State Senator Ellie Kinnaird Resigns

From an email just received:

Dear Friends,

This is my last newsletter to you. After a great deal of thought, I have decided to resign my position in the North Carolina Senate. It has been a great privilege and I have been honored to be chosen to represent the people of this district. Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this way, thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas and for your support over the years.

It has also been a pleasure to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate and our superb, professional legislative staff as well as elected officials and their staff in the towns and counties in the district. I have years of happy memories working to make a difference in the lives of the people of North Carolina. I want to say a special thank you to Kathie Young, my Legislative Assistant, whom many of you know as the warm and welcoming voice to all who call or come to the office. Kathie and I have been friends and political workers together for over 30 years. When I was elected, I asked her to come with me on this journey and it has been a happy shared adventure and partnership for seventeen years.

What led me to this decision are the actions taken by the Republican majority in the legislature that has been a shocking reversal of the many progressive measures that I and many others have worked so hard to enact: measures that over the years had made North Carolina a model of moderate-to-progressive, pro-business but also pro-people public policy in the South. From the Republicans' denial of health care security for our people to their failure to promote a vibrant work force through support for our education systems at all levels and from their tax cuts for the wealthy and their tax increases for the poor and middle class to their efforts to deny people their right to vote, they have been pursuing a divisive and, I think, immoral agenda. The needless pain and suffering the Republicans have brought upon us that I have written about add up to a huge setback for North Carolinians from all walks of life. My own personal sadness is the dismantling of my environmental, social justice and death penalty efforts.

I am heartened, however, by the many grassroots efforts to fight for the rights, the health and safety and the opportunities our people need and deserve from the Moral Monday movement to the many non-governmental organizations that advocate for the people of our state, not the special interests. It is here that I want and need to put my energy and efforts. I am working with others on a grass-roots project to make sure everyone in the state has a proper voter ID so that no votes are denied, even though the Voter ID bill is aimed at exactly that - repressing the vote. I am going to work for candidates in the next election who reflect our values. The values of all those who came to Moral Mondays and who have contacted me by emails, calls and letters expressing your dismay at what has happened to our progressive and forward-looking state. I look forward to working together to change this course and restore our state to the shining beacon it was for so long.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve the people of this district.

My best to each and every one of you.


OP regular Gerry Cohen provided some additional helpful information.

#ncga Senator Ellie Kinnaird has resigned effective today after 17 years. 4-member district executive comm will appoint replacement

— Gerry Cohen (@gercohen) August 19, 2013

#ncga Senator Ellie Kinnaird vacancy procedure 163-11(d)

— Gerry Cohen (@gercohen) August 19, 2013

#ncga Orange Chatham Senatorial Executive committee to fill Kinnaird vacancy weighted voting one vote per 300 census pop, Orange controls

— Gerry Cohen (@gercohen) August 19, 2013
As Gerry notes, Senator Kinnaird's replacement will be chosen by a four member district committee of the Democratic Party, made up of two members from each Chatham and Orange County. Chatham County's district committee slots are currently vacant and will be chosen by an emergency meeting of their Democratic County Executive Committee. The Orange County Democratic Party's representatives to the committee are Samantha Cabe and Wanda Hunter. The governor is obligated by law to appoint their selection.



2 people, but Orange gets over 400 votes to Chatham's 200+. 

Only one of those seats is vacant due to the former holder moving to Costa Rica. The CCDP will meet tomorrow to elect a replacement.

but I vacationed in Costa Rica last month with the family.  It is our new answer (in place of Canada) for where we're moving if Republicans win White House (or whatever awful comes).  Pura Vida!

Thank you, Ellie Kinnaird! 

I have travelled a bit. In North Carolina I have put in quality time in every one of North Carolina’s 100 counties growing up the son of a publisher of several local newspapers in NC, as executive director the NC Rural Communities Assistance Project working with towns on their water and sewer systems, and working with leaders in more than 40 mostly small NC towns to pass resolutions on the death penalty. There are wonderful communities in North Carolina and amazing people everywhere around the state.  All of that travelling has made me appreciate the place Janet, our kids, and I have called home for 23 years: Carrboro. There are a lot of things about this community for which we can be especially grateful for having – and a lot of things we can be especially grateful for not being burdened with. Keeping it that way, and striving to make this a healthier community are not easy and take an engaged community and hard-working, dedicated, and creative formal leadership.

We have a deep well of such people who could carry on from where Ellie Kinnaird has left off. I would be happy with any of the people who are from Orange and Chatham counties whose names I have seen and heard suggested as Sen. Kinnaird’s successor. That’s a remarkable thing to be able to say in a small Southern community. We are fortunate.

Above all, I hope Mark Chilton becomes our next senator. I can see Mark changing the legislature and the state for the better. He has the collaborative skills and the independence to be a highly effective legislator, helping our community and our state grow in new ways while remaining grounded in the values of nonviolence, social justice and solidarity with people living on the margins. I am excited for all of us, and grateful.

I love Damon's proposal for the Foushee-Insko-Chilton ticket in 2014!I am a fan of Valerie Foushee and we are fortunate to have her representing part of Orange County, but it's important to me that Ellie Kinnaird be replaced by someone who will energetically carry the mantle of the Conscience of the Senate. Mark Chilton's blend of principled problem-solving and strategic initiative is exactly what we need in Raleigh right now to push back against Senate Leader Tillis and the whole Art Pope administration.I hope our local Democratic Party officials will agree with me that Mark is the best candidate to carry on Ellie Kinnaird's leadership in the Senate. 

I agree, and I hope Mark is appointed.

Orange and Chatham Counties should have the most progressive and effective state Senator we can possibly find, and I believe Mark Chilton is that person. I served with Mark 20 years ago on the Chapel Hill Town Council, and I was arrested with Mark two months ago at Moral Monday.  I have great confidence in his ability to do what needs doing.James ProtzmanPS  Being arrested at Moral Monday should not be a litmus test for office, but it does signal a depth of commitment that is noteworthy. (Sorry if this is posted twice.)

  A couple of months ago, the State House had the opportunity to vote yea or nay for Gov. McCrory’s choice to head the Public Staff, a unique agency of state government that is charged with representing consumers and rate-payers in matters before the Utility Commission. McCrory’s choice was Chris Ayers, a guy who spent his entire career as a lawyer representing utilities. The vote was 112-4. Only Representatives Michaux and Luebke from Durham, Rep. Pricey Harrison from Greensboro, and our own Verla Insko voted against this appointment. Thirty nine Democrats, including Valerie Foushee, voted for McCrory’s guy. This past February, she was one of just a few Democrats that joined with the overwhelming Republican majority in the House to vote in favor of a Hwy. 540 bypass route that ignored the issues raised by the affected community in Garner (HB10). Insko,  Michaux, and Harrison voted for a fair process and against over-riding the desires of the community.  Last year she voted over the protestations of the community in the Eno Economic Development District to fast-track rezoning before their issues were fully addressed. As Barry Jacobs said during the proceedings (I’m paraphrasing here), we in Orange County have never run roughshod over the interests of a community.Referring vaguely to “values” is easy. Voting records reveal the quality of those values.      

Describes my impression or Ms. Foushee, as I've watched her actions over the years.

Amy Tiemann has also announced her candidacy: Roster so far is: 

  • Valerie Foushee
  • Alice Bordsen
  • Mark Chilton
  • Amy Tiemann 


We're fortunate to have multiple well-qualified people for this seat. I support Mark Chilton for this opening because recent NCGA sessions have seen many controversies over the line where state government ends and local government begins.With his experience as a Mayor, as well as a councilman/alderman in two municipalities, and his legal background, I believe Mayor Chilton is particularly suited to the challenges of the next few years in addition to long-term concerns.A major reason that Carrboro has a better Smith Level Road under construction that meets community needs is Mayor Chilton having the good judgment of when to say "we can do better" to NCDOT and when to shake hands and say "you've addressed our concerns, now let's move forward."I think he can bring that same approach to the legislature.

James Pronto and Heidi Chapman have both contacted me expressing interest in the position and indicated moving forward. Both have public health backgrounds, I believe

I believe Heidi Chapman is a long-time Chapel Hill area lawyer.

I thought that name sounded close to something familiar. Jim Porto was the mayor of Carrboro prior to Ellie Kinnaird (well before my time here). I have no idea what political involvement he may have had since then.The Chapel Hill News had some additional information about the declared candidates in today's paper: 

I think the last Orange legislative vacancy was when Judge LJ Phipps was appointed to fill the house vacancy caused by John Umstead's resignation in 1963. Phipps was a judge for about 22 years, serving Chapel Hill and Orange County Recorder's court and as a district court judge. He resigned as judge to take the legislative appointment and died in office as a district court judge in 1969. I do not know whether his appointment process was contested but Orange was a single county district so the full county executive committee would have nominated the replacement.

I remember attending a number of trials Judge Phipps presided over relating to anti-war protests maybe in 1968 or 1969

I'm thinking foggily that Don Stanford was an an Orange County house member who died in office sometime around 1970 but could be wrong,  Trish Stanford Hunt Love was his widow

Could've sworn it was when Verla was appointed following the resignation of Anne Barnes. She beat Moses Carey in that appointment and went on to a primary for a full term. No?

Yes looks like we are collecting vacancy stories

Ira Ward resigned as Orange County commissioner February 1973. County exec comm sent three names to the county commissioners - Henry Latane, me, and Jan Pinney. (Several other folks were also running) Commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on all three names for the maximum 60 days allowed by law. Flo Garrett and Richard Whitted voted for me.  Then it defaulted to Clerk of Court Frank Frederick who appointed Pinney

I've said it once, and I'll say it again - if we want to be tue progressives we should strive to ensure our elected bodies look like the populations they represent.There are only 5 women in the North Carolina Senate (out of 50 members total), and we'll lose another woman's voice if Mark Chilton is appointed. And this comes at a time when women's rights are under attack more than they've been for decades in NC.I think Mark would be a great senator, and my comment doesn't reflect on his qualifications or record, but there are plenty of equally qualified women who are more than ready to fill Sen. Kinnaird's seat - and I want to see one of them speaking alongside (the very wonderful) Sen. Stein rather than another man speaking for me.Other, mostly unrelated food for thought: There is a lot of untapped progressive money in Orange County. I would love to see someone appointed who is willing to be a powerhouse fundraiser, supporting other progressive candidates locally and across the state so we can win back some of these seats for the common good.

Your point is spot-on, Leah. The only thing I noticed was that I count 7 female senators instead of 5 (Robinson, Parmon, Bryant on the Democratic side; Harrington, Barringer, Randleman, and Wade on the GOP side).That said, it hardly makes a difference - 14% of all seats is no better than 10%. What's even more embarrassing in my opinion is that there are actually more GOP women in the Senate now than Democratic women, particularly in light of the attacks that the GOP majority has leveled on women's rights in our state.

"Ensuring out elected bodies look like the populations they represent" is a worthy goal. In the case of candidates with similar merits, deferring to that goal makes perfect sense. In this case, I believe that Mark Chilton is the superior candidate, as well as someone who will advocate as strongly as anyone for issues that affect women's rights.  

Men have been speaking for women for centuries. It's not the same as women speaking for women.According to NC Policy Watch there were 6 women in the North Carolina Senate in February 2013; at the time 3 of the 6 were Democrats. That was before Ellie's departure. 

That link is from February 2012, prior to the 2012 elections. You can view the current list of senators here, which is where I counted 7 women currently in the Senate, excluding Sen. Kinnaird.

(not that it makes a difference; still just as shameful)I was referring to this resource from the National Council of State Legislatures, which I realize is from 2012 prior to the election, when we gained a couple Republican women.

Does anyone know when and where the meeting to select the replacement for Ellie will be? I remember the one where Verla was selected and that was an upset at the time. Even Verla had a surprised look when she won the vote that night. Moses left quickly because everyone thought he had it in the bag.

The committee plans a candidate and public information session for Wed, Aug 28, at 7:00 pm. Location to be announced soon. 

The meeting for selecting the replacement for Ellie will be on Sunday, Sept 8 at 6:00 pm. Location to be announced soon.

More information about both of these meetings will be forthcoming on the webpages of the Orange County and Chatham County Democratic parties, as well as published in the local media.

There is an email address for anyone who wishes to express interest in being appointed or who has a question about the process: 

The committee is meeting today to confirm the process. They will likely post something soon.

Senate 23 Exec Cmte meeting to fill vacancy is Sept 8, 6pm, location TBD

Info session will be Aug 28, 7pm, location TBD

This meeting, hosted by the NC Senatorial District 23 Democratic Party Executive Committee, will take place on Wed, Aug 28, at 7pm, in the old post office/courthouse bldg at 179 East Franklin St. The agenda of the meeting is to explain the process, hear brief statements from declared candidates, allow Executive Committee members to ask questions of the candidates, and to allow for public comments. This optional and unofficial meeting is free and open to the public.

posted by Wanda Hunter, committee member 

This meeting will take place on Sunday, Sept 8, at 6pm, in the Holmes Room at the Chatham County Library, 197 NC Hwy North, Pittsboro, NC.

At this meeting committee members will make nominations and vote to name Kinnaird's successor. This essential and official meeting is free and open to the public; at this meeting the public is present as observers of the official process.

-Wanda Hunter, Orange County member, NC Senatorial District 23 Democratic Party Executive Committee ( 919-929-9655 

Other members include:

Samantha Cabe, Orange, 919-928-5701

Donald Knowles, Chatham, 919-968-0844

George Lucier, Chatham, 919-548-4151 

The North Carolina Senatorial District 23 Democratic Party Executive
Committee will host an information session this coming Wednesday,
August 28, at 7pm, in the old Courthouse/Post Office, 179 East Franklin
Street, Chapel Hill, NC. The agenda of the information session is to
explain the process, hear brief statements from declared candidates,
allow the Executive Committee members to ask questions of the
candidates, and allow for public comments. This optional and unofficial
meeting is free and open to the public.
The North Carolina Senatorial District 23 Democratic Party Executive
Committee will hold its official meeting on Sunday, September 8, at
6pm, in the Holmes Room at the Chatham Community Library, 197 NC Hwy 87
North, Pittsboro, NC. At this meeting, the Executive Committee Members
will make nominations and vote to name Senator Kinnaird's successor.
This essential and official meeting is free and open to the public; at
this meeting, the public is welcome as observers of the official
Candidates must be a resident of the 23rd Senate District (Chatham
and Orange Counties) and a registered Democrat. If you wish to declare
yourself a candidate, you can contact the committee by sending an email
with your resume and any supporting material to, or by way of Matt Hughes, Orange County Democratic Party Chair at or 919-537-9568. has an informational presentation on the process.

Those of us already at Peace and Justice Plaza for the NAACP's "Taking the Dream Home to Chapel Hill" rally will only have to step inside! 

It's here.

Bonnie Hauser

I just want to encourage everyone to contact the committee that is selecting Ellie's replacement. They have expressed interest in hearing what people in the district want. You can write to them at drafted my own endorsement letter last night which I will post here on OP after I submit it.

Apparently they were taking public comment about the appointment at the meeting tonight. Even if I had realized this, I wouldn't have been able to attend anyway. Here's the letter I sent to the selection comittee earlier today:

Dear executive selection committee,I am writing to express my strong endorsement of Mark Chilton for the N.C. Senate seat recently vacated by Ellie Kinnaird. Thank you so much for making this process public and taking the time to hear from the people of Orange and Chatham Counties about our concerns.I have lived here (in both southern Orange and northern Chatham) since 1973, and have been involved in local politics for more than two decades. In fact, I worked on both Mark and Ellie's campaigns in the past. I think Mayor Chilton is our best choice to fill this seat because he would bring a wealth of practical political skills, energy for civic engagement, and the same idealism and passion that made Senator Kinnaird the Conscience of the Senate.As a woman, I know that that Mayor Chilton will go to bat for my reproductive rights, as he has done for decades including working for NARAL-NC in their early days. As an environmentalist I know he will work to stop fracking and the many other assaults on NC's precious ecosystems. As a person concerned with human rights, I know he will work hard for better treatment of immigrants just as he has done for many Carrboro residents that are day laborers and residents of substandard housing. As a person against racism, I know he will continue to address persistent institutional racism as well as the GOP's unconscionable attacks on voting rights. As the father of two school-aged boys, I know he will take attacks on education personally. And I also know he will work hard for student enfranchisement as he is one of only a handful of people who has been both a student and an elected official in North Carolina at the same time.But I don't just support Mayor Chilton's appointment because of his strong support of the issues that I care about, I also think he will be an asset to our region and the entire state by being an energizing force that will help target vulnerable Republican districts, raise money for Democratic campaigns, and engage activists and potential candidates from across the state.I truly think that Mark Chilton is the very best person for this job, especially at this time. He is our best hope to take back seats in the General Assembly in 2014 and 2016. If you appoint him, it will send a powerful message that Democrats do not intend to take the past year of attacks on our state lying down. He will start the first wave of what will be a growing movement to reverse the retrograde agenda of Art Pope and the Tea Party Republicans currently in control of the General Assembly.Thank you for your time and consideration.Sincerely,Ruby Sinreich 

I wasn't able to attend last night's meeting, but I trust Ellie's judgment on Alice Bordsen; I trust other friends judgment of Heidi Chapman; I like James Protzman said about Lynette Hartsell being a firebrand, gay lawyer; and I think there's value in Amy Tiemann's experience as a busines person with ties to Chatham County. I like Valerie Foushee in the seat she was elected for so there aren't any further appointments.One other note: I read that there were questions for the candidates about what they would do to ensure the reinstatement of a Democratic majority in the General Assembly. I appreciate that concern, but I do not think it's the job of our elected officials, nor should it be considered a quality we want in a senator. That job is policy. The person in that seat needs to be skilled at negotiation; needs to be able to take complex issues and understand them and help constituents understand them; needs to be able to work with rural and urban constituents as well as different races, income levels, and political idealogy. I would hope the person is too busy to be doing the recruiting job of the Democratic Party's staff. 

I love Mark Chilton.  I love that he is a firebrand.  But will that make him an effective senator in the current NCGA?  At the OCDW meeting last week, Ann McColl shared how they (NCAE) did get a couple of small wins early in the session this year.  I want a senator who will help get wins where we can in Raleigh -- that's the job, isn't it? Working the system across all ideologies to make a difference.  While I understand the concern about House 50 backfill, I still think Val is the right person for the job.  She has represented all of OC before (as a county commissioner, she sometimes disagreed with the school board when she thought the overall county wouldn't support a tax increase - whether she was right or not, I respect the different perspective she has gained from her service there).  If she's willing to commit to the pain of working in the Senate, more power to her!   

Great comment, James - I completely agree. I was able to attend the very end of the selection committee meeting last night, and one of the things that stuck out to me was how some of the public commenters touched on the work that Valerie has already done in her capacity as a state representative.What I took away form these comments was that she has shown a willingness to get the work done, to build partnerships and work across the aisle to help our community, including getting an important Chapel Hill development bill passed. That's the kind of leadership and work I value in a state senator. I think Valerie has best demonstrated the ability to advocate for our community in an effective way, and that's why I support her throughout this process.

My ONLY problem with Valerie is that it creates yet another appointment process for her seat. How many "elected" officials do we want in Orange County that are not really elected?

Yes, while they are technically 'unelected' for the appointed term, they still have to face the voters in a possible primary and general election in 2014. Furthermore, a candidate like Valerie Foushee has proven the ability to win elections in Orange County for years, so it's not as if she would be without support. There are a lot of great elected officials, and folks who aren't elected, who live in the boundaries of House District 50 and should Valerie be appointed to the Senate seat, we'd have a plethora of qualified candidates with a track record of success for Orange County. 

In the past few decades very few of our state legislators were actually selected in a primary by Orange County voters rather than being appointed to "face the voters" as an incumbent. We really are not having much say over who represents us in the NCGA.

I'm only replying to the second part of your comment, but suffice it to say I disagree strongly. Getting me excited about overturning the Republican majority is exactly what I want in a state level elected official. I was thinking of making a post about exactly that topic, but turns out, Ruby made just such a post before the senate vacancy was on anyone's radar, in the context of what our local leaders should be doing. I want, nay, demand that my leaders work actively to unseat the Republican majority in Raleigh that is hindering our rights. Policy is irrelevent if they can't do so. Democrats won't play any meaningful role in state policy until we change the legislature.Frankly, I haven't heard anyone try to differentiate the senate candidates based on their policy positions, and I've yet to hear a policy issue in this thread or elsewhere in the senate vacancy discussion that they think makes one candidate better than another. What I can tell you, though, is that there are candidates who would make me excited about getting involved in state issues, and candidates who don't. The state Democratic party has done a lousy job of invigorating voters and activists compared to what the NAACP and their partners have done with Moral Mondays, and as a former county party officer I don't say that lightly. We need candidates, community leaders, and a party who can make state politics exciting again and get people involved. Elected officials are the public face of their party. You mention recruiting candidates as one function, but I'd argue also that raising money, getting press coverage, and developing an activist network are a few of the many important functions I expect of any candidate or elected official and their staff, to say nothing of connecting directly with voters. Sure, policy is the bulk of the written job description, but until Democrats are in a place to make policy again, I can't think of any role more important than explaining policy to voters to make the case for reinstating a Democratic majority.

I am as vocal an advocate as anyone that campaining matters. We absolutely need a Senator who understands that fundraising and recruiting quality candidates is essential to any future success for the Democratic party. That's why we're so lucky we have Valerie as a candidate. In addition to being a fantastic advocate for the people of OC, she also raised nearly 100K in her first State House campaign, in a district drawn with very little of Chapel Hill in it. I'm confident that should Valerie be elected Senator, she'll be an even stronger fundraiser who can help Democratic candidates across the state. 

Why does someone need to be a senator to be actively campaigning for change or to stir you up about overturning the Republican majority (although I suspect you're already stirred up and don't really need anyone to do that for you)? Yes, whoever is appointed would have access to a bully pulpit and should help, but to make campaigning the basis upon which a candidate is selected is too narrowly focused.However, if you really think that campaigning is one of the key functions of the job, then that's all the more reason you should be advocating for one of the women candidates. What better way to recruit more women into government service than to increase the visibility of women in the General Assembly? It took women 73 years to win the right to vote. We're still fighting for equal representation. Women constitute 52% of the NC population but have only 7 seats in the Senate (14%). If we have to have appointments, then the most progressive approach would be to select one of the many interested and competent women candidates, especially given the issues around women's healthcare that are going to continue playing a major role over the next several years. 

It seems a bit irresponsible for Foushee to want to jump from her newly won House seat to another seat because presumably she feels it will be better for her political career. Also, doing this knowing that she will cause more appointments if she's chosen seems unnecessary.

Valerie Foushee has spent her entire career representing Orange County, both on the school board then, the entire county as a Commissioner. As she said when asked at the forum this week, the reason she wants to move to the Senate is simply to represent all of Orange, and Chatham, in the legislature. There is no power for Senate Democrats and it's laughable to say she's doing this for her "political career". In terms of the other appointments, I don't think we should choose a lesser candidate just because the best candidate might trigger an appointment. We want the best folks possible representing us in the legislature. Let's not settle just because it seems easier. 

You are doing your job, Evan. But the overwhelming deep-down passionate yearning to represent (and do best for) Orange County (and those ethereal "Orange County values") doesn't quite stir me. She already represents Orange County. But maybe I don't understand the depths of her pure and selfless desire to represent only Orange County (and maybe a little Chatham). Out of curiosity, do you think she'd be more politically secure running as an incumbent in the Orange/Chatham Senate District or the Orange/Durham House District? 



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