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Race for Rep. David Price’s Congressional seat draws a crowded field

Now that Congressional districts for the upcoming election are finalized, following disputes over North Carolina’s election maps, candidates are jumping into the race to represent North Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. Eight Democratic candidates and two Republicans will be on the ballot in the May 17 primary as they vie for the seat that has long been held by U.S. Rep. David Price. 

Looming over the primary is Price’s decades-long legacy in Congress, where he used his academic expertise in congressional politics to expand public transit, highlight affordable housing needs and draw federal funds to the district for an EPA research campus. With the senior congressman’s departure, the race is competitive for the first time in years. Politicians, scholars, activists and a former American Idol contestant among those battling to represent a district that includes Alamance, Durham, Granville, Orange and Person counties and part of Caswell County.

Here’s a look at the contenders competing in the May primary to succeed Price.

Nida Allam (Democrat)

Twenty-eight-year-old Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, the youngest in the race,  says her generation understands the urgency of solving today’s political crises. Allam was a field organizer and later the North Carolina political director for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. She was also third vice-chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party for four years and was elected to the Durham County Board of Commissioners in 2020.

Read more about Allam here.

Valerie Foushee (Democrat)

When Rep. Price announced his retirement, N.C. Sen. Valerie Foushee, 65, received a mass of phone calls encouraging her to run. Foushee worked at the Chapel Hill Police Department for 21 years and was elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board in 1997. She also served on the Orange County Board of Commissioners before being elected to the state House. She has been a state senator for eight years and currently chairs the N.C. Senate’s Democratic Caucus.

Read more about Foushee here.

Ashley Ward (Democrat)

Ashley Ward sees major holes in Congress: there are few members who specialize in climate policy, and very few with working-class roots. She said she would carry both of those missing elements to D.C. Her top issue is climate change. She works in the water policy program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and has also worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Read more about Ward here.

Clay Aiken (Democrat)

Clay Aiken, 43, gained prominence as an “American Idol” fan favorite. But before the show, he worked at the YMCA, where he became interested in children with special needs. These days, Aiken says his life centers on his organization for children with special needs, the National Inclusion Project. The program works with organizations to include children with disabilities in recreational programs, like camps.  

Read more about Aiken here.

Stephen J Valentine (Democrat)

Stephen J. Valentine, 53, is a social worker, lawyer and veteran and directs the Veteran’s Law program at N.C. Central University.  He served in the military for 21 years, and later served in the State Department under the Obama administration. Valentine’s agenda includes support for a living wage, universal preschool, free community college, support for veterans and cancelling student debt.  

Read more about Valentine here.

Other candidates in the race include:

  • Richard Watkins (Democrat): Watkins, 32, received a Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill in microbiology and immunology with a specialty in virology. He is the CEO and founder of The Science Policy Action Network, Inc. Watkins supports Medicare for All and a universal basic income. Some of his top issues include climate change and cybersecurity.
  • Crystal Cavalier (Democrat): Cavalier, 44, used her master’s degree in public administration to work with military families at Fort Bragg as a family readiness support assistant. She also founded the NC Democratic Party’s Native American Caucus, Murdered Indigenous Women Coalition of North Carolina and Seven Directions of Service, an Indigenous-led advocacy organization. Preserving rural environments and protecting women’s rights are among Cavalier’s top issues.
  • Matt Grooms (Democrat): Grooms, 39, is a nurse and graduate student from Greenville, N.C. He works as a nurse at a mental health hospital. His top issue is improving water quality in North Carolina. Grooms would also like to increase funding for social security and police departments, and to support development in minority and low-income neighborhoods.
  • Robert Thomas (Republican): Thomas, 53, wants to reinvigorate plans to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico. A supporter of  Second Amendment rights and of former President Donald Trump, he is angered by Democrats’ treatment of former president Donald Trump.
  • Courtney Geels (Republican): Geels, 31, is a nurse who is critical of vaccine mandates, of conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, and of what she views as the federal government’s excessive spending. A conservative Christian, Geels opposes legalizing abortion and teaching critical race theory in schools.

Above: Photos courtesy of Nida Allam and Sen. Valerie Foushee