North Carolina’s House District 18, redrawn for the 2020 elections, no longer includes any part of Brunswick County. It’s now strictly a northern New Hanover County territory with more unaffiliated voters than those registered as Democrats or Republicans.
Representative Deb Butler, a Democrat, has held the seat for two terms; she was appointed in early 2017 to finish Susi Hamilton’s term – after Hamilton was selected by Governor Roy Cooper as Secretary of Cultural and Natural Resources. In 2018, Deb Butler was elected to the seat by a rout. She beat her Republican challenger by almost 30%.
Butler grew up in rural North Carolina. She worked her way through college at The University of Tennessee in Knoxville by waiting tables and umpiring intramural softball games. She earned her law degree at Wake Forest University – which was followed by seven years working in New York City.
She returned to Wilmington in 1994 – where she still practices law. She has also rehabilitated derelict properties in the historic district and served on local boards and commissions.
Challenger Warren Kennedy is a lifelong resident of eastern North Carolina and served as a full-time law enforcement officer in eastern North Carolina from 1986-2015 with over 16 of those years as a supervisor. He has been a certified law enforcement instructor since 1991. Warren Kennedy received a Medal of Valor in 1996 for risking his life to save the life of another and has been recognized several times – including as Officer of the Year by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Wilmington Jaycees. He was inducted into the Order of the Cape Fear by the CFCC Foundation in 2008 for his establishment of the Clint B. Robertson Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Upon his 2016 retirement from full-time active duty law enforcement, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory awarded him The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Warren Kennedy served as Vice Chairman of North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District Homeland Security Advisory Committee to former Congressman Mike McIntyre and served as well as on McIntyre’s law enforcement advisory committee. And he is currently a member of Congressman David Rouzer's Homeland Security Advisory Committee.