Building on a progressive legacy

The Durham County Democratic Party will choose a successor during a Thursday meeting for the House District 30 seat that the late Paul Luebke held for 25 years. It’s a chance for Durham to build on Luebke’s progressive legacy.

The task will not be easy. The General Assembly is a far different institution than when Luebke first took office. Republicans now hold veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate. Ideologically, this is a different Republican Party than the one Luebke had to work with.

In the current political climate, Durham stands as an anomaly. Durham bucked the trend and overwhelmingly voted against Amendment One, which courts later overturned. Opposition to House Bill 2, known as the bathroom bill, was swift and near universal.

Six candidates have stepped forth and expressed interest in the House seat, and the Democratic committee will hear from them, and possibly other candidates, Thursday. They have many impressive credentials. Marcia Morey, Durham’s chief district judge, has worked tirelessly in juvenile justice and helped start a misdemeanor diversion program. Kevin Griffin, president and chief executive officer at Avant Group, LLC, worked on Durham’s Living Wage Project committee. Other candidates also have impressive credentials in business, environmental conservation, and public service.

The numbers seem stacked against progressive government, but the voice that these candidates represent is needed now more than ever. As this was being written, the Legislature and governor were still groping toward a compromise to meet a looming NCAA deadline for repealing House Bill 2 or face losing revenue from major collegiate sports events. A more business friendly tax environment has come at the expense of public schools. Many districts are at wit’s end over how to obey the unfunded mandate of lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. The state’s sanctioning of vouchers and encouragement of more public charter schools have also diluted dollars from public schools, and reflect a fundamental contempt from many legislators for this most vital institution.

We have many riches, but this state also has challenges — rural development, preservation of our coastal and other natural resources, continuing what was once a legacy of fairly affordable higher education. The list goes on.

This state’s past record is not perfect, but North Carolina once did a better job looking out for its citizens. Our hope is that the representative Durham sends to the House will understand that history. Paul Luebke did.