Woodard, Michaux face Republican challengers

Feb. 28, 2014 @ 08:35 PM

State Sen. Mike Woodard and state Rep. Mickey Michaux must fight to retain their seats in the fall, but three of their colleagues in Durham’s General Assembly delegation got a pass from both parties and will be re-elected.

Filing for this year’s legislative races closed Friday without opponents emerging to take on Reps. Larry Hall and Paul Luebke, or state Sen. Floyd McKissick. Like Woodard and Michaux, they are Democrats.

Michaux and Woodard are unopposed for the Democratic Party nomination, but will face Republican opponents in the fall.

Woodard, now in the midst of his first term, has to wait on a GOP primary as two candidates are vying for a chance to replace him. One, lawyer Milton Holmes, seeks a rematch of the 2012 election in Senate District 22.

The other, Caswell County substitute teacher Herman Joubert, is a first-time candidate.

Holmes didn’t run an active campaign in 2012 and couldn’t be reached for comment. He lives in western Durham’s Falconbridge neighborhood.

Joubert, the chairman of the Caswell Republicans, emailed a news release that said he “will fight for economic policies that lift oppressive taxes and unnecessary regulations to encourage new job growth and restore the confidence of employers to expand.”

A former Durham city councilman, Woodard said he merits re-election to the N.C. Senate because he’s “been working hard over the last year and a half to bring jobs” to the district while protecting education and health care.

District 22 covers suburban Durham and all of Person and Granville counties.

Michaux goes into the campaign knowing he’ll face self-employed property manager Todd Conard in the November general election. The winner will represent District 31 in the N.C. House.

Conard, a 40-year-old making his first try for elective office, said he’ll run as a “liberty candidate” who identifies with the Tea Party and national figures such as U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

“I wouldn’t categorize myself at all as establishment Republican,” he said, adding he suspects 2014 could produce a GOP sweep because voters know they’ve been “deceived on things like the Affordable Care Act and Benghazi and things like that.”

Michaux, who’s 83, seeks an 18th full term in the House.

A lawyer, Michaux said he gave some thought to retiring this year but opted to run again to see to that Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican majorities of the House and Senate hear some vigorous dissent.

“You’ve got a problem with the folks running the show over there and I didn’t want anybody to think I was running away from a fight,” he said, adding that he might not run again in 2016 if Democrats “can get some decent results out of this election.”

This year’s primary will happen on May 6, with early voting beginning on April 24.

The general election follows on Nov. 4, with early voting starting Oct. 23.

Voting will likely occur against the backdrop of an improving economy, if the analysis of an economist who briefed Durham’s City Council on Friday holds.

Employment trends in North Carolina are following their usual path of changing more quickly than the national average, said N.C. State University professor Michael Walden.

The state remains heavily reliant on manufacturing, so employment here tends to crash harder in a downturn and pick up more rapidly in a recovery, he said. He cautioned that some indicators suggest many workers haven’t resumed the search for a new job and that others in part-time work would rather have full-time positions.

Durham and the Chapel Hill area have made good all the jobs they lost at the trough of the recession. “You are now back to an all-time high job level in this metro area,” Walden said.

He added that he expects the western Triangle to add 7,000 to 8,000 new payroll jobs this year while displaying “clearly improved sales and construction and an improved business outlook.”