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Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, filed to run for a 10th term as the N.C. General Assembly’s District 24 representative on Monday.
A dozen supporters joined Farmer-Butterfield as she completed paperwork to make her run for reelection official.
“I would say that makes me want to work even harder to get things done for the citizens of Wilson and the state of North Carolina, and their confidence in me certainly has demonstrated that I need to get to work now,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “They know I am a hard worker, have strong work ethic and I have a track record of getting things done in the legislature.”
Farmer-Butterfield said “experience matters” in the General Assembly.
“I was elected in 2002 and sworn in in 2003,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “You can’t get anything done in the legislature without some experience. If the Democrats take back over, I will be the third-highest ranking member in the General Assembly in terms of seniority, and that is important in terms of getting things done.”
Farmer-Butterfield said if reelected, her main focus would be education, health care and economic development.
“I want to continue to do those three highlighted areas. That’s based on what the citizens legislative advisory board that I formed about a year or so ago has asked me to do, to focus in on those three broad areas,” Farmer-Butterfield said.
For roughly half of her 18 years in office, Farmer-Butterfield and other Democrats have struggled with a Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Next year, Farmer-Butterfield said, things could be different.
“That’s probably one of the biggest things that’s in my favor,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “In addition to my hard work and my track record for success in getting things done, once the majority is in place, if the Democrats take back over the House, we’ll be the deciding factor in what happens and what does not happen. Having seniority will dictate whether or not you can get those things done as a member of the General Assembly. I am hoping if they take back over that I will be one of the highest-ranking members and have a true influence, which will make a difference in Wilson County for sure.”
Farmer-Butterfield said she’s learned that you have to build a reputation of respect and credibility among the members.
“It is all about building relationships, and you don’t do that overnight,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “I have done it since 2003, and it has paid off. Sometimes I get frustrated my party is not in charge, and they don’t do some of the things that I would like to see done, but on the other hand, if you think about it, we vote more together than we do differently between the two parties and that’s because we do work across the aisle and get things done.”
“People don’t have a lot of tolerance for bickering and elementary-acting people. We need to elect people who can be civil. I believe that the country doesn’t need to be divided,” Farmer-Butterfield said. “It needs people who are not about division and who are about the people and putting them first and foremost in what they do, and I certainly have a record for that and my record speaks for itself.”
“As we go into this election, we know that there is an opponent, so as the Democratic Party we are going to working for everybody,” said
Linda Cooper-Suggs, Wilson County Democratic Party chairwoman. “But she has been with us and she has represented Wilson County whether it is educational issues, whether it has been with School for the Deaf issues, and we know that this person, this candidate, has truly been a strong voice for us and whoever gets in that seat, we want them to continue to more Wilson County forward.”
“Rep. Farmer-Butterfield is a strong force, and in these times, we need somebody that knows what’s going on, that’s willing to fight for us, so that’s why we are supporting her,” said supporter Ethel Leach. “Since she has all this experience and things are changing, especially with that Republican Party, we need somebody that will say and do what we need done and is willing to stand up for the people in her community and in her district.”
Farmer-Butterfield faces a challenge from John McNeil of Wilson, who filed Dec. 2 to run against her in the Democratic primary election in May. Another challenger, Mick Rankin of Wilson, is seeking the seat as a Republican.
The filing period for other challengers will be open until noon on Dec. 20.