Chapel Hill councilwoman Easthom joins House District 50 race

tgrubb@newsobserver.comSeptember 15, 2013 

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— Town Council member Laurin Easthom became the second candidate Friday to seek state Rep. Valerie Foushee’s N.C. House District 50 seat.

“I just care,” Easthom said. “I really want to do what I’ve been doing (on the council). I really like helping people out.”

She joins Durham businessman Tommy McNeil, who ran in 2008 for the Orange County Board of Commissioners and in 2012 for the Orange County Board of Education. McNeill, the owner of Mid-South Medical LLC, announced his bid shortly after Foushee was chosen Aug. 8 to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s District 23 seat.

Kinnaird resigned from the Senate Aug. 19 after 17 years, criticizing the Republican legislative agenda. She plans to spend the next year supporting other candidates and helping voters meet the state’s strict new voter ID law.

Foushee is expected to formally resign her House seat after receiving word that her nomination for Kinnaird’s seat has been accepted. At that point, the campaign to replace Foushee will begin in earnest and an N.C. House District 50 Democratic Party Executive Committee will be seated to name her replacement. The committee will include Orange and Durham county representatives.

Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Hughes said last week he has spoken with several people interested in Foushee’s seat. He declined to offer any names.

Easthom, a Baltimore native who grew up in North Carolina, is a dentist and has a master’s degree in education. She was first elected to the council in 2005 and previously worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, helping people with disabilities return to work. She also has served on Chapel Hill’s Transportation Advisory Board, the Horace Williams Citizens Committee and the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club.

She lives in northern Chapel Hill with her husband and two daughters. Earlier this year, Easthom cited family and career responsibilities for her decision not to seek re-election to the Town Council. On Friday, Easthom said she doesn’t plan to work full time after leaving the council, so there should be room in her schedule for family, too.

“I just need to do something different, and I’ve always wanted to pursue something on a more regional level,” she said. “The opportunity presented itself.”

The changes in state government also inspired her to run, Easthom said. She is concerned about decisions made this year that will harm the right to vote, children’s education and the state’s Medicaid and medical care systems, she said.

As a mother and a medical professional, she said she has seen firsthand how people are being hurt. As an elected official, she also understands how important it is that people can freely exercise their right to vote.

She said the state’s legislative war on women’s reproductive rights was the last straw.

If appointed to finish Foushee’s House term, Easthom said she will campaign for re-election next year.

“I want to be part of the wave of changes reversing that and, hopefully, gaining back ground in 2014,” she said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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