Marcus Brandon didn’t go to Raleigh last year and disappear. He could have. As a Democrat newly elected to his first term in the state House of Representatives, he found himself at the bottom of the pecking order: a freshman member of the party suddenly cast out of power. He was also young and entering his first public office at any level of government.
But Brandon, 37, didn’t fade into the woodwork. He stood out for his energy, creativity and, sometimes, for crossing party lines to get results. Brandon’s promising start means he deserves a second term in House District 60, which covers portions of southwest Greensboro and follows a narrow course through Jamestown to central High Point. Brandon lives in High Point.
His opponent in the Democratic primary is the man he beat two years ago: veteran legislator and former Greensboro City Councilman Earl Jones. Jones is fiercely critical of Brandon’s performance, but his attacks are unfounded, ill-informed or hypocritical.
Here are two examples: In an interview with News & Record editorial writers, Jones accused Brandon of serving the agenda of conservative Republicans by denying the Voter ID bill was racially motivated. But Brandon, who, like Jones, is black, said he wanted to frame the issue “not just in the context of race.” He tried to build opposition more generally, pointing out to all his constituents why the bill was bad for everyone. Calling it only a racial issue could limit opposition. Jones faulted Bran-don’s support for a bill that eliminated the cap on charter schools, complaining those schools promote segregation and weaken the public school system. Brandon responded that Jones voted to raise the cap when he was in the House (Jones said it was a compromise measure intended to avoid a “worse bill”).
Brandon was one of only three Democrats who supported an early version of last year’s bill eliminating the cap, but he worked with Republicans on making changes. Only five Democrats, and no members of the black caucus, voted against the final version. Brandon says his role made him someone whose support is now sought by leaders of both parties.
Brandon is a proponent of charter schools, serving on the board for a new charter that will open in High Point this fall. He favors charter schools for their potential to promote community solutions to educational needs. At the same time, he also would back Gov. Bev Perdue’s call for a sales-tax hike to increase funding for traditional schools. Brandon is a reliable Democratic vote on core issues; primary voters shouldn’t worry about that. At the same time, he’s willing to address other issues on their merits, creating relationships across the aisle in ways that will advance the interests of his constituents.
There is no Republican candidate in this race, so the Democratic primary will settle who holds the seat. Marcus Brandon is a clear choice. He’s already been noticed, and if the Democrats regain power, he’s likely to rise in the leadership ranks.