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Incumbent commissioners defeated


By Taylor Sisk
Staff Writer
With three seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners being contested in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, voters signaled a desire for change. Challengers Penny Rich and Mark Dorosin edged out incumbent Pam Hemminger for the two seats available in the District 1 race, and challenger Renee Price easily defeated incumbent Steve Yuhasz for the one open seat in District 2.

While Price will now go up against Republican Chris Weaver in the November general election, there is no Republican challenger to the District 1 seats. Democrat Bernadette Pelissier, who was unopposed in the primary, will face Republican challenger Mary Carter for one available at-large seat.

In District 1, Dorosin, a former member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, finished with 10,474 votes (36 percent); Rich, a Chapel Hill Town Council member, 9,709 (33 percent); and Hemminger, 9,167 (31 percent).

In District 2, Price earned 6,237 votes (67 percent) and Yuhasz received 3,099 (33 percent).

“I’m just ecstatic,” Price told a crowd of Democrats gathered Tuesday night at The Depot in Hillsborough. “I’m almost at a loss for words.”

The District 1 race was tight all night, with Dorosin maintaining a slight lead throughout and Rich just barely holding off Hemminger.

“I kind of expected it to be tight,” Rich said. “All three of us have name recognition.”

Of her decision to jump from the Chapel Hill Town Council to the board of commissioners, Rich said, “It just hit me in the face that the time was right,” citing her perception of an “unnecessary wedge between city and rural folks” that she felt she could help remove.

“I thought it would be good to have someone on the board with a municipal perspective,” she said.

Communications between the commission and the municipal boards must be improved, and the interests of rural and municipal residents shouldn’t be viewed as mutually exclusive, Rich said. “We benefit from each other.”

Both Rich and Dorosin said they felt that, especially if Price wins in the general election, the board would be charting a new course.

Mark Dorosin does some last-minute campaigning at Lake Hogan Farms on Tuesday. Photo by Alicia Stemper

“I think what the commission really needs is to be re-energized,” Dorosin said, “and I hope I can provide that.”

“My experience as a civil rights lawyer I think will be invaluable,” Dorosin, who is senior managing attorney with UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, continued, “and my experience as a longtime business owner in downtown Chapel Hill I think will bring a practical perspective that’s been missing.”

“I think the people of Orange County need more contact with their commissioners,” Rich said.

Dorosin agreed: “Leaders who are committed and have vision and are listening to the priorities and the needs of the community can make positive, meaningful, effective change.”

But that can’t be done without community engagement, he said. “That’s something I hope to make a priority.”

“We pride ourselves in this community on a high level of political engagement, which we have,” Dorosin said, “but I think we have it from a fairly narrow spectrum of the people who live here, and hopefully I can help broaden that spectrum.”

Yuhasz said on Wednesday that while he didn’t feel his and Hemminger’s defeats could be attributed to a general anti-incumbent impulse, he did believe that the commission has asserted itself in the past couple of years to an extent it hasn’t in the past – noting, as an example, an easing of land-use restrictions – and that perhaps people in the southern part of the county haven’t appreciated that. This, he said, probably hurt Hemminger, whose district covers that population.

“I think it will be a much different board than it has been,” Yuhasz said. “We’ll go back to the way things were done for 25 years,” prior to this commission.

Dorosin cited reparations for the Rogers Road community and finding a solution for the county’s solid waste as his top priorities.

Rich listed the same priorities, plus education and mass transit. “We must put mass transit on the block for people to understand,” she said.

“But the biggest issue is really bridging the rural-city gap,” Rich said. “It’s really about communications.”

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  1. Chris Weaver

    “Rich said, “It just hit me in the face that the time was right,” citing her perception of an “unnecessary wedge between city and rural folks” that she felt she could help remove.”
    Hummm
    Perhaps a start by stating now…that the current election structure in which District One gets to Choose the representative for District Two…be eliminated.
    Per State code
    § 153A‑58. Optional structures.
    A county may alter the structure of its board of commissioners by adopting one or any combination of the options prescribed by this section.
    1,2…
    (3) Mode of election of the board of commissioners:
    a. The qualified voters of the entire county shall nominate all candidates for and elect all members of the board.
    For options b, c, and d, the county shall be divided into electoral districts, and board members shall be apportioned to the districts so that the quotients obtained by dividing the population of each district by the number of commissioners apportioned to the district are as nearly equal as practicable.
    b. The qualified voters of each district shall nominate candidates and elect members who reside in the district for seats apportioned to that district; and the qualified voters of the entire county shall nominate candidates and elect members apportioned to the county at large, if any.
    c. The qualified voters of each district shall nominate candidates who reside in the district for seats apportioned to that district, and the qualified voters of the entire county shall nominate candidates for seats apportioned to the county at large, if any; and the qualified voters of the entire county shall elect all the members of the board.
    d. Members shall reside in and represent the districts according to the apportionment plan adopted, but the qualified voters of the entire county shall nominate all candidates for and elect all members of the board.

    Currently C is our option…NOT B. If both districts had equal populations this current system….would not be so bad…except the entire expansion was to provide accurate representation to the rural areas…
    But as it stands now, with the huge population disparity…district One always determines district Two’s Representative.
    Lets Start there Penny.(I asked Mark about civil rights for D2 regarding this…no comment)
    http://wp.me/p2acSb-4D

    Mr Dorsin, keen on reparations…I agree!
    Lets clean up the mess…but let us not forget WHO MADE IT….
    There has been only ONE party in control for 122 years.
    One Party Poisoned the RENA community, One Party made promises Decade… after Decade.

    It was NOT the party of Lincoln. Mark Knows this.
    http://wp.me/p2acSb-51

  2. Bronwyn Merritt

    Chris Weaver did ask Mark Dorosin about this issue during a campaign event at the senior center. Mark’s reply was that he thinks residency districts are unfair. I don’t see how that is “no comment”.