Mike Woodard—former Durham City Council member and current Duke employee—is running for re-election as the Democratic state senator for North Carolina's 22nd district.
Woodard has worked at Duke for 27 years, having spent 20 years as a business analyst in the financial services division with a focus on managing the University's computer-based administrative systems. He has also worked in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and for Alumni Affairs.
This November, Woodward faces Republican challenger T. Greg Doucette, a local attorney. Running in a district that includes East Campus, West Campus and most of Central Campus, Woodard is focused on boosting the economy.
“I am going to continue to focus on the economy—making sure that we are providing plenty of job opportunities for our residents, supporting our small businesses,” he said. “Given the nature of this district, we must support our entrepreneurs and because of the rural nature of the district, [support] our agricultural concerns.”
Woodard, Trinity ’81, has served North Carolina for several years. He was a member of the Durham City Council from 2005 to 2012 and has been a state senator since 2013.
Woodard’s constituency covers Durham, Caswell and Person counties, where local businesses have been affected by House Bill 2—the controversial law mandating that residents use the bathroom of their biological sex. He has authored a bill to repeal the legislation and has been an outspoken opponent of it. For example, Woodard has voiced concerns about the hastiness with which the bill was passed.
That opinion transcends party lines in this particular race. Doucette said he also opposes the legislation, because his legal perspective supersedes supporting the legislation solely on a party basis. His experience as a lawyer features into his policies, for example his desire to reform the criminal justice system to better help the disadvantaged.
However, Doucette said he disagrees with Woodard on the balance between the citizen and state. This is evident, he said, in how the candidates disagree about House Bill 972, which keeps police video footage private pending a court order. The bill got bipartisan support, and Woodard voted for it, but Doucette said it worsens public accountability.
Among the differences, Doucette noted the number of regulations making it difficult for entrepreneurs to start businesses in North Carolina.
“I am focusing on three areas," he said. "One is rebuilding our economy—trying to make sure that everyone can find work who needs it and if for some reason they cant, there is a more flexible system where they can start a business of their own."
Both Woodard and Doucette said they planned to reform North Carolina’s educational system and are concerned with funding cuts made to the K-12 system and the the University of North Carolina system.
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Woodard emphasized that he would like to continue supporting public schools and expanding pre-kindergarten programs, which he said are pivotal elements in a child’s education. His primary goal is to maintain affordability while not compromising quality of education.
“There was a proposal that we passed in the budget to cap tuition at three schools and at the same time we were playing around with fundraising opportunities," Woodard said. "I think that this limits school’s ability to provide need-based financial aid to families."
Woodard has also had an impact on the Durham and Duke communities. After two people were hit by cars at the intersection of Broad and Perry streets off East Campus in 2006, then-councilman Woodard successfully lobbied for the installation of a stoplight. On a lighter note, he supported a bill to honor the University's men's basketball national championship in 2015.
He has also been particularly passionate about universal voter registration, which he said would increase minority access to the polls. Woodard has also been vocal against North Carolina's voter identification laws, which were struck down by an appeals court in July.
Health care is another pressing issue in North Carolina, Woodard noted.
“Hopefully we can in this next term expand Medicaid which so far the Republican party has refused to expand in North Carolina," he said. "I have worked particularly hard on providing health care options for people in rural communities."