Democratic primary: House District 11 (western Wake County).
• Duane Hall (incumbent elected in 2012). Education: N.C. State University, and Florida State University College of Law. Occupation: Trial attorney. Career highlights: Vice chairman of the House Judiciary 1 Committee; member of nine other standing or select House committees.
• Allison Dahle. Education: University of South Carolina, bachelor of arts in theatre and speech. Occupation: Law firm employee. Career highlights: Served on numerous boards and associations, including Carolina Designers Craftsman Guild, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Mothers Demand Action, ARC of North Carolina, Young Adult Institute, Planned Parenthood, and the Women’s March.
The winner will face attorney Tyler Brooks, a Republican who is running unopposed, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Hall was first elected in 2012 in what is labeled a strong Democratic district by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks state elections. For the most part Hall has toed the Democratic Party line in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. He had been considered an emerging party leader.
However, his star has fallen in recent months over allegations of sexual harassment.
Hall has admitted to inappropriately kissing a woman at a Democratic Party function, but repeatedly has denied sexually harassing anyone.
Hall contends N.C. Policy Watch, part of the liberal advocacy group N.C. Justice Center, is trafficking in gossip and untruths. He said the charges are a personal attack stemming from a former romantic relationship with Megan Glazier, daughter of Justice Center Executive Director Rick Glazier.
Policy Watch Director Rob Schofield called Hall’s comments outrageous and false, and stood by his organization’s reporting.
In spite of Hall’s denials, Gov. Roy Cooper and Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party, were among those who called on Hall to resign his legislative seat. Hall refused, but did step down as chairman of the N.C. Courts Commission in April.
Hall did not respond to requests from Carolina Journal for an interview. His personal website is bare-bones. While he was once very active on social media, his Twitter account shows no tweets. He has not posted on Facebook since Feb. 26.
“Our campaign has made no accusations against our opponent, but believe primary voters should be aware of the lack of party confidence, and the genuine concerns of those personally aware of his misconduct,” said Laura Birch Kilgore, a Dahle campaign spokeswoman.
“Allison Dahle will be a champion of changing the culture of the legislature as a place where women and every citizen is respected in the workplace,” Kilgore said.
“I won’t dance around the issue,” Dahle said in an April 11 post on her Twitter account. “My opponent has sexually harassed women. Despite Gov. Cooper’s call to step down from his seat, he refuses,” Dahle wrote. “So let me be clear: I believe these women. There is no place for harassers in our state government. Period.”
Meredith College political science professor David McLennan said the Democrats are in an awkward situation. They’ve advocated for his ouster, but will be sitting with him during the short session starting May 16.
“Duane Hall has typically been a good fundraiser for himself and others. So that’s a real bind they’ve put themselves in. They need him, but they don’t want him,” McLennan said. “They need his votes on issues. They need his general support.”
If Hall were to make a more concerted effort to apologize or more fully explain his actions there is a chance Democrats would forgive him, McLennan said. But he has taken a legalistic approach in denying any sexual misbehavior. “That’s putting them in an even more uncomfortable position.”
Because of the accusations and backlash against Hall, Dahle is picking up more campaign support than a political novice normally would experience, McLennan said. Yard signs are going up, and supporters are out stumping for her.
It’s unlikely a more experienced Democrat would try to get on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate to challenge the wounded Hall, McLennan said. Democratic voters probably would view that as disrespectful to Dahle, and wouldn’t give a late entrant much support or campaign cash.
The deadline for filing petition signatures to run as an unaffiliated candidate is noon May 8.
If Hall is re-elected — he’s still getting campaign donations from powerful Democratic enthusiasts, McLennan said — he might be marginalized within the party. Avenues that once seemed open to him, such as an expected run for lieutenant governor, probably would collapse.
The biggest issue that Hall has publicly addressed is redistricting.
In a Jan. 12 Facebook post, he claimed Republicans in the General Assembly “have never drawn a constitutional map, and now they want to draw maps for our judges, and take away our ability to vote. Instead of attempting to abide by our Constitution, their answer is to redraw our judges’ districts for the sole purpose of electing more Republican judges.”
During an appearance on Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight,” Hall not only doubled down on the gerrymandering claim but inserted race into the issue. He said “the fact is these new judicial maps double-bunk more than half of black judges in North Carolina.”
Hall also opposs drilling for oil and gas off of North Carolina’s coast and arming teachers in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, high school shootings.
“Let North Carolina’s lawmakers know to keep guns out of our children’s classrooms!” Hall posted on Feb 22.
Kilgore said Dahle is “running on equality, and education, as well as environmental concerns.”
Dahle “seeks solutions to state funding for our schools that raises the levels of excellence, provides safe buildings and classrooms, and increases pay for teachers to the national average,” Kilgore said.
Dahle opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on environmental grounds because, for example, it runs under a drinking water reservoir, Kilgore said. Dahle thinks it makes more economic sense to invest in in-state solar and other energy solutions, and pipeline jobs are short term instead of providing more sustainable job growth in rural areas of the state, Kilgore said.
Dahle is a Raleigh native. She spent time in New York working as a stage manager for a number of theatrical companies, and as a community rehabilitation specialist. She moved back to Raleigh in 2003 to work in a local law firm.
Dahle supports raising North Carolina’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, a stronger public transit system that will link the entire Triangle region, and reinstating the earned income tax credit in North Carolina.
“I feel like we’ve gotten into this whole competition of greed, and not paying people what they’re worth,” Dahle said in a video on her website. “People need to be making enough money to put food on the table for their children, put gas in their car. But when you make $7.25 an hour, how can you afford a car?”
Dahle believes Medicaid should be expanded in North Carolina. She supports full funding for Planned Parenthood “to provide for the low-income and marginalized women of our state.”
Dahle identifies herself as a gun owner “who will uphold the Constitution — including the 2nd Amendment.” — Nevertheless she supports restrictions on AR-15 weapons, a ban on bump stocks, background checks on all gun sales, and limiting clip size purchases.
Dahle highlights several environmental issues. She promises “to hold polluters accountable when they threaten our air, water and land.” She supports “renewable energy such as wind, solar, and wave technologies to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, and grow the green energy economy of our state.”