RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Buncombe County commissioner announced Wednesday she’s running for lieutenant governor in 2016, saying she’d serve as a counterweight to the North Carolina legislature’s conservative agenda, in particular on its interference in local government affairs.
Holly Jones, a Democrat, wants to replace Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is seeking re-election. She would first have to compete in next May’s primary against 2012 Democratic nominee Linda Coleman, who narrowly lost to Forest in that year’s general election.
Coleman, a former legislator and Wake County commissioner, announced last February she would run again. Former longtime state employee Robert Wilson also plans to run in the Democratic primary.
A commissioner for seven years following seven earlier years on the Asheville City Council, Jones said she wants to present the state an “alternate vision” to what Republicans have offered since taking over all of state government.
Jones said she’s been particularly grieved by GOP legislation that has sought to limit or reverse local government authority. Lawmakers redrew Buncombe County commission districts, got involved in Asheville’s airport and voted to transfer control of Asheville’s water system to a regional authority.
Recently, lawmakers have redrawn districts for the Greensboro City Council and Wake County commission over local objections.
“I’ve been a local elected official for a long, long time and what the General Assembly is doing to local government we just can’t stand for,” Jones, 53, told The Associated Press in an interview. She added that she would also advocate for a “progressive agenda” focused on supporting families and children and increasing funds for public education. Democrats have argued GOP lawmakers slashed funds for schools.
Jones, a director of member services for the national YWCA, grew up in Wadesboro and Asheboro and has been living in Asheville for the past 19 years.
She said she began considering more than a year ago a campaign for lieutenant governor, which has few inherent powers beyond presiding over the state Senate and succeeding the governor in the case of death or incapacity. The lieutenant governor has seats on the State Board of Education and State Board of Community Colleges.
Jones’ campaign said that, while an elected official, Jones and her colleagues have helped create nearly 2,900 jobs while passing ambitious carbon emission reduction goals and awarding high supplements for local teacher salaries. Jones said being a seasoned elected local official with accomplishments would bring a “breath of fresh air” in Raleigh.
Jones said her campaign has set a goal to raise $2.5 million before the November 2016 general election. Coleman’s campaign reported raising $102,000 this year through June 30. Forest’s campaign brought in $363,500, according to finance reports.