The wave of women signing up to run for political office has hit North Carolina.
The state Democratic Party is spending Monday announcing nine new candidates for the state legislature Monday, including six women.
Rep. Darren Jackson, the top Democrat in the North Carolina House of Representatives, said on Twitter that he thinks the rise in women candidates has been especially pronounced in the last year.
“It’s something we were seeing way before all the sexual harassment scandals started to break,” he wrote. “After the 2016 election, a lot of women started turning out for events, indivisible groups, house parties. Many for the first time. Been seeing it for a year now.”
Nationally, Democrats have been recruiting more women to run for office ever since Republican President Donald Trump was elected a year ago.
The Raleigh city council is now half women for just the second time ever, after the city’s October elections. Also in October, Virginia’s state legislature swung from a strong Republican majority to a split in power after Democrats flipped 15 seats in their favor. Almost all of those 15 Democratic winners were women.
In North Carolina, the elections for state legislative seats aren’t until November 2018, and the deadline for candidates to file (Feb. 28, 2018) is still more than two months away. So there might be plenty more women of either party to sign up to run for what has always been a male-dominated state legislature. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 13 of North Carolina’s 50 senators are women, as are 30 of the 120 representatives.
In addition to the six Democratic women who announced Monday, at least two other Democratic women might challenge GOP incumbents.
Cary Life magazine editor Jennifer Ferrell hopes to run a second time against Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary. First, though, she will be in a primary against fellow Democrat Matt Calabria, a Wake County Commissioner. And in the Senate, Jen Mangrum, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, plans to run against Republican Sen. Phil Berger, the top Republican in the legislature.
Here are the candidates who announced Monday.
In the Triangle, lawyer Sydney Batch announced her candidacy for House District 37, which represents southwestern Wake County. Batch is a certified child welfare specialist and runs a law firm focused on family law issues with her husband, J. Patrick Williams.
That seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Linda Williams, a former Holly Springs town councilwoman who joined the legislature last year after the retirements of former Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, also a Republican.
The district covers parts of Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and Garner.
Batch said Monday in a written statement she wanted to run because “too many people feel the deck is stacked against them.”
“People want affordable, accessible health care, quality and affordable education, safe air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a fair paycheck,” she said. “Most of all, they want their children to live a more prosperous life than they have.”
In Concord, the 82nd district was redrawn so that its incumbent, Republican Rep. Larry Pittman, was put into a neighboring district. The new 82nd district is home to a different Republican incumbent, Rep. Linda Johnson.
Johnson could face Aimy Steele, an elementary school principal and former Spanish teacher who announced her candidacy Monday. A statement from the Democratic Party’s spokesman quotes her as saying, “Since I was a young girl I felt a need to speak up for those whose voice was not heard.”
Further to the south in the Charlotte suburb of Union County, a retired doctor and Army veteran named Rick Foulke announced he plans to run against Republican Rep. Craig Horn.
Foulk was a doctor in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and going into private practice as an oncologist, first in Charlotte and then in Matthews.
His campaign website says two of the issues he cares deeply about are expanding health insurance and increasing school funding.
“Our quality teachers are leaving for other states every day because of low pay and lack of respect,” says a statement on his website. “Our politicians have played partisan games with our lives by refusing to expand Medicaid.”
In the northern Forsyth County suburbs of Winston-Salem, Terri LeGrand announced her plans to run against Republican Rep. Deborah Conrad for House District 74.
LeGrand is a financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University.
“I’ve spent my life advocating for the powerless among us, first as a lawyer and social worker fighting for at-risk youth and their families and then as an administrator helping students from low- and moderate-income families attend college,” LeGrand said in a statement.
The Democratic Party included LeGrand in its list of new candidates Monday, although she has been publicly campaigning for nearly two months.
Martha Shafer, a health care executive, will run against Republican Rep. John Faircloth, a real estate broker from High Point, for House District 62. The district represents the northwest parts of Guilford County.
Shafer’s announcement ran into technical difficulties; her campaign website link is broken.
However, the Democratic Party spokesman quoted her as saying she’s running to support “our public schools that were once the pride of North Carolina.”