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V O T I N G G U I D E I N S I D E : P. 1 8 Raleigh | Durham | Chapel Hill October 14, 2020

Vote them out * THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

Your vote matters. The future of American democracy depends on it.

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Vote for Yvonne Lewis Holley, p. 9

VOL. 37 NO. 38

CONTENTS ENDORSEMENTS 6 8 9 12 18 20 22 24 25

2020 Endorsements Introduction U.S. Senate and House N.C. Council of State N.C. State Legislature Voter Guides Judicial Elections Municipal Elections Vote Yes on the Raleigh Housing Bond A Note on Uncontested Races

CULTURE 27 The everlasting relevance of It Can't Happen Here. BY BYRON WOODS 28 Amazon and Blumhouse partner for a new horror series. BY RYAN VU AND MARTA NÚÑEZ POUZOLS

30 The Dean of North Carolina Rock Critics pens a landmark music history. BY BRIAN HOWE

MUSIC 32 Mipso and Owen Fitzgerald, reviewed. BY SPENCER GRIFFITH AND GRANT GOLDEN

THE REGULARS 4 A Week in the Life

COVER Design by Annie Maynard and Jon Fuller

WE M A DE THIS PUBLI S HE R Susan Harper

Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald

EDIT ORI A L

Digital Content Manager Sara Pequeño

Interim Editor in Chief Brian Howe Raleigh News Editor Leigh Tauss Interim A+C Editor Sarah Edwards Interim News Editor Eric Ginsburg

Theater+Dance Critic Byron Woods Voices Columnists T. Greg Doucette, Chika Gujarathi, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Courtney Napier, Barry Saunders, Jonathan Weiler

Contributors Jim Allen, Will Atkinson, Paul Blest, Jameela F. Dallis, Michaela Dwyer, Lena Geller, Spencer Griffith, Howard Hardee, Laura Jaramillo, Kyesha Jennings, Drew Millard, Glenn McDonald, Josephine McRobbie, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Neil Morris, James Michael Nichols, Marta Nuñez Pouzols, Bryan C. Reed, Dan Ruccia, David Ford Smith, Eric Tullis, Michael Venutolo-Mantovani, Chris Vitiello, Ryan Vu

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October 14, 2020

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BACK TA L K

The Bull City’s struggle with racial inequality isn’t that simple, and other things our readers told us this week.

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October 14, 2020

INDYweek.com

10/6 10/8

Nonprofit talent identification program DUKE TIP, a division of Duke University, announces that it will lay off 75 employees, effective January 6. The program stated that the decision was “a direct result of COVID-19.”

10/9

At a press conference, Senate hopeful CAL CUNNINGHAM dodges repeated questions about whether there are more extramarital-affair skeletons in his closet, stating that North Carolinians are tired of hearing about “personal issues.”

10/10

indyweek.com backtalk@indyweek.com @IndependentWeekly @indyweek

UNC-Chapel Hill sociologist, writer, and public scholar TRESSIE MCMILLAN COTTOM is named as a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

North Carolina sees an increase in COVID-19 CASES for the third day in a row, with a statewide case total of 229,752. This spike includes a recent rise in K-12 cases.

10/11

WANT TO SEE YOUR NAME IN BOLD?

(Here’s what’s happened since the INDY went to press last week)

The TOWER AT MUTUAL PLAZA—previous headquarters of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and one of Durham’s most recognizable buildings—is sold in a foreclosure auction to New York real estate company Turnbridge Equities for $37.2 million.

10/12

Last week, Jeremy Borden wrote about tensions within the Durham People’s Alliance, a progressive PAC that has held influence in the city’s politics since the 1970s. The story delves into fractions between the groups old guard and a newer slate of progressive candidates entering the fold. Here’s the feedback we got from our readers: “It’s not exclusively a white issue with the idea of progression in the city,” writes CHARLES KELLEY of Durham. “There are blacks and gays willing to undermine their own cause in order to gain privilege into these types of organizations. I’m a gay black male and I’ve experienced this type of push back from whites, blacks and gays alike. Money is a pretty powerful persuader and I think most people would be shocked at what even they themselves would do to have a piece of that type of privilege. A lot of us would like to think that we are better than that but the only way you will truly know is if you’re put to the test to see how far you would actually go to be in a position of power and privilege. I’m not condoning the actions of this organization but I am saying we all need to dig deeper to find answers and solutions that seem straight forward but may create issues that we’re too short sighted to see.” Other expressed their disappointment in the group. “Breaks my heart,” writes Twitter user TODD CUDDINGTON. “Durham is progressive, and needs to go further. I thought better of DPA. The contribution part is damning too.” “An absolute circle-jerk going on here!” says Facebook user JENCY MARKHAM.

A WE E K IN THE L IFE

Senate confirmation hearings begin for Supreme Court nominee AMY CONEY BARRETT. Less than two weeks after his COVID-19 diagnosis, PRESIDENT TRUMP resumes campaigning and appears at a packed rally in Central Florida. “I feel so powerful,” he told the crowd. “I’ll walk into that audience. I’ll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience.” A SurveyUSA poll finds that CAL CUNNINGHAM’S ODDS have improved by 7 percent since last week’s revelations—which included news of an extramarital affair for Cunningham, and a COVID-19 diagnosis for Tillis— with Cunningham holding a 49-39 percent lead over Tillis. Governor Roy Cooper declares October 12 INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S DAY, a proclamation honoring North Carolina’s eight indigenous tribes.


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Vote them out * I

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

t’s hard to see a silver lining these days. We knew dark times were ahead when President Donald Trump assumed office in 2017. We knew he would shovel conservative justices onto the Supreme Court, though few people predicted how thoroughly he and Mitch McConnell would remake the federal court system with young Federalist Society acolytes. We knew that a Republican-dominated Congress would churn out tax cuts for the rich and work to undo the Affordable Care Act to benefit of private health-care insurers. We knew he’d try to build a wall and demonize immigrants and expand on the immigration-detention system built for him by Bush and Obama. But on this issue and many others, Trump went further, separating children—babies, even—from their parents and families as a form of punishment. Over time, the opposition to Trump has become numb to the perpetual outrage. With each new low, we lowered our expectations. But almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic toppled any sense of complacency or normalcy. Millions of workers either lost their jobs or were faced with the impossible choice of going broke or risking their health. Schools closed, businesses shuttered, and more than 215,000 people died because of the worst-run pandemic response in the entire world. The long-term effects of those stricken with this illness are still unknown. Then, over the summer, cities, suburbs, and small towns everywhere exploded in protests calling for an end to systemic racism as heavily armed rightwing extremists marched through the streets. But so far, we’ve seen little in the way of concrete action from most elected officials and outright hostility to anything resembling justice from the Trump administration on down to North Carolina’s Republican-run state legislature.

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October 14, 2020

INDYweek.com

Your vote matters. The future of American democracy depends on it.

BY PAUL BLEST AND LEIGH TAUSS

We’re not going to sugar-coat this: The Democratic Party is not going to fix all of these problems. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, the two Democratic names at the top of this year’s ballot, think in terms of incrementalism rather than revolution, and sometimes the increments move backward rather than forward. Biden wasn’t our top choice by any stretch of the imagination. Bernie Sanders would have fought for a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, while Elizabeth Warren would have wielded her authority to tackle monopolies and the worst excesses of capitalism. All of these things are unlikely under a Biden term. But Biden’s election would stop the bleeding in several key areas, from climate change and immigration to raising the minimum wage. Cunningham is even less perfect—in fact, recent revelations of an extramarital affair confirmed through cringe-worthy text messages reveal a nauseating level of hubris and stupidity. It’s hard to feel great about him even if we know he’ll reliably vote the party line. His nomination is yet another example of Democrats in Washington throwing their support behind the kind of candidate they believe North Carolinians want rather than one who will tackle the problems that plague people here and everywhere—poverty, racial injustice, instability, and more. But the outcome of these two races atop the ballot of our swing state holds outsize sway. North Carolina could be the tipping state in terms of control of the White House and the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim majority. In other words, we’re poised to once again play a pivotal role in the direction of our country. And while it’s easy to feel like there are no great choices this election, look further down the ballot, and you’ll see that’s not

the case. In the gubernatorial race, Roy Cooper has been a steady hand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his vetoes have helped stop a runaway General Assembly from enacting some of the worst impulses of the right. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest is leaving his post to run for governor, and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry is retiring. We have an opportunity to replace these Republicans with two highly qualified candidates, Yvonne Lewis Holley and Jessica Holmes, who would also make history as the first Black women ever to serve on North Carolina’s Council of State. The General Assembly is also on the ballot, something few of us need to be reminded of. Since taking control of the legislature a decade ago, Republicans have written bigotry and inequality into state law, and because of gerrymandering, they’ve done so with little worry about electoral consequences. Democrats have promised to implement an independent redistricting commission to draw fair districts that actually reflect our see-saw political leanings, as well as to expand Medicaid and raise teacher pay. The state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are also on the ballot, with Chief Justice Cheri Beasley— one of the most forceful voices for racial justice on any bench anywhere in the country—leading a group of Democratic judges to provide a crucial check on the right-wing politics of the last 10 years and try to reorient the justice system toward something that actually resembles justice. And finally, there are a slew of local races—from county boards all the way down to soil and water district supervisor—and an affordable-housing bond in Raleigh, which may have the biggest impact on your everyday life. It’s easy to feel disillusioned right now. There’s been a coordinated, well-funded effort to make you feel disconnected from the political process for a long time. A lot of us can’t help but feel worn down by it, especially since there’s so much else going on in our lives. But at the very least, this election could serve as an outright rejection of so much of what has plagued us in this young century: inequality, corruption, authoritarianism, fascism, the vilification of those who fight it, and more. It could strengthen existing movements and create the conditions for organizing new ones. It could prove that we can and should demand more from our politics and political establishment. Joe Biden can’t save us. Cal Cunningham can’t save us. Only we can save us. And in this election, our best chance at survival is to get rid of Donald Trump and Thom Tillis forever. Vote them out, and vote democracy back in.

CONTRIBUTORS: Paul Blest (PB) Thomasi McDonald (TM)

Drew Millard (DM) Leigh Tauss (LT)


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U N I T E D

S TAT E S

Senate & House

U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 2

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

U. S . S E N AT E

Cal Cunningham (D) You don’t have to like Cal Cunningham right now. The recklessness it takes to engage in a sophomoric text affair midway through one of the most expensive and consequential Senate races in the country, combined with the scripted cowardice with which he’s skirted answering for it, are character flaws that undermine the trust required of public servants. His carefully curated Southern gentility always rang a bit false, but the INDY swallowed our reservations for the sake of practicality during the primary (though in retrospect, his rival, Erica Smith, who has been busy endorsing Republicans, wouldn’t have been a great choice, either). It’s hard to like him. It’s hard to trust him. It’s hard to choose him. The calculation that Cunningham was the “chosen one” was made by party heavyweights in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who felt he was the safe bet over Smith, and so far, he’s raised more than $28 million in his bid to unseat Thom Tillis. Though we weren’t entirely sold on him, we bought into the argument of practicality in the primary and wagered on not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Too much is on the line—the future of democracy, Mitch McConnell’s chances of retaining Senate Majority Leader, and whether Republicans succeed in enshrining a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Tillis is a Trump loyalist so diehard he’d do anything to please the president, including catching the coronavirus. On a policy level, he’s everything we stand against—a climate-change denier who has stood in the way of LGBTQ rights and wants to make it harder for women to have access to health care (see: abortion). But on a more basic level, he’s a spineless shill willing to throw principle out the door to kiss the party ring and maintain power. Even Cunningham can do better than that. We’re not sure what Cunningham can do to win back the public’s trust, but we think radical honesty could go a long way. Take the public beating and instead of performing through it, try to learn something. And if you arrive in that seat in Washington, we invite you to shut up and listen to the women around you. Vote with them and for them. Keep that precious seat warm and count the days until you can pass it along to someone who deserves it. —LT 8

October 14, 2020

INDYweek.com

Deborah Ross (D) North Carolina’s District 2 is one of two that now lean Democratic in this latest iteration of our ever-changing electoral maps, so incumbent Republican Representative George Holding just decided to retire instead of running again. Deborah Ross—a former director of the state ACLU who served in the legislature for 10 years and ran as the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016—was a natural pick to run in the new district. Ross was a good legislator, and her politics are firmly in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, though she’s likely to be more progressive on civil liberties and civil rights issues given her experience. Her Republican opponent, Alan Swain, is a retired veteran who worked in the Bush and Clinton administrations. He’s anti-choice, wants more money for cops, and says he’ll be a “strong advocate for school choice.” We’ll see what happens to this seat in 2021, but for now, Ross is a good choice to represent the district. —PB

U.S. HOUSE DISTRICT 4

David Price (D) North Carolina Democratic Party heavyweight David Price faces a challenge from staunch Trump supporter Robert Thomas. Price, 80, has been a member of the U.S. Congress for 31 years and represents a district covering much of Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough. The son of two teachers, Price is a college professor who has authored four books and serves on the House appropriations and budget committees. The veteran lawmaker says education is a priority and that he has been a strong supporter of expanding Pell Grants, lower student-loan interest rates, and loan forgiveness. If re-elected, he will prioritize affordable housing and continue his efforts to create a more diverse and sustainable transportation system. Thomas did not respond to the INDY questionnaire. According to his website, he supports the wall Trump wants to build on the Southern border and the Second Amendment. He says he’s running to subtract “one of Nancy Pelosi’s soldiers” from the House. This is an easy call for us—vote for Price, the pragmatic, experienced legislator. —TM


NORTH CAROLINA

Council of State

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

GOVERNOR

Roy Cooper (D) LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Yvonne Lewis Holley (D) Yvonne Lewis Holley is a lifelong North Carolinian who has served in the General Assembly for the last eight years. Holley touts her bipartisan work to address food deserts in low-income communities. She thinks college students who were forced to abandon their dorm rooms after COVID-19 outbreaks should be offered off-campus housing at reduced rates. Holley says the state should expand Medicaid along with strengthening and modifying the Affordable Care Act so that more residents can have access to health care. Holley sponsored a bill to help residents affected by the pandemic pay their rent and mortgage, and she wants to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. She supports raising the minimum wage, affordable housing, and initiatives to address the impact of climate change on the state. Holley also supports Black Lives Matter and calls for structural changes in the criminal justice system. Her opponent, Mark Robinson, is a Greensboro native and small-business owner who served in the U.S. Army reserves. Robinson did not submit a questionnaire to the INDY. But he has posted views on his Facebook page that raised five-bell alarms. In mid-March, Robinson opined that COVID-19 was a “globalist” conspiracy to destroy “the progress of American exceptionalism that this president has promised and delivered.” As previously reported by the INDY, Robinson’s love for Trump is surpassed only by his hatred of the Obamas, LGBTQ people, Muslims, Mitt Romney, and just about everyone else. Few candidates are as diametrically opposed to what the INDY stands for as Robinson. Luckily, we can wholeheartedly endorse Holley in her bid to be the state’s first Black lieutenant governor. —TM

In 2020, Roy Cooper went from being an OK governor to a pretty good one. After defeating Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in 2016, Cooper made good on his promise to repeal House Bill 2—the notorious anti-LBGTQ “bathroom bill”—but found his hands tied with Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate. That changed in 2018 when the Democrats’ modest gains were enough to give Cooper a veto, which he used to override Republican budgets stacked with corporate tax cuts instead of teacher pay hikes. He’s also vetoed bills that would have forced sheriffs to cooperate with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and concealed the investigation reports of people that die in police custody. More recently, he’s vetoed Republican attempts to force the state to reopen businesses such as amusement parks and gyms despite the ongoing public health crisis. To this end, Cooper has stepped up. He’s shown competence and moral fortitude amid the pandemic, as reflected by his 59 percent approval rating in a recent poll. The praise is well-deserved; to date, North Carolina’s battle with COVID19 has been relatively stable. Cases may not be going down, but they haven’t spiked at the rate of other Southern states like Florida and Georgia. Businesses bemoaned mandated closures, and the economy has taken a hit, but our hospitals never hit surge capacity, and the virus’s fatality rate here is nearly half that of South Carolina and Virginia. For that, we have Cooper to thank. His challenger, Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, is an anti-science, anti-LGBTQ Trump fanboy. We really don’t need to say much more. He championed HB 2 and believes “transgenderism is a feeling.” He opposes a statewide expansion of Medicaid. Ideologically, Forest is everything we stand against. But he’s also anti-common-sense: Forest has gone on record saying masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus and wants to push for the state to reopen immediately. Like Trump, he thinks North Carolina can will away the virus by returning to business as usual. He’s delusional, and his approach would endanger the lives of countless North Carolinians. Cooper’s main accomplishment these last four years has been what he’s able to prevent: a reckless Republican agenda. In his next term—fingers crossed, empowered by a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Council of State—we hope to see him achieve a statewide expansion of Medicaid and enact substantive policies to combat climate change. If he can do that, he’ll go from a good governor to a great one. —LT INDYweek.com

October 14, 2020

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NORTH CAROLINA

Council of State

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

S E C R E TA RY O F S TAT E

Elaine Marshall (D)

AT TO R N E Y G E N E R A L

Josh Stein (D) As a testament to Josh Stein’s rising political star, he was a top recruit of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to run against Senator Thom Tillis this year. He declined, and for good reason—should he decide to run, he’d be the Democratic frontrunner for governor in 2024. As Attorney General, Stein has been a national leader among the state attorneys general fighting the Trump administration. He’s sued the administration over family separation, the U.S. Postal Service slowdowns, a whole host of environmental issues including methane emissions and offshore drilling, and so on. Stein’s office also created a new sexual-assault-kit tracking system in 2018; in the space of a year, it logged more than 10,000 kits. Stein’s opponent this year is Republican Jim O’Neill, the Forsyth County district attorney. O’Neill, who ran for the nomination unsuccessfully in 2016, has recently been in the national spotlight. In July, he filed involuntary-manslaughter charges against five detention officers and a nurse who allegedly killed 56-year-old Black man John Neville, who told them he couldn’t breathe, while in county lockup in December 2019. But part of O’Neill’s pitch is that he would bring back the death penalty and “stand strong against rioting in N.C.,” which is code for cracking down on peaceful protests and opposing democratic agitation for racial justice. Stein has also said he supports the death penalty, which is frustrating, but the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006—let’s hope it stays that way. Stein gets our vote. —PB 10

October 14, 2020

INDYweek.com

A lot has changed in the Secretary of State’s office since Elaine Marshall was first elected in 1997. For starters, the internet. For more than two decades, Marshall has effectively helmed the department, kept there perhaps by an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2010 (which critics say wasn’t helped by rival Cal Cunningham demanding a runoff in the primary). Her loss is ostensibly our gain. Marshall has been a progressive advocate from her office, focusing on transparency and investing in the department’s employees. Her challenger is Republican E.C. Sykes, who for some reason is fixated on stopping undocumented immigrants from becoming public notaries. For us, this is the wrong priority. Marshall, on the other hand, has used her office to help small businesses secure PPP loans during the pandemic. She also hopes to bolster cybersecurity by investing in software and training to help businesses avoid identity theft and fraud. Sykes criticizes Marshall for maintaining the status quo, but in our estimation, there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken. We want to see Marshall continue to bring innovation to the Secretary of State’s office rather than partisan politics. —LT

TREASURER

Ronnie Chatterji (D) On paper, there are few more qualified candidates than Ronnie Chatterji, whose career spans the public and private sectors. As an academic, he chaired Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and served as a senior economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisors, helping to craft policies to lift America out of the Great Recession through tax cuts for small business and investment in local economic development. He’s also served on the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Council, helping to guide strategic investments in transportation. To revamp North Carolina’s economy, Chatterji takes a smart approach; for one, he’s in favor of expanding the state’s Medicaid program and is willing to throw the weight of his office behind it (the state is the single biggest health care provider in the state). He also wants to focus on revamping the state’s retirement system with better investment strategies while also encouraging individuals to save for retirement. Republican Dale Folwell isn’t a terrible treasurer; in the last four years, he’s managed the department effectively enough. But he’s let his ideology leak into his fiscal policy, namely with the exclusion of treatments for gender dysphoria from the state’s health plan, which previously included it. Folwell has previously said covering the treatments, which cost less than $850,000, is fiscally irresponsible, but it accounts for just a fraction of a percent of the state’s $3.3 billion healthcare plan. In our questionnaire, he dodged our question on the topic, citing pending litigation. Chatterji supports funding such treatment for gender dysphoria and promised to restore funding for it immediately if elected. For that, he’s gained the support of Equality NC. He gets our support too, and we hope he can bring fresh ideas to this department that result in smarter investments in the state’s future. —LT

S TAT E AU D I TO R

Beth Wood (D) In more than a decade as state auditor, Democrat Beth Wood has become one of the chief reasons why anything in this state works at all. The North Carolina native leads an office that caught the Department of Agriculture allowing dairy farmers to label their milk Grade A despite the presence of rodents and insects and generally unclean facilities. They found that Medicaid eligibility requirements were not consistent throughout the state and that in some counties, errors were made while processing as much as 25 percent of Medicaid applications. Wood helped uncover gross overspending by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission, revealing such disarray that the findings called the idea of a state monopoly on liquor stores into question. Her office’s audit of the Department of Transportation showed that the agency was under-budgeting in ways that failed the state’s residents. Most recently, she led an audit of North Carolina’s virtual public school system and found that it failed to live up to state standards for quality and rigor. She’s made her fair share of enemies across the state government, and in a job like hers, that’s a good thing. Meanwhile, her Republican opponent, Anthony Wayne Street, has a record of personal conduct that seems unbefitting of the position he seeks. The guy’s been accused of punching a man in the face, threatening to harm another man’s family if he didn’t give him money, and resisting arrest. And in 2018, Street was put on probation for stalking a woman. The choice couldn’t be clearer: Beth Wood has done more than enough to keep her job, so go ahead and vote for her. —DM


NORTH CAROLINA

Council of State

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE

Wayne Goodwin (D)

COMMISSIONER O F AG R I C U LT U R E

Jenna Wadsworth (D) Republican Steve Troxler has helmed the Department of Agriculture since 2004 when he narrowly clinched victory against Democrat Britt Cobb by a fraction of a percent. Since then, his margin of victory has steadily increased over Democratic challengers, as has his name recognition; he’s known as the face of the North Carolina State Fair, which draws millions of visitors to Raleigh each year. To his credit, Troxler made the hard but necessary call to cancel the fair this year due to safety concerns over COVID-19. But Troxler’s full repertoire doesn’t serve a progressive agenda—for instance, he thinks it’s cool that the Sons of Confederate Veterans pass out Confederate flags at the state fair and has used the First Amendment to defend the group. (He’s also taken their money through the N.C. Heritage PAC.) He’s also against marijuana legalization. We think someone like Jenna Wadsworth, a 31-year-old Democrat who has spent the last decade serving as Wake County’s Water and Soil District Supervisor, can bring the fresh perspective needed to modernize the state fair. Step one: Kick out the racists. Step two: Lift up small businesses and develop apps to make the fair’s ever-increasing culinary options easier to navigate. In addition, Wadsworth wants to use her platform to support immigrant farmworkers, legalize marijuana, address climate change, and disentangle corporate interests from the state’s environmental policy. If elected, she’d be the first openly LGBTQ person ever to serve on North Carolina’s Council of State. Republicans threw a hissy fit after Wadsworth posted a glib TikTok about Trump contracting the coronavirus, and while the video wasn’t in the best taste, it showed she isn’t afraid to take bold stances and speak truth to power. What’s more, a Democrat winning this seat and potentially a majority on the council of state will further empower Governor Cooper. Such a change-up, we think, is worth it. —LT

Riding the red wave of 2016, Mike Causey became the first Republican insurance commissioner in the state’s history after defeating Democrat Wayne Goodwin, an eight-year incumbent. Back then, Causey earned points by promising to overhaul the state’s insurance system to attract big business, while Goodwin defended the current system and its low rates. Following his defeat, Goodwin went on to chair the N.C. Democratic Party and wait for a rematch. This race is muddied by the FBI’s investigation into convicted billionaire Greg Lindberg. Causey wore a wire and helped nail Lindberg on federal bribery charges after recording a conversation where Lindberg and the state’s former GOP chair, Robin Hayes, offered to bribe Causey with campaign funding in exchange for taking action to benefit Lindberg’s insurance companies. Meanwhile, Lindberg heavily backed Goodwin’s 2016 campaign, prompting the criticism that Goodwin was “bought and paid for” by Lindberg. While the optics of the Lindberg debacle give us pause, we also have no doubt Goodwin could run the department as effectively as Causey based on his record. As in the treasurer’s race, we don’t necessarily think Causey has done a bad job these last four years—in fact, as far as Republicans go, he’s probably one of the good ones. But Goodwin’s win could shift the balance of power by creating a Democrat-majority Council of State, which would bolster Governor Roy Cooper by giving him greater leverage on things like emergency orders. That’s a deal we’re willing to make. —LT

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

Jen Mangrum (D) One of the low-key most-disappointing losses of 2016 was June Atkinson, who had done a good job as North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction for 12 years. Mark Johnson, the Republican who beat her, gave up the office after just four years to run for lieutenant governor, a nomination he lost. Jen Mangrum, who ran a valiant effort against Phil Berger two years ago, is an assistant professor and former elementary school teacher who has a real potential to be one of the more progressive members of the Council of State. She wants to ensure a living wage for all school personnel and boost pay for teachers as well as tackle systemic bias in schools, which is all the more important after recent demands of activists to remove school resource officers. Her Republican opponent, Catherine Truitt, is a former high school English teacher and education advisor for Pat McCrory, the former governor. For much of the year, she’s been campaigning on giving local governments full control of whether or not schools should reopen, and she’s echoed Trump administration talking points on reopening schools. No thanks. —PB

COMMISSIONER OF LABOR

Jessica Holmes (D) Nearly everyone in North Carolina knows Cheri Berry, not because of her policies— which were generally lax; a 2015 investigation by The News & Observer found her reluctant to enforce wage-theft violations—but because she plastered her face in the state’s elevators. As “Elevator Queen,” Berry enjoyed wide name recognition, which made her a formidable opponent who most recently bested former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker by 10 points in 2016. Berry’s decision not to run for re-election leaves this seat open for the first time in two decades. Democrat Jessica Holmes is the obvious choice to fill it, and should she win, she’ll be the first African American ever elected to statewide office (along with Holley, we hope). But this election isn’t just about breaking barriers for Holmes, something she’s used to as the youngest person ever elected to the Wake County Board of Commissioners. It’s about restoring regulatory oversight and fighting to get North Carolina’s workforce better protections and pay. That starts by investigating and enforcing wage-theft violations, which Berry was notoriously lax on. The Republican pick to replace Berry is Josh Dobson, who currently serves in the state House of Representatives. Dobson is a run-of-the-mill Republican who was recently accused of “double-dipping”—using the state as a piggy bank by collecting reimbursements for expenses such as housing and travel while also funding those expenses through his campaign to the tune of nearly $90,000, according to a complaint by watchdog Bob Hall. Dobson denied any impropriety, chalking up the complaint to partisan politics. But if Dobson has been manipulating the system for his own personal profit, can we really trust him to be an effective regulator? We’d rather go with Holmes, who is qualified, driven, and committed to bringing enforcement back to the office. —LT INDYweek.com

October 14, 2020

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NORTH CAROLINA

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

State Legislature

H

ave you ever felt embarrassed over the past decade about North Carolina’s state government? Angry? Frustrated? Well, you have every right to be: There’s HB 2, the motorcycle abortion bill, the methodical destruction of our unemployment system and the social safety net for poor and working-class people in favor of tax giveaways to the wealthy, the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, the defunding of public education, the attacks on voting rights, the power grabs—we could go on until November 3 if you’d let us. Blame the North Carolina GOP for this. Since 2011, right-wing Republicans— Phil Berger, Dan Forest, Thom Tillis, and Tillis’s successor, Tim Moore—have turned this state into a nightmare for vulnerable residents, which is saying a lot because it’s not like things were exactly great before. The reason they’ve been able to do this without fearing the repercussions too much, even in a swing state like this one, is gerrymandering. They started implementing it in 2011 and have repeatedly had to redraw our voting districts because of various court orders and agreements. This year brought yet another new set of maps. This election is the chance to change that. Republicans still have a built-in advantage, but if there’s enough of a wave, the Democrats could break the majority in one of two chambers of the state General Assembly. The Democratic Party in North Carolina is nowhere near as progressive as we’d like. For example, the HB 2 compromise from 2017 remains horrible, and there’s virtually no chance of even a unified government giving collective bargaining rights to public employees in North Carolina for the first time since the 1940s. But the Democrats have two things going for them: They’re backing an independent redistricting commission, and they are not North Carolina Republicans. We probably would have endorsed the vast majority of Democrats on this list either way. But the issue of gerrymandering rules above all else—every other issue rests on the ability of voters to cast ballots in fair districts, especially considering what’s at the top of the ticket this year. For that reason, we endorsed every Democrat running for the legislature in the Triangle. Wouldn’t it be nice to never hear from Phil Berger again? —PB

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N.C. State Senate S TAT E S E N AT E D I S T R I C T 1 4

Dan Blue (D) Few in the legislature have accomplished as much as Minority Leader Dan Blue. He was the state’s first Black house speaker and has 35 years of service between the state’s two legislative bodies. In day-to-day dealings, Blue has proven a steady hand who can lead the underdog party with dignity in the face of sometimes-baffling Republican chicanery (remember when they tried to pull a surprise budget vote on 9/11?). His values— Medicaid expansion, Black Lives Matter, transparency in policing, and increasing investments in education—almost perfectly align with everything we stand for at the INDY. His opponent, Republican Alan David Michael, is a “Police Lives Matter” conservative who comes off as more than just a little unhinged on social media. Without hesitation, Blue gets our vote. —LT

S TAT E S E N AT E D I S T R I C T 1 5

Jay Chaudhuri (D) Since succeeding Attorney General Josh Stein in this Wake state Senate seat, Chaudhuri has been an impressive legislator who has quickly risen in the ranks of party leadership, serving as the number-two Democrat behind Dan Blue. Aside from all of the mainstream Democratic positions in North Carolina, Chaudhuri has been a forceful voice for net neutrality and making it easier to vote during the pandemic. His opponent, Republican Mario Lomuscio, is a package-delivery courier, the kind of job experience you’d like to see more of in representative government. But he’s also anti-choice, anti-tax, and anti-public education. Give Chaudhuri your vote. —PB


NORTH CAROLINA

S TAT E S E N AT E DISTRICT 16

Wiley Nickel (D) Wiley Nickel’s résumé includes working for President Barack Obama in the White House and as a staffer for Vice President Al Gore, but that’s not what impresses us most about him. It’s that he’s proven to be a responsive and stalwart representative who is as attuned to local issues as he is to Capitol Hill. An added bonus: He’s helped draft legislation to expand Medicaid and increase penalties for hate crimes. Challenging Nickel is Will Marsh, a self-described “common-sense conservative” whose campaign focuses on lowering taxes instead of investing in education or health-care reform. No thanks. Nickel gets our backing. —LT

S TAT E S E N AT E DISTRICT 17

Sam Searcy (D) Since ousting Republican Tamara Barringer in 2018, Sam Searcy—a vodka distiller turned politician—has fought to expand Medicaid and increase school funding. If given a second term, he’d focus on helping small businesses recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic and expanding the state’s unemployment insurance program. Running against Searcy is Republican Mark Cavaliero, an anti-abortion former Marine who thinks the free market will solve the state’s health-care affordability gap, as well as Travis Groo, a little-known Libertarian whose website boasts empty rhetoric like “people not politics.” Searcy is the obvious choice here, folks. —LT

State Legislature: Senate

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

S TAT E S E N AT E D I S T R I C T 1 8

Sarah Crawford (D) This seat, currently held by centrist conservative John Alexander, is the final Republican holdout in an increasingly blue Wake County. Alexander opted not to run for re-election, saying he wanted to spend more time with his grandkids, but maybe he also saw the writing on the wall. Hoping to finally claim the seat, Democrats have rallied behind Sarah Crawford, who raked in nearly three-quarters of the vote over her primary opponent, Angela Bridgman. Crawford wants to increase teacher pay, expand Medicaid, prioritize clean energy, and invest in rural communities. Opposing Crawford is Republican attorney Larry Norman, a boilerplate conservative with a vague platform advocating for small government and school choice. Also on the ballot is Jason Loeback, a Libertarian real-estate agent whose campaign is basically nonexistent. We choose Crawford. —LT

S TAT E S E N AT E D I S T R I C T 2 0

Natalie Murdock (D) Natalie Murdock was tapped by Governor Roy Cooper to fill the vacant seat in North Carolina’s 20th state Senate district in early April, shortly after she won a three-way Democratic primary race and just as COVID-19 really started getting gnarly. In her time in office, the former Durham County Soil and Water Conservation district supervisor has made coronavirus recovery one of her chief focuses. She sponsored bills that would provide PPE for working prison inmates and grant emergency funding for state arts organizations. She was also one of the primary sponsors of the COVID-19 Recovery Act. Murdock has introduced bills meant to help small-scale landlords at a time when outside hedge funds are snapping up Durham’s real estate, allow Medicaid to pay for pregnant women to enlist the services of doulas, and establish a task force to advance the wellbeing of Black women and girls. Murdock also wants to increase public school funding and decriminalize marijuana. Her Republican opponent is John Tarantino, a perennial candidate and local conservative troubadour (for real). He’s not worth taking seriously, but Natalie Murdock very much is. —DM

S TAT E S E N AT E D I S T R I C T 2 2

Mike Woodard (D) Mike Woodard recently sat in on our virtual Public Newsroom event, and we were impressed by his perspective, intelligence, and command of the issues—especially when we put him on the spot. His impromptu performance was a testament to the power of institutional knowledge, which Woodard has accumulated over seven years serving in the state Senate as well as in the eight years he spent on the Durham City Council. If re-elected, Woodard says he plans to fight to restore Earned Income Tax Credits for the working class, un-gerrymander our district maps, strengthen the public education system, expand Medicaid, and fund state infrastructure projects. He’s been accused of using harsh language in the workplace (he denies the accusation, which remains unsubstantiated); however, his opponent, former Durham County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Padgett, has used social media to compare Democrats to Nazis, rail against the “atheist mainstream news media,” and call the Black Lives Matter movement a terrorist organization. So, uh, Woodard it is! —DM

S TAT E S E N AT E DISTRICT 23

Valerie Foushee (D) In her seven years representing District 23, Valerie Foushee has brought strong leadership and a valuable perspective to the North Carolina state Senate. A former Chapel Hill Police Department administrator and Orange County School Board member, Foushee brings an insider’s perspective to the problems that ail our public institutions and smart solutions for how they can be fixed. In the most recent legislative session, Foushee introduced bills that would have made it easier to remove Confederate monuments, legalized possession of up to four ounces of marijuana for personal use, increased the quality of health care for the incarcerated, modernized drug court, and made it harder for employers to commit wage theft. Foushee, who is Black, views marijuana decriminalization as a racial-justice issue and has spoken out about applying the same all-hands-on-deck mentality that the state government has used to contain coronavirus towards combating systemic racism. We need more Democrats like her in the state Senate. Foushee’s opponent, gadfly Republican candidate Tom Glendinning, recently shared a video on Facebook claiming anti-racism is a communist plot. But in 2020, the real Red Scare is the idea that Republicans retain their majority in the state Senate, which is yet another reason why you should vote to keep Valerie Foushee in Raleigh. —DM INDYweek.com

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NORTH CAROLINA

N.C. State House

State Legislature: House S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 2 9

Vernetta Alston (D) Just because Vernetta Alston is running unopposed for her seat in the North Carolina House doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited to vote for her. Before Governor Cooper appointed the Durham native to take the state House seat this spring, Alston served on the Durham City Council, where she fought for affordable housing, police reform, and a living wage for city employees; stood up to anti-LGBTQ discrimination against her and Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson; and helped establish the city’s participatory budgeting program. Before entering public office, she worked as an attorney with the North Carolina Center for Death Penalty Litigation, where she served on the front lines of the racial-justice movement. With the NCCDPL, Alston served as part of the team that won an exoneration for Henry McCollum, who spent 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and she helped secure a life sentence rather than the death penalty for Nathan Holden. It takes conviction and character to lead the career Alston has, and we’re proud that she’ll be representing District 29. —DM

INDY ENDORSEMENTS S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 33

Rosa Gill (D) Rosa Gill is a retired teacher who has effectively used her seat to advocate for schools since 2009. In the primary, we endorsed her opponent, Antoine Marshall, because Gill responded to our survey that she does not believe transgender individuals should receive coverage for gender dysphoria under the state health plan. While that view is backward and gave Marshall an edge in our estimation, voters opted to stick with Gill. She’s up against Sammie Brooks, a Libertarian bartender who supports charter schools and wants to abolish the ABC system, and Frann Sarpolus, a Republican who likes to tweet Bible verses and prayers for President Donald Trump. We’ll stick with Gill this time, too. —LT

S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 3 0

Marcia Morey (D) S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 11

Allison Dahle (D) In June, a revision to a bill landed on the desk of state Representative Allison Dahle. It was after midnight, and the bill was twice as long as the previous revision. There was no time to comb through the nuances of the bill before the vote. So she voted no. Out of 101 legislators, she was the only one. “Midnight is no time to govern,” Dahle told the Winston-Salem Journal at the time. Days later the bill would go on to gain infamy for inadvertently restricting access to death investigation reports to individuals killed in police custody. The embarrassing snafu was quickly cleaned up by a veto from Governor Roy Cooper. To go against one’s party and vote on principle is a rare thing in politics. Dahle, a 56-year-old LGBTQ incumbent rounding out her first time in the legislature, isn’t afraid to do that. For that, she wins our endorsement easily over Clark Pope, a Republican engineer with a platform so vague it’s hard to tell what he stands for other than “civility” and “freedom.” No thanks. —LT 14

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INDYweek.com

As a legislator, Marica Morey has leaned on her experience as a judge to promote common-sense criminal-justice reform. Before being appointed to the state House of Representatives in 2017, Morey served as a district court judge for nearly two decades, where she worked with law enforcement to help divert teenagers charged with crimes from the school-to-prison pipeline. The 65-year-old is also one of only a handful of openly LGBTQ members of the state legislature and has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights. Her opponent is a little-known Libertarian named Gavin Bell who has raised almost no money in his bid to unseat Morey. We couldn’t find out much more about him. Morey is the easy choice. —LT

S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 3 0

Zack Forde-Hawkins (D) Zack Forde-Hawkins had never held political office when he first campaigned for the seat in 2018. But he won by a landslide after being the chosen successor to Mickey Michaux, who moved to the state Senate before resigning earlier this year. As a rookie legislator, Forde-Hawkins hit the ground running, helping to pen a bill that would have allowed state employees to collectively bargain (it failed, of course, thanks to the GOP). He’s challenged by Sean Haugh, a Libertarian who wants to pursue reparations for victims of the War on Drugs, which sounds great but realistically isn’t our top priority. We pick Hawkins. —LT

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 34

Grier Martin (D) Like Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, Grier Martin is a veteran who in the past has been a top recruiting target for national Democrats. But rather than shooting for higher office, Martin has spent the last 15 years as a hardworking liberal legislator except for the few months he briefly stepped aside for Deborah Ross when they were lumped together into the same legislative district in 2011. Roland L. Smith, his Republican opponent, has a scant campaign presence but told Ballotpedia he’d focus on issues like education and funding, while Libertarian candidate and Duke economist Mike Munger is running on abolishing the ABC Boards. Martin should coast to re-election, and he deserves to. —PB


INDY ENDORSEMENTS

NORTH CAROLINA

State Legislature: House S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 3 5

Terence Everitt (D) The District 35 seat in the North Carolina House is a rarity for the state: a genuine swing seat. Right now, it’s held by Terence Everitt, a Democrat of Wake County who’s also a lawyer focused on small businesses. We endorsed Everitt in 2018, in part because of his promises to fight for the public education system. And you know what? After he beat incumbent Chris Malone, that’s exactly what he did. In his time in the state House, he’s put his name on countless bills that would expand funding for teachers, students, and non-teacher faculty. He’s also endorsed bills meant to combat systemic racism, increase the state’s COVID-19 response, and establish fairly drawn legislative districts. On top of that, he’s got the endorsement of Barack Obama himself. Everitt is, in a word, solid. His opponent is none other than Chris Malone, the Republican who held the seat from 2013 until 2018. If you ask us, he held it for too long. Malone is one of those politicians who assumed their seat belonged to them rather than the people of their district. During the 2018 race, he and his campaign manager personally attempted to intimidate voters at polling places, which would be disqualifying even if he wasn’t an anti-abortion gun nut. (Which, to be clear, Chris Malone most definitely is.) —DM

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 37

Sydney Batch (D)

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 36

Julie Von Haefen (D) After narrowly wrenching this seat from Republican Nelson Dollar in 2018 and effectively driving the Wake County Republican Party to extinction, Julie Von Haefen has proven herself a strong advocate for public education. Von Haefen is an attorney who has served as president of the Wake County PTA. She’s pro-choice and supports expanding Medicaid. Against her is Republican challenger Kim Coley, a pro-lifer who opposes raising the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion. Von Haefen is poised to handily defeat her, and we hope she does. —LT

We’re going to call it: No one in the North Carolina General Assembly is tougher or more dedicated than Sydney Batch. During the middle of her 2018 campaign, Batch was diagnosed with breast cancer. In spite of that, she went on to narrowly defeat incumbent Representative John Adcock and help the Democrats break the GOP’s stranglehold on the legislature. The following May, Batch announced she was taking a leave after undergoing a mastectomy. But around the same time, the GOP was playing a dumb cat-andmouse game by trying to ram through a “born alive” abortion bill over Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. So Batch kept showing up to work every day for weeks to make sure she was there to vote down the GOP’s veto override. She told The Intercept she was “willing to suffer through the physical and temporary pain in order to make sure that women have that right in the future and that it’s not just because I couldn’t get in that day to vote.” Batch’s chief opposition is Erin Pare, a right-winger who co-owns Play It Again Sports in Holly Springs. She backs local police coordination with ICE and opposes Medicaid expansion, so this is easy; Vote for Batch. —PB INDYweek.com

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NORTH CAROLINA

State Legislature: House

S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 3 8

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

Abe Jones (D) Longtime Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley left the House in order to run for lieutenant governor and endorsed Jones to replace her. Jones is a 68-year-old veteran figure in the Raleigh legal scene with a resume that includes 17 years on the Wake County Superior Court. Jones won’t shake up the status quo too much, but as we noted in our endorsement during the primary, Jones supports gender equality and gun-safety measures. Jones’s opponent, health-care project manager Ken Bagnal, ran against Holley in 2018 and got just 16 percent of the vote, so Jones shouldn’t have much trouble here. Vote for him anyway. —PB

S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 3 9

Darren Jackson (D) Darren Jackson, the Democratic House leader and a top candidate for Speaker should the Democrats win a House majority, is running unopposed for his seventh term in the state House of Representatives. Jackson’s platform is by-the-numbers North Carolina Democrat: expanding Medicaid, raising teacher pay, and funding education and other public programs that have fallen by the wayside in the past decade as the GOP has pursued an agenda of tax cuts, austerity, and deregulation. But Jackson’s success in November will be judged by one thing alone—whether or not the Democrats can win control of at least one chamber and put the brakes on another set of gerrymandered GOP maps. If they can, Jackson will be a leading candidate for House Speaker. If not, well, we’re in for a long decade. —PB

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 41

Gale Adcock (D) Since 2015, Gale Adcock has been a strong progressive voice in the legislature, pushing for increases in teacher pay and the expansion of Medicaid. The nurse practitioner and former chief health officer at SAS understands firsthand the barriers North Carolinians face getting affordable health care and combating substance abuse and mental illness. As a representative, she’s shown she can work across the aisle and has sponsored dozens of bipartisan initiatives. Running against her is Republican Scott Populorum, a pro-lifer Second Amendment nut, and Libertarian Guy Meilleur, who describes himself as “Master arborist, researcher, and expert witness”—whatever that means. This district is safely blue, and we believe Adcock is the person to represent it for another term. —LT

S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 4 0

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Joe John (D)

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 49

With Joe John, what you see is what you get. The two-term incumbent spent more than 25 years as a North Carolina judge, after which he became a Deputy Commissioner of the state DMV. In 2010, he was picked by then-Attorney General Roy Cooper to enact badly needed reforms to the North Carolina Crime Laboratory. Under John’s watch, the agency introduced standards for transparency and requirements for outside accreditation of laboratories. He’s by no means a radical, but when it comes to the judiciary branch and the criminal justice system, he’s a reformer. In the state House, he’s helped bring humanities education to the incarcerated, modernize the filing process of civil lawsuits, and has tried to make legislative sessions more accessible to people with disabilities. Joe John wants a transparent and non-partisan legal system, less harsh penalties for juveniles, and to make it easier to get your mugshot removed from the internet. While his opponent, Republican Gerald Falzon, has a compelling personal narrative—he’s a first-generation immigrant and a graduate of West Point who speaks three languages—his opposition to abortion and public school funding, as well as the disconcertingly Trump-y rhetoric found throughout his website and social media presences, makes him a non-starter for us. —DM

Cynthia Ball (D) Representative Cynthia Ball is seeking her third term, and this is the third different variation of the 49th District she’s run in. This time, Ball has picked up a few more precincts in Raleigh, and she shouldn’t have much issue defending it again. She’s been a strong legislator, particularly on issues like school funding and the need for independent redistricting. In her response to our questionnaire, said she supports a $15 minimum wage. Republican David Robertson talked a lot about infrastructure in his run two years ago, but the choice here is decidedly easy; vote for Cynthia Ball. —PB


NORTH CAROLINA

S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 50

Graig Meyer (D) Graig Meyer, who represents both Orange and Caswell counties, is running unopposed. He’s a rising star in the House Democratic caucus, due in no small part to his advocacy for voting rights and against gerrymandering. A social worker, Meyer is also a progressive on issues like civil rights, health care, and public education funding, and helped lead the party’s grassroots voter mobilization effort and candidate recruitment when Democrats broke the supermajority in 2018. He’s an easy choice for re-election as well as a potential leader in the caucus and a candidate for higher office in the coming years. —PB

State Legislature: House S TAT E H O U S E D I S T R I C T 5 4

Robert Reives (D) You know how craft beer is everywhere—literally everywhere—these days? Robert Reives helped make that happen. He was one of the primary sponsors of last year’s Craft Beer Modernization Act, which allowed midsize breweries to act as their own distributors, passing along the savings to you. He’s also made legislative strides towards green energy, fairer legislative districts, and protection from predatory contracts. A former assistant district attorney in North Carolina, Reives is an important voice in the state legislature—he’s the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the House and has served as part of the leadership of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus. Donald Trump’s presidency has been a disaster for a lot of reasons, chief among them being that he’s emboldened white supremacists and defended their actions. Trickle-down economics might not work, but trickle-down politics sure as hell do, and Republicans in Raleigh have followed Trump’s lead both rhetorically and legislatively. We need strong Black leadership in the state House, and that’s just what Reives offers. Meanwhile, his opponent, George Gilson Jr., is a Trump-’n’-guns guy who posts conspiracy theories about mail-in ballots on his official Facebook page. The choice is clear; raise a pint for Robert Reives. —DM

INDY ENDORSEMENTS S TAT E H O U S E DISTRICT 56

Verla Insko (D) Verla Insko is one of the longest-serving and most progressive Democrats in the House, with a sterling track record on issues like universal health care, education, and civil rights; along with Meyer, she co-authored a bill in the last session to remove the Silent Sam statue. She’s running unopposed this year, but she’d get our vote anyway. —PB

INDYweek.com

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VOTER GUIDE

VOTER GUIDE

Wake County

Durham County

INDY E N D O R S E M E N T S S TAT E & FEDERAL

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 5: Lora Christine Cubbage (D)

President: Joseph R. Biden (D)

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 6: Gray Styers (D)

U.S. Senate: Cal Cunningham (D) U.S. House District 2: Deborah K. Ross (D) U.S. House District 4: David E. Price (D) Governor: Roy Cooper (D) Lieutenant Governor: Yvonne Lewis Holley (D) Attorney General: Josh Stein (D)

WA K E State Senate District 14: Dan Blue (D)

State Senate District 16: Wiley Nickel (D)

Commissioner of Agriculture: Jenna Wadsworth (D)

State Senate District 17: Sam Searcy (D)

Commissioner of Insurance: Wayne Goodwin (D)

State Senate District 18: Sarah Crawford (D)

Commissioner of Labor: Jessica Holmes (D) Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D)

State House District 11: Allison Dahle (D) State House District 33: Rosa U. Gill (D) State House District 34: Grier Martin (D)

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jen Mangrum (D)

State House District 35: Terence Everitt (D)

N.C. Treasurer: Ronnie Chatterji (D) N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Seat 1: Cheri Beasley (D) N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 2: Lucy Inman (D) N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 4: Mark Davis (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 4: Tricia Shields (D)

October 14, 2020

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 13: Chris Brook (D)

State Senate District 15: Jay J. Chaudhuri (D)

N.C. Auditor: Beth A. Wood (D)

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N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 7: Reuben F. Young (D)

State House District 36: Julie von Haefen (D) State House District 37: Sydney Batch (D) State House District 38: Abe Jones (D) State House District 39: Darren Jackson (D) State House District 40: Joe John (D) State House District 41: Gale Adcock (D) State House District 49: Cynthia Ball (D)

INDYweek.com

INDY ENDORSEMENTS District Court Judge 10F Seat 2: Tim Gunther (D)

S TAT E & F E D E R A L

DURHAM

Wake County Commissioners District 1: Sig Hutchinson (D)

President: Joseph R. Biden (D)

State Senate District 20: Natalie Murdock (D)

U.S. Senate: Cal Cunningham (D)

State Senate District 22: Mike Woodard (D)

U.S. House District 2: Deborah K. Ross (D)

State House District 29: Vernetta Alston (D)

U.S. House District 4: David E. Price (D)

State House District 30: Marcia Morey (D)

Governor: Roy Cooper (D)

State House District 31: Zack Ford-Hawkins (D)

Lieutenant Governor: Yvonne Lewis Holley (D)

State House District 54: Robert T. Reives II (D)

Attorney General: Josh Stein (D)

Durham County Commissioners: Nida Allam (D)

N.C. Auditor: Beth A. Wood (D)

Durham County Commissioners: Nimasheena Burns (D)

Commissioner of Agriculture: Jenna Wadsworth (D)

Durham County Commissioners: Heidi Carter (D)

Commissioner of Insurance: Wayne Goodwin (D)

Durham County Commissioners: Brenda Howerton (D)

Commissioner of Labor: Jessica Holmes (D)

Durham County Commissioners: Wendy Jacobs (D)

Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D)

Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor: Anjali Boyd

Wake County Commissioners District 3: Maria Cervania (D) Wake County Commissioners District 6: Shinica Thomas (D) Wake County Commissioners District 7: Vickie Adamson (D) Register of Deeds: Tammy L. Brunner (D) Board of Education District 1: Heather Scott Board of Education District 2: Monika Johnson-Hostler Board of Education District 7: Chris Heagarty Board of Education District 8: Lindsay Mahaffey Board of Education District 9: Bill Fletcher Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor: Jean-Luc Duvall

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jen Mangrum (D) N.C. Treasurer: Ronnie Chatterji (D) N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Seat 1: Cheri Beasley (D) N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 2: Lucy Inman (D) N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 4: Mark Davis (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 4: Tricia Shields (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 5: Lora Christine Cubbage (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 6: Gray Styers (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 7: Reuben F. Young (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 13: Chris Brook (D)


To our INDY Readers:

VOTER GUIDE

Orange County INDY E N D O R S E M E N T S S TAT E & F E D E R A L

ORANGE

President: Joseph R. Biden (D)

State Senate District 23: Valerie P. Foushee (D)

U.S. Senate: Cal Cunningham (D)

State House District 50: Graig Meyer (D)

U.S. House District 2: Deborah K. Ross (D)

State House District 56: Verla Insko (D)

U.S. House District 4: David E. Price (D)

District Court Judge, 15B Seat 03: Hathaway Pendergrass (D)

Governor: Roy Cooper (D)

Orange County Commissioners At-Large: Amy Fowler (D)

Lieutenant Governor: Yvonne Lewis Holley (D)

Orange County Commissioners District 1: Mark Dorosin (D)

Attorney General: Josh Stein (D)

Orange County Commissioners District 1: Jean Hamilton (D)

N.C. Auditor: Beth A. Wood (D) Commissioner of Agriculture: Jenna Wadsworth (D) Commissioner of Insurance: Wayne Goodwin (D) Commissioner of Labor: Jessica Holmes (D) Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D) Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jen Mangrum (D) N.C. Treasurer: Ronnie Chatterji (D)

As Publisher, it is my responsibility—and my priority— to keep the INDY alive and well and provide audiences across the Triangle with news and cultural information not available elsewhere. That includes the important political endorsements we published this week, as well as providing free access online to the questionnaires we received back from candidates. I don’t need to tell you how challenging the journalism industry is right now. Nor do I need to tell you the importance of our work — published online daily at indyweek.com, printed each Wednesday on newsprint, and delivered in newsletters every day of the week. Every month, in addition to paying our staff, our expenses include freelance writers, printing the paper, health insurance, website fees, internet service, rent, and much more, including distribution costs to get the paper out on the streets and businesses for you to pick up. What I need to tell you is this: We need your help. We don’t ever want to charge for the news and culture we report. But we need your help — now and forever. We would not have made it this far this year without your support. A Payroll Protection Plan loan this summer helped, and we’d hoped for another one this fall. But Congress is stuck, and it may be months before the next bit of relief becomes available to small businesses like us — if it ever does. That’s why I’m writing today. We need your help. Now. If you haven’t already, please join our Press Club. We’ll soon be rolling out valuable member benefits. But the real benefit is keeping a local, independent, free press alive. And if you’re already a member, please consider making an additional onetime gift or increasing your regular payment. If you’re reading the INDY, we know you’re doing your part to stay aware of what is going on in our community. We’re doing the best we can to keep you updated, despite the challenges we currently face. Thank you for sticking with us.

N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Seat 1: Cheri Beasley (D)

Thank you,

N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 2: Lucy Inman (D)

Publisher

N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 4: Mark Davis (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 4: Tricia Shields (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 5: Lora Christine Cubbage (D)

Susan Harper PS: This is personal to me. I’ve worked at the INDY since 1996, and I’ve seen the crucial difference our work makes in the life of the Triangle. *If you prefer connecting through the post office, reach out at PO Box 1772, Durham, NC 27702.

N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 6: Gray Styers (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 7: Reuben F. Young (D) N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Seat 13: Chris Brook (D)

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19


NORTH CAROLINA

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

Judicial Elections

W

ith so much on the ballot this year, it’s easy to forget that North Carolina has three state Supreme Court races and a slew of appellate contests that will determine whether liberals or conservatives control the state’s top two courts. But like the federal judiciary, the state judiciary plays a vital role that often goes underrecognized. Case in point: The Democrats have a 6–1 majority on the state Supreme Court following the election of Mike Morgan in 2016, Anita Earls in 2018, and the appointment of Mark Davis last year. With that majority, liberals on the court have provided some semblance of a check on the General Assembly’s power, like when it ruled this summer that the Republicans’ repeal of the Racial Justice Act couldn’t be applied retroactively. This year, three of those seats are up for grabs, which means the GOP could regain a majority or the Democrats could even solidify theirs. So are five seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals, where the Democrats have a narrow 8–7 majority, and a slew of nonpartisan District Court level races. Apart from civil litigation, this is one of the main ways that criminal justice reform can become a reality—by electing judges who understand that systemic bias and oppression are endemic to the system. So, to make a long story short, get to know your judicial candidates on the ballot. Here’s a good place to start. —PB

N.C. SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE

Cheri Beasley (D) Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has been a trailblazer in North Carolina politics as the first Black woman to win statewide office without first being appointed. And since becoming chief justice last year, she’s expanded her effort to tackle racism in the criminal justice system. In September, she told NC Policy Watch that she has “developed a commission which will address racial disparities in our courts.” “We must recognize the legitimate pain and weight of years of disparate treatment that fuels these demonstrations,” Beasley said in June. “We must be willing to hear that message, even when we are saddened by the way it is delivered.” Her opponent, Paul Newby, is currently the only Republican justice on the state Supreme Court. In 2011, he questioned the relevance of race to the disproportionate incarceration of Black people, and his view hasn’t much changed—earlier this year, he was the lone dissent in the state Supreme Court’s ruling that the repeal of the Racial Justice Act couldn’t be applied retroactively. Vote for Beasley. —PB

N.C. SUPREME COURT A S S O C I AT E J U S T I C E S E AT # 2

Lucy Inman (D) Paul Newby, the Supreme Court’s only Republican justice, is vacating his seat to run against Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Vying to replace him are two current appellate judges: Lucy Inman, who’s been a judge for the past 10 years, and the notorious Phil Berger Jr. Inman believes that racism within the justice system exists (bare minimum, we know) and supports reforms to make the legal system fairer and more accessible. Berger Jr., on the other hand, has been hit with allegations of campaign-finance violations. As the district attorney of Rockingham County, he also installed a secret eavesdropping system at the court to listen to discussions between defense attorneys and judges, as Triad City Beat reported earlier this year. It’s an easy choice to go with Inman here. —PB

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NORTH CAROLINA

N.C. SUPREME COURT A S S O C I AT E J U S T I C E S E AT # 4

Mark Davis (D) Mark Davis, a 2019 Roy Cooper appointee, has served ably on a court that functions as one of the state’s only reliable checks on a Republican-controlled General Assembly that loves passing the most bonkers laws it can get away with. Additionally, he’s written some good opinions for the state Supreme Court. He has affirmed that police officers need a high level of probable cause before they can engage in a search, strengthened basic legal protections for those on probation, and helped establish that just because a drunk guy slept in a church that was missing a microphone the next morning, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the drunk guy stole the microphone. That last one sounds silly, but Davis’s opinion served as a reminder to investigators and prosecutors throughout the state that the opportunity to commit a crime isn’t tantamount to actually committing it. His opponent, the former state Senator and UNC-Chapel Hill business law professor Tamara Barringer, has done good work legislatively to modernize the state’s foster care system, but her bid for the state’s highest court despite a lack of experience as a judge makes us wary. Mark Davis more than deserves to stay. —DM

N.C. APPEALS J U D G E S E AT # 4

Tricia Shields (D) Tricia Shields has an impressive résumé. In 35 years as a trial and appellate lawyer, she’s regularly argued cases in the North Carolina Court of Appeals as well as the state Supreme Court. She’s an adjunct professor at Campbell Law School who was named one of the top 50 female lawyers in the state. She’s got endorsements from the Sierra Club, North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and the North Carolina Association of Educators. She even traveled to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. Shields’s opponent, the Republican April Wood, is a long-sitting District Court judge who has said she views it as her duty to apply the law as it’s written, even when it was written by a North Carolina legislature that loves passing insane laws. While we appreciate Justice Wood’s service, we’d prefer someone who’s comfortable overturning the status quo rather than simply reinforcing it, which is why we’re picking Shields. —DM

Judicial Elections N .C . A P P E A L S J U D G E S E AT # 5

Lora Cubbage (D) The battle over the fifth seat on the Court of Appeals is between two current judges, Lora Cubbage and Fred Gore. In her questionnaire, Cubbage, a Guilford County Superior Court judge, said she would be an independent judge who would invite public financing of elections, and she cited Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her judicial role models, which indicates she’d be a moderate. Gore, a Republican, was a longtime prosecutor before becoming a district court judge. He didn’t answer our questionnaire but said in an interview with the conservative North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation that the recent Supreme Court Justice who best reflects his judicial philosophy is Antonin Scalia. We’ll go with Cubbage. —PB

N .C . A P P E A L S J U D G E S E AT # 6

Gray Styers (D) On his website, Gray Styers proudly notes he’s litigated cases in nearly every county in North Carolina, a state where he’s spent his entire legal career. He’s been the President of the Wake County Bar Association, works pro bono as part of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s “Lawyer on the Line” program, and has taught legal ethics courses at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Law. When you combine Styers’s reputation in his field and his practical experience in North Carolina, you end up with a very strong candidate for the Court of Appeals. Styers is running against a Republican incumbent, Chris Dillon, who in 2018 wrote the opinion that upheld the North Carolina General Assembly’s constitutional amendment instituting voter-ID laws and tax caps. That case wound its way through the courts before getting kicked back to the Court of Appeals, where Dillon wrote yet another opinion upholding the amendments. Judge Dillon has proven himself a fan of voter suppression, which means the guy’s gotta go. —DM

N .C . A P P E A L S J U D G E S E AT # 7

Reuben Young (D) Though Reuben Young is a relative newcomer to the Court of Appeals—he was appointed to the bench by Governor Cooper in 2019—his long career in law makes us confident that he deserves to keep his seat. Over 32 years, Young has served as a prosecutor, a defense attorney, a civil attorney, and a trial judge. Young, a graduate of Howard University and N.C. Central’s law school, has made it clear he’s well aware of the racial bias baked into the justice system and makes it a personal priority to ensure the fair application of the law regardless of who the parties might be. Though Jeff Carpenter, the Republican challenger, is certainly a competent judge, the former state trooper is a bit too originalist for our tastes. —DM

INDY ENDORSEMENTS N.C. APPEALS JUDGE S E AT # 1 3

Chris Brook (D) Chris Brook, the longtime former legal director of the state ACLU, argued some of the most high-profile legal cases in the state over the past decade, including HB 2 and voting rights. He also helped found a monthly housing-law clinic at El Centro Hispano in Durham. His opponent, Jefferson Griffin, is a Wake County district court judge and former prosecutor in the Wake County district attorney’s office who describes himself as an “originalist” and has been endorsed by several law-enforcement groups. The courts need fewer Scalia acolytes and more civil-liberties advocates, and Brook has been a great one; he deserves election to a full term. —PB

DISTRICT COURT J U D G E 1 0 F S E AT # 2

Timothy Anthony Gunther (D) As an attorney, Tim Gunther has worked cases in the fields of corporate law, tenant law, family law, and many others. But he takes special pride in his work as a criminal defense attorney. Since 1994, he has worked as a court-appointed lawyer for defendants who can’t afford their own counsel and also volunteers with Project Together, helping folks obtain domestic violence protective orders. Gunther also wants to reform the state’s cash-bond system, which often keeps low-income folks unnecessarily held in jail regardless of their guilt or innocence. He seems like the sort of person who, if elected to the bench, would work hard to make sure the rights of the little guy are upheld as equally as the rights of the big dogs. While the Republican running for the judgeship, Beth Tanner, has done admirable work with the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, her avowed conservative values gave us pause, especially when we weighed them against Gunther’s calls for bail reform. —DM

INDYweek.com

October 14, 2020

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NORTH CAROLINA

Municipal Elections

Sig Hutchinson It takes nerve to stand up to the NIMBYs, especially when it’s in support of the construction of a highly unpopular quarry outside a beloved park. While we might not agree with Hutchinson on every issue, he’s a necessary pushback on a board stacked full of education advocates who brings with him a realistic vision for the county’s growth. His challenger is Republican Greg Jones, an anti-abortionist campaigning on Second Amendment rights and limited government. Pass. We’ll stick with Sig. —LT 22

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INDYweek.com

Shinica Thompson—a 46-year-old mother known for her work with the state’s Girl Scouts program—was tapped to replace Board Chair Greg Ford on the ballot earlier this year and has been busy campaigning on how to safely reopen schools and address children’s emotional support needs during this pandemic. She has fresh ideas, and her experience as an education advocate will mesh well with her colleagues on the board. Running against her is Republican Karen Weathers, whose platform reveals little about what she actually stands for other than “conservative common-sense fiscal responsibility.” Yawn. Instead, we pick Thomas. —LT

Vickie Adamson

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT 3

Maria Cervania WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT 1

Shinica Thomas

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT 7

THE INDY NT E N D O R S E ME E ISSU

Wake County

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT 6

It feels like you can’t drive a mile in Wake County without running across a campaign sign for Maria Cervania. That’s because the hype for the newcomer candidate is real. We endorsed Cervania in the primary based on her well-rounded resume and record of working for LGBTQ and women’s rights. She’s facing off against Republican Steven Hale, a former homicide detective with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office campaigning on public safety. And while there’s certainly crime in Wake County, beefing up law enforcement isn’t as much a priority in Wake as addressing gaps in our transportation system and the lack of affordable housing. We trust Cervania will be the one to pursue the progressive agenda laid down by former board chair Jessica Holmes, who left the board to run for N.C. Commissioner of Labor. —LT

Two years ago, a brawl over education funding and a controversial Fuquay-Varina park project resulted in a schism on the board. A contentious primary ousted two incumbents and a new majority of school funding champions emerged. Among them was Vickie Adamson, a PTA leader with a background in finance who has garnered trust among her constituents for her careful, well-rounded approach to governing. While increasing school funding is still one of her top priorities, she’s also worked with the private sector to obtain funding to distribute free car seats and at-home nurse visits in an effort to decrease racial disparities in the county’s infant mortality rates. Her Republican challenger is Faruk Okcetin, a businessman hoping to hold down taxes. We wholeheartedly back Adamson. —LT

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF E D U C AT I O N D I S T R I C T 1

Heather Scott In her first term on the board, educator and advocate Heather Scott has invested a huge amount of time and effort visiting district schools and getting to know the issues firsthand. She’s gained public trust through her willingness to learn and listen. She is dedicated to the community and willing to make tough choices that won’t always be popular. It’s a nonpartisan race, but Deborah Prickett’s policies align more with a conservative ideology and her supporters rail against the school system’s so-called “anti-American Marxist curriculum.” She previously served as part of a conservative cohort that seized control of the board in 2009 and achieved national ridicule after defunding integration busing (even Stephen Colbert made fun of them). She subsequently lost her reelection bid by 16 points in 2014. We’re not looking to return to “the good old days.” We’ll stick with Scott. —LT


NORTH CAROLINA

Municipal Elections WAKE COUNT Y BOARD OF E D U C AT I O N D I S T R I C T 8

Lindsay Mahaffey

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF E D U C AT I O N DISTRICT 2

Monika Johnson-Hostler

In her two terms on the board, parent and teacher Lindsay Mahaffey has shown herself to be an effective and thoughtful leader. She offers up a comprehensive platform that balances the safety of students returning to public schools and the need to increase support staff like counselors and social workers to address students’ emotional needs. Her challenger is Steve Bergstrom, a veteran who boasts managing billions in contracts for the Department of Defense. While that may be helpful in balancing the board’s budget, we believe Mahaffey better understands the needs of students and staff in the classroom. We pick Mahaffey. —LT

After an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate, former board chair Monika Johnston-Hostler is ready to put her efforts back to improving Wake County schools. Since originally joining the board in 2013, Johnson-Hostler has pushed the county to increase investments in the school system and has proven herself to be a thoughtful and strategic public servant. Her challenger, Greg Hahn, is among a conservative group that’s unlikely to gain much traction in the increasingly blue county. Hahn recently admitted during a forum he wasn’t aware of the state’s landmark Leandro Supreme Court case that affirmed the right of every student to quality education. Yikes. That alone is reason enough that JohnsonHostler deserves another term. —LT

WAKE COUNT Y BOARD O F E D U C AT I O N DISTRICT 7

Chris Heagarty Incumbent Chris Heagarty is a former Democratic member of the state House of Representatives and the executive director of the City of Oaks Foundation, a nonprofit committed to preserving Raleigh’s parks and natural resources. Since winning election to the board in 2018, he’s offered insightful questions during meetings and shown a willingness to listen. His opponent is Rachel Mills, another conservative challenger who promises not to be a “not a rubber stamp for misguided Marxist agendas.” That’s silly. Vote Heagarty. —LT

WAKE COUNTY BOARD O F E D U C AT I O N DISTRICT 9

Bill Fletcher Since joining the board in 2013, Bill Fletcher has proven to be a tireless advocate for education, unafraid of (rightfully) calling out the N.C. General Assembly for underfunding schools. Fletcher’s challenger is Karen Carter, who compared to the other challengers, seems relatively sane. But her platform is vague, and Fletcher has been effective from his seat giving us no reason to seek his replacement. Fletcher should serve another term. —LT

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

Durham County D U R H A M WAT E R A N D S O I L C O N S E R VAT I O N DISTRICT SUPERVISOR

Anjali Boyd There are five candidates for this job, three of whom—Anjali Boyd, Jillian Riley, and Terence Priester—are currently associate supervisors. Priester is an anti-LGTBQ pastor, so he’s out. Riley is pursuing a master’s of social work at UNC-Chapel Hill and describes herself as an environmental justice activist who stands against corporate pollution., and She formerly worked for North Carolina state Senator Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe). Boyd, a native Durhamite and doctoral student at Duke, also considers herself an advocate for environmental justice and already has a lot of good experience and ideas that make her well-suited to the role in spite of being just 23 years old. We endorse Boyd, but it was a tough call, as Riley would also be a good supervisor. —PB

WA K E C O U N T Y S O I L A N D WAT E R C O N S E R VAT I O N D I S T R I C T S U P E R V I S O R

Jean-Luc Duvall Currently a field organizer with the League of Conservation Voters, Jean-Luc Duvall is a progressive Democrat with a passion for environmental stewardship. He views this position as an opportunity to lead by example, getting his hands dirty and taking an active role in preserving Wake County’s natural resources. Through his work with the League of Conservation Voters, Duvall has become a trusted voice in the media, providing expert analysis to journalists about environmental issues, as well as writing for outlets such as the News & Observer and Coastal Review. If elected, he’d be well-positioned to use his profile to serve as a liaison between the Soil and Water Conservation District and the general public. Additionally, he seeks to cultivate (get it?) relationships with business complexes and faith networks to educate them on the potential for community gardens in their spaces, as well as push for an expansion of urban agriculture in an ever-growing Wake County. —DM INDYweek.com

October 14, 2020

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Housing Bond: Vote Yes

R

INDY ENDORSEMENTS

aleigh residents have identified affordable housing as the top issue facing the city. An $80 million bond on the ballot this year seeks to offer modest help in the form of new developments in partnership with the private sector, amassing land for future affordable developments along transit corridors, and providing financial assistance to homeowners. It’s the last relic of Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin’s “moonshot” bond package, which initially dreamed of funding the first phase of Dix Park’s redevelopment. But the pandemic forced the council to reprioritize and ultimately downsize their ask of taxpayers. Raleigh has not passed a housing bond since 2011. In the last two decades, the city has issued just $50 million in affordable housing bonds. In that time, a national migration to midsize cities has hit Raleigh, with dozens of new residents each day. The problem boils down to an issue of supply and demand: There are simply not enough affordable units in the city for those who need them. The result has been gentrification, pricing out many and displacing longtime residents as developers erect gaudy modern McMansions on once-modest city plots. A housing bond won’t magically solve the problem. But it will help people. It will create new affordable homes. It will purchase land in key areas to facilitate affordable development along transit lines. It will help longtime residents stay in place by providing them financial assistance. This, we think, is better than doing nothing at all. Unfortunately, a small political faction is hell-bent on stopping the bond. Their line is this: The bond is just enriching developers and doesn’t build enough units for the very poor, so it’s bad. Let’s break that down: 1. Things don’t get built for free. Things don’t get built at a loss for the architects, engineers, and contractors. Businesses need to be profitable in order to participate in these projects. The city council can’t lay the bricks themselves—partnering with the private sector is the only option. 2. These developers will still build things without the city’s help, and they won’t be affordable. Not supporting the bond won’t stop developers. 3. Partnering with the private sector on low-income tax credit projects stretches the city’s dollars as far as they can go and greatly reduces the cost per unit, meaning the city can build more while spending less. 4. Doing nothing also doesn’t solve the city’s burgeoning affordability crisis. Grandstanding doesn’t solve the problem either. One of the more visible figures behind this so-called anti-housing movement is former council member Stef Mendell, who lost her 2019 election in a landslide. She’s joined by council member David Cox, the lone vote against the bond. This is politics at its worst. This same group, during its tenure controlling the council, did little to improve the lives of low-income residents in Raleigh. In fact, they opposed development at every turn and were more fixated on protecting their neighborhood fiefdoms than addressing the city’s growth. Development is not inherently evil. In fact, it is the only way out of the housing crisis. We are not paving paradise here; we are making space for our neighbors to live. A significant investment in affordable housing is long overdue. Durham passed a $95 million bond last year. Don’t buy into the spin of a few sour grapes—we urge you to vote yes on the housing bond. —LT


NORTH CAROLINA

Uncontested INDY E N D O R S E M E N T S

T

his year, 40 candidates on the ballot in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties will coast to victory. For whatever reason, no one stepped up to challenge them. Often, these are the candidates with the lowest name recognition vying for the positions we know the least about, like judgeships and conservation boards. To endorse in all the uncontested races would be a waste of newsprint, but we think it’s worth pointing out how many there are and what it says about the political balance of power in the Triangle. One thing that is clear from these races is that Republicans have given up on Durham and Orange counties. Perhaps the GOP realizes its money is better spent in Wake County, though there, too, Republicans are an endangered species. The lone local Republican left in the state legislature is retiring and may be replaced by Sarah Crawford, a Democrat.

There are a dozen uncontested judgeships, many of them held by long-serving judges. One example is Durham judge Orlando Hudson, who may be among the most well-known on this list thanks to the Netflix docuseries The Staircase about the infamous Michael Peterson trial, over which he presided. A vibrant democracy encourages challenge and competition in politics. Having to run for office keeps public servants from complacency. And while it’s comforting to know that Democrats won’t lose local control any time soon, one has to wonder if some of these seats could use a change. Here’s a list of the uncontested candidates on the ballot that received our endorsement in the primary:

Durham

Orange

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS:

NC HOUSE DISTRICT 56:

Nida Allam (D) Nimasheena Burns (D) Heidi Carter (D) Brenda Howerton (D) Wendy Jacobs (D)

DURHAM SCHOOL B OA R D AT- L A R G E : Alexandra Valladares (D)

Democrat Verla Insko (D)

BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: Amy Fowler (D) Mark Dorosin (D) Jean Hamilton (D)

DISTRICT COURT J U D G E , 1 5 B S E AT 3 : Hathaway Pendergrass (D)

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October 14, 2020

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STAGE

IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE | Sunday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. Cat’s Cradle (online only) | itcanthappenhere.net

Medicine Men A virtual performance of Sinclair Lewis’s prescient novel recalls the demagogues of the past BY BYRON WOODS arts@indyweek.com

“U

nemployment … Social unrest … Fear everywhere. And along comes a medicine man with the loudest voice in the whole world and he shouts that if we’ll just put ourselves in his hands—our souls and bodies, our little trades and the education of our children—then he’ll do a miracle.” Those words weren’t written about our current political moment. They’re from It Can’t Happen Here, the Sinclair Lewis novel in which a populist demagogue rises to the presidency with the promise of restoring lost greatness but imposes an autocracy once he’s in power. The best-seller was adapted for the stage and shown across the country in 1936, some 80 years before the election of Donald Trump. According to historian Tim Tyson and novelist Daniel Wallace, the thinly veiled roman à clef based on the rise of 1930s politician Huey Long has a reminder for audiences today: America has dealt with demagogues in the past—and defeated them. This is why a group of professional regional actors will stream the play on October 18, live from Cat’s Cradle. By then, North Carolina’s fourth day of early voting will have kicked into high gear. Wallace will introduce the performance; Tyson will host a discussion of the play at its end. It Can’t Happen Here is “eerie in its predictive qualities,” Wallace says, including the rise in nativism and white supremacy. According to Tyson, as Lewis was writing his novel, the U.S. was “in a national economic crisis freighted with racial and ethnic animosities, with malicious far-right militias being organized.” “Demagogues were dividing the nation, fanning existing fears and resentments, while pounding their podiums about allegedly patriotic values. There’s a lot of resonance between these two periods,” Tyson says.

“It can happen here; it is happening here.” Producer Leslie Frost became interested in adapting Lewis’s text while driving through the South during Trump’s 2016 campaign. “As I listened to him,” Frost recalls, “I kept recognizing echoes of Huey Long,” a strong-arm populist Louisiana governor and senator widely known as “The Kingfish,” whose 1935 assassination prevented a credible bid for the presidency the following year. “Trump’s subjects, his tone, his nicknames, his bullying, his focus on the fact that he was the one who would ‘drain the swamp’ and bring government back to serve the people … and most of all, his theatricality are so reminiscent of Long’s substance and style,” Frost says. For her, Lewis’s central character “sounds like Huey Long but has all the elements of our current president’s character.” The rise in Trumpist militias prompted Frost to contact director Joseph Megel to helm Sunday’s production. “Even before he called on the Proud Boys to ‘stand down and stand by,’ there were frightening signs that armed right-wing responses to Black Lives Matter were inspired by our president’s rhetoric,” Frost says. “It seemed imperative to resist.” As Wallace concludes, “It doesn’t take long to see the parallels between Lewis’s imaginative world and the potential for a democracy to be perverted by a demagogue—including the possibility that some people wouldn’t really mind that so much. It can happen here; it is happening here.” W

BILL BURTON ATTORNEY AT LAW Un c o n t e s t e d Di vo rc e Bu s i n e s s L a w UNCONTESTED In c o r p o r a t i o n / L LC / DIVORCE Pa r t n e r s h i p MUSIC BUSINESS LAW Wi l l s INCORPORATION/LLC WILLS C o l l e c t i o n s SEPARATION AGREEMENTS Mu s i c

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SC R E E N

Scared Silly In Amazon’s new “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series, poorly developed familial horrors can be more farcical than fearsome BY RYAN VU AND MARTA NÚÑEZ POUZOLS arts@indyweek.com

S

ure, scary-movie season might seem a little redundant this year. But what better insurance against a canceled Halloween than a streaming queue full of new horror content? That’s the bet behind “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” a collaboration between Amazon and horror-focused production company Blumhouse (known for Get Out and Paranormal Activity) that consists of eight original thrillers released for free on Prime Video as double features. Just as the pandemic has sparked a resurgence of drive-in movie screenings, perhaps the double feature can be revived, too, as a way to generate interest in modestly budgeted work by younger filmmakers. With the exception of The Lie, which is directed by The Killing showrunner Veena Sud, the first four films are all from up-and-comers. There are some broadly shared themes—family secrets feature heavily, as do class anxieties—but these are standalone works. Their uneven quality, though inevitable for a horror anthology, is not counterbalanced by much stylistic distinctiveness between films. One hopes that the next four (to be released in 2021) will make better use of the range of young talent that the studios have access to.

procedural series The Killing by adapting the 2015 German neo-noir We Monsters. In Sud’s rendition, 15-year-old Kayla (Joey King) tells her divorced parents that she accidentally (or semi-accidentally) killed her friend Brittany (Devery Jacobs), and the family rushes to cover it up. The problem is that nothing that happens next is remotely plausible or compelling. Sarsgaard does his best as Kayla’s sloppy, overprotective father, Jay, but he’s impossible to believe as an aging rock star married to a corporate lawyer, Rebecca (Mireille Enos). For a film so focused on the private conversations between people who know one another intimately, the dialogue is impersonal and clumsy. Sud is then driven to try to wrench profundity out of silence. In a typical sequence in this agonizingly paced film, Jay or Rebecca tells an unconvincing lie, goes back into the family’s fake modernist home, sits quietly, cries, goes to a different room, and cries some more. An alternate title could have been: “White people weeping inside a desaturated Ikea catalog.” As a result, this C-list crime procedural crossed with a D-list domestic drama transpires with agonizing slowness. When the plot finally escalates in the third act, several twists that would have been ridiculous on their own are crammed together, making nearly everything we just saw meaningless. At one point, Kayla asks her dad, “When THE LIE you do something really bad—how do you H The two biggest names on the “Welcome undo that?” The moral of the story: You to the Blumhouse” bill—Veena Sud behind can’t, not even by selling it to Amazon. the camera and Peter Sarsgaard in front of —Ryan Vu it—turn out to be no guarantee of quality. A spiritless leftover from the 2018 Toronto BLACK BOX International Film Festival that never found HHH a distributor, The Lie finds Sud trying to rec- This sci-fi thriller features a Black Mirror-esreate her success in adapting the Danish que twist on hauntings. Months after losing 28

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Black Box

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALFONSO BRESCIANI/AMAZON STUDIOS

his memory in a car accident that also killed his wife, Nolan (Mamoudou Athie) volunteers for an experimental memory treatment. It seems to work, but the memories don’t seem to be his. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr.’s debut feature-length film is strongest in its early stages when Nolan is struggling to rebuild his life. His young daughter, Ava (Amanda Christine), and his friend Gary (Tosin Morohunfola) seem to have known a very different man. Nolan is unable to access the skills he used to have as a photographer, and his career is in free fall. His excitement over his apparently restored memory—palpable in Athie’s empathetic performance—is tempered by the alarmed reactions of his loved ones as he begins to “remember” places he’s never been. When the other shoe drops halfway through the film and Black Box’s more obvious horror elements emerge, both plot and tone start to get a little incoherent. Phylicia Rashad, playing the doctor in charge of Nolan’s treatment, pushes the character too far into mad-scientist territory, though she is always watchable. And in a twist that manifests late, Athie’s convincingly grounded performance becomes a liability as he’s forced to essentially tear down and rebuild his character, a near-impossible feat that he never quite pulls off. While not succeeding in all its ambitions, as a straight horror film, Black Box has two clear strengths. Real-life contortionist Troy James, riveting as Pretzel Jack in the final

season of Syfy horror anthology Channel Zero, is terrifying as a figure that crawls around Nolan’s dreams in a spine-cracking backbend. Osei-Kuffour Jr. has a filmmaking background in Japan, and the creepy way he represents Nolan’s amnesia (everyone he meets in his dreams has a blurred face) draws from the best of J-horror. Hopefully, Black Box, worth a watch on its own terms, will pave the way for Osei-Kuffour to push his talents even further. —RV EVIL EYE

HH ½

Based on Madhuri Shekar’s audio play, supernatural thriller Evil Eye recounts the story of an Indian family targeted by an intergenerational curse. New Delhi matriarch Usha (Sarita Choudhury) structures her life around amulets and worries about her daughter, Pallavi (Sunita Mani), who is approaching her thirties and—to her mother’s dismay—enjoying life as a single woman in New Orleans. When Pallavi finally starts a relationship with a seemingly perfect suitor, though, Usha realizes that a hex placed on her by an abusive past partner is about to be passed on to her daughter. Evil Eye examines the horror of abuse and its irreversible damage through a supernatural lens, drawing parallels between the abuser’s controlling tactics and black magic’s control over someone else’s fate. A few scenes insightfully point at the hidden power dynamics in both abuse and hexing: their isolating and par-


anoid self-doubting effects, their consequences on social credibility, and their ability to affect future generations. Unfortunately, the thriller’s potential for conceptual depth is thwarted by poor technical execution. The stylistic carelessness results in unimaginative soap-opera cinematography, a rushed and tedious plot, and—with the exception of Choudhury’s moments of seasoned intensity— performances so flat and awkward they make Evil Eye seem like an absurd comedy. This otherwise-underwhelming film draws its allure exclusively from its premise, which brilliantly entwines mythology and generational trauma. One wishes that the visionary flashes of insight in Shekar’s script had been given more time to develop into a consistent narrative and that its adaptation had been put into more capable hands. —Marta Núñez Pouzols NOCTURNE

HHH½

In Nocturne, Zu Quirke’s directorial debut, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) is a sheepish piano student tired of living under the shadow of her temperamental, talented twin sister, Vivian (Madison Iseman). With senior year at an art high school coming to an end, Juliet, continually underestimated by her teachers and classmates, is mortified that her sister has been accepted to Juilliard. After a virtuoso student in the school mysteriously dies, Juliet comes across her notebook, which is filled with sinister artwork and musical scores. Juliet’s obsession with the notebook unleashes her unknown potential as a soloist as well as a series of macabre events. Nocturne feels as if Darren Aronofsky’s groundbreaking but affected Black Swan had been adapted into an episode of the delightful HBO series Euphoria. The result is unfortunately not as bizarre as it could be, but it is satisfying, full of interesting twists, and it skillfully avoids grandiloquence with honest, tender glimpses of adolescent cruelty. Sweeney pulls her weight with a dimensional performance that ranges from stern to delirious, echoing the tension between control and abandon permeating the plot. Although Nocturne sometimes reaches for Faustian-bargain clichés, these predictable moments become complex thanks to the stylistic risks Quirke takes, including unconventional sound design. The film also benefits from being part of a thus-far disappointing series. Given the flatness and sometimes outright incompetence of the other movies, it stands out as having an intriguing visual style and an atmosphere that, at its best, is satisfyingly disturbing. —MNP W INDYweek.com

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PAGE

DAVID MENCONI: STEP IT UP & GO: THE STORY OF NORTH CAROLINA POPULAR MUSIC

[UNC Press; Oct. 19]

Written in Red Clay The dean of North Carolina rock critics pens a loving landmark history of our state’s popular music BY BRIAN HOWE bhowe@indyweek.com

R

obert Christgau was drunk and joking when he dubbed himself the Dean of American Rock Critics, but he meant it, and it stuck. You’d never hear David Menconi make so grand a claim. It would run contrary to his accessible, informed, but almost folksy writing, and unbefitting of someone who, in the prologue of his new book, locates the soul of North Carolina music in its people’s humble pragmatism. But he has a better claim to the state title than anyone else. Menconi is a reliable, populist rock-centric journalist and critic with an abiding interest in country, folk, and blues. His tenure chronicling local music for The News & Observer spanned three decades, beginning in the Camelot of early-nineties indie rock and ending in a wave of buyouts just last year. All of this richly funds Step It Up & Go (UNC Press), his engaging new history of a century’s worth of North Carolina’s popular music. With chapters focusing on figures as larger-than-life as North Carolina will allow—from proto-bluegrass rocker Charlie Poole and Piedmont blues exemplar Blind Boy Fuller to golden age hip-hop revivalists Little Brother and the empyrean heights of American Idol, with stops in R&B, beach music, indie rock, and points outlying—Menconi’s loving testament to our state’s musical heritage is brisk and fun but will also be cited as a reference for years to come. I recently called up the Dean of North Carolina Rock Critics to blab about why he gave a chapter to the forgotten seventies rock band Nantucket instead of Corrosion of Conformity or Sylvan Esso, what it was 30

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really like when the national record industry swept through Chapel Hill for the legendary Big Record Stardom Convention in 1992, and assorted other music geekery. INDY: How bad is COVID screwing up your book-release plans? DAVID MENCONI: Pretty bad. I was gonna

curate and emcee a stage out at the North Carolina State Fair. The Waterfall Stage was going to be the Step It Up & Go stage. It was going to be lots of fun, but not to be— maybe next year, maybe someday if it does well enough for a paperback edition. So it’s all virtual. I’m doing one via Flyleaf with Jon Wurster and Tom Maxwell, one with Scott Avett via Park Road Books in Charlotte. You’ve been writing this book for decades, really, but over what span did it actually come together?

I signed the contract on Groundhog Day in 2017, which seems kind of fitting. It took about a year longer than anticipated because the whole digital-first reinvention at [The News & Observer] just turned everybody’s lives and jobs completely upside down. I thought I could hum through about a chapter a month and was actually doing it until the digital reinvention turned us all into real-time reporters. So, three years really focused on it, but another quarter-century preceded that where I was sort of doing rough drafts of it without really realizing it. You were able to draw a lot on your prior reporting. How much new shoe leather did you burn?

I did new supplemental interviews for every chapter, and then a few chapters

David Menconi

PHOTO BY TERESA MOORE

were kind of from the ground up, most notably the ones on beach music and Nantucket. I went back and forth on Nantucket. You kind of wonder, should [Corrosion of Conformity] get that chapter, instead? What put [Nantucket] over the top was when I discovered that they started out as a beach band before becoming kind of the quintessential North Carolina seventies rock band. It’s like, God, that’s just so weird; I’ve got to make them the full-length chapter. The book has a good balance of famous things people want to know more about and these interesting niches. How did you decide who would get a chapter or section and who would get a sidebar? I definitely could have seen a Sylvan Esso chapter.

Yeah, it’s funny, if I’d been doing the book like a year later, Sylvan Esso probably would have been the chapter. Rhiannon Giddens would probably get her own chapter at

this point. I’m sure there are decisions I made that will not make people happy. I’ve already heard from some of them. But the great thing about North Carolina music is that you could write an equally compelling book about it with a completely different cast of characters. Because of your framing and the transientfilled nature of North Carolina, the book winds up taking in a lot of musical history throughout the country. How did you set out to frame it as being for a general audience that likes music versus a book about and for North Carolina?

From the start, neither I or the editor, Mark Simpson-Vos over at UNC Press, were really interested in doing any sort of A-to-Z encyclopedic treatment. We were more interested in a story you could tell. To that end, it is by necessity going to be connected to larger trends, both in the industry and the culture.


It was a bit of a struggle to make it all mean something other than just a collection of chapters about acts from North Carolina. It was a very involved proposal process, just refining the chapter list, the most arduous one that I’ve gone through—which is as it should be because it’s a lot more complicated book than any I’ve ever tried before.

In terms of genre, the book is pretty wellrounded. If anything, it’s a bit light on jazz, though we do get a lot of blues. Why is that?

Mostly, it’s my fault. It’s not in my wheelhouse as much as this other stuff. I’m sure there will people aghast that Monk and Coltrane didn’t get chapters, and there’s a case to be made there because there ain’t nobody more important than those two. But I feel like that’s a different book, and maybe I’ll even write that book someday.

You did a great job of weaving in everything from The Great Migration to the alt-rock boom, all these national concerns.

Did you learn anything about the music of North Carolina that you didn’t already know?

Were you here then, too, for that whole nineties alt-rock thing? I got into the music scene in Chapel Hill around 1999 or 2000. I felt like I had just missed the party.

That’s like when I was in grad school at the University of Texas in Austin. The Armadillo World Headquarters closed not long after I got there, and I kind of missed that whole progressive country thing, which I wound up writing a master’s thesis about. Alt-country in Raleigh went on to be a significant beat for you. You wrote the Ryan Adams book, Losering, which has been problematized since he was canceled over abusive behavior, and you lightly step over Ryan Adams as best you can in the book.

I had a really difficult, painful exchange with a superfan of his who’s still loyal to him, and she was just furious that I gave him short shrift. It was just like, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree. And others will be furious you gave him any shrift at all.

Yeah, exactly. I didn’t feel like you could ignore him, but he wasn’t gonna get his own chapter. We were talking about the alt-rock rush— you got here to work for the N&O right in the center of that, right?

January ‘91, the week the first Gulf War started. It was a funny, weird thing to live through. Not as funny and weird as it was for Jon Wurster and Tom Maxwell, but plenty. I liked those bands, but it didn’t occur to me that this was gonna blow up into a thing. When people from record companies started calling, that was weird, and suddenly SPIN and U.S. News & World Report and everybody are coming around, doing this stuff about the Chapel Hill sound. It was just kind of surreal. As is covered in the book, the fact that it was the last two bands anybody would have predicted that blew up [Squirrel Nut Zippers and Ben Folds Five] was the strange cherry on top of the whole sundae.

I was really happy you told the story about the guy cracking a beer can in the SPIN writer’s face to describe the Chapel Hill sound. I was never sure if that was true, but it’s just so perfect. Tell me about the Big Record Stardom Convention, where that took place.

I was happy to be able to confirm that and delighted that it actually happened. [The festival] was a lovely, unpretentious affair. People from out of town seemed to take it a lot more seriously than people in town did—typical Chapel Hill. The press came: Grant Alden, who went on to cofound No Depression magazine, wrote about it for Alternative Press or somebody like that. Everybody played great. Superchunk just kind of smoked the field, of course—that was really the height of their power. I’ve seen very few bands that were better than them then, and they just went over like a house on fire. The strange thing about it, I guess, was that it felt like this crescendo, and people were wondering, all right, wow, is somebody gonna wind up on Interscope Records and sell two million records? None of that really came to pass. But it was a hell of a party. There was kickball during the day, cookouts. It was super North Carolina, downhome and fun. My editor was just adamant about, why are they doing this? What do they hope to gain from it? I would ask them questions like that and they’d look at me funny. You know, we’re bringing in a bunch of people to see bands and probably get written about in SPIN magazine. What’s wrong with that? My editor so wanted there to be more to it than that, but there really wasn’t.

Beach music was something that I hadn’t taken very seriously for a long time. To me, beach was these cover bands playing in parking lots, wearing polyester. I was a snob and not very bright, so I just kind of dismissed it. But people kept telling me there was more to it. When I delved into it, there’s this whole subtext that it came out of the Jim Crow era, part and parcel of segregation. That was fascinating. And there were some details that only a total dork like me would get a rise out, but I found it just hilarious that the same slimeball record guy was involved with both Charlie Poole and Arthur Smith. He was the guy who wouldn’t let Charlie Poole do anything other than those old-timey records he was bored with doing. But he later signed Bob Wills, who basically was doing what Charlie Poole wanted to do. The stuff he was doing at the end of his life wasn’t too far removed from Western swing. You can see it getting there if he’d gotten the chance. You can tell that Charlie Poole really holds a place of reverence for you, even like a mythological status.

I like the fact that he keeps coming up; he’s dotted here and there throughout other chapters, too. It’s the great sort of rockand-roll fantasy. You don’t want to romanticize it too much, somebody drinking themselves to death before the age of 40. But he was a hard-living rock star.

Raleigh's Community Bookstore

Upcoming Virtual Events Cathy Marie Buchanan Daughter of Black Lake 7pm 10.15 Ted Williams Earth Almanac 7pm 10.17 Amy Roost and Jessica Handler Fury 2pm 10.18 All the Songs We Sing A Multi-genre anthology 2pm 10.19 David Menconi Step It Up and Go’ 7pm All events are online. Register for Quail Ridge Books Virtual Events Series at www.quailridgebooks.com. 10.14

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YOUR WEEK. EVERY WEDNESDAY. FOOD • NEWS • ARTS • MUSIC

What if “linthead,” the term that was used to describe millworkers like Poole, had stuck instead of “tar heel,” and they were the UNC Lintheads?

[Laughs] Should’ve given that a try, man. W

David Menconi’s virtual events include talks with Jaki Shelton Green via The Regulator (Oct. 15), Scott Huler via Quail Ridge Books (Oct. 19), and Scott Avett via Park Road Books (Oct. 20); an appearance on UNCTV’s North Carolina Bookwatch (Oct. 18 and 20); and others. Details: loseringbook.wordpress.com/step-it-up-and-go/

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M U SIC

Americana Burning Find your place in a country on fire with new albums by Mipso and Owen Fitzgerald BY SPENCER GRIFFITH AND GRANT GOLDEN music@indyweek.com

MIPSO: MIPSO

HHHH [Rounder Records; Oct. 16]

M

ipso’s 2018 LP, the expansive Edges Run, found the North Carolina quartet broadening its sonic palette. In interviews, the band members have talked about how the recording sessions almost broke them up. Thankfully, Mipso soldiered on, staking out a captivating new identity on its latest album with material that both charms and challenges. Mipso retains the lush instrumentation of its predecessor—assisted by longtime touring drummer Yan Westerlund and a handful of guests—while injecting some playfulness back into the proceedings. The woozy track “Let a Little Light In” embraces instrumental quirkiness by including a toy piano, pulling back a curtain of melancholy and nostalgia to take a clear look at childhood memories. This is a common thread throughout the album as the band’s four singers and songwriters—guitarist Joseph Terrell, fiddler Libby Rodenbough, mandolinist Jacob Sharp, and bassist Wood Robinson—strug32

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gle with existential questions through a lens that keeps them from becoming too heavy. Banjo-accented grooves back explorations of body image (“Your Body”) and mental health (“Help”), while “Hey, Coyote” and “Just Want to Be Loved” examine the security found in a home and a romantic relationship, respectively. Taken together, Mipso’s final two tracks demonstrate the band’s versatility while also speaking to environmental concerns. “Shelter” finds each member taking a vocal turn for a verse, revealing four vastly different characters that each need physical or metaphorical shelter. Terrell’s foam-dampened acoustic guitar mimics the warmth of a plucked mbira over simple hand percussion, while Rodenbough’s ethereal fiddle flourishes. Meanwhile, though he’s relocated to Utah, Robinson connects to his home state by voicing the economic and natural-disaster devastation faced by his Robeson County relatives. A jaunty waltz highlighted by the band’s trademark harmonies, “Wallpaper Baby” sounds like classic Mipso, though it belies more-serious subject matter: Rodenbough builds the refrain around the metaphor of a house collapsing—“Get over the wallpaper, baby/This house is coming down”—as a reminder of looming catastrophic climate change. Since its formation, the members of Mipso have made their own forays: Robinson released a solo project, Wood Robinson’s New Formal, in 2016; Rodenbough released her terrific solo project earlier this year; and Terrell recently recorded a new project with his brother. But it’s clear on Mipso that these efforts haven’t come at the expense of the group. Indeed, this new album finds the quartet refining one another’s contributions, making it Mipso’s richest album yet. —Spencer Griffith

OWEN FITZGERALD: BODY, CHILD, LIGHT, CRIME

HHH 1/2

[Sleepy Cat Records; Oct. 16]

O

wen Fitzgerald is a longtime fixture of the Triangle music scene. His first project, Jokes&Jokes&Jokes, found him performing rootsy Southern Gothic material with biting comedic commentary. In more recent years, his indie-punk outfit, Salt Palace, has showcased his songwriting with a fuzzed-out veneer. Fitzgerald’s latest solo work, Body, Child, Light, Crime, is a fitting intersection of his previous musical excursions, and his first on the Carrboro-based label Sleepy Cat Records. Each track on the EP features clean guitar lines peppered with distortion and rhythms that bounce between driving drum hits and shuffling percussive brushes. The record brilliantly highlights an aural dichotomy between punk and folk, giving way to an Appalachian dystopia. Body, Child, Light, Crime clocks in at just 12 minutes and 10 seconds. Each

of the four tracks follows its own titular theme but falls within a cohesive narrative that circumnavigates society’s underlying anxiety and the struggle to find solace within uncertainty. These are songs about finding your place in a country on fire. “The Body” outlines a struggle with body dysmorphia and a longing for freedom of self-expression in a society where “God’s image doesn’t match what [you] imagine [yourself] to be.” “The Child” traverses an array of dreamlike thoughts where “Cool Hand Luke descends from the clouds in a cast iron time machine” to kill presidential cronies by stuffing them full of eggs. “The Child” stands out as a lyrical highlight and the pinpoint of Fitzgerald’s unique dark humor and blunt political perspective with the unforgettable lines, “I hope my kid’s first word is ‘Fuck Donald Trump’/I hope my kid’s second word is ‘Fuck Donald Trump.” We then find “The Light” exploring mortality. “What happens when the lights turn off?” Fitzgerald asks, leaving no stone unturned as he explores life’s many chapters, from “learning death’s first name” to wondering “what happens when you’re born.” “The Crime” closes the EP with instrumental minimalism and lyrical maximalism, as Fitzgerald tackles the bureaucratic machine of politicians that sit just outside of the spotlight, promising them “a shining brass guillotine.” Fitzgerald packs a punch in these 12 minutes, making this a special record. Flowery language is supplanted by precise and carefully collected words, allowing him to paint a vast picture on a small canvas. —Grant Golden W


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