
Buckeye Recreational Center
Blowing Rock:
Blowing Rock Town Hall
Blue Ridge:
Laurel Fork Baptist Church
Boone 1: ?Watauga County Administration Building, beside the Courthouse
Boone 2: ?ASU Legends
Boone 3: ?Agricultural Conference Center on Poplar Grove Road
Brushy Fork: Oak Grove Baptist Church
Cove Creek: Western Watauga Community Center
Stewart Simmons Fire Department
Laurel Creek:
Cove Creek Fire Department
Meat Camp:
Meat Camp Fire Department
New River 1:
  Boone Town Hall on Blowing Rock Road
New River 2: ?Three Forks Baptist Association
New River 3: ?Mt Vernon Baptist Church on Bamboo Road
North Fork: Edgar Eller's Garage
Shawneehaw: Matney Community Center
Stony Fork: Deep Gap Fire Department
Watauga: Foscoe Fire Department

Polls are open on Election Day, November 4th, from 6:30AM-7:30PM.

Need More Information?: Call the Watauga County Board of Elections at 265-8061.

Information for my candidate discussions below comes from individual candidate information, candidate voting records, press reports, non-partisan and partisan analysis, Project Vote Smart, and other sources. Candidates are listed and discussed in ballot order. Click on individual names for detailed information about the candidates or click here for shortcuts to all candidate information/discussions on this site.

Tonight I got this Facebook message from a hardcore Democratic friend of mine: "Just got a push robocall from Concerned Women for America. About Christian persecution. Democrats allowing Christians to be slaughtered by ISIS with no response. Hundreds of Christians begging for help. Dems ignoring their pleas for life saving intervention."


It used to be that towards the end of a campaign, there was just some last ditch, nasty bad-mouthing of your opponent. Now we're into barely wrapped packages of horrors. Fevered Ebola sufferers parachuting into the country. ISIS beheaders in concert with Mexican drug cartels organizing an attack on Little Rock. From people, I might add, who it is doubtful can locate either Africa or Liberia on a map. And now the hooded Democratic/ISIS persecution of Christians!
So don't even go there with me, telling me you're not gonna vote because "they're all the same." Because "they're" not.

It was Tea Party Republicans and the 1%, not progressives or Democrats, that pushed through "Citizens United,"--the worst decision by the Supreme Court EVER. Brought to you by a Supreme Court that had already been bought off. As a result of "Citizens United," outside spending in campaigns skyrocketed in 2012 to more than $1 billion, including $400 million from dark money groups that don’t disclose their donors.

What's inside your wallet?

Welcome to the new America,
where state judges have raised more than $275 million since 2000, shattering records in nearly two dozen states. Our Democracy is being completely turned on its head as this judicial campaign cash pressures judges to answer not to you and me, not to justice, but rather to political influence. That's because it's pretty hard not to dance with the one who brung ya. And this year in North Carolina, if enough of us don't step up to put a stop to it, Republicans have a good chance of sweeping the judicial races, and taking complete control of the state’s Supreme Court, 7-0.
And nothing should be overlooked, including this possible outcome: Republicans sweep the judicial races, and control the state’s Supreme Court, 7-0. - See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/02/05/kicking-off-the-state-supreme-court-elections/#sthash.1FZHDTFK.dpuf
And nothing should be overlooked, including this possible outcome: Republicans sweep the judicial races, and control the state’s Supreme Court, 7-0. - See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/02/05/kicking-off-the-state-supreme-court-elections/#sthash.1FZHDTFK.dpuf

Lose the court, lose the war.

Our courts are our final defense against unfair and repressive legislation.

Like the budgets passed in the Republican General Assembly that are quickly gutting public education and shifting the money over to private, for profit schooling. Like the draconian, voter suppression laws. Like the immoral refusal to expand Medicaid, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of our brothers and sisters statewide. Like the Republican General Assembly decision to raise our sales taxes in order to give a $10,000 tax break to rich people.

Our Governor has been no help. He mouths moderate-sounding platitudes while simultaneously signing all their BS into law and later provides cookies all around for women he has sacrificed as a tradeoff to right-wing legislation on women's reproductive rights.

Because the courts are where the buck stops, that's why. None of these jokers could get away with dismantling this great state and country without their stamp of approval. And none of us would be prevented from voting them out of office without that same judicial seal of injustice. Our constitutional right to vote is at stake, and our insistence that we will exercise that right in the face of daunting assault, is what we have left to begin our fight back.

We've got to buy in or get cashed out.

I'm buying in. And I hope you are too. So here's the gameplan:  (1) either request that an absentee ballot be mailed to your home, or (2) vote at the ASU Student Union or the downtown Boone Administrative Building (beside the courthouse).  If you can't do either, (3) be sure to vote on Election Day at your regular polling location.

And don't forget to vote downballot in the judicial races.

US SENATE: (you may vote for one)

Thom Tillis (Tea Party Republican): www.thomtillis.com or "Thom Tillis NC" on Facebook

Tillis is one ambitious man. He leapt from being a back-bencher in the Republican minority in the NC House to Speaker of the House when the Republicans seized control of that body in the elections of 2010. Four years later, he's now trying to leap right into the US Senate over the prostrate body of Kay Hagan.

His game plan through a contentious Republican Senate primary last May was to stay aloof from the clown car of much more conservative challengers who noisily ran against him. They ran against him rather than his record. They characterized him as some kind of squishy, country club "moderate," which in the contemporary Republican Party of North Carolina is akin to saying "Tillis has cooties."

But Tillis survived that primary and won it without a run-off with his strongest opponent, the Tea Party crackpot and "Lady Parts" doctor Greg Brannon.

But once the primary was done, the birds began to come home to roost … his actual record in the NC House. Which is a disaster of backwardness, regression into the dark ages of Deep South racial politics, and oppression of large segments of our population, particularly of citizens who depend on the social safety net. He famously told an audience (when he didn't know he was being videotaped), "What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance.”

"Divide and conquer." Pit the disabled against the merely poor and let them fight for crumbs and tear each other apart. That's Mr. Tillis's version of "public service."

Tillis has a great deal to answer for (see additional details below under Dan Soucek and Jonathan Jordan). He managed and got passed through the NC House and sent on to the governor's desk a long list of baleful, disastrous, destructive legislation that has set North Carolina back decades and will take decades to recover from. Plus he's the darling candidate of Karl Rove, who's expended millions in NC trying to get us to forget that dismal legislative record.

Kay Hagan (Democrat):  https://nc.kayhagan.com or "Kay Hagan for Senate" on Facebook

I'm not a huge fan of Kay Hagan. She's a good deal too much the Blue Dog for me, and her endlessly repeated TV commercial ("Not too far right and not too far left!") has made me threaten to give up TV altogether. Maybe that "middle-of-the-roadness" is the reason she has until recently been consistently ahead of Tillis in the polls, but it doesn't endear her one bit to me.

And the polls have really tightened now, into a tossup.

In our battle against the 1%, where would Kay Hagan come down? She's a banker, after all. And I'm not fond of bankers. But she's worlds better than the alternative. Occasionally, when the chips are down, she'll make the courageous vote. And I hope she'll get better at it.

But the bottomline is that these polls have me so freaked that the nut jobs are gonna officially take over the asylum, I won't waste a second in penciling my vote by Hagan's name in this election.

Sean Haugh (Libertarian): "Sean Haugh, Libertarian for US Senate" on Facebook

Every campaign needs a wild card, and Haugh is by far the most entertaining alternative in any race on this ballot.

Haugh comes from a conservative Republican political family in Arizona (his grandfather served several terms in the Arizona House, one of those terms as Speaker), and he's been a political operative himself most of his adult life, working for the Libertarian National Committee as Political Director and then for Free & Equal, a "nonpartisan electoral reform" outfit (as well as a long list of odd and interesting jobs, including one time as a cake decorator).

He says on Facebook that after he retired he discovered that he needed some part-time work to make ends meet, so he's happily and profitably a pizza delivery guy in Durham: "I get to bring joy and relief to about 20 families a night. Everybody loves pizza, and Durham is a very diverse city, so the job helps me keep in touch with the daily lives of folks all across the socioeconomic spectrum. Children treat me like I'm the Emperor of Pizza, and dogs love me too. It's not going to make me rich, but it's simple, honest work that pays the bills."

I'm, like, loving this dude, and I love the way he writes about himself:

"Unlike professional politicians, I actually work for a living and know what it's like for all of us who aren't a part of the political class. Considering the mess they've created, I would think having experience in elective office would be a big black mark on your record. A lot more average citizens like myself should run for office. I firmly believe that regular working people would do a far better job in office than those who hold it now. With my focus on customer service, my Senate office will be committed to helping all North Carolinians negotiate the federal bureaucracy. I understand that the job of a Senator requires much more than just taking the right stands on the issues. We're also charged with administering the federal government, and representing all of the people of this state, whether you agree with me or not."

Haugh was actually included in the candidate debate put on in Wilmington on October 9 by the League of Women Voters and WECT-TV, which was a good thing and made that event actually worth watching.

But … but … there's also all that Libertarian "market economy" baggage, and I just can't go there. Besides, Tillis is too big a threat to lose this one.

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, District 5: (you may vote for one)

Virginia Foxx (Tea Party Republican): http://virginiafoxx.com/ or "Virginia Foxx for Congress" on Facebook

As one of the most conservative and toxic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia Foxx has saddled us all and intends to ride us into the ground. She offers a reliable index to every anti-progressive instinct alive in the current Republican/Tea Party. She's anti-anything that benefits average, struggling Americans. And she steals from us too.

One of my personal favorites: She's a great promoter of for-profit higher education, and not surprisingly, the for-profit college industry is one of her major financial supporters. That industry also has a dismal record of ripping off students and delivering miserable graduation rates.

Virginia Foxx is nothing but a tool.

On any issue that matters to me -- women's choices, health care for everyone, education for everyone, environmental protections -- she's so far off the right-hand scale that she left the planet Earth several campaign cycles ago.

Joshua (Josh) Brannon: http://joshforushouse.com or "Josh Brannon for US House of Representatives" on Facebook

Brannon is a newcomer to electoral politics. This is his first race for office.

Brannon is a 37-year-old software developer. He led a field of three other candidates in the May primary, but was forced into a second, run-off primary in July, winning 66% of the vote.

Brannon has been running a sharply populist campaign against the stranglehold that the 1% have taken on our "democracy." In a in-depth interview with Chad Nance, Brannon said, "I believe that Congress is gridlocked because certain wealthy interests have bought enough legislators that they can now stop any legislation that helps anyone besides the wealthiest few. To get rid of this gridlock we must vote out all legislators who vote against the best interests of the overwhelming majority of the country."


Brannon says his main focus will be to take back our democracy from the 1%. "That’s the beginning, middle, and end of why I’m running, because to be able to get money out of politics we need a congressional supermajority and right now I don’t see nearly enough legislators or candidates waving this flag, and Ms. Foxx is a case study in catering only to those who can afford to pay for a campaign."

We all know this race against Virginia Foxx to take back this seat for working people is an uphill battle, but Brannon has put forth an excellent effort and isn't afraid of taking his fight to the mat. I'm very proud to have the opportunity to cast my vote for him.

NC STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 45 : (you may vote for one)

Dan Soucek (Tea Party Republican): http://fansofdan.com

Soucek is completing his second term in the NC Senate and running for a third. He's mean and insulting and has become a poster child for the extremism currently holding power in Raleigh, voting in lock-step for every bad law that's passed since early 2011 (for more details, see under Jonathan Jordan, below).

He's probably best known for three issues of dubious value to the citizens of the 45th Senatorial District: attacking gay people through Amendment One, which bans gay marriage in North Carolina; privatizing education through the institution of a voucher system which drains away public money into private, for-profit schools; and punishing voters living in and near the Town of Boone by taking away their Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) protections as a favor to the Templeton family of developers and without seeking public comment.

In December of 2013, Soucek hosted a public forum on education that turned decidedly unfriendly to his reelection prospects, as teachers expressed their anger and despair over their treatment by the General Assembly. Soucek had one teacher forcibly removed from the room, while Republican Party Chair Anne Marie Yates attempted to prevent videotaping of the public comments. Soucek subsequently suggested that the teachers were "paid" to protest his policies.

As far as we know, Sen. Soucek hasn't held a town hall open meeting since, at least not in Watauga. If he's been run out of town, he's not yet been run out of the NC Senate, which I hope will happen in this election.

Jim Sponenberg (Democrat):
http://democracy.com/SponenbergforSenate/ or "Jim Sponenberg for NC Senate" on Facebook

Sponenberg is the son of a school teacher and a Methodist minister. He's married to a recently retired teacher and is father of a teacher and father-in-law of a teacher who's also a high school baseball coach. He has two granddaughters and two step-grandsons who attend local public schools. Jim himself attended Northern Durham High School, Louisburg Junior College and UNC Chapel Hill. He is currently the Western North Carolina Market Executive at CertusBank and lives in Lenoir.

Sponenberg has emphasized three "E's" as campaign issues: education, environment, and economy. He has served on the board of directors of the Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, and he's been endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators.

"Soucek is not representing the best interests of the people in the 45th District,” Sponenberg told reporter Justin Grimes in a long interview with the Avery Journal. “I’m passionate about education,” he said, “but just look at the headlines in the papers across the state. The new budget is ‘a slap in the face to educators,’ a superintendent told me. Unlike what is being said in Raleigh, experienced teachers received very small pay raises and teaching assistant positions are being cut. Equally disturbing is the lack of funding for text books, transportation and many other services needed for our students, our children, to get what they deserve and we want them to have.”

I really like Jim. He is a friendly, moderate Democrat with deep ties in his community and a history of working across the aisle to get things done. He is an excellent candidate and in my opinion would make an outstanding representative for our district.

NC HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, DISTRICT 93 : (you may vote for one)

Jonathan C. Jordan (Tea Party Republican): http://www.jordan4nchouse.com or "Jonathan Jordan for North Carolina House of Representatives" on Facebook

Jordan is completing his second term in the NC House and running for a third term. As a member of the Republican majority in the General Assembly since 2011, Jordan has voted in lock-step for almost every bad law that's come through those houses and gotten the signature of the governor. Take your pick. These are some of the worst in my opinion:

• While having the gall to run as a legislator who supports our public schools and as someone who pushed through teacher raises, Jordan actually voted for state budgets that failed to keep up with the strains on our educational system while flattening taxes for the very wealthy and for corporations and insulting teachers. Thanks to Jordan's gutting of public school resources and supportive measures for teachers, North Carolina has now become the worse state in the nation for teachers.

• He voted for election law changes that shortened Early Voting, eliminated same-day registration and straight-party voting, banned provisional voting (including out-of-precinct ballots case by duly-registered, legitimate voters), among other provisions meant to suppress the vote.

• He voted to ease restrictions on polluters by cutting the budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, but most particularly he voted to open this state to fracking. (Jordan actually said at an Ashe County candidate forum that no well has ever been polluted by fracking. I heard him say it myself.)

• He voted to impose new and insulting restrictions on abortion and family planning.

• He singled out the Town of Boone, among all the municipalities in the state that have Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (ETJs), to deprive the town of the ability to provide property protections just outside its borders, primarily to suit the wishes of one principal family of developers.

• He cosponsored the House Resolution that called for the establishment of a state religion. I'm not making that up.

Jordan first won his seat in the NC House via tons of third-party money that demonized Democrat Cullie Tarleton (saying he was allowing rapists to move into your neighborhood). We're waiting to see if once again third-party money (Art Pope?) will ride to Jordan's rescue. Jordan says he doesn't have time to raise money from his own constituents, and has so far relied on financing from the NC Republican House Caucus to send out hate mail that associates his challenger, Sue Counts, with dangerous looking black men and Johnny Jihadists.

I'll just come right out and say it: Jonathan Jordan is a loser both as a representative and as a human being.

Sue Counts (Democrat): http://www.suecountsfornc.com or "Sue Counts for NC House" on Facebook

Counts is the retired long-time, tireless, and popular director of the Cooperative Extension Office in Watauga County, as well as a past Chair of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, so she has a long history of deep involvement with farming, sustainability, alternative energies, and economic development and entrepreneurialism. This is her first run for public office.

When announcing her candidacy early this year, Counts said she was running "because I can no longer sit by and watch my beloved state wander down a path which is destroying the gains we have made in education, infrastructure, scientific research, job opportunities, and environmental protections."

Counts has been outspoken about the devastation she believes the NC State House and Jonathan Jordan in particular have caused. Her campaign has been particularly focused on restoring respect for public school teachers and education budgets: "They (House) were stripping away benefits for teachers to pursue advanced degrees, cutting millions of dollars for teacher assistants,” Counts said. “My opponent talks about treating schools like a business, but what business would ever shaft its veteran employees to give raises to newest employees. Their (House) plan was to use our hard-earned tax dollars to be funneled away from the public school system using vouchers.”

Counts also makes clear her opposition to fracking, to the dark money that finances campaigns, to the State's refusal to bring the Medicaid dollars we are already paying back to North Carolina, and the shifting of the tax burden to middle class families in exchange for a $10,000 tax cut to millionaires.

Counts has a really wonderful 4-minute Youtube video posted that shows what an engaging person she is as well as outlines why she was called to challenge incumbent Jonathan Jordan for a seat at the table in Raleigh. It's well worth the watch.

A native of Southwest Virginia, Counts graduated from Virginia Tech with degrees in home economics and nutrition. She began her career with Cooperative Extension in 1993. As project manager for the Southern Appalachian Leadership Initiative on Cancer, Counts had extensive field experience in Ashe, Alleghany, Surry, and Wilkes counties. She already had 27 years of experience in public health, nutrition education, and in teaching/consulting at the local, state, and federal levels.

Counts has been endorsed by Lillian's List of North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators, and the Sierra Club. She has run an excellent campaign and has put a lot of time into canvassing individual voters to hear their concerns.

Counts would be a breath of fresh air down in Raleigh and would be a strong advocate for our district.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DISTRICT 24: (you may vote for one)

Seth Banks (Republican):

Banks is running unopposed in this election, after defeating Nathan Miller and Britt Springer in the Republican primary. The race was spirited and hard fought, especially between Springer and Miller. While Banks presents himself as "conservative," the feedback I have received this far has been positive. I considered casting a vote for Banks this year as positive reinforcement for that expressed fairness and for beating Miller in the primary. But then I found out he immediately upon taking office fired his opponent Britt Springer for the crime of running against him in the primary.


Karen Greene Lerch (Tea Party Republican): "Karen Greene Lerch for Watauga County Commission" on Facebook

Lerch's candidacy is a bit of "not ready for prime time," as she's not shy about announcing (and then proving) that she really doesn't know much about county government or the issues. The only fact about herself posted on her Facebook page: She was born in Watauga and raised in the Stony Fork neighborhood.

In a recent High Country Press interviewis, Lerch said she  running because she loves the county and considers county debt and spending money wisely her key issues. She supports the elimination of the Town of Boone ETJ and would gather together "individuals" who can contribute to ideas for job promotion.

Lerch is instead much more focused on national politics, particularly a disdain for President Obama, Sen. Kay Hagan, and other national Democrats who seem to epitomize in her mind godlessness, socialism, and forces who are supposedly "oppressing" American Christianity and gun-owners. She is a conservative ideologue who is demonstrably unprepared for the non-ideological, nitty-gritty details of running a county government.

Although Lerch was the anointed Republican candidate for this seat, she almost lost the primary to Matt Klutz of Blowing Rock, winning by only 1%.

At times, Lerch does not seem to understand that control of the county and "its direction" has been in firm Republican hands since the elections of 2010. She writes on her Facebook page: "…with the direction this Country is taking, I felt as if I should join in the mix as in protection of your tax dollars from frivolous disbursements and stop over zealous spending here in our own County from some who believe we have open bank accounts for them to use."  I'm unclear on how "the direction this country is taking" impinges on county government and what "frivolous disbursements" and "over zealous spending" she's referring to exactly.

Lerch got very seriously "off message" as a member of the Watauga GOP at the candidate forum devoted to the subject of a county recreation center. She came out enthusiastically in favor of a center (and of greenways and trails and recreation spending in general) without apparently realizing that the local Party platform is opposed (their opposition, in fact, is what largely led to their sweep of the County Commission in 2010). She also doesn't seem to suspect that the purpose of the recreation candidate forum was to solicit support for county funding of a new recreational complex. She appeared to give her support for such spending, but one wonders how that will square with "frivolous disbursements" and "over zealous spending."

Billy Kennedy (Democrat): "Billy Kennedy" on Facebook

Kennedy was elected to the County Commission in 2012 and is running for reelection. He previously ran for the U.S. Congress against incumbent Virginia Foxx in 2010.

Kennedy is 56 years old and has lived in the Bethel community of Watauga County for 34 years. After college he moved to Watauga and became a woodworker, farmer, and builder.  His and wife Becka's three children attended Bethel Elementary, Watauga High School, and UNC-CH. He says, "I know first hand the importance of good public schools. I want to ensure that everyone has these same opportunities.  Through hundreds of volunteer hours, my family has worked hard to improve this community."

Kennedy has been one of the more civic-minded commissioners -- if not the most civic-minded. He serves on the Children’s Council/Child Protection Team, the Library Board, the EMS Advisory Committee, the Project on Aging Advisory Committee, the Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health Board and as liaison to the Sheriff’s department.

Kennedy fought for a modest increase to the teacher supplement this year in the face of Raleigh cutbacks and local Republican opposition: "We need to focus on funding our local schools adequately to provide a quality education to children of all ages. The current majority on the county commission doesn’t support public education, yet this is one of the most important parts of a thriving community. Education needs to be a higher priority for county funding. I will fight to get our schools the funding they need."

Kennedy took principled stands against County Commissioner Board Chairman Nathan Miller's schemes to dissolve the board of the Department of Social Services (DSS), to build an industrial park out in the Meat Camp Community off a scenic byway, and to bring the appointment of a new DSS Director under the direct control of the County Commission. And he voted against the redistribution of Watauga sales tax revenue, which was engineered to punish the Town of Boone (and which ended up also punishing the County of Watauga inadvertently, which necessitated Nathan Miller's other scheme to demand kick-backs to the county from the other municipalities).

Kennedy is hoping not only to win his own re-election battle this year, but for a new Majority on the Board of Commissioners: "I have been in the voting minority for the past two years, and I look forward to effecting more change with a new slate of commissioners. Instead of protecting particular interests of the wealthy and influential members of our community, I have consistently worked for those lacking a voice in politics. I look forward to continuing this fight."

Kennedy is one of, if not the, most approachable and accessible county commissioners, responsive to citizen comments and holding the "good of the whole" always uppermost in his mind as he makes decisions.


David Blust (Tea Party Republican): No website or Facebook page found

Blust has served several terms on the County Commission, with time off to lose a race for the NC Senate to Steve Goss. He became notorious during that Senate campaign for saying at an ASU candidate forum he did not believe that ASU students should be allowed to vote in local elections.

It would be fair to say that in all his years on the County Commission David Blust has been a dependable follower of stronger personalities. In the past, he's often been noticeably unprepared for meetings, not having bothered to read the Board Packet, so one of his repeated lines at meetings has been "That was just what I was going to say."

During the last four years, he's been under the strong influence of fellow Republican Commissioner Nathan Miller, who has been both Chair of the Commission and the effective dictator of policy. Following Miller's lead, Blust supported a quarter-cent tax increase referendum as soon as Republicans took control of the Commission in early 2011, and then just as quickly rescinded that initiative when there was public outcry (especially from Republicans).

Blust soldiered for Miller in cutting support for county non-profits, particularly the Hospitality House, and he rubbed salt in those wounds when he accused the Hospitality House of increasing criminality in the county, a charge for which there was zero evidence.

Blust allied with the Templetons and other big developers in the formation of Citizens for Change in the 2007 attempt to take over Boone Town government. He's been a featured speaker at local Tea Party rallies. He has eagerly participated in the dismantlement of Watauga's growing greenway infrastructure, built with grant money primarily, and he always complains about the county's having to cut the grass and maintain those recreational assets. Blust consistently and vehemently opposed the building of the new high school (he helped found "RID," a group in opposition to the school), while promoting and utilizing private schools for his own family.

Blust inserted himself into the schools controversy over "The House of the Spirits," coming out strongly for censorship. He of course followed Nathan Miller's plan to punish the Town of Boone by changing the rules on sales tax distribution.

Blust did abandon Nathan Miller on two votes in 2014: most recently on the quickie deal engineered by County Attorney Four Eggers that would have given the town of Beech Mountain access to Watauga River water. And on that other scheme to buy considerable acreage on Hwy 194 to build a new commercial business park. Both schemes went down in flames because of Blust's swing vote.

Larry Turnbow (Democrat): "Larry Turnbow for Watauga County Commissioner" on Facebook

This is Turnbow's first run for elective office, though he has essentially faced David Blust before, as Steve Goss's campaign manager in the 2006 NC Senate race that Goss won.

Turnbow and his family moved to Watauga because of the excellent reputation of our schools. He is retired from a career in wastewater treatment and environmental testing and management, having worked for both local government and private industry: "I believe Watauga County deserves a hard-working commissioner who is willing to study the issues, listen to the people of this County, and make decisions based on fairness, none of which the incumbent has been willing to do.  I believe that back-room deals, poor financial management, and corruption have no place in government."

Turnbow provided one of, if not the, best questionnaire responses of any candidate to The High County Press. While his opponent put on full display of his petty and vindictive inclinations, Turnbow called out that very kind of motivation: "I’ve also been disappointed in what appears to be bickering and pay-back politics with the current Commission majority, and I think most Watauga County folks would prefer to see a return to civility in local politics."

Blust proved Turnbow's message right there on the same High Country Press page.

Turnbow considers his top issues: maintaining the quality of local schools and increasing supplements to our good teachers; improving recreational opportunities all across our county; actively marketing local resources to recruit new employers; and ending conflicts of interest and backroom deals on the County Commission Board.

Turnbow has outlined several issues of contention between himself and incumbent Blust, particularly the increasingly corrupt conflicts of interest exhibited by County Attorney Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four"):

• Blust’s support of the backroom deal between Four Eggers (representing the County) and Four Eggers (representing a Watauga municipality) that redistributed county sales tax revenues to give a significant financial advantage to wealthier areas with part-time residents.

• "Blust’s lack of concern over the obvious conflict of interest in Four Eggers’ negotiation of the deal to take water from the Bethel community and divert it to a town system that loses half of the water it already has to leaks — a deal in which Four Eggers represented both sides in the negotiation. Blust ultimately voted against the deal after Watauga’s farmers and other concerned citizens rose up in protest, but he is still unwilling to address Eggers’ ongoing conflicts of interest.

• "Blust’s vote to put the Department of Social Services under partisan control, giving public officials access to private information about DSS clients and family investigations. DSS helps people in need, especially children, and politics has no place interfering in that work or even having access to private information about families in crisis.

• "Blust voted to remove forward-thinking members of the Tourism Development Authority and replaced them with members who turned down grant money for park development … money that then went to parks in other locales and that would have cost Watauga nothing to accept."

(you may vote for one)

Jimmy Hodges (Republican): "Jimmy Hodges Commissioner" on Facebook

Jimmy Hodges was a registered Democrat until shortly before he switched parties to register for this race, and he easily dispatched Allen Trivette in the Republican primary in May.

Hodges was a "Democratic" County Commissioner for several terms from 1996 to 2004, during which he usually voted with the Republicans and ground his thumb in the Democratic Party's eye, particularly over ending the contract of a corrupt ambulance service and bringing land-use planning for "polluting industries" to the county. Hodges in fact provided the deciding vote to continue with the established ambulance provider. You can get a picture of Hodges' term on the Board here.

But here's the real story: As a commissioner, Hodges was always pro-business (pro-big money), and there's no reason to believe he would act any differently if elected this November--allied to big developers and real estate interests. He also held personal grudges against fellow Democratic commissioners Sue Sweeting and Pat Wilkie and sought to consistently undermine them by forming back-door coalitions with Republicans on the Board.

In response to Hodges' back stabbing and behind-closed-door coalitions with the 1%, a decade ago local Party activists, including me, ran a primary campaign against Hodges. His response to this insult was to hire a local attorney to shut down our GOTV efforts on election day by getting a judge to rule (behind closed doors) the night before that we couldn't implement our GOTV plan because we had appointed some "Unaffiliated" (as opposed to "Democratic") volunteers. The judge bought the claim based on what turned out to be (as exposed after the election by the State Board of Elections) a bogus argument by the attorney and Hodges. As a result, Hodges squeaked by in the primary--a win at all costs, ya know--but it was also clear to him that he would be unable to survive another Democratic Party primary challenge. So when his term was up, he declined to run and later changed his Party affiliation.

The truth is Hodges is a by-hook-or-by-crook kinda guy. And he's a member of and advocate for the 1%.

Hodges is, of course, presenting an entirely different persona for the upcoming elections. At a Hardin-Park Elementary School candidate forum, Hodges seemed to signal that he might be "soft" on a property tax increase to support education. At the forum on recreation, Hodges offered a textbook example of pandering to an audience, making vaguely supportive statements about the importance of recreation to the local economy, while dodging actual substantive support or opposition for a county recreational complex. He also says his primary goal is to improve relations between the County and the Town of Boone.

But there are clear cut signals as to where he's actually headed. His recent mailer to our home says he wants to continue the "current effective, sound government in Watauga County," (which I consider completely off the rails). He also says he is proud of his record when he served previously. You ought to ask Sweeting and Wilkie how that will shake out for you.

Barbara L. Kinsey (Democrat): No website or Facebook page found

Kinsey was top vote-getter in the 2012 Board of Education election, and she is now running for the County Commission seat once occupied by her late husband, Winston Kinsey.

Kinsey received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Latin from Baylor University in Texas, and she earned the Master of Arts from Appalachian State University. She is a veteran teacher (some 38 years combined experience in public schools and at ASU), with a long history of civic and community volunteerism. In 1982, she was named Wilkes County Teacher of the year. While teaching in Watauga County Schools, she was elected president of the Watauga County Association of Educators and was chosen as one of the first one hundred teacher trainers for the newly formed North Carolina Teacher Academy.

In announcing her candidacy for County Commission, Kinsey said: "Watauga County schools are among the very best in the state, and I have been honored to contribute my time and skills in making sure we continue that excellence. I feel I can do even more for education and for the quality of life in Watauga by serving on the Board of Commissioners."

In a recent High Country Press interview, Kinsey said she was running for a seat on the Board of Commissioners because the Board is a very significant secondary source for education funding. She cited other top issues as "recreation, construction appropriate to topographical areas and view sheds, and water issues for the whole county."

Kinsey's interview displayed a particular frustration with the partisan nature of the current Board of Commissioners: "The major criticism I have of the current Board of Commissioners is the uncivil way in which they behave with each other and with citizens who appear before them. Again, let’s act like elected officials and not like SCHOOLYARD BULLIES."

I have known Barbara for many years and can testify from personal experience that she is a strong and independent-thinking woman. And her performance as a Watauga County Board of Education demonstrates this spirit.

COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT: (you may vote for one)

Diane Cornett Deal (Democrat):

Deal is running unopposed for this seat. By all accounts she has been non-partisan and superior in her job performance.

COUNTY SHERIFF: (you may vote for one)

Randy L. Townsend (Republican): "Randy Townsend for Sheriff" on Facebook

Townsend is the Chief Probation/Parole Officer for Watauga County. He was a former Deputy Sheriff under Republican Sheriff Red Lyons, and he has also worked for campus security at Appalachian State University. He self-describes as "conservative" on his Facebook page. This is his first run for public office.

Townsend graduated from Watauga High School in 1985 and then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from ASU. He lives in the Rutherwood/Deep Gap community and attends Rutherwood Baptist Church. Townsend says his top priorities if elected are to focus on "aggressive enforcement of illegal drug activity," school safety, quality investigations, and citizen involvement. Townsend complains that current sheriff Hagaman is not visible in the community and not supportive of some officers.

The Watauga County Republican Party has targeted this race for a major win. That is specifically why the local Party made sure to include an early voting site in Townsend's home stomping ground, rural Deep Gap. Townsend's personal Facebook page includes major local Republican Party figures (Anne Marie Yates, Nathan Miller, etc.)

Len (L.D.) Hagaman (Democrat): no current website or Facebook page found

Incumbent Sheriff Len Hagaman, running for his third term, has a wealth of administrative and management experience, including terms on the County Commission and employment as manager of the Town of Boone as well as town management in Lenoir, before becoming Watauga Sheriff in 2006.

In a recent High Country Press interview, Hagaman stressed the non-partisan nature of his Department; his record on sex offender checks, nuisance issues, domestic violence, child advocacy, and officer training; administrative streamlining; and DARE curricula. He sees a need to continue bringing updated technology into the Departmental activities.

In my opinion, Hagaman has been an excellent, non-partisan sheriff. When first elected, he brought the Sheriff's Department back into a professional standing and made technological changes and other changes that seem to have benefited all citizens. I have never found him to be unprofessional or biased in any way, and those are the most important qualifications for me in a sheriff.

NC SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: (you may vote for one)

Mark Martin (Republican):
http://www.martinforchiefjustice.com/ "Mark Martin for Chief Justice" on Facebook

Martin was appointed to this position on September 1 by Gov. Pat McCrory upon the forced retirement of Chief Justice Sarah Parker. Martin was already running for the position. Martin has been endorsed by the bi-partisan group of all five former NC Chief Justices

Ola M. Lewis (Republican): http://votejudgeola.com/ "Judge Ola Lewis for North Carolina Supreme Court" on Facebook

Lewis is a conservative Judge, no question about it, even though she was appointed by Governor Hunt as the Senior Resident Superior Court judge for the 13B Judicial District, serving Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties in North Carolina. She angered many Republican Party regulars when she filed to run for Chief Justice, since Mark Martin was already announced and was considered the next in line for the office. In other words, Lewis is a trouble-maker and I like troublemakers.

In 2010, she sued a Brunswick County political consultant and member of the Republican Party, for libel for an April 2010 blog posting in which he questioned her judicial ethics for campaigning for a state senate candidate. During closing arguments at the trial,  attorneys painted Lewis as an innovative, compassionate, hardworking judge whose legal reputation is beyond reproach, and as a driven, ambitious, disloyal politician—one “not to mess with." Jurors ended up awarding Lewis $105,000.

Furthermore, Lewis says, “the NAACP has done great things throughout history, for not only black America, but for all of America,” Lewis said. “But to say that they represent the voice or the face of the black community in whatever they do, I don’t believe is fair. There’s so many more facets to the black community than just the NAACP.” But, Lewis said, she respects the NAACP’s right to peacefully assemble at their Moral Monday protests.

NC SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE (#1): (you may vote for one)

Bob Hunter (Republican): http://bobhunterforjustice.com/ or "Bob Hunter for Justice" on Facebook

This is Robert N. Hunter Jr. who formerly served on the NC Court of Appeals. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its law school, Hunter is a former chairman of the state Board of Elections (1985–1989) and a former deputy Attorney General of North Carolina. He was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2008, defeating incumbent John S. Arrowood (see below under 19-candidate race for NC Court of Appeals), receiving 54% of the statewide vote.

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Hunter to the Supreme Court, effective Sept. 6, and continuing through December 2014, to fill the vacancy created by Mark Martin's elevation to the position of Chief Justice.

According to Indy Week in 2008, when Hunter was running against Judge Arrowood, "Robert N. Hunter has paid lip service to conservative ideology, and opposed important Supreme Court decisions in filling out questionnaires for groups like the N.C. Family Policy Council, an anti-gay advocacy group. On the NCFPC questionnaire, he volunteered that, in addition to his opposition to Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas, the latter of which judges struck down a state sodomy law, he felt the Supreme Court cases did not guarantee a 'right to immoral conduct.' In exposing his rightist ideological leanings so clearly, Hunter would threaten the integrity of the court, if elected."

He is bad news from top to bottom.

Sam J. Ervin IV (Democrat): http://ervinforsupremecourt.com or "Judge Ervin" on Facebook

Ervin was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals on November 4, 2008. He is now a candidate for the NC Supreme Court.

Ervin was born in Morganton on November 18, 1955, the son of "Senator Sam" Ervin. He attended the public schools in Burke County, graduating from Freedom High School in 1974. In 1978, he graduated from Davidson and then earned his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1981.

From 1981 until 1999, Ervin practiced law with the Morganton firm of Byrd, Byrd, Ervin, Whisnant, McMahon. He handled a wide variety of civil, criminal, and administrative matters, including many appeals to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

In 1999, he was nominated for a seat on the North Carolina Utilities Commission by Governor James B. Hunt. He was nominated for a second term on the Utilities Commission by Governor Michael F. Easley in 2007. Both appointments were confirmed by the General Assembly. The Utilities Commission is a quasi-judicial body that is responsible for regulating electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water and sewer, and certain types of transportation service provided to retail customers by privately-owned entities.

Ervin was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals on November 4, 2008. That term extends to December 31, 2016.

As a member of the Court of Appeals, Judge Ervin has developed a reputation for thoughtful legal decision making. His opinions are perceived to be balanced, thorough, and carefully researched. Since joining the court, he has written more than 430 opinions and has helped decide more than 1,200 cases.

Ervin previously ran for the NC Supreme Court in 2012 against Paul Newby who won that race with $1.9 million in last-minute TV advertising, over $1 million of which came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, "a Washington-based group described as providing direct technical assistance to the North Carolina Republicans who drafted the [new] legislative maps" that gerrymandered the state into a safe haven for Republican legislators.

NC SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE (#2): (you may vote for one)

Eric Levinson (Republican): http://www.levinsonforjustice.com or "Eric Levinson for Supreme Court" on Facebook

Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson received his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law and currently serves the Superior Court in counties all across western, central, and eastern North Carolina. According to his website, he has worked in all branches of the court system and was appointed by the Bush Administration as Justice Attaché to Iraq for the U.S. Department of Justice "where I managed the U.S. Government’s diplomatic relationships with the Iraqi judiciary; managed the in-country rule of law team that consisted of Assistant U.S. Attorneys and a variety of law enforcement professionals; and coordinated the establishment of Major Crimes Courts where terrorists were prosecuted."

While Levinson claims bi-partisan support, he has been endorsed by the Facebook group NC Experienced Conservative Judges, a group that promotes itself as wanting to bring constitutional conservatives to all branches of the state's court system.

Levinson tries to keep his obvious prejudices out of the public eye, but in December 2002, he told the anti-LGBT American Family Association’s AgapePress, “My faith is something I rely on day to day, something I try to be mindful of whether I’m in the courtroom or out of the courtroom. [Faith] is an important part of my life.”  He has also said America has a “strong religious foundation," and this: "Religion is an important part of this nation and its fabric. We can’t ignore that one of this country’s strengths is recognizing that we have a strong religious foundation …. There is a point where the courts can go too far with respect to trying to maintain separation of church and state. There is a balance that must be considered.” And this: "I believe the genesis of our great nation and our body of statutory law can be found in the teachings of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”


Robin Hudson (Democrat):
http://www.robinhudson.org/ or "Re-Elect Justice Robin Hudson" on Facebook

Hudson is running for reelection to the NC Supreme Court and by all accounts has been an outstanding justice.

Hudson previously served six years on the NC Court of Appeals. She was born in DeKalb County, Georgia, and after studying philosophy and psychology at Yale University, she earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976. Except for three years as a state appellate defender, Hudson worked in private practice in Raleigh and Durham until 2000, when she was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the first woman to be elected to an appellate court in North Carolina without being appointed first.

Hudson has received endorsements from the AFL-CIO, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and endorsements from six former Justices of the Supreme Court and seven former members of the Court of Appeals.

“Folks face challenges with their jobs, their families, and their property. Challenges with safety, kids, and schools. People want judges to decide these issues fairly, and during my 13 years of service on the appellate courts I’ve worked hard to decide these issues fairly in every case that comes before me. I never bring any personal or political bias into the courtroom,” says Hudson on her Facebook page.

The Republican Party now controls all three branches of state government and the congressional delegation. It hopes in November to pick up Hudson's seat in particular to consolidate its power.

NC SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE (#3): (you may vote for one)

Mike Robinson (Republican):
http://votemikerobinson.com or "Mike Robinson for NC Supreme Court" on Facebook

Robinson is a Winston-Salem attorney running as "the conservative." He is currently a managing partner at Robinson and Lawing and has been practicing law for 33 years. His specialty is business litigation and mediation, as well as intellectual property litigation. This is his first run for office.

He was reportedly recruited to run by NC GOP leaders when it first appeared that fellow Republican Ola M. Lewis would run for this seat. When Robinson jumped in, Lewis shifted her focus to the Chief Justice race (see above). Lewis blasted state GOP leadership for "playing politics."

Cheri Beasley (Democrat): http://www.justicecheribeasley.com or "Justice Cheri Beasley for NC Supreme Court" on Facebook

In December 2012, Cheri Beasley was appointed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina by Governor Beverly Perdue to serve out the unexpired term of Judge Patricia Timmons-Goodson. Prior to this appointment, Justice Cheri Beasley served as an Associate Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals to which she was elected in 2008.

She is the only African-American woman elected to any statewide office in North Carolina without the benefit of incumbency or appointment by the Governor.

Beasley served for nearly ten years as a District Court Judge in the Twelfth Judicial District, Cumberland County, first as an appointee by Governor Jim Hunt in 1999 and subsequently as an elected and reelected candidate for that position. On the District Court level, Judge Beasley served as a Family Court Judge, a certified Juvenile Court Judge and as a Criminal, Traffic and Civil Court Judge.

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#1): (you may vote for one)

IMPORTANT NOTE: On July 9, 2014, Chief Appeals Court Judge John C. Martin announced his retirement, effective August 1, 2014, creating another opening to be filled by voters in the general election. Because of the date of his retirement, no primary election was held for the seat, and 19 candidates have now filed to run in the special election on Nov. 4.

I have looked into the backgrounds and general judicial philosophy of the candidates. There are some really good ones running, but the bottomline is that the Republican Party has endorsed one candidate in hopes of splitting the progressive vote for the win:
John M. Tyson: http://www.judgejohntyson.com or "Judge John M. Tyson" on Facebook.  Tyson is a former member of the Court of Appeals, defeated for reelection in 2008. He has also been endorsed by Renee Elmers and Robin Hayes (nuf said).

In the past, the Democratic Party has foolishly (in my opinion) failed to get behind one Democrat over another in these crucial judicial seats. I am glad they decided this year to get behind one candidate to have a better chance against losing yet another important judicial seat to a radical conservative agenda.

For this reason, and because I have experienced firsthand this year the injustice you get from the highly partisan judges the Republicans have installed onto our courts, I am "picking" the Democratic endorsement as my ballot choice this year: John S. Arrowood: http://judgearrowood.com or "John Arrowood for NC Court of Appeals Judge" on Facebook

Arrowood was appointed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals by Governor Mike Easley in August 2007, replacing Judge Eric L. Levinson, who had resigned to accept a federal appointment. Arrowood was defeated in the subsequent 2008 election by Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. He worked on the Court of Appeals staff and then practiced law for many years in Charlotte before serving as a state superior court judge from March through August 2007. Arrowood has been a member of the board of the North Carolina Railroad, the N.C. Banking Commission, the N.C. Rules Review Commission, and the N.C. Arts Council. Arrowood is openly gay and was the first openly LGBT judge on the NC Court of Appeals.

HOWEVER, under different circumstances, I would proudly cast my ballot this year for Sabra Faires, an unaffiliated attorney from Raleigh.

Faires is an unaffiliated attorney with Baily & Dixon in Raleigh. She, along with Bill Gilkeson and others from the firm, have been representing the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force's lawsuit against the State Board of Elections. Faires is wicked smart, committed, tireless and, along with the rest of the Bailey & Dixon team, has been outstanding in taking our case against voter discrimination through the courts. I think she's a superb advocate for the people.

Here are the candidates in ballot order:

Marion Warren (Republican)

Warren is currently a Brunswick County District Court judge.

Chuck Winfree (Republican)
Winfree is a Greensboro attorney and a former State Board of Elections member.

John M. Tyson (Republican)
See discussion above

Elizabeth Davenport Scott (Republican)
Raleigh attorney.

Tricia Shields (Democrat)
Raleigh attorney.

Joseph "Jody" Newsome (Unaffiliated)

Raleigh attorney.

Marty Martin (Democrat)
Raleigh attorney.

Hunter Murphy (Republican)
Haywood County trial attorney.

Keischa Lovelace (Democrat)
Deputy Industrial Commissioner.

Ann Kirby (Republican)
New Bern attorney.

Abe Jones (Democrat)
Former Superior Court judge.

Sabra Jean Faires (Unaffiliated)
Raleigh attorney.

Daniel Patrick Donahue (Democrat)
Hertford attorney.

J. Brad Donovan (Unaffiliated)
Deputy Industrial Commissioner and former Court of Appeals staff lawyer.

Lori G. Christian (Democrat)
District Court Judge in Wake County.

Jeffrey M. Cook (Republican)
Raleigh bankruptcy attorney.

Betsy Bunting (Democrat)
Raleigh attorney.

John S. Arrowood (Democrat)
See discussion above

Valerie Johnson Zachary (Republican)

Yadkinville attorney.

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#2): (you may vote for one)

Bill Southern (Republican):
http://www.southernforjudge.com or "Judge Bill Southern for NC Court of Appeals" on Facebook

Southern is currently a District Court Judge for District 17-B, which covers Stokes and Surry Counties. The voters elected him to this position in 2008. Prior to that, he served as an Assistant District Attorney for Stokes and Surry Counties, where he handled cases in the District and Superior Courts as well as juvenile matters. He is a certified juvenile court judge and a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. In addition, he is a E.A. Morris Fellow through the John Locke Foundation and a member of the National Rifle Association.

He received his J.D. from Texas Southern University School of Law and his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lucy Inman (Democrat): http://judgelucyinman.com or "Judge Lucy Inman for NC Court of Appeals" on Facebook

Inman is a Special Superior Court Judge running for the open seat on the North Carolina Court of Appeals currently held by Judge Robert C. Hunter of Marion, NC, who will retire at the end of his current term. Inman has been endorsed by all retired, previously elected North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justices and scores of other retired justices, judges, attorneys, and community leaders of all political stripes.

Inman grew up in Raleigh and graduated from Sanderson High School. In 1984, she graduated from N.C. State University with highest honors and worked as a newspaper reporter before attending law school. She earned her law degree, with honors, from the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill in 1990. Judge Inman’s first job after law school was serving as a clerk to then Chief Justice James G. Exum Jr. of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Inman has presided in more than a thousand civil and criminal cases in courtrooms across the state. Prior to being appointed to the bench in 2010, Inman practiced civil litigation for 18 years, including 8 years in Los Angeles and 10 years in Raleigh.

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#3): (you may vote for one)

Donna Stroud (Republican):
No website or Facebook page found

Stroud was first elected to this court in 2006 and is running for reelection unopposed. Stroud received her bachelor's degree in government summa cum laude from Campbell University at Buies Creek in 1985. She received her J.D. degree magna cum laude from the Campbell University School of Law in 1988. She received an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law in 2014. In 2004, she was elected to the Wake County District Court (10th Judicial District), where she served until her election to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Stroud has stated it is important to put conservative justices onto the Court of Appeals.

NC COURT OF APPEALS JUDGE (#4): (you may vote for one)

Paul Holcombe (Tea Party Republican):
http://judgepaulholcombe.com/ or "https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judge-Paul-Holcombe/299161323560407" on Facebook

Holcombe was born in Charlottesville, Va., on February 2, 1969, and was raised in Raleigh. In 1991, he received his B.A. degree with majors in history and biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law at Knoxville where he served on the Tennessee Law Review.

Holcombe began his law career as an Assistant District Attorney General in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Upon returning to North Carolina in 2003, he continued his public service as a prosecutor, serving four years in the District Attorney’s office in Cabarrus County and two years in the District Attorney’s office in Johnston County. He was recognized as a Board Certified Specialist in State Criminal Law from 2005 to 2010 and a Certified Juvenile Judge from 2010 through today.

Holcombe was elected as a District Court Judge for the Eleventh Judicial District (Johnston, Harnett and Lee Counties) in 2008 and ran unopposed for re-election in 2012. He is running for the Court of Appeals for the first time. He lives in Clayton with his wife Deanne (an employee of the Johnston County school system) and their two children.

Holcombe has been endorsed by the Asheville Tea Party as well as the NC GOP.

Mark Davis (Democrat): http://www.judgemarkdavis.com/ or "Judge Mark Davis" on Facebook

Davis has served on the Court of Appeals since January 2013, after he was appointed to the court by Governor Bev Perdue to replace Cheri Beasley, who had been appointed to the NC Supreme Court.

Davis spent five years as a Special Deputy Attorney General in the North Carolina Department of Justice.  Prior to that, he worked for thirteen years as a litigation attorney with the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm. Davis also served as General Counsel for Governor Perdue for approximately two years. Upon graduating from law school, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Franklin T. Dupree, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Prior to becoming a judge, he handled over 65 appeals in the NC Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He has also been very active in the North Carolina Bar Association.

Davis has been endorsed by four former chief justices of the NC Supreme Court, both Republican and Democrat, and by a host of judges on the NC Court of Appeals from both parties, including conservative Robert Orr.

NC DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, DISTRICT 24: (you may vote for one)

Warren Hughes (Democrat):
(running unopposed)

Hughes was appointed to the court by former Governor Bev Perdue in October 2011. He was then elected to the court in November 2012 to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term, which ends in 2014. He is running for re-election. Hughes received his undergraduate degree from Western Carolina University and his J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Prior to his appointment, Hughes served as the clerk of court in Yancey County for twenty-seven years. He also worked in private practice and his a certified mediator.

COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION: (you may vote for three)

Some information for this section has been updated from Pam's Picks for the May Primary election.

Jason K. Cornett (Tea Party Republican)
"Jason Cornett for Watauga County Board of Education" on Facebook

Cornett is a patrol officer with Appalachian State University security. He's a graduate of Watauga High School and took classes at Appalachian State University before studying theology at Victory Bible Institute, Roan Mountain, Tenn.

Cornett took a strong stand with those seeking to ban "The House of the Spirits" from Sophomore English Honors classes, quoting this passage on his Facebook page: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

About an article in The Watauga Democrat detailing attacks on the novel by county commissioners Perry Yates and David Blust, Cornett posted this: "I applaud the county commissioners that spoke out against this book. Comparing it to the Bible.....I don't think that is any where near applicable. It's issues like this that must be addressed with level headed common sense and that is what Blust and Yates did. This is the stance I expect and vote for. I join you in your efforts and will help take the stand with you. It is way past time for the conservative voters to regain confidence and go for what is right. Be vocal!"

In a recent interview with the High Country Press, Cornett said, "
I am a Christian holding onto conservative and moral values." He lists as his primary reasons for running: creative funding for our schools and school safety. Refreshingly, Cornett refused to criticize the members of the current school board. I appreciated that and wondered if indeed Cornett, a self-professed Christian, actually acts on his expressed Christianity instead of merely using such self-proclamation as a wedge issue. That, too, would be refreshing.

Cornett is a heavy favorite of the Watauga County Republican Party. He encourages you to "pray and vote" in November.

Jay Fenwick (Democrat): "Jay Fenwick for Education" on Facebook

Fenwick lives in Todd and is a computer science professor at Appalachian State University. He has also been a member of the Green Valley PTA for many years, serving two years as president. He joined the board of the Watauga Education Foundation and served as president from 2009-2011 and volunteers his expertise to assist teachers with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula. His volunteer contributions to our local schools is truly impressive and extensive. You can read all about them in this recent High Country Press interview,

Fenwick lives in Todd with his wife, Cindy, and their three sons, oneis a of whom  current student in Watauga County schools. Fenwick says, "I've been fully invested in Watauga County education every step of the way." Fenwick ran for Watauga School Board in 2012 and made an excellent showing for a first time candidate, losing to incumbent Henries by a mere 266 votes. Fenwick supported the "House of Spirits" as a novel for Watauga's 10th grade honors English class.

In a recent interview with the High Country Press, Fenwick lists as his primary reasons for running: adequate funding for local schools, maintaining the impressive scholastic successes of our local schools, per-K in more schools, and some school renovations. Fenwick is "not a big fan" of the random drug testing of student athletes.

I am delighted Fenwick is running again this year. He has a passion for education, a wonderful sense of humor, a phenomenal resume, and an impressive commitment to students.

Ron Henries (Republican):
(no Facebook page or website found)

Henries has worked in three Watauga county school systems since 1969. Since 1980, he has worked in Watauga County Schools as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, and twice he was awarded Principal of the Year. Subsequent to his retirement from the public school system, Henries joined the Reich College of Education at ASU as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education.

Henries' focus is on early childhood reading, services for exceptional children and reduction of public school dropout rate, I actually find him more often than not wishy-washy on issues (finger to the wind), and am told he's never seen a principal bonus that he didn't like, no matter how little salary the teachers take home.

Even so, Henries took a brave stand in casting the swing vote in favor of retaining the "House of Spirits" book at Watauga high School: "I believe parents should have the right to decide what their children should read. Not me, and they will have the right. If they don’t want their children to read the book, then they can opt out of it."

In a recent High Country Press interview, Henries lists as his top concerns: up-to-date technology, drop-out rates, "revising the Board of Education Policy Manual," and more cooperation with Watauga County Board of Commissioners.

Ronald (Ronny) Holste (Democrat):
"Ronny Holste for Education" on Facebook

Holste is 38 years old. He studied criminal justice at Appalachian State University and now teaches political science and psychology at Caldwell Community College. He is married to Watauga County Teacher of the Year Gina Holste and they have one daughter. He says, "The local school system must find a way to support and boost morale for local educators and administrators. In a time when public education feels 'under fire' by the state legislature, it is extremely important for the local boards to continue to find innovative and 'local' ways to energize and boost the morale of our teachers. They need to know that their school board has 'their back' when the going gets tough and that their voice matters."

In a recent High Country Press interview, Holste lists as his top concerns: student "buy-in to school policies, "boosting morale for educators," and more parental involvement. Holste, like Cornett, refused to criticize current Board members: "I applaud any citizen who stands to take part in the civic duty to serve our public education system. Thank you for your leadership and service."

Damn, I really like Holste. He's a country boy who says things like this:

"Teachers/administrators are the backbone of the education system. Both deserve our support and praise, especially when the state and national culture is blaming our teachers for being “the problem,” when in fact, they are the solution. Most teachers spend 45-60 hours a week supporting our children’s educational development. It just seems backwards and wrong those teachers feel they are under appreciated. May we reverse and heal this most recent trend."

I have canvassed neighborhoods with him and have found him to have an exceptional ability to communicate his vision in strong support of public schools and teachers. He is passionate about improving public schools and will make an excellent School Board member. Holste supported the "House of Spirits" as a novel for Watauga's 10th grade honors English class.

Kurt D. Michael (Unaffiliated):
"Kurt Michael for Board of Education" on Facebook

Michael is a 48 year-old clinical psychologist and teaches in the psychology department at Appalachian State University. He and his wife have two children, both of whom attended Watauga County Schools. Michael casts Democratic or Unaffiliated ballots in primary elections.

Michael and his wife, Amy, have two children; son Kauner, a senior at Watauga High, and daughter Olivia, a freshman at Watauga High School. Michael says he is running because he is a concerned parent; because he is "the grateful spouse of a loyal Watauga County Schools employee"; because he has devoted his entire professional life to the service of young people; and because he "would like to bring my professional perspective to the BoE, which includes advocacy for children and adolescents, especially those who deal with health impairments and disabilities that impact learning in the classroom."

In a recent High Country Press interview, Michael lists as his top concerns: reduced school funding, reductions in incentives for good teachers, "attacks on the credibility of teachers and staff," and unfair allocation of public dollars. Michael would like to see "more dialogue between opposing viewpoints that are based on data."

Michael's facebook page evidences a passionate friend to and progressive view of public education, and he certainly has the qualifications to match.

Adam Trivette (Unaffiliated): "Adam L. Trivette for Watauga County Board of Education" on Facebook"

Trivette has made exactly two posts on his Facebook page. This is the most recent:

"I would like to apologize for not giving frequent updates, however I am still looking forward to November 4th. I would greatly appreciate everyone that has any questions contact me by email or phone, I would be happy to answer all question's. Due to the likelihood of there being a Liberal majority of School Board Members, I will be the Conservative Voice for the Children, Parents and Teachers to stand up for the best interest of everyone in our School System, but only if you get out and Vote!!!"

Trivette did not respond the most recent High Country Press questionnaire.


Al Childers: (Republican)

Childers is a current Board member and is running unopposed. Childers looks like a good guy to me. He's served in the Peace Corps and has served as an NC District Conservationist for nearly thirty years.  During his tenure, he was responsible for supervision and management of a natural resource conservation team, as well as providing leadership for administration and technical activities to accomplish a comprehensive resource conservation program. He also provided leadership for program activities and  coordinated a comprehensive information program to keep the public informed of the need for natural resource conservation.

NC CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: (you may vote for or against)

The North Carolina Constitution currently states that a person accused of a crime and who is not pleading guilty to that charge cannot be convicted unless a jury decides the person is guilty. This constitutional amendment would allow the Defendant to waive his or her right to a jury trial and, with the judge's permission, have his or her fate decided by one judge.

The support to amend our constitution was based on legislative Senate Bill 399 and passed unanimously in the North Carolina House and Senate chambers.

Currently, Sec. 24 of our state Constitution reads:

No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court.  The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo.

And if approved by the voters in November, Sec. 24 will be revised to read:

No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court, except that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in the court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive jury trial, subject to procedures prescribed by the General Assembly. The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo. (2013-300, s. 1.)This proposed Amendment to the Constitution would allow a person accused of a crime to choose to be tried by either a judge or a jury. Choosing not to have a jury trial is called "waiving the right to a jury trial." If passed, the proposed amendment would require a person wanting to waive the right to a jury trial to say so in court or in writing. A judge would then have to agree to that request. If a person accused of a crime waives the right to a jury trial, a judge would decide whether the person is guilty.

Those who support this amendment make arguments primarily based on efficiency, accuracy (judges know more than we the people who might sit on a jury), and the choice of a Defendant to still have a jury trial if s/he wants one.

Those who do not support this amendment make arguments primarily based on undue favoritism for those Defendants who could hire influential lawyers, judge shopping, undue pressure on a Defendant to waive his or her right, and reduced citizen participation in justice because of the reduced need for jurors.

I am persuaded by this article.

Ultimately I am persuaded that poorer, less connected Defendants will indeed be pressured to waive their constitutional right to a trial by jury, while other richer and better connected Defendants will have to opportunity to judge shop for favoritism as opposed to being forced to make their case in front of a jury of their peers.