District 9 North Carolina Senate race comes to campus


A recent political rally congregated on Halifax Mall behind the North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C., on April 25, 2016. Andrew Barnhill seeks to unseat incumbent Michael Lee as they both run for North Carolina State Senate, located inside this building. 

Democrat Andrew Barnhill and Republican incumbent Michael Lee are both running campaigns for State Senate in North Carolina’s Ninth district. While a State Senate race may not be the top priority on many college students’ radar, the Barnhill campaign has brought the race front and center to UNC Wilmington.

Andrew Barnhill is a young candidate, and at 28-years-old, Barnhill is not far removed from the students he is recruiting to work for him. The Barnhill campaign is run by UNCW alumni Dakota Cary. Cary focuses on outreach in his strategy and has taken on many interns and volunteers from the student body on campus.        

“We are reaching into all areas of the community for support, from college and high school students to retirees,” Barnhill said in an interview on campus.

This outreach on campus is drawing support from what the candidate himself calls his largest voting block. Barnhill maintains that his age does not directly garner support from younger voters and cites the large youth following of Senator Bernie Sanders, the oldest candidate who ran for the presidential bid of his party.

Barnhill believes that he was “born into the UNCW family” because both of his parents were alumni of the university. Barnhill is a progressive who falls left of center on most issues. Additionally, he condemns controversial House Bill 2 and doesn’t support the loss of the film tax incentive in Wilmington.  

Unfortunately for Barnhill, an article published by WNCN news sheds light on allegedly inappropriate behavior from the candidate while he was on a mission trip as a student at Furman University. In the 2008 school year, Barnhill was the president of an on campus charity organization that worked in partnership with a charity organization in South Africa. Former classmates of Barnhill told a story of a young man who spent little time at the site that their charity was working on and instead inappropriately went to an upscale casino.

Attack ads have been sponsored by the North Carolina Republican Party, which aim to draw attention to this potential scandal. Lee has remained relatively quiet about this issue, and most of his website is dedicated to his personal history and policy beliefs.

Michael Lee is a Dunn native and attended both UNCW and UNC Chapel Hill in his time as an undergraduate student. He later attended Wake Forest Law School and moved to Wilmington with his family. Additionally, like Barnhill, Lee has his own ties to campus as he served as an adjunct professor with the school.

In terms of policy Michael Lee is a conservative. His campaign website talks about his positions such as his views on tax incentives.

“Incentives are like fire – when used correctly, they can have great benefits to us all,” Lee stated, “but when abused or used incorrectly, we get burned. The taxpayers have been burned over the years by the incorrect use and abuse of incentives.”

While the Barnhill campaign focuses its time and resources on outreach in the New Hanover area, the Lee campaign takes a more hard line policy stance. Both Lee and Barnhill, however, may appeal to a more religious voter base, as both candidates are very involved in their respective churches.

Whether liberal or conservative, the UNCW student population is feeling the presence of these two candidates on campus and in New Hanover County. In a time with so much divisive attention focused on the upcoming general election for president, it is no small feat for these two men to command the attention and conversation of the important millennial voter base.