Redistricting and Retirement Opens Forsyth Legislative Races

YES! Weekly | February 16, 2012
When Gov. Bev Perdue issued a statement on Jan. 26 that she would not seek re-election, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines was inundated with e-mails, text messages and phone calls from friends, colleagues and supporters.

Joines said he heard from a number of Winston-Salem residents as well as fellow board members of the NC Economic Development Board. Joines serves as chairman of the board, which oversees state economic development research and planning and makes policy recommendations to Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, Perdue and the General Assembly. The message was clear: Joines’ friends and supporters urged him to seriously consider running for governor.

“I said, ‘Let me just step back and think about it,’” Joines recalled. “It was intriguing and flattering, but I decided I would take a couple of days and think through it.”

Four days after Perdue’s announcement, Joines issued a press release and ended the suspense.

“I am very honored to have received the numerous messages, phone calls and comments supporting my consideration of seeking the Governor’s Office,” Joines stated. “However, it is clear to me that serving as mayor of the city of Winston-Salem is a privilege and honor in itself. Our community has made good progress in rebuilding its economy, but there is more work to be done. I want to be a part of these efforts; therefore, I will not run for governor.”

Joines, a Democrat, was first elected mayor in 2001. He said it was just too difficult to walk away from the mayor’s office after investing more than a decade in the job. He said there are three or four transformational economic development projects in the works that could bring thousands of jobs to Winston-Salem over the next decade.

“I was looking at the mayor’s job — what we’ve done so far and what’s left on the drawing board so to speak — and I just got to thinking, ‘We’ve really been working hard on those things,’” he said. “I’d like to leave the office at some point and say, ‘We really got the city in the right direction for the future.’”

“It’s hard to let go of this mayor’s thing,” he added. “It’s enjoyable and impactful.”

Joines also said the prospect of having to spend four to six hours a day on the phone making calls to try to raise millions of dollars for a gubernatorial campaign was extremely “daunting.”

“The dollars are the driving force of [politics],” he said. “It’s almost obscene the amount of money it takes to [campaign for statewide office].”

Another attraction to staying on as the mayor of Winston-Salem is a cohesive city council, Joines said, although the composition of the council could change before the municipal elections next year.

This week, Winston-Salem City Councilman James Taylor announced he is running to represent the redrawn NC Senate District 32 currently held by Sen. Linda Garrou. Under statewide redistricting, Garrou was drawn out of the district she has represented for seven terms.

In a press release, Taylor outlined his campaign platform, saying he will focus on creating jobs, making investments in education, public safety and improving the state’s aging infrastructure.

Taylor, a Democrat elected to city council in 2009, said he would work across party lines to get things done in Raleigh.

“Rather than spend time on those things that divide people and have little impact on our quality of life, we need to tackle the tough issues that all of us feel in our lives every day,” Taylor said in a statement. “These are difficult issues that cannot be solved by one party or the other, but need to be addressed by all of us working together.”

Other major shifts in the Forsyth political landscape have taken place in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Rep. Bill McGee (R-Forsyth) announced he would not seek re-election and Donny Lambeth, the Republican chairman of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, said he plans on running for the NC House District 75 seat.

Last month, Bill Whiteheart, a member of the Forsyth County Commission, announced he would run for the seat in House District 79. After announcing he would not seek re-election in District 74, Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) announced on Jan. 17 that he plans on running for lieutenant governor. Forsyth County Commissioner Debra Conrad and Larry Brown, both Republicans, have announced plans to run for the vacated District 74 seat.

will challenge fellow Republican NC Rep. Larry Brown (R-Forsyth) for the District 74 seat. Brown currently represents District 73, which was eliminated during redistricting.

NC Rep. Larry Womble’s re-election status remains unclear due to his involvement in a head-on car crash last December that left him in critical condition. Womble was released from Baptist Medical Center earlier this week.

Taylor said he decided to run for Senate due in large part to Garrou being drawn out of her district and Womble’s serious health concerns.

“It is unfortunate that, at this point in time, it appears that two of our most effective representatives may not be returning to Raleigh to stand up for our county and fight for the issues that are important to the majority of the people in the 32nd District,” Taylor said.

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