The state’s premier teachers organization has endorsed Democrat Stan White, a former state senator, in his bid to recapture the 1st Senate District seat.
The North Carolina Association of Educators on Thursday announced it had endorsed White over his Democratic primary opponent, former school administrator Judy Krahenbuhl, to challenge state Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, in the fall general election.
The endorsement will give White political action committee money from the NCAE, according to a press release.
Reached Friday, White said he was “very excited” about the NCAE’s endorsement.
“I’m proud to wave the flag for educators across the state,” he said.
NCAE President Rodney Ellis said in the press release that the NCAE believes White “is clearly the best choice” to represent the eight-county 1st District in the state Senate.
“He’s an effective advocate for public schools who does his homework and understands what makes public education work,” Ellis said. “Stan will work to raise N.C. teacher pay to the national average so we can recruit and retain excellent teachers who make a positive difference in student achievement.”
Ellis said NCAE evaluated several aspects of White’s candidacy, along with his record.
“Not only has Senator White lived in the district his whole life, he’s a well-known and respected businessman, has spent a lifetime of community service in various capacities, and has served in elective office for 12 years,” Ellis said. “He has a well-organized campaign, and can raise the funds necessary to win in this competitive district.”
Both Democrats and Republicans consider the 1st Senate District, which includes Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, to be a priority race this November, according to the release.
“I’m proud that I can count on teachers to stand with me in this campaign,” White said in the release. “I promise that I will stand with them in the N.C. Senate.”
White, a former Dare County commissioner and former state Board of Transportation member, was appointed to the 1st Senate District seat in early 2011 by then-Gov. Bev Perdue following the resignation of longtime Senate leader Marc Basnight. White lost his bid for a two-year term to Cook in November 2012.
Krahenbuhl, who is running against White in the May 6 Democratic Primary, was also screened by the NCAE for its endorsement. Krahenbuhl said an NCAE official called her Tuesday and informed her the organization was endorsing White.
“They were very direct with me because they felt bad,” she said. “They recognized that I was an outstanding candidate; they were very impressed with my educational background.”
Krahenbuhl, who taught school in Hyde County and worked an administrative position until her contract was not renewed, now lives in Dare County.
Krahenbuhl claims White, the owner of Stan White Realty and Construction, won the NCAE’s endorsement because he’s a better-funded candidate than she is.
“The reason they picked Stan White was because of his money,” she said, adding that the NCAE told her “that made him more electable, because of his funding.”
Krahenbuhl said she doesn’t blame the NCAE for its decision, describing it as a “sad” truth about the electoral process that “the wealthy or those with connections” are those who win the backing of influential groups.
Krahenbuhl claims White — who earlier in life worked as a school teacher — has repeatedly said at public forums that after three years of teaching, he “had to get out of education to make money,” a remark she finds insulting.
“The irony is now they’re endorsing him because he has money,” she said, referring to the NCAE. She noted she and other educators are in education “because we care passionately about children learning.”
She compared her primary election campaign against White to a “Goliath and David” challenge, but believes that, like David, she’ll come out on top.
She’s hopeful teachers will rally behind her, despite the NCAE’s endorsement of White.
“I think Stan White has sympathy for people, but you know, I actually have empathy. I’m one of those people,” she said, referring to teachers.
White confirmed that he taught school for almost three years. He said decided to get into real estate because “I saw at the time I was not going to be able to support myself and my family” teaching.
For the next four years, he taught part-time at night at an alternative schools program, he added, explaining that in real estate, you don’t begin making a lot of money at first.
Asked about Kranhenbuhl’s claim that it was his money and connections alone that won him, and not her, the NCAE’s endorsement, White indicated that wasn’t the only reason.
“I’m not sure that’s the whole reason she wasn’t endorsed,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Linda Gunter, a spokeswoman for the NCAE, said Krahenbuhl is right that White’s funding played a factor in the organization’s endorsement of the former senator’s campaign in the primary.
“Yes, part of being electable is you have to be able to raise money,” Gunter said, adding that White proved his ability to fundraise during his last campaign for Senate two years ago.
However, White’s fundraising prowess wasn’t the only reason the NCAE endorsed him, Gunter said. She pointed to the fact White “is known across the district” and that he has served 12 years in elected office.
Also, Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who plans to run for governor in 2016, spoke highly of White during White’s campaign event in Dare County on Tuesday, Gunter said.
“The NCAE really believes he is the only candidate that can beat Senator Cook,” she said.
Cook couldn’t be reached for this story.