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Three are in, but is Kinnaird really out?

By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

Carrboro Alderman John Herrera announced Wednesday that he’s joining Orange County commissioners Moses Carey and Mike Nelson in the race to succeed Sen. Ellie Kinnaird.

But Kinnaird, who has made it no secret that she is interested in seeing a woman replace her, said Wednesday afternoon that she is not ruling out another run if she can’t find one.

Kinnaird said she has met with several candidates considering the race, including Carey, Nelson and Herrera. While she’s told them she intends to step down, Kinnaird said she has added the caveat that she wants to see a woman run for her seat and would support a woman candidate as long as the candidate “represents the values of the people of Orange and Person counties.”

Kinnaird said she has been strongly urged to run again by supporters in the district and colleagues in the Legislature — some of that pressure coming as recently as Tuesday during the brief legislative session called to consider Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of a corporate incentives bill.

The six-term senator, who served 12 years as Carrboro mayor before seeking higher office, said she is worried about a sharp drop in the number of women serving in the Senate if she leaves. Sen. Janet Cowell of Wake County has announced she is running for state treasurer and Sen. Kay Hagan has indicated she is seriously considering a run against U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole. Another state senator, Katie Dorsett of Greensboro, is considering retirement and last March Jeanne Lucas, who represented Durham for more than seven terms, died.

Kinnaird said the result could leave the Senate with only three women — less than half the number (seven) of women serving when she was first elected.

Another reason some individuals are urging her to consider running again is that she has worked her way up the Senate power structure — despite often being, as she puts it, “a burr in the saddle” of the Senate leadership.

In the last session, she served as chair of the Appropriations Committee on Justice and Public Safety, overseeing the third-largest share of the state budget behind Education and Health and Human Services.

She is also chair of the Senate’s Mental Health and Youth Services committee and has worked recently on getting juvenile justice legislation passed by the Senate.

The Democratic primary for state Senate is on May 7, 2008. Filing for the race officially opens in mid-March.

Kinnaird said she could wait until as late as February before announcing her intentions.

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