Rivers mug

Keith Rivers

Keith Rivers said he will emphasize transparency in his bid to unseat state Rep. Howard Hunter, D-Hertford, in the state’s 5th House District.

Rivers, a longtime civil rights activist and president of the Pasquotank branch of the NAACP, filed Monday for Hunter’s seat representing the three-county district that includes Pasquotank. Rivers and Hunter, who also filed on Monday, will face off in the Democratic primary in March.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face a Republican challenger in the fall general election. Donald Kim Kirkland of Ahoskie made sure of that on Tuesday, filing for the GOP primary in the 5th House District.

Other area filings on Tuesday included incumbent Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education member Sheila Williams and incumbent GOP Commissioner Paul Beaumont in Currituck.

According to Rivers, a state representative should help educate his or her constituents about what is going on in Raleigh and be transparent about what is happening there.

“Our constituents need to know what we are doing in Raleigh,” he said.

Rivers said the controversy that arose this past summer over the state budget, Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget and whether the General Assembly would override Cooper’s veto was an example of Hunter’s lack of transparency.

Recalling a Daily Advance headline that described Hunter as “mum” on the veto override, Rivers said he would always take a clear stance on important issues and communicate that to constituents.

“How can you be mum?” Rivers asked. “Either you are for it or you are against it.”

Hunter announced, about a week after first being asked, that he would not vote to override Cooper’s veto unless the General Assembly approved Medicaid expansion.

Hunter defended his initial reticence on the override.

“The folks will eat you alive up there,” he said of the General Assembly. “Sometimes you can’t play all your cards. It’s just like if you’re going to play poker, you don’t put all your cards on the table.”

Rivers said that if he’s elected he also will hold town hall-style meetings in Gates, Pasquotank and Hertford counties.

“My goal is to have them quarterly,” Rivers said.

Asked about Rivers’ plan to hold town hall meetings, Hunter said it will be difficult to find time amid the challenges of serving in the General Assembly.

“I don’t know how he’s going to do it unless he’s going to do it on the weekends,” Hunter said. “If his obligation is to be in Raleigh then that is where he is going to have to be.”

Hunter said he tries to keep 5th District constituents informed by sending out a weekly newsletter to anyone who signs up to receive it.

Rivers said communities in the district need more economic resources and he believes the private sector, nonprofit sector and government all have roles to play in helping deliver them. The district also needs programs that can help young men expunge their criminal records so they can become eligible for the employment opportunities, he said.

“A lot of times you can just be a bridge to bringing in these economic resources,” Rivers said.

Hunter said he is proud of his service to the district. He said if the General Assembly and governor get beyond the budget impasse the people in Pasquotank will find out what a good job he did for them and Elizabeth City State University.

Hunter said he hopes people feel he has done the district proud.

“It’s not my seat,” Hunter said. “It’s the people’s seat. I have been doing the job and I personally think I have been doing a great job.”

If he’s elected, Rivers said he plans to give up his positions of leadership in both the state and local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.