Published 11:58 am, October 2nd, 2023
(Mike Woodard greets Durham voters at a press conference. (Photo by Jailyn Neville)
North Carolina Senator Mike Woodard (D-Durham) did not receive endorsements from INDY Week or Durham People’s Alliance in his run for mayor due to questions about his recent voting history.
In its recently published list of endorsements, INDY Week criticizes Senator Woodard’s recent voting record.
The editors of INDY wrote that Mike Woodard is not a progressive Democrat when explaining their endorsement decision. Nevertheless, they acknowledged him as a “solid leader” with a lot of political experience.
The publishers are concerned that his views do not align with his progressive constituents, which is why they did not endorse him in his campaign.
Senator Woodard’s bipartisan communication has certainly helped him in his years as a senator, but this skillset might be hurting his mayoral campaign.
Senator Woodard responded to INDY Week’s criticism, saying that although he respects the decision to not endorse him, he is disappointed that the publication misrepresented his political views.
“I’ve been a progressive Democrat most of my life,” Woodard said, “As a teenager, I campaigned for President Carter and Governor Hodge.”
The senator said he received a lot of phone calls since INDY Week’s endorsements came out expressing disappointment and outrage in the publication’s assessment.
He quipped about other legislators not believing he’s the person INDY Week is talking about.
“Some of them were like, ‘Can we write a letter and say, sorry, Mike Woodard is progressive? He is a Democrat,’” Senator Woodard said, joking about a conversation he had with Republican colleagues while working together on the budget.
He does support progressive policies and aligns himself with those values, such as a woman’s right to choose and access to gender-affirming care. But he believes in looking at issues like consumer finance based on each specific bill.
In a legislator profile from 2013 for NC Newsline, the senator described himself as “someone who likes to keep the pendulum from swinging too far left or right.”
A decade later, he still believes that.
“For me it’s about listening to the constituents I represent,” Senator Woodard said of his political alignment, “I just want to get stuff done to help make my community better and the people I represent a better life. That’s what motivates me.”
He continued that he always wants to understand an issue and people’s solutions for it.
INDY Week specifically criticized Woodard’s recent voting record, but the senator feels that his vote has remained consistent across his time in office.
During his senate career, he worked across the aisle with his Republican colleagues to pass multiple pieces of legislation he values. For example, he told Spectrum News that he considers the bipartisan North Carolina Clean Energy Bill his “greatest accomplishment”.
“I’m a guy who’s willing to work with everyone, who gets along personally with a lot of folks,” Mike Woodard told The New Yorker in June of this year.
He later added that he does not trust his Republican colleagues with policies about voting rights, gerrymandering or other “fundamental things.”
However, the senator voted to override three of Governor Roy Cooper’s vetos over the summer of 2023.
Senator Woodar maintained his original vote in favor of Senate Bill 329, Senate Bill 331 and Senate Bill 299. He was the only Democrat to do so.
S 331, An Act to Amend the North Carolina Consumer Finance Act, clarifies and redefines various financial terms relating to loans, including how financial interest is calculated. It also outlines requirements for applying to get a consumer finance license. The governor’s reason for veto was as S 329.
S 299, An Act to Increase Compliance by Counties and Municipalities that Fail to Timely Submit an Annual Audit Report, withholds a portion of sales tax distributions from counties and municipalities who do not comply with audit requirements. The governor vetoed this bill because it would be more punitive than helpful to small communities in North Carolina.
Senator Woodard explained that he made his decision mostly based on confusion as to why Governor Cooper vetoed the bills. He believes that the vetoes were a mistake.
The two consumer finance bills, S 329 and S 331, were written by a coalition of consumer lenders, advocacy groups and legislators. Senator Woodard describes himself as “stunned” when finding out about the governor’s veto for the two pieces of legislation.
He said that he never got a good answer from Governor Cooper about his justification for the veto.
“When it came time to override, I was just showing my support for what we did for those advocacy groups,” Senator Woodard said.
“That’s leadership,” he said, “Sometimes you gotta stand up and say this is the right thing to do.”
He was also confused about the governor’s justification for vetoing S 299, the audit bill. He said he still stands by his view that requiring audits within a year and a half of a deadline is good government because citizens deserve to know what is happening with their money.
Because of this criticism, as well as INDY Week’s other concerns listed, Woodard said he feels like the publication didn’t accurately portray who he is as a candidate and person.
“When I looked at some of the things they were complaining about, I don’t think they fully understood and they didn’t bother to ask me why I voted on a certain bill a certain way,” Senator Woodard said.
The senator is passionate about prioritizing policy for the people he represents over party lines. He believes that his actions continue to show that compassion.
Just last year, he received endorsements from INDY Week, as well as political action committees in his campaign for North Carolina Senate. In fact, this is the first time most of these organizations have not endorsed him since the beginning of his political career.
This lack of support from prominent organizations during a heated mayoral race may not be promising for Senator Woodard’s campaign.
Mike Woodard’s ability to reach across party lines for compromises has been especially important this session in a Republican-dominated General Assembly.
But can it help him in the Durham City Hall?
Only time can tell.