Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Elections of March: Brian Farkas v. Jake Hochard in Pitt County

NC House District 9 -- Pitt County

Former incumbent Republican NC House member Greg Murphy ran successfully last year for the US Congress in NC-3 in a special election. Republican Perrin Jones was appointed to his empty seat in the NC House and is running for election. Two Democrats have also filed and will face one another in the March 3rd primary. Following the most recent remapping of General Assembly districts, NCH9 lost over 6% of its likely Republican vote, so the district is now rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic." This district ought to be one of the easier "flips" this year, but everything depends on whom the Democrats nominate.

Democrat Brian Farkas is a 32-year-old millennial born in 1987, raised in Pitt County, and he's running an energetic campaign and attracting some significant support. Freshman Rep. Zack Hawkins of Durham County gave the keynote at the Farkas launch party (Rep. Joe Sam Queen of western NC also attended along with Jenna Wadsworth, who is making some waves herself as a new kind of candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture). Farkas has been endorsed by Now Or Never NC, an organization that backs candidates who support public education, redistricting reform, voter access, and local governance, and by the Long Leaf Pine Slate, a project by Blair Reeves to help favored Democratic candidates raise money.
Four years ago, while he was still in his 20s, Farkas challenged Greg Murphy for this seat. Farkas understood the importance of a good ground game for an under-funded campaign, and he got 17,000 votes to Murphy's almost 23,000 -- a loss, yes, but a loss that showed some promise for the future, especially considering Farkas's age at the time.
He's a graduate of UNC-Charlotte and earned a Master's of Public Administration at Chapel Hill. He interned with Congressman Brad Miller in DeeCee in 2007, worked almost three years in the US Attorney's office in Charlotte, spent ten months as a graduate assistant in the School of Government at UNC, worked 20 months as a program specialist with the National Institute of Environmental Health at Research Triangle Park before joining the JKF Architecture firm in Greenville as Director of Client Relations and Development, where he's been since 2013. A man on the move, picking up experience in all sorts of real world arenas.
He's also been very active as a volunteer with many local development and eleemosynary orgs including the Greenville Museum of Art, the Rocking Horse Therapeutic Riding Program, and the Greenville-Eastern North Carolina Alliance for economic empowerment.

Democrat Jake Hochard is also a 32-year-old millennial born in 1988 and an economics professor at East Carolina University. He earned his bachelor's degrees in economics and environmental studies from Gettysburg College in 2011, and a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Wyoming in 2015. He did not start voting in North Carolina until the 2018 mid-terms, and he's never run for office before. 
Hochard's career experience includes working as a poverty and environmental economist, and he served as a technical and scientific expert for the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership, and as a research fellow with the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute and the Center for Natural Hazards Research. 
He wrote about himself for a Ballotpedia candidate survey: "Like many ECU students, Jake is from a blue-collar family, is a first-generation college student and self-financed his education. Jake specializes in the study of economic conditions that alleviate poverty while promoting growth and has brought nearly $1 million in research funding to ECU, taught 800+ students and employed 30+ students to better understand conditions of poverty, healthcare and natural disasters in eastern North Carolina."
Hochard offers a contrast to Farkas, certainly in style and image in not in basic democratic beliefs. Both, we suspect, will be trying to mobilize student voters at East Carolina University. Hochard may have the edge there, but Farkas has more of the volunteer base of the local Democratic Party.

Republican incumbent (since October 2019) Perrin Jones has the advantage of incumbency. Plus perhaps an advantage of status as a respected anesthesiologist and some might say an advantage of age -- he's a 47-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1972 in Charlotte. He was educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest. He also has the advantage of serving such a short time in the NC House that he doesn't have his name on any controversial legislation and is virtually a blank slate.
As far as I can tell, he has no campaign website and only a Facebook page, to which he's posted infrequently and certainly nothing controversial. That lack of campaign infrastructure will likely change after the Democratic primary, along with his image as a "soft Republican."
How Trumpy will be go? 

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