Jeff Starkweather endorsed by The Indy, Sierra Club, State Employees and AFL-CIO

News release/ April 23, 2012

Jeff Starkweather’s record of fighting for good jobs, strong schools, a clean environment and civil rights won him the endorsements of four major organizations comparing candidates for election to NC House District 54, representing all of Chatham County and a portion of Sanford.  The endorsements, based on questionnaires, interviews and candidate records, are from: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association, the Sierra Club, and the AFL CIO.

“I’m overwhelmed and honored by these endorsements and others I have received during the campaign from current and former elected officials, community leaders and supporters all over the district,” Starkweather said.

The Independent called Starkweather “a longtime champion of the environment, social justice and sound growth policies.” The newspaper said that the retirement of Rep. Joe Hackney, “leaves a need for a candidate who has a deep familiarity with the issues facing this district. We think Starkweather’s views on energy and growth could continue Hackney’s work; his willingness to defend public education and to stand up to social conservatives is also impressive.”

“[Starkweather] has the kind of fire Democrats need in the Legislature,” The Independent concluded.

The NC Sierra Club said it endorsed Starkweather because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection and renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole,” the Sierra Club said. “His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability.”

The NC AFL-CIO and Triangle Labor Council based their endorsement on Starkweather’s answers to a questionnaire and interview on employment and economic development issues. The State Employees Association of North Carolina’s EMPAC endorsement was based on a questionnaire and interview about issues facing NC public employees. They endorsed Starkweather and other selected General Assembly candidates “because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide,” the SEANC stated in its news release.

Starkweather has lived and worked in Chatham County for 40 years. He is the former editor and publisher of The Chatham County Herald and a retired attorney who specialized in civil rights and employment law. In 2009, the Western Chatham NAACP named him a Humanitarian of the Year and in 2006 he was a News and Observer Tar Heel of the Week.

He currently serves on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation Board and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. In those economic policy leadership positions he was instrumental in the development of the county’s economic development strategy and industrial incentives policy and in bringing a job link center back to Chatham. He has also served on Chatham’s Sustainable Energy and Green Building Advisory Board and he chaired the Affordable Housing Advisory Board.


Restoring the dream for all

We had an amazing turnout out at our Campaign Blast-Off Party on Sunday with old friends and new ones. Everyone was enthusiastic and generous, for which I am most grateful. Here’s a copy of my statement.

Before I begin, I’d like us to take a moment of silence to remember three amazing women who inspired many of us, who mentored me in many ways: Margie Ellison, Loyse Hurley, and Margaret Pollard. Their legacy is all around us and their energy still influences us. ..

First, I want you to know how humbling it is for me to have this opportunity to seek this State House seat, held by former Speaker of the House Joe Hackney for 32 years.

I am so appreciative of Democratic Party Chair Randy Voller and other party and political leaders in our county who lobbied me to run for this office.

It will be an incredible honor and responsibility to represent you and all the residents of this House district.

I am overwhelmed by the support I’ve received already from across a broad political and geographic spectrum. And I am grateful to every one of you.

I’d also like to recognize my family: my wife Dee, my daughter Emily and her husband Scott, and our granddaughters Ryan and Emery. My son Sam, the poet, lives in New York and isn’t able to be here today. It’s amazing to me that we now have three generations of our family living right here in Chatham.

This campaign is not about me, it’s about you, about all of us. We’re facing hard times and difficult choices about what to do to strengthen our community and our state.

I want to use my four decades of local advocacy to keep fighting for all of us — in Raleigh — for the things we all cherish, the things we know we need to make our wonderful communities be more sustainable economically, educationally and environmentally, so that we all may prosper.

What do we need to do?

First and foremost, we need to support our public schools, from pre-K through community college and universities.

We should be investing in our public schools– not starving them.

Thanks to the Tea Party, the leadership in the General Assembly is doing the opposite of what is most needed at this time.They are slashing support for public schools– the very foundation of our economic and democratic prosperity.

The current legislative majority should be ashamed of our per-pupil expenditures, where we seem to be racing to the bottom of all 50 states — instead of to the top. Some of them want to privatize education, which means if you can’t afford to go to school, well “You’re on your own.”

That seems to be their platform in N.C. and in Washington.  That’s not what my campaign is about.

Second, we must support local businesses and work strategically to attract good jobs for all North Carolinians.The right-wing leadership in Raleigh thinks the government’s role is to do nothing and somehow hope the jobs will materialize. Except of course when it comes to public jobs, then they want to cut them. So instead of creating jobs, they’ve actually been eliminating them.

I guess Sarah Palin might say, “How is that job-cutty thing working out for you here in North Carolina?” We know the answer to that one.

I believe in strategic economic development, that emphasizes our local strengths and our premium location. I’ve been working hard on that here through the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, and I will continue to do that in Raleigh for both Chatham and Lee.

Third, we must protect our clean air and water, our parks and natural beauty, because this is what makes this a stellar place to live and locate a business. This is why we need to stop the fracking frenzy.

Good businesses don’t want to locate in a place with polluted drinking water and smog.

We don’t have enough information about underground hydraulic fracturing in NC. So, let’s do our homework first, and don’t rush into something that could destroy what makes us strong.

Making us strong– that’s what my campaign is about: Strong schools, good jobs, clean air and water.

These are the keys to restoring the dream of upward mobility for all.

The American Dream is not just for the privileged few, it’s for the rest of us, too –all of us

It’s also time for us to pull together. The right-wing conservatives, Tea Party sippers, seem committed to a social agenda designed to divide us. They’ve launched a war against women, minorities and gays.

They want to take us back to the 1950s when people didn’t think women should have access to contraceptives.

Like you, I was appalled that Rush Limbaugh could stoop so low to have made that indecent attack on a law student who had the courage to challenge the attempt to deny contraceptive insurance coverage to college women attending religious affiliated schools.I promise you today that nobody in the General Assembly will fight any harder than I will against these attempts to turn-back the clock on women’s reproductive rights.

Instead of talking about jobs, these reactionary forces have been hyperventilating about social issues designed to keep us divided and distracted. That’s wrong. It’s got to stop. We deserve better.

I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a place and during a time when job opportunity, security and wages rose along with our increased productivity.

Democrats, Republican and independents came together and supported government investment in the G.I. Bill, education, highways, other infrastructure, and parks – what we call the commons. That was indispensible for making the American Dream possible for the average working person, like my father, a plant foreman and late maintenance director.

Granted, it was not as good for minorities and women back then –but the principle of public investment for a growing economy is valid today.

My view is that now it’s time to work together again and to include everyone in the American Dream.

If we work with each other not against each other, and if we work hard and we remember to give back to our communities for the common good, we will all prosper together and our communities will remain vibrant places to live, play and work.

That’s what my working-class Baptist parents taught me to believe. And that’s why I’m stunned to see people who describe themselves as conservatives working against that most fundamental notion of the golden rule.

Finally, politics is also personal for me, as I bet it is for you, too.

I’ve got two grandchildren whose hopeful faces remind me every day that we must work together for the future, for the long-term, for an economy built to last.

That’s my vision. That’s why I’m running.

That’s why I want to work for you in Raleigh.


Jeff Starkweather drafted to run for new State House seat: Fighting for a Fair Deal for all

[Chatham News & Record 12-21-11]

After being recruited by local Democratic leaders, elected officials and community advocates,  Jeff Starkweather of Pittsboro has decided to seek election to the new open State House seat representing  Chatham County and the Sanford area.  He announced his plans Thursday at the Chatham County Democratic Party Executive Committee meeting.

Starkweather has lived and worked in Chatham for 40 years. He is a well known community advocate and retired civil rights attorney and newspaper publisher. He currently serves on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation Board and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. He previously served as Chair of the Chatham County Affordable Housing Advisory Board and as a member of the Sustainable Energy and Green Building Advisory Board.

“I am honored and humbled to be able to run for this new seat,” Starkweather said in making his announcement. “ I was drafted by the local leadership of the Democratic party.  I had planned to run for Chatham County Commissioner, but  I was willing to step aside in that race to avoid being in a contested primary against incumbent Mike Cross, and also, frankly, because I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for me to run for the State House.

“ I am grateful and excited about the enthusiastic  endorsements I’ve already received from current and former county commissioners and school board members, as well civic leaders from diverse communities in both Chatham and Lee counties,” he added. “Finally, I realized it’s a chance to work on behalf of a ‘Fair Deal’ for all citizens, so that we may prosper together despite the global recession.  I look forward to the opportunity to seek innovative ways to engage the public and private sectors to enhance our economy, our environment, and our public education system from pre-school all the way through community colleges and universities. If we do that we can create a fair and democratic society in which people who put their best foot forward can succeed.”

Starkweather  was editor and publisher of the award-winning Chatham County Herald from 1972 to 1984. He served as an attorney from 1989 until his retirement in 2007, specializing in civil rights law.  He successfully represented many working people, including minorities, women and persons with disabilities, in cases involving employment discrimination in government agencies and large corporations.  In addition to his private practice in Pittsboro, he served as a public defender in the U.S. Middle District Courts and as a special attorney for the Governor’s Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities, where he successfully won wheel chair access to the Siler City Post Office.  He also has donated legal services to many citizens groups and the Democratic Party, including a successful effort to overturn the local Board of Election’s refusal to open a North Chatham early voting site in 2006.

“I have spent my entire career speaking up for fair treatment for local people and communities,” Starkweather said.  “For example, it was our little weekly newspaper that in 1978 broke the story of a secret agreement between the county commissioners and the state to dump in the county landfill the toxic PCBs that had been illegally sprayed along roadsides throughout the central part of the state, including Chatham. Our stories and editorials stopped the deal in its tracks and the chemicals were soon removed from our roadways.”

Starkweather  co-led a grassroots political action committee that helped oust the pro-development Chatham county commissioner board chaired by Bunkey Morgan in 2006.  Following that election, The Raleigh News and Observer named Starkweather the Tar Heel of the Week for his leadership in that campaign.  In 2009, he was named a Citizen of the Year by the West Chatham branch of the NAACP.

“I understand what middle-class and working people are up against in today’s economy,” he said. “My parents are devout Baptists now retired and in their 90s. They came from modest means and worked hard their entire lives to ensure their children could graduate from college and get good jobs. My siblings and I were the first generation in our family to attend college.”

Starkweather was raised in Ojai, California. He has a B.A. in political science and economics from Redlands University and a J.D. from the School of Law at N.C. Central University. He also studied social work and planning at the graduate level at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He has been married to Dee Reid for 26 years. She is director of communications for UNC’s  College of Arts and Sciences. She also publishes a blog about local sustainable farming and food enterprises, and she serves on both the Pittsboro and Chatham County parks and recreation advisory committees.

Starkweather’s two children, Sampson and Emily, attended public schools in Chatham County, graduating from Northwood High School.  Sam Starkweather is a poet who works at the City University of New York.  Emily Tinervin is a teacher at Pittsboro Baptist Pre-School and lives in northeast Chatham with her husband Scott, and their two children, Ryan, 6, and Emery, 4.

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Endorsements by current and former elected officials:

Sally Kost, current Chatham County Commissioner, former chair

George Lucier, former  chair, Chatham County Commissioner

Carl Thompson, former chair, Chatham County Commissioner

Tom Vanderbeck, former Chatham County Commissioner

Gary Phillips, former Chatham County Commissioner

Delcinia Turner, current member, Chatham County Board of Education

Flint O’Brien, current member, Chatham County Board of Education

Kathie Russell, former chair, Chatham County Board of Education

James  Womack, former chair, Lee County Board of Education

Pamela Baldwin, Mayor Pro Tem, Pittsboro

Beth Turner, member, Pittsboro Town Board