Durham County Soil & Water District Supervisor Danielle Adams, a young and promising YEO from North Carolina has decided to withdraw her candidacy for Congress. This is bad news for progressives because it leaves the Democratic nomination open to some hack garden variety Democrat with no chance of winning the seat. However, it might not be bad news for North Carolina because the reason Danielle withdrew was so she could contest a suddenly opened state House seat.
"Nothing about the choice has been easy," she told me yesterday. "The recent government shutdown illuminated to me that the kind of politics one has to play at the Congressional level isn't conducive to my personality... rather I'm not quite suited for what is required of a candidate. I don't want to be that kind of candidate or elected official-- I'm an issues person. Someone who cares about doing what's right and protecting my constituents." This is the questionnaire she filed out for the Democratic Party appointment to the House District 50 seat:
1) What are the three most important issues facing NC House District 50? If appointed, how will you address those issues?
The top three issues facing the district are environmental quality, rural economic development, and land preservation.
House 50, by census standards, is a rural district that is blessed with incredible beauty and abundant natural resources. With increased urbanization and a dismantling of environmental regulations by the Republican majorities, it is more important than ever to have an environmental champion serving this district. In the legislature I would work to ensure that we work to protect our natural resources through reasonable regulation while listening to experts on air, water, forestry, and soil quality in the district.
Rural economic development is a huge issue for the district. In the General Assembly I would ensure that local officials were supported in being able to create the transportation and water and sewer infrastructure needed to attract businesses to the community without overstepping or preempting the authority of county and municipal governments.
Farmland preservation is another critical issue facing House 50. According to 2011 Ag Statistics, Durham County has 242 farms encompassing 26,150 acres-- much of which lies in the district and Orange County boasts 604 active farms covering 60,057 acres of lush land. These operations had cash receipts of $9,207,598 and $27,448,205 which clearly indicate how vital it is to ensure that landowners are capable of keeping their land without feeling the need to sell to developers. I would work to ensure the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund has a reoccurring budget that is adequate to compensate landowners for giving up their development rights.
2) Have you ever run for elective office? If yes, what office(s) did you seek and how did you place (first, second, etc), and what percent of the total vote did you earn?
I ran for office in both 2008 and 2012. On both occasions I ran for the Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors and came in first place both times in a field of three. In 2012 I performed very well in the precincts making up the NC House 50 District and outperformed the Republican Party challenger who out raised me 6 to 1 during the election.
Comparatively, even with the voter dropoff to my down ballot race, I was able to receive more votes than Senator Foushee in the precincts that are wholly included in the House district. In 2008 I received a total of 42,059 votes or 45.61% of the votes and in 2012 I received 80,043 votes or 72.09% of the vote.
3) How will you promote economic development while protecting our watersheds?
House 50 is home of some of the world’s top pharmaceutical, R&D, defense, and technology companies and to some of the most beautiful working agricultural land in our region. It is important for the district to continue to strike a balance between rural economic development and conscientious natural resource conservation and preservation.
Capitalizing on the top notch institutions of higher education in Orange and Durham counties as well as the world class research being conducted in RTP in the General Assembly I will work to continue to make North Carolina a great place to do business and to live. This would involve reevaluating our corporate tax structure to make sure that the tax breaks given to businesses that relocate to North Carolina really are investing and contributing to our communities while ensuring that we are able to attract businesses to the area with the availability of tax-advantaged corporate parks in our rural corridors.
Because House 50 is encompasses the Upper Eno River Basin and is a key portion of the Upper Neuse River Basin I would continue to push for investments in Farmland Preservation-- as well as protections for our critical watershed areas. Due to my background as an elected official, for me, this means budget investments in Soil and Water Conservation, DENR, and the Department of Agriculture. These investments would help grow our district’s various agribusinesses (e.g. forestry, equine, aquaculture, and dairy) while providing funding for best management practices cost share, watershed monitoring, and wetland and watershed protections.
4) What is your record as a public official or what other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective in the NC House of Representatives? (This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.)
I currently represent twelve counties from Area IV on the legislative committee of the NC Soil and Water association for soil and water districts and serve as secretary of the Durham district. I am the immediate past secretary of the state association. I also serve as an ex-officio member of the Upper Neuse River Basin Association representing six Soil and Water Districts.
I am an ambassador to Oxfam America's Sisters on the Planet advocacy program where I've lobbied on Capitol Hill for funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as for other policies that impact global hunger issues like rising food prices, and sustainable agriculture in drought-stricken communities. I’ve also lobbied on the Hill on behalf of the National Cattleman's Beef Association and the National Grange for rural broadband access.
I am a member of the Young Elected Officials Network (a suborganization of the People for the American Way) and serve on the "Ensuring a Sustainable Future" policy council where we develop annual progressive policy focuses for the 700+ past and present members. I also serve as State Director for the network and recruit, mentor, and assist progressive young candidates and elected officials in NC.
I served as the Alternative Transportation project manager for Appalachian State University where I proudly introduced ride-sharing, car sharing, and revamped our entire transportation program while facilitating cooperation between ASU and the Boone Town Council.
I received Spectacular Magazine's Emerging Leader Woman of the Year and NCASWCD's Outstanding Supervisor of the Year awards.
5) Have you ever owned a business or managed people? Please explain your experience.
I have not ever owned a business, however, I do not view this as a disadvantage. Outside of management experiences from an elected capacity, my experiences have been within academic or political forms. In 2002 I won my first election for office while an undergraduate at Shenandoah University where I served as both the freshman class and sophomore class vice presidents. I began managing various campaigns for myself and others over the past 10+ years.
In my tenure as an elected official in Durham I have had the opportunity to be supported by an outstanding department of Soil and Water staff, that is very responsive and works hard to comply with the wishes of our board, and I have served on numerous local, state, and national boards-- where these positions of leadership have required management communication with staff.
I was recently elected as a co-chair of the Young Elected Officials Network Black Caucus, where I assist in the organization of policy positions and actions by our members. One current project is working with our colleagues in Florida and nationwide to help repeal “Stand Your Ground” laws. As State Director for the network, I work with other progressive young elected officials by ensuring that information is disseminated, that they are connected with nationwide partners, and working with staff to ensure that candidates and officials get the support they need.
These leadership and managerial experiences serve as examples of my energy, enthusiasm, and fearlessness in service.
6) Currently, Republicans have a majority in the House, Senate, and Executive Office. What is your strategic plan for securing bipartisan support?
The Division of Soil and Water is currently under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a department headed by Republican Commissioner Steve Troxler. Since being elected in 2008, I have been surrounded by numerous conservative voices in the world of Soil and Water Conservation. I have grown to understand what is necessary to compromise and work with less progressive voices. As a result, I have matured into becoming a pragmatic progressive capable of reaching across the aisle to move forward policies that are in the best interest of the community.
I believe this history makes me uniquely qualified to fill the vacancy over other candidates. In Durham and Orange counties it is easy to get comfortable in our Democratic and progressive safe havens but in my position, I have had to continually work with Republicans to advocate for legislation that is important to Soil and Water Districts.
I currently serve as one of eight supervisors (out of 496) on the NC Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts’ Legislative Committee. In this capacity I have seen that the Republicans not only have majorities in the House, Senate, and Executive-- that hold majorities in the eyes of our rural, agricultural communities. I’ve had almost five years of experience working hand in hand with conservatives and strategically, I strongly believe that it is possible to bring House 50 what it needs because I know how to speak to the shared values we all have so that we can move forward.
7) Do you plan to run in the 2014 primary? If so, please explain how you plan to be reelected. Do you have support to win the primary and general election?
Absolutely. If given the opportunity to serve I would not wait idly by until the legislature convenes in May. I believe that the two most important questions a public servant can ask their constituents are “What do you need?” and “How can I help?” If appointed to fill the vacancy I would immediately set out to hold town hall meetings and speak to residents find out what they need and how I can help.
As a Supervisor I’ve learned that the best way to serve my community and gain their support, is to get to know the people in it and to take care of them. A strategy I believe proved successful in the almost doubling of my 2012 vote totals (a lower turnout election) over 2008.
I am confident I would have support to win in both the primary and general elections as I have a strong base and strong community ties in Durham, and strong relationships and support in Orange County as well. These relationship have been forged over years of participation in the former 4th Congressional District and in my work with Soil and Water, working with Orange and Durham County districts while serving on the Upper Neuse River Basin Association.
An advantage that I possess is that I have a built in campaign team from my previous elections and my 6th Congressional District exploratory committee that is ready and waiting for the green light to win this seat and keep it blue.
8) This position comes with little pay; however, it requires a lot of time. How will you manage employment and time commitments as a NC House representative?
The reality of the current economic climate is that many recipients of higher education and many highly skilled workers are unemployed or underemployed. I fall into the group of the latter. Although not ideal, being underemployed has not only increased my resolve to defend students, workers, and families it has provided me the time to dedicate to my constituents in my current elected position.
I fervently believe that our General Assembly should transition to becoming a professional body so that our Representatives are wholly committed to the people they serve in.
9) What bills are you yearning to introduce?
I would love to usher North Carolina into a new progressive era by introducing a variety of new bills:
● Paid sick leave
● A Corporate Responsibility Act that would prohibit the state from awarding
contracts over a certain financial threshold amount to businesses or individuals that contribute to candidates, political parties, or sitting office holders
● Campaign Finance Reform that limits special interests and provides for public financing of statewide races.
● Deceptive Practices Provision that would create stronger penalties for individuals and organizations that intentionally communicate materially false information about the time, place, manner, qualifications, or restrictions on voter eligibility with regard to elections in North Carolina.
● Success in Higher Education Act that would create collaboration between public fouryear institutions and community colleges that would award students who transfer into four year institutions the opportunity to receive an Associate’s degree upon completion of 60 credit hours of coursework if they meet the requirements of an available Associate’s degree program.
● Financial Literacy Education Act that would require personal financial literacy to be incorporated into existing Math curriculum in public secondary schools.
● Right to Rent Act allowing low to moderate value homeowners facing foreclosure to remain in their homes as renters at the fair market value of their home which can often be less than what their current mortgage values are.
● Domestic and Migrant Workers Bill of Rights/Protections.
● Universal health care/singlepayer system.
10) What are your positions on the laws concerning voter suppression, reduced access to abortion services, the refusal to expand Medicaid, and charter school expansion?
I believe that every eligible voter has a right to participate in fair elections and that any measures put in place to suppress voters in that process are unjust and deplorable. Public officials should do all that we can to increase voter participation and ensure easier access to the ballot box.
I believe that the reduced access to abortion services and the intrusion of our government into the discussions of a woman’s health between her and her doctor are affronts on the millions of women across our state. The reproductive health choices made by women are deeply personal and done so thoughtfully, I am fundamentally opposed to limiting access to a clean and safe abortion. Women in all economic classes should have access to the same care.
I believe it was cruel, immoral, and unjust to deny Medicaid expansion. I stand by the need of the coverage and always support the accessibility, affordability, and availability of care to all North Carolinians.
I am the product of the Durham Public School system and I am proud of the fact that my high school, Durham School of the Arts, was ranked 1st in North Carolina for Best High School by US News and World Report. I believe it is necessary to provide parents with educational options for their children but I do not believe that diverting taxpayer dollars to expand the Charter School system instead of investing in per pupil spending, raising teacher pay, and investing in Teaching Fellows-- is sound legislative policy.
She also told me that she would like to contribute the $939 Blue America had raised for her back to the PAC. "I would like to take all of the money donated to my campaign through Blue America donors and donate it to the general Blue America campaign fund. The money should go towards progressive candidates that have a real shot at winning." I'm pretty sure this isn't the last time we'll be hearing from Danielle Adams.