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Seven vie for Kinnaird’s place in Senate

A committee of four Democrats will nominate Ellie Kinnaird’s successor.

Just a week after Ellie Kinnaird resigned from the N.C. Senate seat where she represented Orange County for 17 years, seven new contenders from a patchwork of different backgrounds stepped up to fill it.

But the vote to select her successor, set for the first week of September, could be pushed back to October because party members have other obligations, said Matt Hughes, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party. An executive committee comprised of four Democrats from Orange and Chatham counties will nominate Kinnaird’s replacement.

If Gov. Pat McCrory does not take action within five days of the vote, the candidate will be automatically appointed.

The names entered into the ring include Rep. Valerie Foushee, D-Orange; Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton Alice Bordsen”, a former representative for Alamance County; Amy Tiemann, an author and media producer; attorney Heidi Chapman; attorney M. Lynette Hartsell and Jim Porto, a former Carrboro mayor. Kinnaird has said that she wants a woman to take her seat, and she recommended her long-time friend Bordsen to the party officials.

But the other candidates are still lining up for her seat.

As a current state representative, Foushee said she will work just as hard if appointed to the Senate seat.

But like most of the candidates, Foushee said she understands how difficult it will be as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated legislature.

“It is frustrating, but we have to continue to fight, and we have to do what we think is best for our district,” she said.

Tiemann, who is also co-owner of Manifold Recording in Pittsboro, has worked with Planned Parenthood, Carolina Performing Arts and the UNC Sexual Assault Task Force. She said she wants to reclaim the Democratic majority in the N.C. General Assembly as quickly as possible.

“We definitely need to look ahead in the party and build the next generation of leaders, and I really want to be at the forefront of that effort,” she said.

Tiemann said if appointed to the seat, she would speak up for women’s rights and voter participation. She would also call for more investment in the education budget for K-12, community colleges and the UNC system.

In order to get legislation passed in a partisan state legislature, she said she wants to present arguments in a way that is pro-business and pro-employees.

“Business owners want clean air, clean water and good schools, just as much as everyone else does,” Tiemann said.

And potentially following in the footsteps of Kinnaird, who served as the mayor of Carrboro for four terms starting in 1987, both Chilton and Porto are in the running.

Porto served as the mayor of Carrboro from 1983 to 1987 and is now an assistant professor in the UNC School of Public Health . He said if elected, he does not intend to seek re-election after his term.

“I want to spend one year doing all I can do,” he said. “I’d leave it a clean slate for people who want to run.”

But during the short legislative session that starts in May, Porto said he would want to raise awareness of the effects of “short-sighted” legislation from the last session.

Unlike many of the candidates, Hartsell, an attorney, has no political experience.

“I don’t have any of the political powerhouses behind me,” she said. Hartsell said her primary goal is to give underrepresented groups a greater voice.

“With the voter ID laws and with the redistricting, I see more of politics than an honest aboveboard effort to see all the voices heard,” she said.

Potential candidates have the opportunity to submit their names up until the vote, Hughes said.

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