News: CJ Exclusives

Conservative GOP incumbents face off in newly drawn SD 45

Republican primary, state Senate District 45 (Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, and part of Surry counties)

  • Deanna Ballard (incumbent, one term). Education: Belmont University, business degree. Occupation: Director of the Office of the President/CEO for Samaritan’s Purse, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Career highlights: Volunteer for George W. Bush’s Presidential Advance Team, special assistant to President Bush and director of scheduling and advance for First Lady Laura Bush. Served as director of advance (travel coordination) for U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and deputy director of advance for U.S. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige.
  • Shirley Randleman (three-term incumbent, District 30; two terms in House). Education: N.C. School of Government, Wilkes Community College, James B. Hunt Education Institute, and Center for Advancement of Leadership Skills at Morristown. Occupation: Former Wilkes County clerk of Superior Court, 34 years in the court system. Career highlights: Chairs or co-chairs legislative committees on Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety; Judiciary, Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety. President, Legislative Republican Women’s Caucus. Served in numerous civic, professional, religious, community, and government organizations.

Republican incumbents Shirley Randleman of North Wilkesboro and Deanna Ballard of Blowing Rock are vying for the newly drawn Senate District 45 seat.

Due to redistricting, District 45 now covers all of Wilkes, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties, and most of Surry County. The new district encompasses portions of District 30, which Randleman has represented since 2013.

Ballard has represented District 45 since 2016. In an email she said she wants to continue to serve because she “feels called to step up, engage, and build onto the great work the N.C. General Assembly continues to do.”

“I have new ideas, lots of energy, and sincerely represent all constituents across the district — not just the county I live in,” she said.

Randleman said in an email her experiences, and the fact she was born and raised in northwestern North Carolina, provide her with a better understanding of the challenges of living in rural North Carolina.

“With the loss of textiles and manufacturing jobs, employment and being able to earn a ‘living’ wage is critical for the support of one’s family,” Randleman said.

“I also understand and am deeply concerned about the lack of opportunities for our children and grandchildren in northwestern North Carolina,” she said.

At a presentation Monday, April 23, at the John Locke Foundation, North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Kappler called the race a “jump ball,” since each senator must win the votes of constituents they haven’t served before.

Randleman has represented the eastern part of the new district (including Wilkes County), while Ballard has represented northern and western counties along the state’s border with Virginia and Tennessee.

NCFEF rates the district “strong Republican” based on voter registration and other demographic factors.

Both candidates supported House Bill 90 and agree the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would bring much needed opportunity to eastern North Carolina.

“I believe access to a more abundant supply of natural gas will be a great development for North Carolina,” Ballard said. “It will afford more reliable and affordable power, create new jobs, and boost local economies — a modern lifeline of sorts.”

“I honestly think Gov. Cooper’s secret negotiation of the $57.8 million ‘slush fund’ showed a serious lack of transparency, and trust, both with the N.C. General Assembly, and the people of North Carolina,” Ballard said. “Our state constitution specifies and outlines the budget process clearly, and I am disappointed our governor chose to single-handedly route money elsewhere.”

Randleman said H.B. 90 set parameters for taking and using money secretly negotiated between Cooper and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline operators. The legislature shifted the $57.8 million to public schools in the eight counties along the pipeline path. Cooper said he planned to use it for economic development, renewable energy projects, and pipeline construction mitigation.

Randleman said she voted for H.B. 90 because the state constitution gives appropriation powers to the legislature, and what has been described by critics as Cooper’s slush fund belongs to state residents.

Ballard said not enough attention is directed toward rural hospitals, which continue to face financial challenges, and often compete for medical and health care professionals. She said that impacts the quality of care and puts patients at risk.

“I think we can consider partnering more with our state’s medical schools to incentivize the next generation of doctors to move and work here with loan repayment programs,” Ballard said.

Randleman said the lack of adequate treatment for mental health and substance abuse, along with a lack of adolescent treatment facilities should be in the spotlight.

“Our youth have to be transported to other counties many miles away from their families. We also have a shortage of school psychologists,” Randleman said.

Democrat Brandon Anderson is running unopposed. He will face the winner of the primary in the Nov. 6 general election.