Summer on the Stump
District Court hopeful looks forward to head-to-head challenge
(pictured above: Valene Franco rides in Kernersville’s recent 4th of July parade behind a supporter holding her sign.)
Parades, neighborhood gatherings, 5Ks.
Valene Franco is using every avenue available to introduce herself to county voters and talk to them about her run for the newly-created District Court judgeship.
Franco, managing attorney for the Family Law Department at Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Winston-Salem office, has been everywhere as of late. Last week, she spoke to young girls at a Positive Image Performing Arts’ Dance Camp and waved from a convertible to parade-goers at Kernersville’s Independence Day celebration, as her supporters passed out bags of popcorn and candy.
“She’s been shaking a lot of hands … meeting a lot of people,” said Nigel Alston, a motivational speaker and columnist who serves on Franco’s campaign committee. “Particularly since the May 6th primary, she’s been very, very active and engaged in the community.”
Franco came in a distant second in that primary to Ted Kazakos, an assistant district attorney in the Forsyth County DA’s office. Kazakos received 47 percent of the vote in the five-person, non-partisan race. Franco garnered 24 percent, setting up the general election contest between the two. Franco said the two-person race will allow her to accentuate her qualifications.
Franco has worked at Legal Aid, providing legal assistance to those who can’t afford it, since 2002. Previously, she worked at Kilpatrick Stockton; she says her 15 years in the profession are more than her opponent has. She is also a former president of the Forsyth County Bar Association and the Winston-Salem Bar Association, a group made up of legal professionals of color. Franco’s numerous community involvements include serving on the board of the teen arts outreach program Authoring Action.
A survey of North Carolina Bar Association members released during the primary campaign, shows that Franco is the hands-down choice among her colleagues. She garnered the most votes in all of the survey’s categories, including “Legal Ability,” “Professionalism, “Communication” and “Integrity & Impartiality.”
“The bar association created this judicial performance evaluation survey a couple of years ago to provide the public with some way to gauge the person’s ability to perform the job,” Franco said.
She said she was honored that her colleagues ranked her so highly. She added that if any voter wants to know about her past performance or abilities, they can just ask a local attorney.
Eric Ellison is among the local attorneys vouching for Franco’s work ethic and leadership abilities. Ellison, who managed Judge Denise Hartfield’s initial successful campaign for District Court judge, is also among the grassroots Franco campaign committee members. He said the committee is working hard to get voters to examine both candidates carefully before they cast their ballots.
“We look forward to the summer months, just inviting people to take a closer look at the experience and qualifications of each of the candidates running for this seat and come to their own conclusion,” he said.
To that end, Franco is vowing to be an omnipresence until the last vote is counted. The campaign has launched “Franco Fridays,” where supporters are encouraged to post pictures of themselves wearing Franco campaign gear to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The campaign said the initiative has been so successful that it has had a hard time keeping up with the demand for t-shirts.
Franco is balancing her work at Legal Aid with campaigning and raising two children with her husband, Oba. Since the race is countywide, she has racked-up many miles. Campaigning takes her to every part of the city and surrounding towns like Rural Hall and Clemmons, where she resides.
For more information about Franco, visit valenefrancoforjudge.com or find the campaign page on Facebook or Twitter. To get a Franco t-shirt or become involved in the campaign, call Ellison’s office at 336-723-7370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.