The 2014 elections season began earlier this week with filings by candidates … and a few surprises. Sen Austin Allran, the longest-serving senator in the General Assembly, announced he will not seek re-election. Allran kept a low profile during his 17 terms, but his Catawba County and area constituents embraced his conservative philosophy and that support never wavered. Rep. Andy Wells of Hickory immediately announced he will seek to replace Allran. Wells, a real estate developer, is one of the few business executives in the Legislature.
The winter storm arrived during the first week of filings and slowed traffic to the elections offices. The exception was the continued traffic of House members seeking to replace Congressman Mel Watt in the 12th District. Three members of the House Black Caucus, including veteran Alma Adams of Greensboro, have launched campaigns for the Charlotte-to-Greensboro minority district.
ALL ABOUT TEACHERS
Gov. Pat McCrory and Legislative leader held a news conference in Greensboro this week to lay out a plan for raising the salaries for starting teachers. Their proposal would raise starting salaries 10 percent over the next five years. Increases for veteran teachers were not in the plan. In the meantime, the prestigious Emerging Issues Forum chaired by former Gov. Jim Hunt was convening in Raleigh. The news conference was broadcast to 1,200 business executives, teachers, and local government leaders. The response at the conference was less than enthusiastic. Hunt has called for bringing N.C. teachers to the national level in five years.
Education is the largest part of the state’s $22 billion budget. Unless revenues reach unexpected levels, money for teacher raises will have to come from new taxes (unlikely) or appropriations to other agencies. Let the battles begin.
When the 2015 Legislature convenes, perhaps 80 percent will have served less than three terms. Veterans from both parties have said no to another term.The old way of working your way up to a senior leadership position is fading. Rep. Thom Tillis had three terms under his belt when elected House Speaker. Many of the newcomers have an agenda and are focused. They are not inclined to “go along to get along.” At this time, 12 House members and two senators are not returning.