Orange County just gained an excellent Senator in Valerie Foushee. With a background that differs in some ways from the county’s dominant wing, Foushee adds useful functions to their political toolbox. As a liberal pragmatist, Foushee provides welcome geographical and temperamental–not to mention demographic–diversity to the district.

Foushee’s background prepares her well for service in the Senate. For over two decades, she was a law enforcement administrator for the Town of Chapel Hill. This is a promising combination given today’s issues. It means she understands the threat posed by crime but eschews the punitive zeal of the law-and-order right. As a public sector manager, she knows how to navigate government–an important skill in a state where inefficiency causes perpetual headaches. By contrast, she took part in a successful operation: Chapel Hill’s bureaucracies might meet the standards of the French civil service.

Despite her residence in Chapel Hill, Foushee represented the outlying District 50 in the House. The area, which includes unincorporated Orange County, has often gone neglected by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro establishment. In a move that exposed large holes in the town’s progressive self-image, affluent Chapel Hill voted against sharing tax revenue with the underfunded schools of the rest of Orange. Having represented these poor regions, Foushee won’t allow such parochialism to influence her agenda.

None of this is to say that Foushee is some kind of Blue Dog. To the contrary, she holds liberal positions on all the important issues. She supports abortion rights and wants to reverse the Republican education cuts. Importantly for a successor of Kinnaird, she opposes capital punishment. Thus Foushee’s pragmatism compliments, rather than contradicts, the liberalism of her new district.

So from an enviable list of candidates, the OCDP selected the best option. Valerie Foushee represents an impressive synthesis of liberal and moderate, rural and metropolitan. When the Democrats take back the legislature, she stands a chance of giving the state’s most liberal county more influence than ever before. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a woman of color representing so many white voters, rather than the reverse.

Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.

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