Chris Heagarty spent seven years helping to shape the process of casting votes, and now he’ll be campaigning for them as the newest member of the N.C. House of Representatives.
A gathering of 30 Democratic Party leaders from the 41st House district in western Wake County elected Heagarty, former director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, this morning to replace former Rep. Ty Harrell, a Democrat.
Harrell resigned last month to address a campaign finance investigation. When a legislator resigns, the lawmaker’s political party picks the successor.
Gov. Beverly Perdue is expected to officially appoint Heagarty when she returns from a trip to China and Japan in a little over a week.
Heagarty, 39, was selected among six candidates, with the other five vowing to support him in next fall’s election.
“To my knowledge, there’s not any chance of a primary [challenge] from these folks,” said Jack Nichols, chairman of the Wake County Democratic Party, who ran the meeting.
Although born in Cincinnati, Heagarty spent nearly his entire life in Raleigh and the 41st district, where he still lives with his wife, Tivey; 2-year-old son, Stephen; and 10-month-old daughter, Sidney. He’s a graduate of Enloe High School and N.C. State University. He’s on track to graduate from N.C. Central University Law School in the spring.
From 2000 to 2007, Heagarty was executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a nonpartisan group that aims to improve the quality and responsiveness of election systems.
“It was about getting more people involved, casting more informed votes,” Heagarty said Saturday.
The group’s most visible achievement was legislation making North Carolina’s judicial races nonpartisan.
Heagarty said his focus will be the same as most other elected officials.
“The No. 1 priority on everyone’s mind in this economy,” he said, “is getting people working again.”
This story was originally published by the Charlotte Observer on October 19, 2009.