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Orange County lawmaker opts for an early oath

The newly elected state lawmakers get officially sworn into office Jan. 9 when the legislature convenes for a one-day organizational session.

But not all are waiting that long. Rep.-elect Valerie Foushee, a Democrat, will hold her own swearing in ceremony the day before at the Orange County Courthouse in HIllsborough. (Gov.-elect Pat McCrory also isn't waiting for the traditional inauguration, opting for a private ceremony at the Capitol a week earlier.)

Foushee's ceremony is perfectly acceptable, said Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, as long as certain requirements are met. For example, only certain officials, such as judges, can administer the oath of office, he said.

Notebook: Pat McCrory keeps Perdue as major campaign focus

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue won't appear on the 2012 ballot -- but she remains the focus of Republican candidate Pat McCrory's stump speech.

The Perdue-pinata theme continued Saturday evening when the former Charlotte mayor rallied Republicans at the Orange County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.

Here's a few scribbles from my notebook:

--It seems like McCrory relished the chance to challenge Perdue before she exited. And it is clear he is trying his best to tie the other Democratic candidates for governor as closely to Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley as possible. "All the names that are being discussed supported the Easley-Perdue policies and the way they did business," he told me in an interview after his speech, which hit similar points. "Not one of them spoke against the culture of ethics in the last eight years and said, 'this is wrong.' We can't find it from any of the people running now."

In Perdue's departure from the race, some conservatives see a White House conspiracy. "We have a post-American president who nudged aside a failed governor in North Carolina to make it harder for Pat McCrory," said Frank Roche, a talk radio host and former GOP candidate who served as the event's emcee.

Candidates emerge in local legislative races

With candidate filing starting Monday, state legislative races are getting interesting.

In District 38, a Wake County open seat created in the GOP-led redistricting, four Democrats are making a bid. Lee Sartain, a 30-year-old Raleigh Democrat, is the latest to join the race, making an official announcement Tuesday. He joins Lindy Brown, a former Wake County commissioner, who recently unveiled her new campaign website.

Abeni El-Amin and Yvonne Lewis Holley are also looking to make a run for the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross.

Republicans moved Ross to House District 34, double-bunking her with close friends and fellow Democrat Rep. Grier Martin. And at this point, it appears Ross and Martin may challenge each other in a Democratic primary.

Orange commissioners oppose marriage amendment

Orange County’s Board of Commissioners has adopted a resolution opposing the same-sex marriage ban amendment on the May 8 ballot.

The resolution says since the county has adopted a “social justice” agenda and enacted a civil rights ordinance, the marriage amendment would be inconsistent with those goals.

Atkinson: Don't force school mergers

June AktinsonJune Atkinson says the state shouldn't force school systems to merge.

The state schools superintendent objected today to a Senate budget provision — and a related bill — that would limit state spending to one school system per county.

That would affect a handful of school systems in the state, including Orange County and Chapel Hill schools.

"I do not agree with that," Atkinson told Dome. "I understand that these are difficult economic times, but I think that decision has to be made at the local level."

The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand.

Related: Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a Buncombe County Democrat, also objects to the proposal. 

Donnan takes aim at Triangle

Mary Fant DonnanMary Fant Donnan is counting on the Triangle.

The candidate for the Democratic nomination for labor commissioner said that Wake, Durham and Orange counties will be key in her upcoming runoff with former commissioner John C. Brooks.

Because there are no other statewide runoffs next Tuesday, Donnan said that turnout will be pretty low except in areas where a local runoff is also on the ballot.

In Durham County, a countywide school board runoff, and in Orange County, a county commissioner district-wide runoff will draw voters to the poll. And Donnan said past results show Wake County typically does well in runoff turnout because of a general interest in state government.

"There's a fair amount to do in the Triangle because all three counties have something that will bring voters out already," she told Dome.

She said that legislative runoffs in Wayne, Greene and Pitt counties could also draw voters.

N.C.'s first openly gay politician dies

Joe Herzenberg, the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina, died Sunday.

A native of New Jersey, he first came South to volunteer for the voter-registration project Freedom Summer in Mississippi.

He later moved to Chapel Hill and ran for Town Council in 1979.

Although he was unsuccessful, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in 1981. He campaigned persistently, finally winning in 1987.

"Joe was a historian," said Mike Nelson, an Orange County commissioner who is also gay. "He more than any of us was aware that his election was of historic significance, but that it was not the beginning of a revolution, not the end, but one small piece of a larger journey."

A memorial service is planned in the next two weeks. (N&O

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