Introducing Kristen Powers for Alamance County Commissioner

"After Charlottesville, some of the Alamance County commissioners made comments so hurtful to people of color that my black friends refused to come back to that building. It may have been the comment that somebody’s family slaves were considered workers or perhaps the part where a commissioner was willing to spend money rebuilding a torn down statue instead of allocating funds to repair deteriorated rooftops on schools. In North Carolina, the county commissioner is powerful. Unfortunately, in Alamance County, there are only a few who are using that power for good. When I saw that one of them was essentially running unopposed, I decided that I had to step in."

Editor's note: Kristen is a friend, but she's also *exactly* what is needed on our County Commission these days. She's not only intelligent, but she puts that intelligence to work for the good of all people, especially those who need it the most, in her work for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Here's more about her decision to run:

When you make a big decision like running for office, people always need to know why. Why are you running? Why now? And given how difficult running for office is, sometime they ask half-jokingly, why are you doing this to yourself?

I usually say I’m passionate about education, accessibility or sustainability. I’ll mention how the Board of Commissioners has a hard time making policy that considers young people because it lacks young representatives. I explain that I couldn’t live another two years in this county knowing I didn’t do everything in my power to make sure we had an elected body that cares for all of its constituents, especially those who have been traditionally left behind.

While all of this is true, the initial spark of my local political engagement was a bit different; it began when I watched an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Yes, that’s right. A comedian inspired me to run for office.

In 2014, John Oliver aired a piece titled “State Legislatures and ALEC.” While everybody focuses on our national and congressional races, he explained, those bodies haven’t passed nearly as many life-changing laws as our state legislatures. At the time of airing, Congress had passed 185 bills. Meanwhile, state legislatures alone passed more than 24,000.

Oliver reminded us that state legislatures are meant to be the “laboratories of democracy,” which really means they pass good laws, such as increasing minimum wage, but also a lot of truly bad ones, such as destroying environmental protections. (To enjoy the shock and horror of the full video, click here.) Oliver adds that, to make matters even worse, over 25% of the state legislative candidates running in the general election ran unopposed. This means that the people making our laws aren’t even the best we can get. With such little attention on state legislatures and elections, it’s no wonder that laws we consider ridiculous are passed.

This piece was so powerful it inspired me to move back home to North Carolina after college in order to advocate for better state legislative candidates and policies. While the examples from John Oliver’s piece seem silly and far removed, this type of politics isn’t far from home. In fact, it’s right here in Alamance County. As I began immersing myself into the community, I started to see the impact of our local county commissioners on people I cared for deeply.

After Charlottesville, some of the Alamance County commissioners made comments so hurtful to people of color that my black friends refused to come back to that building. It may have been the comment that somebody’s family slaves were considered workers or perhaps the part where a commissioner was willing to spend money rebuilding a torn down statue instead of allocating funds to repair deteriorated rooftops on schools.

When the board decided to restrict funding for our crumbling schools, some of which are older than my grandparents, I heard directly from devastated teachers and students. One teacher told me to come visit the rooms that are cordoned off because of the asbestos found within. She said, “Don’t worry. You’d only step in for a second. Your health is only impacted if you are in that room every day.”

In North Carolina, the county commissioner is powerful. Unfortunately, in Alamance County, there are only a few who are using that power for good. When I saw that one of them was essentially running unopposed, I decided that I had to step in.

So here’s to ensuring that our local government keeps its commitment to its people. Here’s to a county that has so much potential and so much opportunity, but just needs a jump-start to ensure all our community members can access its benefits. And here’s to an election season that engages all of our constituents, young, old, black, white, disabled, immigrant, and more. Because without all of them, I couldn’t run a campaign that prides itself on the fact that opportunity lives right here in Alamance County.

If you want to learn more about Kristen and maybe throw her a few bucks to help, here's her website.

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Comments

There's another great Democrat running

in this race, and hopefully both he and Kristen will prevail in November. Incumbent Bob Byrd has been the lone Democrat on this board for the last few years, and even though he's had to endure sometimes outrageous treatment from a couple of his fellow (Republican) Commissioners, he's always advocated fiercely for what is right.

You can learn more about Bob and show your support right here, and help us keep a good progressive in office.