Last week, the riveting and explosive testimony at the State Board of Elections hearing on NC-09 sucked the wind out of all other political news. It threatened to do so again when former failed governor Pat McCrory started talking about the new election in the district. Instead of an announcement of candidacy, though, he says he’s taking a pass. I guess hearing yourself uncontested on the radio is more rewarding than hearing the widespread ridicule he received as governor.
Some big news that was mostly overlooked was Wake County Commission Chair Jessica Holmes’ announcement that she’s running for Commissioner of Labor. Holmes is widely seen as a rising star in the party. She’s been an impressive commissioner and brings a compelling story in addition to experience as a labor lawyer.
Holmes brings substantial political resources to the race, too. As a former staff attorney for the North Carolina Association of Educators, she likely brings the support of the state’s largest teachers organization. She will also likely attract the financial support of NCAE’s parent organization, the NEA. That support could also attract additional money from labor organizations, giving Holmes the money to get her message out.
Holmes also brings continuing diversity to the state ticket that Governor Roy Cooper will lead. As an African-American woman, she ensures that the Democrats’ most loyal base of supporters is represented in Council of State races. That could help Democratic candidates both up and down the ballot.
Despite making up over 20% of the state’s population, only one African-American, former State Auditor, the late Ralph Campbell, has been elected to a Council of State seat since Reconstruction. It’s time for that to change. Republicans complain that Democrats are obsessed with race, but that misses the point. Democrats believe diversity of perspectives matter. No white politician can fully appreciate the struggles of overcoming poverty and discrimination as a poor African-American in rural North Carolina. That’s an important perspective that’s largely missing at the highest levels of state government. Holmes’ candidacy could change that.