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.



The Democratic Party will treat filling this vacancy much like a primary election. We will be fair and impartial to all candidates and allow the process to work. If you're interested in putting your name forward or would like to know more about the process, please contact Chair Matt Hughes at or 919-537-9568

It has always been interesting to me that political party is written into state law like this. My reading of the statute (and someone with a law degree can correct me if this isn't right) is that there actually is no provision for replacing a member if they do not belong to an organized political party, unless perhaps there is a more general law which handles such a case.

Jason thanks for asking. If an unaffiliated legislator resigns, dies, etc, then the Governor appoints resident of the district with no party involvement. We've had unaffiliated legislators in last 20 years 147-12(a)(3)§ 147-12.  Powers and duties of Governor.(a)        In addition to the powers and duties prescribed by the Constitution, the Governor has the powers and duties prescribed in this and the following sections:.....         (3)        To make the appointments and fill the vacancies not otherwise provided for in all departments......

As Gerry noted on Twitter, votes will be weighted by population in the district as of the 2010 census, with one vote per three hundred people. Since the 23rd district comprises the entirity of Orange and Chatham Counties, the voting will be weighted with Orange having 446 votes and Chatham 212.

Sen. Kinnaird will definitely be missed. She's been such a champion for issues near and dear to Orange County. Luckily, she's not going anywhere and will still be active in voter registration and outreach!

I'm sorry to see her go, but grateful for all the work she has and will continue to do for our county and our state.

In case anyone missed it, Rachel Maddow had Sen. Kinnaird on last night to discuss why she was resigning and what's next for her outside of the legislature. You can watch the segment here.

So 4 people (2 from Chatham and 2 from Orange) will choose the successor. Orange has 446 weighted "votes" and Chatham has 212 weighted "votes". I could break down the math, but I think it's obvious. There's no proportional correlation between the number of real votes and the weighted votes. So the two Orange reps  have 68% of the vote (each has 34%) and the two Chatham reps have 32% of the vote (each has 16%). In order for this to be remotely fair (considering that both Chatham votes are trumped by one Orange vote), there really should be (let's round it off to 67% and 33% to make this work mathematically) 4 Orange reps and 2 Chatham reps.     

... I am not pleased that Senator Kinnaird resigned rather than serving out her term.  (Note: this does not mean that I don't appreciate her long years of devoted service, and it doesn't mean I don't think an 81-year-old person doesn't deserve a break.)

We elected her to represent us for a full term.  She may feel she can be more effective outside the legislature than inside it.  I'm not so sure; though she is now far from the center of power, she has 17 years of relationships with others in the Senate, and those surely mean something.  Whoever replaces her will come in as a rank newbie, and one who doesn't even have the credential of having been elected.  We, her constituents, are losing the benefit of her seniority, however far she feels she is from the heart of power in this verkakte legislature we now have.

What's more, by resigning now rather than serving out her term, she's just giving insiders the ability to confer on a hand-selected person the huge benefit of incumbency in the coming election.  We've seen this before in our town politics, and it ain't pretty.

(I say this without regard for who the successor will be, and I know there are some <i>marvelous</i> potential successors out there.  A couple of them are friends of mine.  This is just a remarkably undemocratic way of running a democracy.) 

So, yes, thanks very much for your service, Senator Kinnaird.  I appreciate that you've worked so hard to represent me and your other constituents these last 17 years.  I just wish you'd stuck around a bit longer. 

(By the way, this is Eric Muller writing this comment.  Looks like it's going to post as "anonymous," but I don't like anonymous comments on blogs.) 

You took the words right out of my mouth Eric Muller!

My preference would have been for Ellie to serve out her full term too.

Thanks for posting, Eric. Yours is exactly the frustration I've been having about this process, and you summed it up perfectly.

Rep. Valerie Foushee formally announced her intent to seek this Senate seat today.

Her announcement also came with the endorsements of 12 elected officials in Senate District 23, including:

  • State House Representative Deb McManus (representing all of Chatham County)
  • The entire Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board:
    • James Barrett
    • Jamezetta Bedford
    • Mia Burroughs
    • Michelle Brownstein
    • Gregory McElveen
    • Mike Kelly
    • Annetta Streater
  • Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee
  • Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier
  • Chapel Hill Town Councilmember Lee Storrow
  • Carrboro Alderperson Michelle Johnson

I think this appointment process has the potential to be quite interesting. We have a wealth of qualified candidates who could emerge here in Orange County, and it'll certainly be interesting to see how the field develops now that the first formal announcement has come.

The flip side of this argument is that no one living in Carrboro or Chatham County and relatively few people living in Chapel Hill (the Weaver Dairy Road corridor being the exception) is eligible for an appointment to the House 50 seat. How many ambitious pols are there in Chatham and southern Orange, exactly?

That's actually a great point, Ray. If Foushee gets the Senate seat, her own replacement cannot include Carrboro, Chatham, or even most of Chapel Hill. It's a very different pool of potential candidates. This is exactly why it is so awesome to have her in that seat right now. 

Citing Travis' post, these are the female elected officials in the district.

  • County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier
  • Chapel Hill Town Council Member Laurin Easthom
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Chair Mia Burroughs
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Member Jamezetta Bedford
  • Orange County School Board Chair Donna Coffey
  • Orange County School Board Member Anne Medenblik
  • Orange County School Board Member Debbie Piscitelli
  • Orange County School Board Member Brenda Stephen

I'm very excited to see a few of the names on this list and would be delighted to see a few of them put their names forward should Rep. Foushee be appointed to the Senate seat.

Any one of whom would also have to be appointed by a process that does not directly involve the voters of that district. I'd rather we not create a situation in which another seat is decided by an appointment process.

It's not Rep. Foushee's fault that the appointment process is what it is, and I think it would be fundamentally unfair to somehow disqualify her from consideration because her appointment would necessitate another appointment process, nor do I believe that appointment processes produce bad outcomes simply by virtue of being an appointment. They certainly can, but by no means does that mean they will.

I think it's worth considering whether the Orange County residents of District 50 would appreciate having both of their General Assembly representatives chosen by appointment. That doesn't make it Foushee's fault, but just because it's not her fault doesn't mean the committee can't consider it in their deliberations.

As I said, there's nothing to inherently imply that an appointed official will fair any worse than an elected one, so why is this an important consideration? If you dislike the appointment process, then work to change state law. I don't see why this should have any impact on the process as it stands, nor why it should affect certain candidates. Furthermore, as we know, the primary election for both SD-23 and HD-50 isn't that far away, so voters will be able to weigh in on any appointed officials at that point, as well as in the general next year. The practical policy implications of having an appointed official for the short session are minimal.

... should not reflect poorly on any appointed candidate.  That's true.On the other hand, the frequency with which the departures of elected officials in this area result in replacement by appointment rather than election does, in my view, reflect poorly on the political establishment.  This is not my idea of progressive politics; it smacks of the club, or worse, the machine. 

North Caroina had special elections to fill vacancies in the General Assembly until 1952, a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT that year got rid of the requirement because by the time there was a primary, second primary, and the special election usually the session was long over and the area had no representation

It's the same answer regardless of whether or not we agree about whether the appointment process produces suboptimal results, is unfair to certain applicants or potential future candidates, or disenfranchises the voters. I have mixed feelings on all of these issues. But it's not about your or my opinion, it's about public perception. I feel fairly confident, speaking as a former applicant to the council vacancy created by Bill Strom's resignation, that the public's perception of resignations requiring the use of an appointment process is rather poor, and that at least some segment of voters will be upset that they are left with an elected official not of their own choosing, regardless of who that individual might be.I don't have to comment myself on whether this anger at elected officials for resigning is fair or justified to tell you that a significant portion of the population feels that way. Whether you or I disagree with them is independent of whether the committee will choose to validate the concerns of this segment of the population. I can, however, say that public perception of the process has been a component of how other recent appointments have been made, and that I hope it continue to be a part of this appointment as well.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member Annetta Streater recently moved from Carrboro to the 50th House district

I wish someone would open a door for me to endorse a Chilton-Foushee-Insko team-up for the General Assembly.

If Mark Chilton puts his name in (and if you've missed the chatter on the social media world, he is considering it), he would be my top choice for the seat.We wouldn't be losing Valerie Foushee if she stays right where she is. I hope it's nothing against Val to say that she is a good fit for District 50 and that I hope she remains there to represent them for years to come. District 50 is more competitive than either 54 or 56, at least based on the results from 2012, and we need a strong candidate there.

Exactly, Jason. Chilton in Senate 23, Foushee in House 50, and Insko in House 56 sounds like a good combination to me and is a great opportunity for Orange, Chatham, and Durham counties to send another strong, progressive delegation to the General Assembly. 

We have so many highly qualified, capable women in this community, it would be a crying shame not to appoint one of them to Ellie's seat.I take this article to mean that Ellie herself is advocating for Alice Bordsen. 

You raise a good point, Terri, concerning the number of women in state government, and the importance of having women in the NCGA. Just some food for thought to add on to this thought, if Rep. Foushee is chosen to replace Sen. Kinnaird, there are a number of women who could then represent Orange and Durham counties in HD-50. Of the current elected officials in Orange County, for example:

  • County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier
  • Chapel Hill Town Council Member Laurin Easthom
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Chair Mia Burroughs
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Member Jamezetta Bedford
  • Orange County School Board Chair Donna Coffey
  • Orange County School Board Member Anne Medenblik
  • Orange County School Board Member Debbie Piscitelli
  • Orange County School Board Member Brenda Stephen

Sidenote Donna Coffey is unaffliated and would likely have to change affliation before going through an appointment process.

I talked with Ellie about her decision on Alice and understand her perspective on an appointment to keep the seat alive without a learning curve at this point.  In the past I have appointed three council members and know that the ability to have someone "hit the ground running" is important.  But in those deliberations I also valued new faces and fresh perspectives and energy for a subsequent campaign. Ellie and I have worked together closely in the past on common interests locally affecting state wide legislation.  She has approached me in the past on my interests in state senate.  I do look forward to serving on a more regional basis in the future.  Timing is everything, so they say.    And when that time comes, I will campaign for an election or put my name out as appropriate for consideration.   I highly respect those that have put their names forward for Ellies' seat.  I know most of them.  I know many others who are qualified and who would be excellent candidates.  My feeling here is that "it's not the messenger but the message". Be it Valerie or Alice, Amy or Mark,  ....we need to keep this progressive and energetic seat alive against a very hostile conservative Republican environment in the GA.  We need an energetic fighter who knows the uphill battle that lies ahead.  We need someone to hit the ground running.   And the names put forward at this point are all capable of doing that.   I don't envy the commitee's position in making a choice.   We are lucky to have such good choices given Ellie's decision...   Laurin

I noticed what Terri Buckner noticed; it appears that Ellie Kinnaird is endorsing Alice Bordsen.Can someone who understands these things help me here?  Bordsen represented a House district in Alamance County.  Senate District 23 is Orange and Chatham Counties.Wouldn't we want a Senator whose political experience/background is in the counties she'd actually be representing? 

It looks like Alice lost her seat through redistricting. I've been researching her record and it's very impressive: 

I am not commenting on Alice Bordsen's record.  I know nothing about her; she may be the most spectacular politician who ever lived.  

You raise a great point, Eric, and I, too, have concerns about Alice Bordsen's candidacy for this seat for this precise reason. She moved to Orange County after she did not seek re-election and is now the 1st Vice Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, but because we have so many qualified public servants in Orange County, I am very reluctant to think that someone who has only lived in the district for seven or so months is an appropriate choice for this seat.

Furthermore, if there were a special election for this seat and not an appointment process, Bordsen would not be eligible to run because the North Carolina Constitution requires that: (1) Senators be 25 years old, (2) have lived in North Carolina for 2 years, and (3) have lived in the district they seek to represent for 1 year. Bordsen registered to vote in Orange County on 02/18/2013. While my understanding is now that this requirement does not hold for appointments, I still think folks ought to know if this were an election, Bordsen could not run.

On the other hand, women's rights were crucified in this last session and, at least today, I care more about having someone with a demonstrated record of advocacy around those issues, and experience within the General Assembly than I care about a few months and a few miles. Going up against a good ole boy system like the one currently in power seems to require a different set of skills and knowledge than a first-timer would possess. 

I think it would be more accurate to say that Alice Bordsen has been registered to vote (and presumably living permanently) in her Chapel Hill home (which she has owned for ten years) for 7+ months. I don't know if it's accurate to say that she has only lived in the district for that amount of time, because I'm almost certain she lived here previously. Alice worked for UNC for twenty years and earned two degrees there before that. That's not to dismiss your point, but I think it's worth considering.

I think Alice Bordsen had a great career representing Alamance County in the legislature. That being said, whether she owned property here or not, she was the duly elected representative of Alamance County until the 2012 elections. 

I don't think that information is in dispute. I just think it's important that we be as accurate as possible if residency is going to be an issue in people's minds.Evan, in the interest of disclosure, are you running Val's campaign for the appointment?

Legally, as accurate as possible means reflecting the fact that Bordsen had to have lived in Alamance County for the entire duration of her tenure in the State House representing that district, meaning she had to have lived there from at least 2001-2013 (she was first elected in 2002, so including the one year residency requirement, that's 2001).That means IF Bordsen did, as you suggest, live in Orange County at some point in the past, she had not actively lived here in over 12 years. A lot has changed in our community since then, so I think your arguments about prior residency (if such is true) are not "accurate" in this case. 

I'm not sure what "legally" means in this context, either, since as you note there does not appear to be any legal barrier to Alice Bordsen being appointed. I'm not advocating for her; as I mention above, if I had a vote, I'd vote for Mark Chilton (though like most of the rest of the roughly 200,000 people in the 23rd District, I don't have a vote). If there's no legal requirement, I don't know why you would consider it inaccurate to mention that someone has lived here previously.


That's correct, as Valerie's campaign manager in 2012, I am helping her in this process. 


Mark would be a great choice for Ellie's position.  I heartily endorse.

Mark is a solid progressive and an effective, accessible leader.  I served with him on the Chapel Hill Town Council 20 years ago, and was arrested with him at Moral Monday two months ago.  I have great confidence in his ability to represent both counties in our Senate district.

The only thing he might possibly be missing is that second X chromosome. 

Go Mark!

James Protzman

PS  I'm not saying it should be a litmus test, but I will say that a willingness to go to jail for justice (on Moral Monday) represents the kind of commitment I'm looking for in our next Senator.

Let me first state how satisfying it feels to have so many great choices for this seat.  I hope that Mark is selected.  Mark is smart, knowledgeable, committed, and strongly supportive of progressive causes and social justice.  Also, I find Mark to be very persuasive communicator which I think will result in him being a successful and productive senator for years to come. As an aside, it would be particularly satisfying to see, after recently being escorted out of the GA under arrest, to have Mark return to be sworn in.

* waves frantically from down there south someplace* Thanks to Eric Muller for remembering that the district includes Chatham. 

Obviously the favorite from Chatham would have probably been Rep. Deb McManus, who voiced her support for Valerie Foushee today. Any other potential candidates from Chatham? Perhaps Randy Voller, Pittsboro Mayor and NCDP Chair, will explore it.  

I think the fact that the Chatham DP has equal seats on the district committee is interesting, and that those seats are not currently filled is especially interesting at the moment.



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