The newest member of the General Assembly is Democrat Deb Butler of Wilmington. Butler was chosen to fill the vacancy left by retiring incumbent Susi Hamilton, who left to become Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources in Roy Cooper’s administration. The choice was made by Butler’s fellow Democrats, who selected her out of a wide field that included former State Senate candidate Andrew Barnhill. Butler will now represent District 18, which includes northern Brunswick Party and the downtown Wilmington area.

While Hamilton was perceived as more of a moderate who at times was willing to work with the GOP-controlled GOP assembly, Butler is perceived as a much more combative liberal. An attorney by trade, Butler lost a heated State Senate race against GOP incumbent Thom Goolsby.

Also of note is the fact that Butler is a lesbian, which would make her the second openly LGBT member of the current General Assembly, joining Cecil Brockman, Representative from Greensboro. LGBT members who have served in the past include Rep. Marcus Brandon and Rep. Chris Sgro, both from Greensboro, and State Sen. Julia Boseman, from Wilmington. The number of gay legislators coming from those counties might make one think that those are bastions of social liberalism – but nope, both Guilford and New Hanover voted against Amendment 1 (albeit narrowly) in 2012.

Republicans will have a difficult time ousting Butler in 2018. The voters of District 18 elected Rep. Hamilton by a 61%-39% margin and gave Hillary Clinton 57% of the vote last November.


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