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GOP primary is 77th District election

Voters in the 77th N.C. House District will know in a few weeks who’ll represent them in the next two-year legislative session.
That’s because while no Democrat filed to run against incumbent N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, he is facing a challenge from within his own party.
Rowan County Commissioner Chad Mitchell, in his third and final term on the board, is looking to unseat Warren.
Mitchell said last week he’s been laying the groundwork for this campaign since 2012.
He knew when he ran in 2010 that he wouldn’t be seeking a fourth term on the county board, he said. However, he said he “had no intention of ending my public service, and I do enjoy doing it in an elected capacity.”
When the General Assembly redrew districts, Mitchell was moved from the 76th to the 77th. He said his plans “matched up pretty well” with what he believes were Warren’s plans stated during his first campaign — that he intended to serve no more than two terms in the General Assembly.
Warren is in his second term now.
Warren said Mitchell is “mistaken” on whether he pledged to limit himself to two terms.
“I’m pretty sure I never made a commitment to do that,” he said.
Warren pointed out that while he’s represented the district since 2011, he’s served fewer than 250 legislative days. And he says work has begun in Raleigh he wants to see through, including the state’s response to the federal Affordable Care Act, dealing with common core educational standards and the ongoing effort to clean up coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s power plants.
“I would be doing a disservice to the community … if I didn’t go back and resolve those,” he said.
Among his accomplishments so far, Warren points the 17 bills he’s gotten passed into law, including voter ID and unemployment insurance reform.
“Those were heavy lifts, and they’re going to impact the state generations after I’m gone,” he said.
Warren also helped spearhead legislation to require North Carolina employers to use the internet-based E-Verify system to determine whether new hires are eligible to work in the U.S. That was signed into law under former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, he notes.
But his tougher immigration reform proposals were sidetracked into a study committee last year after failing to garner much support in the legislature. A study published by that committee last month deemed some too costly and others too difficult to enforce.
Mitchell said he was “extremely disappointed” with Warren’s immigration-reform legislation and doesn’t believe what he called “the extension of the E-Verify loophole” will push the federal government to make meaningful reforms.
If he’s elected, Mitchell said he knows one of the biggest issues he’ll face is reforming Medicaid, to make the program’s funding needs more predictable and “loosen the pressure that’s building on the rest of our budget.”
Mitchell also wants to reform education.
“I don’t like our model right now,” he said. “I believe we need to look at the education system holistically, from government-run to charter to home schools, and create incentives for kids and parents to go to schools that best meet their needs.”
Mitchell said he might not have run against his fellow Republican if he hadn’t believed Warren intended to leave the General Assembly after this term. He’s not trying to make it an election issue or portray Warren as not fulfilling a promise he said, but, “I know what I heard, and I know what others say they heard.”
“If I had been under the impression from 2010 and 2012 that Rep. Warren was going to go for three terms, or even if he had not put a statement to it as far as when he intended to run, I would not have put the thought process into it,” he said. “A campaign does not crop up from the ground overnight, especially a legislative one.”
Warren called Mitchell’s primary challenge “part of politics” and said the commissioner is “well within his rights to challenge or go for the spot.”
“I know he has political ambitions. He ran against (former Republican N.C. Rep.) Fred Steen,” Warren said. “I have no political ambitions. I’m a legislator, not a politician.”
Still, Warren said, while there’s more he’d like to accomplish in Raleigh, he’d also like to spend more time with his wife and two daughters. And this could truly be his last term.
“I do not anticipate, but I do not rule out, running again in 2016,” he said.

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