CHARLOTTE – Democrat Rachel Hunt has followed her father’s footsteps into politics. The newly elected member of the N.C. House of Representatives is going to champion one of her father’s major initiatives in the General Assembly.
Hunt is the daughter of former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt. The state’s longest-serving governor was known as the education governor for his support of public education over his four terms in the state’s top elected position. Hunt served as governor from 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2001.
Rachel Hunt defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Bill Brawley for the House District 103 seat by 68 votes in last month’s general election. Brawley was running for a fifth term and was arguably the county’s most powerful legislator, as the Matthews resident chaired the finance and appropriations committees.
Rachel Hunt was one of 12 Democrats across the state that flipped a Republican-held seat. The party had a net gain of 10 seats that broke the Republicans’ supermajority in the House. Democrats also had a net gain of six seats in the State Senate to also break the Republicans’ supermajority in that chamber.
Hunt said she seeks her father’s advice often and that won’t change after she is sworn in. The 2019 General Assembly is scheduled to start at the end of January.
“I spoke with him, and still do, almost every single day during the campaign,” Hunt said. “He is a master campaigner and a public servant. He was my most important advisor the whole time. He and my mom were excited when I told them I was running. We talked through what the race would be like. Obviously, I had seen that when I was younger when he had his campaigns. But it is different when you do it yourself. It was a journey, but it was great.”
She had been active in Democratic Party politics for years. Hunt decided to get off the sidelines because she said change was needed in the state. The district supported President Trump by 10 points in the 2016 election, but Hunt said she felt people were ready to take the state and country in a new direction.
“I decided I could no longer participate in the process as a donor and a campaign worker,” she said. “I felt so strongly that things needed to be improved in our state and our country, including in the fields of education funding and health care. The part of health care is expanding Medicaid and making sure people have more access to health care. Both of those things resonated with people out on the campaign trail. I viewed my race as a long shot, and that is how I ran the race the entire time.”
The House will have 65 Republicans and 55 Democrats, and Rachel Hunt is optimistic the two parties will be able to collaborate to get things accomplished.
“I am already thinking about what bills I want to join folks on the other side of the aisle to sponsor and talk to folks on the other side of the aisle to form alliances with,” she said. “We are going to have bipartisanship and that is something I am interested in to help make happen. I hope we can come together on teacher pay and expanding Medicare. Those are two issues I am interested because they affect a huge number of people statewide. That will improve the lives of many, many people in districts across the state.”
Hunt will be one of 17 freshmen Democratic House members. She has already attended an orientation session in Raleigh and a convention in Washington, D.C. to prepare for her new role. She has been impressed with the incoming Democrats, which includes Wesley Harris (District 105) and Brandon Lofton (District 104), both of whom represent south Charlotte.
“We have folks from all different walks of life,” she said. “We have some educators, and we have some folks that have never been in politics. It’s going to be interesting, and it is going to bring a lot of new ideas, which is great.”