Republican Davidson County Commissioner Larry Potts has a built-in advantage in his race for the House seat in District 81 — a lot more registered Republicans. That’s the situation his Democratic challenger Andy Hedrick seeks to overcome Tuesday.
Potts and Hedrick are battling to replace retired state Rep. Rayne Brown, who followed through on her promise to step down after serving three terms in the district covering western Davidson County.
Both candidates know politics, especially on the local level.
Hedrick, who now operates a beef cattle farm, has been a county manager and city manager after he was a human resources director. During his 30-year career he worked for Davidson County, Pender County, and the cities of Lexington, Surf City, and Fuquay-Varina.
Hedrick, 60, has deep family ties in the Democratic Party in Davidson County. But he went unaffiliated in 2004, only re-registering as a Democrat in time to run for the House this election cycle. He cited the need, as a city and county manager, to work with elected officials from both parties as the main reason for not picking a side during that stretch.
Hedrick served as the Davidson County Democratic Party chairman in 2015. The party demographics don’t favor Democrats in Davidson County.
Based on its conventional voting behavior since 2008, the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation rates the district strong Republican. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, 43.1 percent to 30.3 percent.
Hedrick needs to sway unaffiliated voters in the county, and that’s where he can distinguish himself from Potts. Unaffiliated voters account for 26.2 percent of the electorate.
Hedrick’s focus is on improving teacher pay and working conditions in the public schools. He also wants to see more North Carolina Education Lottery proceeds returned to counties for construction projects. In Davidson County, that includes money for unbuilt athletic facilities at the county’s four high schools.
He also supports reducing state income taxes for senior citizens.
Potts, 68, has been a county commissioner for 20 years, and he was the chairman for nine terms. He was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to the N.C. Division of Social Services’ Social Services Commission in 2013.
He last ran for a seat in the legislature in 2000, when he challenged state Sen. Stan Bingham, another Davidson County Republican, and lost in the primary.
Potts is a small business owner, operating Southland Construction Co. He also served in the U.S. Air Force for four years.
Potts touts his credentials as a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and a pro-business candidate.
Improving education is another of his priorities. He wants to see more technical education options for students who aren’t on college prep tracks in high school. And he’d like to beef up community colleges in the state.
During a recent candidates’ forum sponsored by their area chambers of commerce, the candidates offered vastly different assessments of the impact of House Bill 2, better known as the “bathroom bill” requiring people to use the facilities matching their birth anatomy.
They each toed their respective party lines in critiquing the effects of H.B. 2. Hedrick opposes it, and Potts supports its continued implementation.
The race ultimately will come down to a numbers game favoring Republicans. There are close to 50,000 registered Republicans in Davidson County, compared with just more than 27,000 Democrats, according to the county board of elections.
Potts showed strength in the primary last spring and bested two other Republicans by garnering 52 percent of the vote. That amount of support could benefit him again Tuesday.