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Saturday May 21st

Noah Lieberman goes to Raleigh

A UNC senior enters the political scene

Noah Lieberman is a UNC senior running for the N.C. House of  
Buy Photos Noah Lieberman is a UNC senior running for the N.C. House of Representatives.

The twist: as Lieberman finishes his math and political science majors, he’s also preparing to campaign against three-term incumbent Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenberg, for the N.C. House of Representatives.

Defying claims that millennials are politically naive, Lieberman, from Charlotte, said he’s got what it takes.

“I think it’s just a matter of me getting out to the voters and letting them know that despite — or because of — my age, I can look at the government through a new set of eyes and fight to make it work for them,” he said.

Lieberman said the N.C. General Assembly’s Republican majority has become a closed-off monolith rather than a conduit for the people’s interests.

“But the point of being elected a representative isn’t to represent your views or the views of your base — it’s to represent the best interest of the whole district and ultimately the whole state,” he said.

Brawley’s supporters might assume his role as Finance Committee senior chairperson for the N.C. House would benefit the local economy. But Lieberman said the state has lagged behind the national average for recession recovery.

He said renewed dedication to public education and sustainable energy could revive the economy.

“The reason we became a leader in business for the South was because we had the best quality of living, and that started with our public education system first and foremost,” he said. “We have to reinvest in that.”

Lieberman’s mom, Katya Lezin, remembers early signs of her son’s public service bent. In elementary school, he tagged along to a nighttime panel of school board candidates and asked one a question.

“I still laugh about this ‘cause the candidate gave this very political — you know — not-really-saying-anything-at-all answer, and then at the end of it he said, ‘Does that answer your question?’ And little Noah was like, ‘Mmm, no, not really!’” she said.

From there, Lieberman jumped into a Charlotte county commission campaign for Dan Murray in 2008 and has worked on a government campaign or project every year since then.

Lieberman said he decided to run after voting in the 2012 and 2014 elections and seeing only one name on the state house representative ballot — Bill Brawley.

“It just sort of struck me as defeating the point of having this great American democracy if you don’t have a chance to express your disapproval,” he said.

He checked with convention officials, he said, and then talked it over with his parents.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s crunched the numbers, he’s not just doing this on a lark,” Lezin said. “He really thinks that in an election year it’s a viable possibility.”

Lieberman’s mom’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer at the end of his junior year of high school reaffirmed his ambitions.

“To see your mom, the rock of your life, go through chemotherapy, to see such a strong woman become weakened physically, is a really hard thing to go through,” he said. “My mom’s always been the carpe diem person of the family. I think that right now, running for office, it’s sort of the thing of trying to embrace her thing.”

The experience introduced Lieberman to cancer patients who couldn’t afford treatment they would have received had the General Assembly expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“It really made me more aware of ... when you’re putting the life and well-being of another person, when you make that a political battle, how trivial it all becomes,” he said.

With only three classes Tuesdays and Thursdays and his honors thesis already revised, Lieberman plans to commute home for weekends to reach out to constituents and return to Chapel Hill Monday evenings.

His campaign staff — many core members of which are also UNC students — will lighten the load. Nick Neuteufel, the campaign communications director, met Lieberman through a first-year roommate, Ryan Rosenberg, who is also his policy adviser for the campaign.

“I feel like Noah and I would have become friends no matter the odds or circumstances,” Neuteufel said. “We are both passionate about politics, statistics and public service.”

He said staff meet weekly to plan grassroots outreach for the March 15 primaries.

“We’re going to be knocking on doors, spreading our message on guaranteed family leave, improving public schools and expanding Medicaid,” Neuteufel said.

Family and friends also help on an informal basis, but Lezin said she doesn’t advise her son much — other than nagging him to write thank you notes.

“I definitely think it’s an all-hands-on-deck thing,” she said.

And in his spare time, Lieberman likes to cook.

“He’ll call me and be like, mom, the seafood store has a special on fresh calamari — and I’m like, Noah, that’s really hard to make,” Lezin said. “A few hours later he’ll send me a photo: cleaned, gutted, fried with a home-made spicy aioli. His girlfriend tells me that she’s very happy with his culinary skills.”

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