12/20/07 — Taft adds her name to list of hopefuls

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Taft adds her name to list of hopefuls

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 20, 2007 1:45 PM

Facing what's shaping up to be a crowded primary for the Democratic nomination, state Board of Education member Kathy Taft is one of four candidates already declaring their intention to run for state Sen. John Kerr's District 5 seat.

It's an opportunity that Ms. Taft, of Greenville, has been waiting for since at least 2002 when former state Sen. Ed Warren retired.

She explained that she had already filed for his seat, which at that time included Pitt and Lenoir counties, when the district was changed to Pitt and Edgecombe and then to Pitt and Wilson. By the time of the second change, though, she had decided it was too close to the election to file for a third time.

Then, she explained, when the seat was re-districted once again in 2004 to include Pitt, Greene and Wayne counties, she chose not to run against Kerr, D-Wayne.

"I would not run against John Kerr. He is one of the people I respect most in this state," Ms. Taft said. "But when I heard he was retiring, I began to consider running for the District 5 seat. I think this is the right time for me."

Motivating her is a long-held sense of civic responsibility.

"It's the values I grew up with," she said. "(My father) felt strongly about giving back and my family, we did that.

"Then as an adult, I realized that if every single person would give just a small amount of time and energy, we could solve most of the problems we have."

For her, though, only one issue tops that list -- education.

"The same issues are important to me now that were important three-and-a-half years ago," she said. "I think education is the most important issue facing our society today."

Of particular interest, she added, are improving teacher recruitment and retention and reducing the dropout rate.

Despite beginning as a health care professional, much of her career has been involved in education, including a stint from 1990 until 1996 on the Pitt County Board of Education. She's served on the state Board of Education since 1995.

Education, she explained, is the basis for everything else, including her second and third priorities.

"With education, economic development and health care will fall right into place," she said.

But, she continued, she is not just running on an education platform.

She also feels that she has the experience to get things done.

"I think I'm highly qualified," she said.

Not only does she have policy experience from her time on the state school board and from watching the legislature at work during the terms of her former husband, state Sen. Tom Taft, she's also seen how schools work from a parent, volunteer and employee perspective.

"I've seen some things I really think we could do better, but I realize those changes have to be made at a policy level," she said. "I understand policy making, and during (my husband's) career in the state Senate, I realized the legislature has a great deal to do with what happens in our schools because it has all the money.

"I understand what goes on."

However, she also realizes that because of District 5's complexion, and the need to find a balance between Wayne, Pitt and Greene counties, that experience won't be enough by itself.

"I think that Wayne County feels much like Pitt, in that we're a large population county and we'd like to have our own representative," she said. "I think I understand what's important to people in this part of the state. I've lived here most of my life. But I would have to work to convince the people in Wayne County that I can represent Pitt County and them in a very capable way.

"And I would have a responsibility to be very conscientious of and involved in what goes on in Wayne County."

Also considering a run for the seat are, former Wayne Community College President Dr. Ed Wilson of Goldsboro, Snow Hill Mayor Don Davis and former state Sen. Tony Moore of Winterville -- all Democrats.

Filing for the May 6 primary, though, won't begin until Feb. 11.