Collettsville resident Terri M. Johnson says House Bill 2 and overall tenor in Raleigh compelled her to run for House seat that includes all of Caldwell County
By Michael M. Barrick
COLLETTSVILLE, N.C. –Democrat Terri M. Johnson of Collettsville filed the necessary paperwork with the Caldwell County Board of Elections on May 10 as a write-in candidate for North Carolina House District 87, which includes all of Caldwell County. She needed 100 signatures on her petition to gain ballot access. She had collected 159. Even though the paperwork isn’t due until August, she decided to file on her birthday as a present to herself.
Until Johnson filed her paperwork, Destin Hall, the GOP candidate for North Carolina House District 87, had clear sailing to Election Day, as no Democrat had filed during the primary season. So, when Hall won the GOP primary in March against long-time Caldwell County GOP politician George Robinson, it appeared that Hall would not have a General Election opponent.
District 87 is solidly Republican, which is the likely reason no Democrat had filed during the primary season. The seat had been held by Edgar Starnes of Granite Falls for roughly two decades before he resigned the seat in January 2015 to go to work for the North Carolina state treasurer’s office. Soon afterwards, Robinson was appointed by the Caldwell County Republican Executive Committee to complete the term for the seat, which Robinson had previously held for all but one term between 1980 and 1996. Starnes served the other two-year term during that time period.
In March, Hall upset Robinson’s bid to continue representing the district.
Obviously, with Starnes and Robinson alternating terms in the district for nearly 40 years now, it would seem virtually impossible for any Democrat to win the seat, let alone one who is relying upon a write-in effort.
Yet, Johnson insisted in an interview after filing her paperwork with the Board of Elections, “I’m in this to win.” She acknowledged that winning would prove to be a daunting task, but considers the effort worth it because it can inspire other people in the community. “There are too many Democrats ‘in the closet.’ I want people to recognize that there are progressive Democrats that are willing to enter this tough field of politics so that we can do positive things for our community.”
Offering a platform that is rooted in traditional Democratic Party principles, she may indeed inspire many folks – especially younger ones – as witnessed by the popularity of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. However, with Republicans enjoying a huge advantage in voter registration in Caldwell County, a victory for Johnson would seem beyond her grasp. Of the nearly 54,000 registered voters in the county, 45 percent are Republican, 28 percent are Democrats and 27 percent are unaffiliated. Libertarians make up about one-half of one percent.
Johnson appears unfazed by the odds. Someone, she says, must be speaking to the issues that are dividing the people of North Carolina. She revealed that the passage of House Bill 2, known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, along with other actions taken by the GOP-controlled legislature over the last few sessions, compelled her to run, “I had not planned to run for office, as I have a full-time job plus other obligations at president of the North Carolina Folk Art Society, Secretary/Treasurer of the Heartwood Forest Property Owners Association, and secretary of the Caldwell County Democratic Party. It’s a pretty full plate.” She continued, “However, when the House Bill 2 act was passed, it just motivated me to run for the position as I’d had it with what is going on in Raleigh. So, since I was past the December 2015 deadline to get on the ballot in the primary, here I am with a write-in candidacy.”
No one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty or have to work three jobs in order to support their family.” – Terri M. Johnson
Johnson says her top four priorities are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, economic revitalization, support of the STEM program in public schools and environmental protection.
Speaking about income inequality, she said, “No one working 40 hours a week should live in poverty or have to work three jobs in order to support their family.” Pointing out that the mono-economies of the past create boom-and-bust cycles, she shared, “We must incent businesses such as technology, telecommunications, clean energy, biomedicine, agribusinesses, recreation and similar industries.” STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; these are critical subjects which must be fully funded in public schools, argued Johnson. Finally, alluding to the environment, she is calling for restoration of strong protection for air and water at the state level, is opposed to fracking, wishes to see coal ash managed more safely, and preserve the state’s natural beauty for people to enjoy and the jobs that tourism creates.
Referring to “the tone in Raleigh,” she alluded to numerous issues that she believes are an assault upon minorities and vulnerable populations. She promised to work towards stopping voter suppression, ending mass criminalization and incarceration, promoting health care access as a fundamental human right, champion equal pay for equal work, and ensure that social safety nets are in place for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
She continued, “The people that work hard and play by the rules are scraping by.” She also pointed to industrial blight in the region – pointing in particular to closed factories – and noted, “Nobody occupies them or takes care of them. That must change if we are to grow.”
Johnson says she has the leadership qualities necessary to serve as in the General Assembly. She points to decades of extensive project management experience, leadership positions in numerous organizations, and her work in the Democratic Party. She also insisted her life experiences have helped her appreciate the value of listening. She also promises an active role in the legislature. “I’ll work hard to represent our values and support legislation that reflects forward-thinking ways to improve our lives, preserve our liberties, and help us all pursue happiness. That also includes protecting the interest of our animals as well as human beings.”
A native of Texas, she moved to North Carolina in the early 1990s. She and her husband discovered the mountains of Caldwell County and determined to live here. So, they settled in Collettsville a couple of years ago, though they previously owned a residence in the Edgemont area for several years before moving here permanently.
Asked how she will respond to “carpetbagger” criticism, she offered, “I got here as fast as I could.” She added, “Since I’ve put down deep roots here, I want to get more involved in making this a terrific place to live, somewhere we can be proud of, enjoy and above average quality of life, and pursue happiness for ourselves, our families and our neighbors.”
About Write-In campaigns
Here is what state law says about a write-in campaign for a North Carolina House seat for districts that cover only one county:
“A person seeking to become a write-in candidate must submit a petition signed by a number of qualified voters, depending on how many registered voters are eligible to vote for this office. If there are 5,000 or more such voters, the requirement is 100 signatures. If the there are fewer than 5,000 such voters, the requirement is signatures totaling 1% of the number of registered voters eligible to vote for the office. The petitions are submitted to the County Board of Elections office. The County Board of Elections office(s) will verify the petitions. The verified petition forms and a declaration of intent form are due at the County Board of Elections office by noon on the 90th day before the General Election, Wednesday, August 10, 2016.”
It also states: “If there is a write-in space on the ballot, voters can write in whatever name they wish. Any and all names written in are counted. However, only a certified write-in candidate would qualify to win the election if his or her name received the most votes out of all the choices. Qualifying as a write-in candidate also means that the candidate’s name will be listed in the official, final abstract of the election results that is kept by the state for official and historical purposes.”
The General Election is Tuesday, November 8.
© The Lenoir Voice, 2016
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