Carolina Journal is taking a brief look at each new member of the General Assembly — 10 in the Senate and 11 in the House. We look at where they’ve been, what they’re doing now, and what we might expect them to do as lawmakers.
The 2021-22 session began in late January. Expect COVID-19 and the ongoing fallout from the pandemic to be top priorities for lawmakers, who are crafting a new budget for the biennium. They’ll also draw new legislative and congressional maps for the next decade based on fresh census data. Each legislator, too, has their own priorities.
Today, we look at the N.C. Senate:
Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore, D-Bertie
Yesterday: Ernestine (Byrd) Bazemore, a Democrat from rural eastern North Carolina, worked for 28 years in the Bertie County School System, her campaign website says. She was elected to the county’s Board of Commissioners in 2014 and became board chairman four years later. She got 52% of the vote against Thomas Hester Jr., a Vance County commissioner.
Today: Bazemore in August did an interview with WIZS in Henderson. She made her priorities clear and offered insights into how she’ll serve: “Broadband is a major concern across all the counties; not all areas are currently being served,” she told the station. “Also, the services offered by rural hospitals as well as Medicaid expansion are big concerns.”
Tomorrow: Bazemore doesn’t appear especially active on social media, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She raised about $20,000 for her campaign, according to Ballotpedia, but spent about just $500. A good chunk of the money, $5,400, came from the National Democratic Redistricting PAC, which, the 2019-20 election cycle, its website says, “targeted “13 … including 3 gubernatorial races, 17 state legislative chambers, and one down-ballot race. She’ll serve on the Senate’s Pensions and State, Appropriations on General Government, and Local Government committees.
Michael A. Lazzara, R-Onslow
Yesterday: Republican Michael A. Lazzara, who was born in Palermo, Sicily, is a Marine Corps vet who served at Camp Lejeune. A restaurant owner, he was elected to the Jacksonville City Council in 2005 and served as the Mayor Pro Tem. Lazarro donated more than $24,000 to his own campaign, which raised close to $75,000. He beat Democrat Ike Johnson in a landslide Nov. 3. Lazarra represents Onslow County, home to Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River. The military is a priority for him.
Today: Lazzara, who replaces longtime Republican Sen. Harry Brown, bills himself on his website as a “conservative Republican.” He boasts support of agriculture, the military, and schools, among other priorities, such as economic development. N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, has appointed him to the following legislative committees: Appropriations on General Government, State and Local Government, Education, and Judiciary.
Tomorrow: It’s clear Lazarra is staunchly conservative and is likely to side with Republicans on key issues and votes. In response to a question — What is your favorite book? Why? — in a Ballotpedia candidate survey, Lazarra, who chose The Nails by Max Lucado, said this: “It reminds me that Jesus had a choice not to be crucified but chose the nails and suffering to show his love for us. He had the power to override all suffering but in order to fulfill the prophecy, he had to suffer and he did. I translate that to our trials and tribulations in our daily lives and in suffering there will be glory that comes to us. This book always helps me stay grounded and a good book for all to read.”
Michael Lee, R-New Hanover
Yesterday: Republican Michael Lee, a lawyer, returns to the General Assembly for a third time after losing re-election in 2018. Lee was first elected in 2014, but lost by just 231 votes to Democrat Harper Peterson in 2018. Buoyed by a campaign chest close to $1 million, and strong backing from the N.C. Senate Majority Fund — some $450,000 — Lee returned the favor to Peterson, beating him by about 1,200 votes. He represents coastal New Hanover County, which includes the city of Wilmington and the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Today: Lee will co-chair the General Assembly’s Education/Higher Education and also serve on the base budget committee, as well as Finance, Health Care, and Judiciary. He is a proponent of tax relief and balanced budgets and in 2018 co-sponsored the Hurricane Florence Act after Hurricane Matthew, which began as a Category 5 storm struck the Carolinas in October 2016. Matthew caused nearly $5 billion in damage and decimated communities throughout North Carolina.
Tomorrow: Expect Lee to vote mostly along conservative lines, although he will veer toward the left in supporting state money for film tax grants. During his previous tenure in the General Assembly Lee was a champion for school choice, recodification of the state’s criminal code, restrained spending, and limited taxation.
Lisa Stone Barnes, R-Nash
Yesterday: Republican Lisa Stones Barnes was first elected to the General Assembly in 2018, when she won a seat in N.C. House District 7, which encompasses an area about 50 miles northeast of Raleigh. Barnes, who has served on numerous boards in and around Nash County, soundly beat Democrat Allen Wellons in the right-leaning district. The seat in the rural eastern North Carolina district came open when Republican Rick Horner decided against seeking re-election. Wellons previously served in the Senate beginning in the late 1990s. She’s big on issues related to agriculture and is married to a long-time sweet potato farmer. She served on the Agriculture Committee in the House.
Today: Barnes will vote along conservative lines and lists education, health care, the economy, and dealing with the pandemic as key issues. She’ll also serve on the Agriculture Committee in the Senate, in addition to Education/Higher Education, Appropriations on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources, and Health Care. Barnes is strong on issues such as separation of powers, including holding the governor in check, and active on social media, applauding a decision in December confirming the legislature as North Carolina’s constitutional authority on policy issues and distribution of money. “It’s great to see some honest work done by our state lawmakers and judicial branches,” she posted.
Tomorrow: Barnes is endorsed by the NRA, and says on her website she has a concealed-carry permit and encourages responsible gun ownership. She’ll remain a strong advocate of the Second Amendment, as well as agriculture, which is North Carolina’s No. 1 industry, contributing $92.7 billion to the state’s economy. North Carolina, the state agriculture department says, is the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the country; accounting for about 54% of those grown in the U.S. She gained the endorsement of N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
Sydney Batch, D-Wake
Yesterday: Sydney Batch, a Wake County Democrat, in January was chosen by Wake County democrats and confirmed by the governor to fill a seat in the N.C. Senate. The seat came open when Sam Searcy resigned. Batch, elected to the N.C. House in 2018, in November lost her seat to Republican Erin Pare, who got 50% of the vote to Batch’s 47%. Searcy had won a second term to the Senate in District 17, defeating Republican Mark Cavaliero. In the House, Batch was a primary sponsor of a bill to expand Medicaid, a move Republicans have consistently resisted but Gov. Roy Cooper will continue to push.
Today: Batch, in her latest run for office, got endorsements from several unions and other left-leaning groups, such as Democracy for America and the Sierra Club. She’ll likely side with Democrats on most issues, including those supporting more money for public schools and environmental regulations. In May, Batch was a primary sponsor of a bill limiting toxins in drinking water. “Our government has a unique and non-delegable role to play in ensuring that our environment and natural resources are safe and protected,” she says on her website.
Tomorrow: Batch is a proponent of the Second Amendment and, she says on her website, “is working hard to preserve North Carolina’s natural resources so we continue to have woods and streams to support hunting and fishing.” A lawyer, Batch says she will support small businesses, particularly as that relates to loans and other money distributed through COVID-19 relief. However, Batch as a member of the state House, voted four times against safely reopening gyms, while also sending a campaign piece touting her support of small businesses. On the mailer, she’s seen apparently standing in a gym. This didn’t get past gym owners, who blasted Batch on social media.
Sarah Crawford, D-Wake
Yesterday: Democrat Sarah Crawford earned a seat in the General Assembly after she failed to get in 2014, when she lost to Republican incumbent Sen. Chad Barefoot by about 6% of the vote. In November, she handily beat Republican Larry Norman for a seat in the district, which spans Franklin and Wake Counties. Crawford has worked with several nonprofits, and she was recently named CEO of Tammy Lynn Center, which offers community-based programs that help children and families. Education will be a key issue for Crawford, whose mother, she says, was a teacher.
Today: Expect Crawford, who leans left on many issues, to often side with Democrats, including on things such as raising teacher pay, expanding Medicaid, and “clean energy” initiatives. In an interview with Indy Week in October, Crawford spoke in favor of “increasing access to affordable housing and healthy food as well as benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” She told the newspaper she supports raising the minimum wage and raising the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard percentage to 70% renewable energy by 2030. She serves on the board of directors at Safe Space in Louisburg, working to reduce relationship violence and sexual assault in Franklin County, her campaign website says.
Tomorrow: Crawford, who will serve on the Health Care committee, may break with Democrats on some issues, however, including redistricting and gun laws. Crawford told IW she supports the creation of a non-partisan commission to determine state and congressional lines, an idea that came before lawmakers last year but failed to gain traction. “An independent process would restore fairness in the political system and create more competitive districts to better serve the democratic process.” She said she’s a gun owner and competitive shooter, and “will fight for common sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and criminals and work to ensure communities where we can live, work and play without fear of gun violence.”
Amy S. Galey, R-Alamance
Yesterday: Republican Amy S. Galey represents Alamance County, situated between Greensboro and the Triangle. She won with about 52% of the vote against Democrat J.D. Wooten in an election tainted with controversy and an ethics complaint over where Wooten actually lived. Wooten filed a defamation lawsuit against Galey over campaign ads. Galey, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and NRA member, her website says, had served on the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, becoming chair in 2017. Of the about $1.3 million in campaign funds raised, according to Ballotpedia, more than $1 million came from the N.C. Senate Majority Fund.
Today: Galey will serve on several Senate committees, including Education/Higher Education, Judiciary, State and Local Government, and Appropriations on Justice, and Public Safety. Galey, a lawyer, will support Republicans on most key issues, some of which she lists on her website, including the Second Amendment, jobs and recovery, agriculture, and education. She may veer from the party line on education, however, as she pushed to increase funding for Alamance schools and supported a school bond referendum in 2018 and for increasing teacher pay. She supports reforms to clarify the governor’s authority under the Emergency Management Act and has filed a bill to tighten up the law around collusive lawsuits.
Tomorrow: Galey replaces longtime Alamance senator Rick Gunn, a staunch proponent of state alcohol reform and author of several bills that aimed to loosen stringent and archaic rules on liquor maintained for decades by a state-run monopoly. It’s not clear how Galey will vote should similar legislation come up, though as a commissioner in 2017 she voted in favor of the so-called “Brunch Bill,” which would allow bars and restaurants to begin serving cocktails at 10 a.m. on Sundays. The move in Alamance failed at the time. She told the Times News, “I think of conservatism as people can do what they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else,” Galey said. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson
Yesterday: Republican Steve Jarvis, with some 74% of the vote, breezed to victory Nov. 3 against Democrat Duskin Lassiter. Jarvis raised about $133,000 for his campaign, including $80,000 of his own money. Jarvis served a term in the N.C. House before running for Senate and served on the Davidson County Board of Commissioners. He was one of six state lawmakers who visited to White House in July to discuss deregulation with the president.
Today: Jarvis on his website lists regulatory reform as a key issue. Expect this to be a point of emphasis for Jarvis as he starts his Senate term. Critics of regulations in North Carolina say they overburden business and stunt economic growth. “The state has the ability to adjust regulatory burden (such as compliance and reporting requirements) as they apply to small businesses,” he says on his campaign website. “The answer to regulatory reform would be (to) have all necessary rules … reviewed and go though the adoption process as if they were just submitted.”
Tomorrow: Jarvis, who owns a construction company, was appointed to the Senate’s committees on Agriculture, Energy, and Environment, Health Care, State and Local Government, and Appropriations on Health and Human Services. Expect votes along conservative lines, including on issues — in addition to regulatory reform — regarding lower taxes, job growth, and education. Jarvis told WXII in an interview in March that he supports gun owners and, in the House, sponsored a bill to help school children with epilepsy.
DeAndrea Salvador, D-Mecklenburg
Yesterday: Democrat DeAndrea Salvador, along with Sen. Sarah Crawford, turned their large districts blue. (D-Mecklenburg), both operate non-profit organizations. Dan Bishop, a Republican, had held the District 39 seat before being elected to Congress. Salvador, her website says, founded RETI — Renewable Energy Transition Initiative — a nonprofit focused on helping families sustainably reduce energy costs using smart technology, solar energy, efficiency, and education. She also serves on the boards of Clean Air Carolina and Youth Empowered Solutions, the site says. She served, too, on the Mecklenburg County Air Quality Commission.
Today: She’ll serve on the Senate’s Agriculture, Energy, and Environment; and Appropriations on Agriculture Environment, and Natural Resources committees. She becomes the youngest black woman to serve in the N.C. Senate and the youngest senator in the upcoming biennium, The Charlotte Weekly reported. “I will work towards robust economic recovery, stronger support for our schools, as well as strive to connect our community to well-paying jobs, improved access to clean energy, and to keep environmental and racial justice at the forefront,” she told the newspaper.
Tomorrow: Salvador says on her website she’ll work to rebuild the economy, including a push to raise the minimum wage, an idea Republicans oppose and Democrats embrace. She also lists advancing “sustainable” infrastructure projects and transportation initiatives; investing in education, to include vocational training and college prep; and increasing access to health care. That includes support for expanding Medicaid, which is high on the governor’s agenda, so much so that he vetoed the latest budget because it wasn’t included. She’ll likely vote for Democratic priorities, and her endorsements included Planned Parenthood, and the N.C. Association of Educators.
Julie Mayfield, D-Buncombe
Yesterday: Democrat Julie Mayfield, an Atlanta native and “proven progressive,” says her campaign website, soundly defeated her Republican challenger, Bob Penland — 63% to 37% in November. It’s not surprising, considering her decidedly liberal district that includes Asheville, where she served on the City Council. The website mountaintrue lists her as its co-director, and she started with the nonprofit in 2018. The group, its site says, “envisions thriving communities in our mountain region that are connected to and help sustain both each other and our natural environment.” Gov. Beverly Perdue, the site says, in 2011 appointed Mayfield to the Mountain Resources Commission, which dissolved in 2013.
Today: Mayfield on her Facebook page wrote this about the mask mandate, saying the Republican leadership isn’t adhering to a rule from the governor that masks be worn in legislative buildings. “I find it unconscionable and irresponsible that the legislative leadership of our state Is unwilling to adhere to the law, model good behavior for our residents, and keep safe the people who work every day at the legislature.” Mayfield will serve on the committees for State and Local Government; Transportation; and Appropriations on Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources.
Tomorrow: Mayfield supports the Green New Deal and, on her website, says she “will take on climate change and restore protections for air and water to keep our communities healthy and safe.” She wants to expand Medicaid, and expect Mayfield to side with Democrats on most “progressive” priorities. She received endorsement, for example, from the Sierra Club, Equality N.C., and several labor unions, including the N.C. Association of Educators.
Kevin Corbin, R-Macon
Yesterday: Republican Kevin Corbin got almost 67% of the vote in beating Democrat challenger Victoria Fox in November. He’s a familiar face, having served two terms in the N.C. House, beginning with the 2016 election. He served four years on the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees and is a past Chairman of the Macon County School Board, his campaign website says. He served six years on the Macon County Board of Commissioners, elected chairman his final four years on the board. He sponsored a slew of bills in this past legislative session, including a move to expedite occupational licenses for military spouses.
Today: Corbin lists individual liberty as a core issue, saying on his website: “I believe that individuals possess God-given inherent rights, and it is the job of the government to protect them and support equality under the law.” He’s fiscally conservative, running along N.C. Republican party lines. He’ll serve on the Senate’s committees for Commerce and Insurance, Education/Higher Education, and Appropriations on Education. Corbins owns two insurance agencies, the Corbin Agency is in Franklin and the Blue Ridge Insurance Group is in Seneca, South Carolina, his campaign website says. He’s also a founding member of the gospel group Blue Ridge.
Tomorrow: Corbin, a native of Macon County in the western mountains, will continue to be a strong advocate for the western part of the state, including Western Carolina University. He says, according to his website, that he’ll work to help residents there on issues such as broadband expansion and school safety. A primary focus, for Corbin and all lawmakers, really, is helping the state recover from the pandemic. Local newspaper The Franklin Press wrote of Corbin: [His] track record of teaming with other [lawmakers] representing rural regions across the state positions him well to continue championing rural needs. There is strength in numbers, and the state’s rural residents stand to benefit from a unified voice.”