Chapel Hill Town Council member Allen Buansi announced on Sept. 27 that he intends to run for the N.C. House seat that will be left vacant by N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, in 2022.
Insko, the longest-serving House Democrat currently in the chamber, said last month that she will retire in December 2022.
Buansi has served on the Chapel Hill Town Council since 2017, and his term will end later this year. He will not be running for reelection to the Town Council.
“I feel like I’m well equipped to take my service to the state House and to serve our districts in a really effective way because of that experience,” Buansi said.
Buansi said his childhood was defined by the time he spent reading about Charles Houston, Shirley Chisholm and Thurgood Marshall — three influential figures in the Civil Rights Movement.
“They operated in a time when things were very bleak, especially for people of color in America,” Buansi said. “They saw fit to work towards a vision of a society, of a country that was equal, equitable and offered opportunities for everyone.”
As an adult, Buansi has taken an active role in advocating for racial equity in Chapel Hill. From 2015 to 2017, Buansi served on the Executive Board of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, and he has also worked as an attorney-fellow with the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
During his time on the Town Council, Buansi — alongside council member Karen Stegman and Mayor Pro Tempore Michael Parker — worked to implement Chapel Hill’s Criminal Justice Debt Program, an initiative that helps low-income individuals struggling to pay court costs.
“We have a crisis when it comes to excessive court fees and costs, and it has the effect of saddling a lot of low-income and working-class people with debts that they can't pay,” Buansi said. “That’s just not fair, that’s just not right.”
Buansi also worked with the Town Council to adopt a resolution to improve racial equity and public safety. The resolution implemented a ban on chokeholds in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and ended regulatory traffic stops by the Chapel Hill Police Department.
“He has been really a fierce advocate for folks who have typically been marginalized and underrepresented in our community,” Parker said. “He really met the moment and exhibited leadership when leadership was important.”
Buansi’s campaign for the N.C. House is focused on three foundational ideas: affordability, accessibility and inclusivity.
“I'm committed to a vision of our state, of our community, that is affordable, accessible, inclusive of all — a society that is actively working to fight climate change and to make things better for our children and our children's children,” Buansi said.
In order to achieve these goals, Buansi said he has several plans he would implement should he be elected. Among them was a plan to devolve more power to local authorities.
“Affordable housing is certainly an area where we can be expanding our statutory framework to free up our local governments to provide more and more housing for our people,” Buansi said.
He said climate and environmental issues, too, can be addressed in this way.
“We have worsening storms that are coming our way, with every passing year,” Buansi said. “We need to be able to have our local governments do what they can to create standards and regulations to protect folks.”
Buansi said he remains committed to fighting injustice and inequality in Orange County. His campaign promises to empower overlooked communities and to combat all forms of discrimination, according to his website.
For UNC students like Stefano Dongowski, this focus on racial equity is necessary at all levels of governance.
“To make meaningful change, it takes a perspective that you haven’t experienced,” Dongowski said. “I think diversity is a key issue in all politics.”
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