• Moore County Democrat Helen Mills to challenge Richmond’s Tom McInnis for NC Senate seat


    PINEHURST — A self-described “overly committed volunteer” from Moore County is challenging Tom McInnis for his seat in the North Carolina Senate.

    Helen Probst Mills, a Democrat, announced her candidacy Thursday for the District 25 seat.

    Mills grew up a daughter to a single mother and is, herself, a mother of three and cancer survivor who moved to North Carolina with her husband, Stuart, in 2006. She is also licensed to practice law in Illinois.

    Last year, Mills was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. She also serves on the college’s Foundation Board, where she helped develop a program allowing high school graduates to attend for two years without having to pay tuition.

    Mills also serves as development chair fo the Northern Moore Family Resource Center in Robbins, which has opened preschool and is developing a community center, according to a press release.

    Asked why she decided to run for office, Mills said there were “a variety of reasons,” including her disagreement with the decisions being made in Raleigh.

    Education and health care are at the top of her issues list.

    “Politicians today continue to underfund our schools and force our teachers to do more with far less,” she said in a statement.

    “Ever since I was a child, my mother instilled in me the importance of a good education and helping others,” she said. “I received a good education from public schools and I want the same — early childhood pre-K3, strong public schools, affordable college and vocational education and good jobs — for everyone across North Carolina.”

    After being diagnosed with breast cancer following a routine mammogram, Mills underwent two lumpectomies, as mastectomy and chemotherapy. She credits her care to being insured but says “hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina aren’t that lucky.”

    “Everyone, no matter their background or how much money they make, should have access to affordable, quality health care,” she said. “Yet too many politicians in Raleigh put petty partisan politics over policies that would help thousands. That is wrong for my community and for North Carolina.”

    District 25 comprises Moore, Richmond, Scotland and Anson counties — or should, once all the legal wrangling over redistricting is out of the way.

    Mills has already garnered the support of one prominent Richmond County Democrat: former Rockingham mayor Gene McLauin, who held the Senate seat for one term before losing to McInnis in the 2014 election.

    “I have gotten to know Helen over the past few years,” he said. “She is an accomplished person with a strong commitment to service.”

    McLaurin added that she was “a forward-thinking leader and will be a real advocate for education, workforce development, health care and children’s issues.”

    “Helen has extensive legal and business experience which makes her well prepared to represent this district in Raleigh.”

    N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin, a Hamlet native and former legislator, is optimistic about Mills’ and the party’s chances in the upcoming election.

    “Senate District 25 is a competitive district, with more registered Democrats than Republicans,” he said, “and with a strong candidate like Helen who’s rooted in her community and the energy and excitement at our backs, Republicans will be on their heels all year.”

    WUNC reported Thursday that Mills is one of four Democrat women seeking election to the state Senate.

    McInnis, R-Richmond, defeated another female challenger, Anson County educator Dannie Montgomery, in 2016.