Helen Probst Mills said on election night last November after her loss to state Sen. Tom McInnis that the issues she had campaigned on “won’t go away and still need to be addressed.”
And so the Pinehurst Democrat announced Wednesday that she will run again against McInnis for the Senate seat in the 25th district, which includes Moore, Richmond, Scotland and Anson counties. Moore was moved into the newly drawn district last year.
McInnis, a Richmond County Republican, won re-election with 57 percent of the vote in one of the most closely watched and hotly contested state legislative races last year. It was one of several key races where the state Democratic Party focused resources in what turned out to be a successful effort to break the GOP’s supermajority in the Senate and House. Republicans still hold majorities in both chambers, but the loss of the supermajorities makes it more difficult to override vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Mills said her “campaign is not finished.”
“During the past several months, we have watched the Republican-controlled General Assembly fail to accomplish anything that will help North Carolina working families,” she said in an email to her supporters announcing her decision to run again. “Efforts to expand Medicaid failed. A proposal to protect victims of sexual assault went ignored. State spending continued to decline. Instead, they concentrated on giveaways to Duke Energy and spending more on Christmas ornaments (it’s true!).
“It’s clear that the Republican General Assembly’s priorities are not our priorities. The people I speak with are concerned about their schools and being able to afford a doctor’s visit and treatment, but more importantly, they want to be heard. Folks want to be listened to and want their issues addressed. They want solutions so our community can be stronger.”
Mills, who was appointed as a Sandhills Community College trustee by Gov. Roy Cooper last year, said in a news release that her platform highlights her long advocacy for children, education and access to healthcare in rural communities.
“I am committed to a mission of bringing better representation to the people of this district,” she said. “Today, I am reaffirming that mission. The 25th District needs a senator who listens to and cares about the people of the district. I have met with countless people who can’t afford decent health care and yet Sen. McInnis continues to be against Medicaid expansion, which will lower insurance costs and create jobs.”
Mills said she joined with thousands of teachers who marched in Raleigh May 1 “because the General Assembly continues to underfund our public schools.”
She added that McInnis “recently moved to trample the authority of our local governments in order to advance the agenda of powerful developers.”
“The needs of the people of this district are too important to be neglected,” she said. “I am running for NC Senate in 2020 so that the people of the 25th District have a responsive senator who hears them and prioritizes their concerns.”
McInnis issued a statement to The Pilot Thursday afternoon responding to Mills' announcement.
“Last November, voters across the 25th Senate District overwhelmingly rejected Mrs. Probst-Mills as too extreme, too liberal and too out of touch to represent our values in Raleigh," he said. "Unless she changed her views on late-term abortion and infanticide, gun control, open borders and high taxes in the past six months, the voters will reject her again in 2020.”
Mills said in a news release that she has volunteered for a number of organizations, including serving as treasurer of the FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary, a member of the outreach committee of her church in Southern Pines, and spent many hours volunteering at her children’s schools.
Mills said in an interview with The Pilot that it has “been surprising” to her that people are surprised that she decided to run again.
“The issues are still there,” she said. “When you run for office, I don’t necessarily feel it’s about you the person. It’s about whether the citizens are being represented and their issues are being addressed and prioritized, and they are not.”
Mills said she felt she needed to go ahead and start campaigning now given the magnitude of the 2020 election.
“To some extent it’s easier to start formally campaigning now,” she said. “But in all reality, I have remained involved in the counties that make up the district because I am concerned. I care about the people, what’s happening in the communities, and I want to remain involved.”
Mills said she has a better understanding of the district and the issues from her first campaign, which was her first run for public office. She said she has the time it will take.
Mills said with 2020 being a presidential election year, this will be “historic.”
“We all recognize this is going to be off the chart in terms of interest and involvement,” she said. “It will inspire more voters. We have a very successful governor. … I am really humbled to be running and involved in such an historic election.”
Mills said that despite the loss in last year’s election, there were some positive aspects to her campaign “by simply running a competitive race in this district.”
Mills said so many people put “all their time and talent and energy into this race and worked really hard.”
“To just leave and walk away and say we didn’t achieve the result we wanted, so we are not going to do it again,” she said, “even though we’ve built name recognition, we’ve built connections, we’ve been clear on issues and policy, we’ve established a presence, it just doesn’t sit right with me.
“These are not light issues. They’re substantive pocketbook issues. They are important issues in the lives of the citizens of this district.”