We are candidates running in municipal races for Chapel Hill Mayor (Searing) and Chapel Hill Town Council (Soll). We both sought the endorsement of the local Sierra Club chapter and submitted both a questionnaire and spoke with local members in an interview process with the selection committee.
Despite our strong environmental credentials on everything from playing a leading role in local environmental coalitions to chairing the parks commission (Soll) and Searing being endorsed by the Sierra Club just two years ago, neither of us was selected during this election cycle for endorsement by our local Sierra Club chapter. [Our responses submitted to the local chapter detailing our work on issues important to the Sierra Club are attached. Our endorsement by the Center for Biological Diversity specifically for our work on Chapel Hill’s coal ash redevelopment site where we are asking for complete ash removal to protect people and the environment is also available here.]
We believe that the Orange/Chatham Sierra Club chapter endorsement process in Chapel Hill is suspect during this election cycle due to a clear conflict of interest by a member of the local Sierra Club leadership who is also running for Chapel Hill Town Council herself. This Sierra Club member, Melissa McCullough, is Chair of the local Sierra Club chapter’s executive committee and appointed the members of the political committee that has endorsed her own candidacy and rejected endorsements for our campaigns and, incidentally, McCullough’s political rivals.
When a local political candidate appoints the “endorsement committee” for the organization that then turns around and endorses that same candidate but then rejects endorsements for that candidate’s political rivals despite these rivals’ strong credentials on advocating for the goals of the Sierra Club, this brings into question the local endorsement procedures and creates an unseemly appearance of political manipulation in the local chapter’s process.
We ask that the NC state Sierra Club chapter review the appointment of this local endorsement committee and all the endorsement decisions made by this committee to ensure there is no undue influence or conflicts of interest in local Chapter endorsements.
Adam Searing and Renuka Soll
See our Sierra Club endorsement questionnaires for more information about our work on the environment and building a sustainable future: