Everette Witherspoon, a 34-yearold
Forsyth County commissioner
announced he was running for a
seat in the NC General Assembly
the day Larry Womble announced he wasn’t.
The senior member of the Forsyth County
delegation, Womble had planned to run for NC
Senate District 32 after Republican-controlled
redistricting exiled the seat’s current occupant.
But Womble was seriously injured in a car accident
in December and decided against running.
Thus followed a reshuffl e, with Earline Parmon
seeking the District 32 seat, and Witherspoon
seeking to replace Womble in District 71.
“One person in particular invited me to the
hospital and told me that I better run,” Witherspoon
told voters at a candidate forum at Shiloh
Baptist Church last month. “The person’s name
was state Rep. Larry Womble. And he told me:
‘When you get to Raleigh you better do three
things. You better speak up. You better stand
up. And if necessary, you better act up.’ That’s
what I plan to do.”
A social worker by training, Witherspoon is
serving his fi rst term on the county commission.
Notwithstanding his relative inexperience,
he has turned heads as a likable and quick-witted
public servant and a forceful advocate.
Almost twice her opponent’s age, Evelyn
Terry is a political veteran who charts an
She served one term on
Winston-Salem City Council before being
voted out in 2009.
Terry makes a point to tell voters about her
grandfather, a proud but illiterate man who
walked from Randolph County to Winston-
Salem and was determined that his children
get a good education. Terry said her mother
memorized parts of the Constitution so that she
could challenge anyone who tried to deny her
grandfather his right to vote.
It was only after returning home in the
early 1970s after living in Philadelphia, Terry
said, that she realized how poor Winston-
She worked as a community
organizer for the Experiment in Self-Reliance
and successfully lobbied the city council to
improve rental-housing standards, jeopardizing
her job in the process.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans
three to one in District 71, which includes
downtown and stretches from Linville
Road in the east to Peters Creek Parkway in
the west. The district’s racial makeup, like
neighboring District 72, is almost evenly split
between black and white, with Hispanics and
unaffi liated voters growing in number over
the past decade.
The winner of the Democratic primary
contest will face Republican Kris McCann in
Witherspoon and Terry share similar views
on both economic and social issues: Both
favor a ¾ cent sales tax increase proposed
by Gov. Bev Perdue to restore funding for
secondary education and both oppose the
marriage amendment as discriminatory.
Witherspoon stepped out on his own at a recent candidate forum hosted by the Winston- Salem Urban League by taking a position against North Carolina’s right-to-work law, which prevents unions from engaging in collective bargaining with employers.
“When we talk about jobs, the biggest
employer in North Carolina is the state of
North Carolina,” the candidate said. “If you
work for the state of North Carolina, if you
want to put your family members in the
benefi t plan you will pay twice as much as
somebody in Virginia…. I can understand
the argument with the private sector, but
you can’t outsource state jobs. And we have
the worst record in the country. If you vote
for Everette Witherspoon, you don’t have to
have somebody who has 52 shades of gray to
know where I stand.”
Terry said she hasn’t developed a position
on the issue.
“I do not know what the answers are,” she
“So I want to listen to what you say and
what your opinion is about that before I make a
judgment about whether or not we believe that
recruitment of new jobs into the state of North
Carolina warrants our being somewhat lax
about right to work or whether we believe that
we need to enforce and be vehement about it.”
Witherspoon took a risky gambit during
the forum by implicitly calling attention to
“We can talk about experience, but very
seldom do you have somebody with the
youth and the experience in the same race,”
“I’m the only person in this race
who’s ever dealt with an education budget.
I’m the only person in this race who’s dealt
with a health and human services budget. I’m
the only person in this race who’s ever dealt
with a county commission or community
college budget…. If you have two candidates
who are similar, I believe you have to go
with the one who can give you longevity.”
Terry found herself seated between
Witherspoon and James Taylor, a 31-year-old
candidate who defeated her in her 2009 city
council election and is now running against
Parmon for NC Senate.
“Look, do you want to run a marathon?”
Later, in an interview, Terry praised Witherspoon
as “a fi ne young man.”
“From the standpoint of having some experience, I’ve won some battles and lost some,” she said. “We have to be forthright in what we are fi ghting for. I’ve always been about service, not self…. We’ve marginalized 50 percent of people. I have learned from interacting with other people. You have to listen. You have to be a very keen listener. Unlike my opponent, I don’t have all the answers. My knowledge and understanding comes from all those who need to be lifted up.”