Murdock appointed to North Carolina Senate, Legislative cafeteria worker tests positive for COVID-19

Photo via Natalie Murdock Twitter

RALEIGH — The winner of a North Carolina state Senate primary last month was appointed on Wednesday to fill for the rest of the year the seat she’s aiming to win this fall.

Gov. Roy Cooper formally appointed Natalie Murdock the day after Durham County Democratic activists meeting online chose her to succeed Sen. Mickey Michaux, who resigned from the seat earlier in the day. State law required Cooper to follow the Democrats’ wishes and appoint Murdock, who leads a marketing and communications firm, to the vacancy.

Michaux, who served in the state House over 45 years through 2018, had filled the 20th Senate District seat since January. It was previously held by Sen. Floyd McKissick until resigning to join the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

When appointed, Michaux said he anticipated stepping down so Cooper could appoint the March 3 Democratic primary winner to succeed him. Murdock won that primary.

Murdock faces Republican nominee John Tarantino in the November general election in the heavily Democratic district for a two-year term starting in early 2021.

There will be another new legislator on the legislature’s return. Cooper appointed physician Kristin Baker on March 19 to fill the unexpired term of Republican Rep. Linda Johnson, who died in February. Baker won the GOP primary last month.

The COVID-19 outbreak has reached into North Carolina’s Legislative Building, where a cafeteria employee tested positive for the virus, the building’s manager said.

The unidentified worker was sent home March 26 after showing symptoms and received the positive test result Wednesday, Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble wrote to legislative staff. The cafeteria closed Wednesday indefinitely for cleaning. Employees working with the person have been asked to self-quarantine.

Snack bars at the building and at an adjoining office building were being cleaned and expected to reopen Thursday for takeout only, Coble wrote.

Legislative Building cafeteria patrons had not been prevented from sitting down to eat, although very few had done so in recent days, as legislative activities have been curtailed dramatically. In contrast, Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 17 executive order barred dining inside restaurants statewide.

Coble said in an email that Cooper’s restriction didn’t apply to the legislature’s eateries, citing “separation of powers” between state government’s three branches. The legislative branch, for example, can set rules for its operations.