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Bryant to continue as advocate

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N.C. Sen Angela Bryant, D-Nash, stands with then-President Barack Obama in an undated photo.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

From the moment Angela Bryant heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his dream speech at a local high school, she knew she would follow in his footsteps.

A year later, an 11-year-old Bryant was the only girl in a handful of black students who integrated Rocky Mount's public schools in 1963.

“I felt like I was marching with Dr. King as I walked into that school everyday,” Bryant said.

Bryant may have followed King's example, but she blazed her own trail through Eastern North Carolina. Her accomplishments are as many as they are varied. A graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Bryant served as a member of the UNC Board of Trustees and Board of Governors. Bryant has three decades of legal experience that includes 10 years as an administrative law judge.

Bryant co-founded VISIONS Inc., which provides training and consulting to hundreds of organizations and local governments. Her countless awards include community leadership and distinguished UNC alumni.

Bryant served on numerous local and state boards before running successfully for Rocky Mount City Council. After three years, she was appointed to the N.C. House in 2007. In her six terms in the N.C. General Assembly, Bryant served on too many committees to list. She is the current chairwoman of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus.

Bryant, a three-term Democratic state senator representing Nash and surrounding counties, may not be seeking another term, but she isn't done with politics and civil service yet. After 12 years in the state legislature, Bryant publicly announced Monday she won't be running again. She followed up Tuesday by telling the Telegram she will continue to help strengthen local and state Democrats.

“I am hard at work in this election cycle organizing precincts,” Bryant said.

She said she also will continue to advocate for the causes she fought for in the N.C. House and Senate, namely education, health care and offender re-entry.

In her private life, Bryant said she's working toward retirement by exploring various options, but nothing is certain.

“I am so thankful to the citizens for the opportunity to serve Senate District 4 over six years — Nash, Halifax, Wilson, Vance and Warren counties; and House District 7 — Nash and Halifax counties, for an additional six years,” Bryant said. “I was also briefly elected by the citizens of the part of Franklin County that became House District 7 in 2012, before moving to the Senate. It is a blessing in life to get a chance to do something that I really love doing and, for me, that is serving my community.”

Bryant said she is proud of her legislative record, which includes the enactment of 53 primary-sponsored bills into law. Those laws include the sale of ElectriCities assets to Duke Power, which reduced rates; more favorable expunction laws and processes; creating local offender re-entry councils; requiring a public meeting notice before any change in municipal utility electric rates; reauthorization of Drop-out Prevention Grants; updating the use of and increasing 911 funds; increasing funds and standardizing the process for public access cable channels; requiring annexation of certain excluded low-income communities; due process rights for parents of students with long-term suspensions; and the 2010 re-enactment of the renewable energy tax credit.

Rather than talking about herself, Bryant wanted to talk about the bright future of her fellow Democrats. As a result of the redistricting lawsuit, the five counties in Bryant's Senate District 4 are now being redistributed over three districts: 3, 4 and 11.

“Primarily because of the 'whole county provision' in the N.C. Constitution, when properly applied without racial gerrymandering, counties have to be kept whole when possible in creating districts,” Bryant said. “In addition, the 'One person, One vote' provision of the U.S. Constitution requires all House districts to have roughly the same population and the same for all Senate districts.”

All of Nash County, including Bryant's residence, was assigned to Senate District 11, which encompasses Nash County and part of Johnston County. Nash, at 95,800 in 2010 population, best matches with part of Johnston to make Senate District 11 and hit the required Senate population target of 193,000 per district.

“Nash and part of Johnston each make up about 50 percent of the district based on 2010 Census numbers,” Bryant said. “This new Senate District 11 voted 58 percent Republican in recent elections and is 25 percent black. I do not believe that district would be a favorable district for me to run in successfully.”

Designated now as Senate District 4, Halifax, Edgecombe and Wilson counties make a perfect three-whole county Senate district in terms of 2010 Census population. Halifax is 28.4 percent of the district, Edgecombe is 29.4 percent and Wilson is 42.2 percent. The district is an open seat and a new senator will be elected this year.

District 3 is 49 percent black and voted up to 60 percent Democratic in recent elections. Edgecombe County will be losing N.C. Sen. Erica Smith, whose Senate District 3 is now composed of six counties: Vance, Warren, Northampton, Bertie, Martin and Beaufort counties.

“I am pleased that Sen. Smith is seeking her second term for the new Senate District 3 that will include two counties, Vance and Warren, from Senate District 4 that I now represent,” Bryant said. “A career educator and engineer, Sen. Smith has distinguished herself as a formidable advocate for education, disaster recovery and job creation in rural Eastern North Carolina.”

On the N.C. House side, Nash has two new districts. Bryant said she's pleased N.C. Rep. Bobbie Richardson is filing for re-election for House District 7, which is now composed of all of Franklin County, based on the ‘whole county provision,’ and five Nash precincts, Bailey, Middlesex, Samaria, Stanhope and Coopers, which make up 23 percent of the district.

Richardson, a retired educator and administrator, is well respected as a legislator and has worked her way up in the Democratic Caucus leadership, Bryant said.

Newly formed N.C. House District 25, encompassing the remainder of Nash, about 81 percent of the county, is an open seat.

“I am pleased that James D. Gailliard, who ran for House District 25 in the last election, is filing as a candidate,” Bryant said. “He has shown amazing leadership in our community and garnered tremendous respect from all quarters.”

Bryant said she's also pleased that N.C. Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, filled for re-election to House District 23, which is made up of Edgecombe and Martin counties.

“He has shown savvy and staunch leadership and advocacy for Edgecombe and Martin counties and our Twin County region,” Bryant said.

Bryant still lives in the Little Raleigh community of Rocky Mount, where she was born and raised.

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