Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Two newcomers battle over N.C. House District 72
top story

Two newcomers battle over N.C. House District 72

  • 0

The race for N.C. House District 72 features two political newcomers who are both public school educators.

The seat opened after incumbent Derwin Montgomery decided to run for Congress in the newly formed 6th Congressional District.

It's a mostly Democratic district that covers downtown Winston-Salem, Wake Forest, Buena Vista and parts of east Winston-Salem. 

Amber Baker won the Democratic primary in March, beating LaShun Huntley with about 60% of the vote. A Winston-Salem native, Baker is a former principal at Kimberly Park Elementary and is now a life skills teacher at Mount Tabor High School.

"It's definitely a blended community, but that doesn't bother me," Baker said of the district. "My work has allowed me to work across the city. I have just as many allies in Buena Vista as I do east Winston."

Her opponent, Republican Dan Lawlor, worked in sporting goods sales for years before becoming a special education teacher and baseball coach. He is currently on the staff at Reynolds High School.

He did not face a primary challenger.

Baker has been active in local Democratic circles at the grassroots level for several years.

"When this seat opened up with Derwin Montgomery running for Congress, I thought it was a good time to move from the grassroots side to the policy-making side," Baker said.

As for Lawlor, he felt as if someone needed to challenge the Democratic candidate.

"I used the leap-of-faith idea of not being afraid of trying something new," Lawlor said. "That usually has benefited me."

With their background in public education, both candidates have strong opinions on school vouchers.

Lawlor said he'd like to see the focus put on how to make students more successful in the classroom and how to make teachers more effective. 

Support Local Journalism

Your subscription makes our reporting possible.

"I think we're asking the wrong question on public school vs. school choice," he said. 

But he did say that school choice should always be available to parents. 

"Everyone has a choice of where to send their kids," Lawlor said.

Baker said she has concerns over giving public money to private schools who "only cater to students they deem desirable."

Public schools must serve all students.

"We take whoever walks through the door, and a lot of time we do it without proper resources," Baker said. "If we're going to use public dollars for parents to send their kids to private schools, then private schools should be held to the same standard in terms of an open-door policy."

Lawlor said his main priorities are education, health care and criminal justice. He said he's still learning about Medicaid expansion but sees two major questions at the root of the issue: Are people getting better access and does it drive down the costs? 

"And you build from those questions. But those two factors have to be asked. If the answers are yes, then we're all in," he said. "Everyone should have access to health care. We all agree on that. It's just how."

Medicaid expansion is also a priority for Baker, along with restoring more money to public education and workforce development. 

Both acknowledged the difficulty that Gov. Roy Cooper faced in balancing the health of North Carolinians and the state's economy.

Baker said she appreciated Cooper's cautious pace.

"When you make a decision trying to create the safest possible avenue for people, you can never go wrong," she said. 

Lawlor also applauded Cooper's approach but said the importance of the economy should not be overlooked.

"The economy is the source of the money for everything we cherish — education, health care," he said. "The phases (of reopening) were probably the right thing to do. How long it should go? We can debate that."




Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert