For the first time in 10 years, a Moore County Democrat will run for state House.
Lowell Simon, a former small-business owner and retired educator, announced his campaign Monday through the N.C. House Democratic Caucus. He taught math at Union Pines High School for six years before starting the UPstart Entrepreneurship Center at the school in 2013. He retired from the district at the end of the previous school year.
Prior to his second career in education, Simon had more than 30 years of experience as a business owner and operator, the news release said.
“As a small businessman, I have real-world experience creating new jobs, balancing a budget, and meeting payroll,” Simon said in the news release. “I know what it is like to have employees depending on you.
“I’m running for the N.C. House because for too long our rural communities have been left behind. We need good-paying jobs in communities across the state, not just in Raleigh and Charlotte. I will fight for our fair share and bring a renewed focus on economic development in rural North Carolina.”
Reached by phone late Monday afternoon, Simon acknowledged that this will be “an uphill battle” in a Republican-majority county and running against an incumbent, Republican Rep. Jamie Boles who has held the seat for 10 years.
“Hopefully I can convince some of them to vote for me,” Simon said. “I know Jamie. He is a nice guy. But I disagree with him on a lot of things. People should be judged on what they do. A lot of things need to change. It is time to do something. I feel like I am qualified. I have the background in both business and education. Jamie has had his run.”
Simon said he feels confident about being able to win those in the ranks of unaffiliated voters in the county as well. As of Dec. 31, there were 26,930 registered Republicans, 22,337 unaffiliated and 16,427 Democrats.
“It will be a lot of work but I am ready to do this, Simon said. “I have always been involved in the community. I have wanted to get into politics. … Republicans are making a mess of a lot of things, especially education. That is central to so many things in this state. It is under the gun. A lot of bad decisions are being made in the General Assembly. It is not just class sizes. That is a big one. It is also voucher programs.
“I think Republicans are wrong on how the economy works. Trickle-down economics is a myth. It is hurting the state.”
Boles has represented Moore County since 2008 when he knocked off incumbent Joe Boylan in a three-way Republican primary. He defeated Democrat Betty Mangum in the general election. That is the last time a Democrat ran for the seat.
Boles ran unopposed in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Two years ago, Boles had to fend off a GOP primary challenge by J.D. Zumwalt.
The news release announcing Simon’s candidacy noted that according to the last campaign finance report on file with the state elections board showed Boles had $9,960 on hand as of Dec. 31.
Boles, a Southern Pines funeral home owner, said Monday afternoon that he plans to seek re-election to a sixth term. He said he was not surprised a Democrat was planning to run and that he expects others will file to oppose him.
He said he feels confident about winning another term.
“Everyone should always be concerned about whether their constituents think they are doing a good job,” he said of incumbents seeking re-election. “I think I am doing a good job. The state is in a good position. We are ranked No. 1 to do business with by Forbes magazine. We have made some great strides and I look forward to continuing that work.”
Casey Wilkinson, director of the N.C. House Democratic Caucus, said Monday afternoon the party plans to field candidates for all 120 seats in the House chamber. It is part of a coordinated campaign called “Breaking the Majority” to win back control of the legislature.
“We think the enthusiasm is so strong out there,” Wilkinson said. “Every Republican should have a challenger. I think we are going to win a lot of these races. We are not just getting names on the ballot. These are credible, well-qualified candidates.”
Simon was one of four Democrats announcing their candidacies Monday. At least 34 others have previously announced plans to run.
The state Democratic Party also announced Monday that it heads into the mid-term elections with $2.4 million on hand, its best fundraising report ever, as well as an “unprecedented partnership” with Gov. Roy Cooper, it said in a news release.
“Democrats have promised to contest all 120 seats in North Carolina and hold Republicans accountable for their partisan attempts to rig the system,” said Democratic leader Rep. Darren Jackson. “Across our state, people want new representatives who will fight for our middle-class families, tackle the important issues, and bring common sense back to Raleigh. Today’s new slate of top tier candidates takes us one step closer to achieving that goal.”
After graduating from State University of New York at Brockport in 1978, Simon began his career with 7-Eleven convenience stores before going to work with Boston-based The Store 24. He said it wanted to expand into New York.
Starting from a desk in his bedroom, Simon said he designed, staffed and operated six stores across New York City.
He left the company in 1988 as vice president of marketing, with responsibility for more than 100 stores and more than 1,000 employees in five states.
Simon and his family moved to Raleigh, where his in-laws lived. He and several partners managed a number of local small businesses. He was vice president of operations for Quick Chek, a chain of about 30 convenience stores based in Troy, which brought him and his family to Seven Lakes to live. He later bought into Southern Pines based Fuel Mate, which had six BP stores.
Simon sold his business and decided to retire in 2006. Retirement lasted a year when he decided he wanted to go into teaching. He started teaching math at Union Pines in 2007 until then-Superintendent Aaron Spence tapped him to start an entrepreneurial program at the high school.
Simon has served on the boards of Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust. A political appointee of three different state House speakers from both parties, he has helped draft key legislation, including the formation of the NC Lottery, the news release said.
He currently serves on the boards of Moore Regional Hospital and Moore Forward, and is president emeritus of the Sandhills Jewish Congregation.
Simon and his wife, Amy, have been married for more than 30 years. They have three children — Matthew, Isaac and Risa as well as two dogs, Oscar and Lily.