Veteran lawmaker Brisson running for first time as Republican against Denning in HD 22
N.C. House District 22 (Bladen and most of Sampson counties).
• William Brisson, Republican (six-term incumbent). Occupation: Farmer. Career highlights: Former chairman of Bladen County Board of Commissioners, and Bladen County Hospital Board of Trustees and Bladen Medical Center. Chairman of House Appropriations Committee for Health and Human Services, and vice chairman of four other committee including Health, and Agriculture.
• Martin Denning, Democrat. Education: UNC-Chapel Hill, undergraduate. Completed post-graduate work at Fayetteville State University. Occupation: Retired teacher in Sampson, Bladen, and Cumberland counties. Career highlights: High school women’s basketball and football coach.
Martin Denning, a former educator and Democratic candidate, says unlike six-term Republican incumbent Rep. William Brisson — his opponent for the N.C House District 22 seat — he won’t switch parties.
Brisson, a longtime Democrat, changed his party affiliation to Republican a little more than a year ago, but that did little to affect his legislative behavior. Brisson rarely caucused with Democrats, usually voted with Republicans, and was even picked to chair a committee before his party shift.
Brisson said at the time of his switch the Democratic Party had become too liberal. Denning, who describes himself as a conservative Democrat, chided Brisson’s party swap when he announced his candidacy.
The district was affected by court-ordered remapping in 2017 after a federal court declared 28 legislative districts were drawn with too much reliance on race. It still covers Bladen and most of Sampson counties, but no longer includes Johnston County precincts.
The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, which closely tracks elections and voter behavior patterns, rates the reshaped district as competitive.
Brisson was unable to meet the deadline for this story to answer questions about his campaign. He said his focus is primarily on helping his district recover from two recent hurricanes. Information about his platform was taken from his campaign website and news stories.
Education is the primary reason Denning is running. The retired teacher wants to make sure not only teachers but all state employees get a fair shake.
“This current legislative session that just ended, it’ll take a session to fix back what they tore up,” Denning said. “Teachers deserve health insurance. Teachers deserve what little pay they get.”
Denning isn’t against school choice, but he said the state needs to make sure public schools are taken care of. Not everyone can afford to go to private or charter schools.
On his campaign website, Brisson says the budget he voted for was on target.
“In hard economic times, you can’t say, ‘Cut everybody else, but not mine.’ But, as you will see below, the N.C. General Assembly is doing their part and more trying to pick up the slack from Federal and Local monies lost,” Brisson’s campaign website reads. “They can’t do it all in one budget though.”
Brisson’s campaign website includes tables from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction detailing how full-time personnel are compensated.
“Rep. Brisson was personally involved in getting $300 million of that money put into the budget for Public Schools,” the campaign website reads. “How can anyone say that he doesn’t support Education?”
House District 22 was hit hard by the recent storms, leading many communities to experience serious flooding. Disaster recovery is a pressing concern for the district, which both Brisson and Denning are taking seriously.
“Lots of people were flooded out of their homes, and I will say that you got to see the good side of people during that [time], because there were lots of people that risked their lives to help others for no pay just because it was the right thing to do,” Denning said.
The candidates differ greatly on the six proposed constitutional amendments.
Denning mostly opposes the changes, but is sympathetic to Marsy’s Law, a crime victims’ rights amendment. As a victim of a crime, Denning said he sees the benefits of ensuring victims of a crime are protected.
“It is true that you don’t ever know what’s going on after the judge bangs that gavel,” Denning said.
“It’s a shame they put so many [amendments] up there because one of them is a good idea, but the other five are terrible ideas,” Denning said. “To make sure people don’t inadvertently vote for the wrong thing, I’ve been telling them to vote against all of them.”
Brisson voted yes to place all six proposed amendments on the ballot.