Ballotpedia's 2012 General Election Preview Articles: North Carolina State Executive Officials

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October 30, 2012

By Greg Janetka

Portal:State Executive Officials

RALEIGH, North Carolina: With 10 state executive offices up for election this year, North Carolina has more statewide races than any other state.

Incumbents are seeking election in all but the top two offices: Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) is not running for a second term and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (D) has decided to run for governor rather than seek re-election to his current office.

It's a full slate with the following positions on the ballot:

 Candidates for governor 

See also: North Carolina gubernatorial election, 2012

Early in the election cycle, this year's race was shaping up to be a repeat of 2008, in which Beverly Perdue narrowly defeated Pat McCrory with roughly 50% of the vote. That changed in January 2012, though, when Perdue announced she would not seek a second term in office.[1] Perdue, a first term Democrat and the first female governor in the history of the Tarheel State, had been slipping in the polls and at the time of her announcement was preparing to propose a budget that included a controversial sales tax increase for education. In explaining her decision, Perdue said a bid for re-election would "only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools."[2] A win by McCrory, coupled with Republicans holding onto the state legislature as expected, would give the GOP a trifecta in North Carolina.

A total of 12 candidates sought the office. The May 8 primary whittled the field down to the following:

Democratic Party Walter Dalton: An attorney by trade, Dalton has served as North Carolina Lieutenant Governor since 2009. Prior to that he was a member of the North Carolina State Senate from 1996 – 2008.

Republican Party Pat McCrory: Despite there being five other candidates in the running, McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte and 2008 gubernatorial candidate, easily won the Republican nomination with 83 percent in the primary.[3]

Libertarian Party Barbara Howe: Currently a homemaker, Howe previously ran for the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2010.

Initially predicted by some to be a toss-up, the 2012 race for governor has seen McCrory as the frontrunner throughout the campaign. Perdue's outgoing administration has been very unpopular, hurting Dalton's chances. Additional scandals involving high ranking Democrats, including former Gov. Mike Easley and former Speaker of the House Jim Black, have also been seen as damaging.[4]

Back in May a poll by the Civitas Institute had McCrory over Dalton by 46-44 percent, with 7 percent for Howe and 3 percent undecided.[5] Since then, however, McCrory's numbers jumped up and the latest by Public Policy Polling has him winning 50-37 percent, with Howe at 5 percent and 8 percent undecided.[6]

In an effort to cut into his lead, Dalton has gone after McCrory's ethical record, including his failure to release tax returns and allegations he colluded with corporations while mayor of Charlotte and when he worked for a Charlotte law firm. The efforts, which McCrory dismissed outright, have shown no signs of succeeding.[7]

 Candidates for lieutenant governor 

See also: North Carolina lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012

Democratic Party Linda Coleman (D) Republican Party Dan Forest (R)

With incumbent Walter Dalton vacating his post to run for Governor, two Democrats and five Republicans filed for the office. Coleman, a former member of the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2005 – 2009, defeated state Sen. Eric Mansfield for the nomination. Forest, an architect and son of Congresswoman Sue Myrick, came in first in the primary but had to go to a runoff, where he defeated Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley for the nod.

The polls have consistently been within the margin of error. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling has Forest leading Coleman 38-37 percent, with 25 percent undecided.[8]

Besides being next in line of succession for governor, the lt. governor presides over the legislature and has the ability to break ties, but otherwise has little power.

 Candidates for Secretary of State 
See also: North Carolina secretary of state election, 2012

Democratic Party Elaine Marshall (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Ed Goodwin (R)

Without any Democratic challengers in the primary, incumbent Elaine Marshall sailed through to the general election. Marshall, the first woman ever elected to a statewide executive office in North Carolina, has been in office since 1997.

On the Republican end, four candidates campaigned for their party's nomination. After a close primary led to a runoff, Ed Goodwin, the current Chairman of the Chowan County Board of Commissioners, received the nod from voters.

Familiar to the electorate from her time in office and her unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, Marshall has consistently led in the polls. However, those same polls have shown a large percentage of undecided voters. The most recent from Public Policy Polling has Marshall up 43-38 percent, with 19 percent undecided.[6]

 Candidates for Attorney General 
See also: North Carolina attorney general election, 2012

Democratic Party Roy Cooper (D) Incumbent

Incumbent Roy Cooper (D) was the only candidate to enter the race by the state's February 29 filing deadline. He was unopposed in the primary and is also unopposed in the general election.

Cooper was first elected to the office of Attorney General in 2000 and barring any unforeseen circumstances will win his third consecutive term this year.

 Candidates for State Treasurer 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party Janet Cowell (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Steve Royal (R)

When Democrat Janet Cowell was elected North Carolina Treasurer in 2008, she became the first female to hold the position in state history. In seeking a second term in office she has stressed her performance in the position, stating, "Over the past four years, I have implemented conservative debt management and have been a strong voice for not allowing North Carolina to overspend like so many other states. I have been committed to protecting retirement for our seniors and hard-working citizens, overseeing more than $70 billion in pension fund investments."[9]

On the Republican side, Certified Public Accountant Steven L. Royal, who described his political philosophy as "Limited Constitutional government. Debt beware!," has never before sought the office of Treasurer, but did make a run for Congress in 1990. He told Ballotpedia, "I hope to achieve total and clear transparency in this office, and eliminate the bad influence of big money in the election process."[10]

The race has tightened throughout the campaign, but Cowell has mainatined a lead in the polls.

 Candidates for State Auditor 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party Beth Wood (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Debra Goldman (R)

Democratic incumbent Beth Wood was first elected North Carolina State Auditor in 2008, becoming the first woman to hold the position in state history. Wood, a certified public accountant, was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The Republican race, meanwhile, was a five-way battle, with Wake County Board of Education member Debra Goldman coming out on top.

Wood has focused her campaign on her accomplishments in office while Goldman has promised to "revolutionize" the office, saying she will "crack down on the numerous public financial scandals and reports of fiscal mismanagement."[11]

The race took a strange twist on October 21, when The News & Observer ran a story regarding a police report wherein Goldman named Chris Malone, who she served with on the Wake County school board, as a suspect in the burglary of her home in 2010. The source of the police report was unknown and Republican officials questioned the timing of its release so close to the November 6 general election.[12]

According to the report, in June 2010 Goldman called police saying her home was broken into and $100,000 in jewelry, $20,000 in cash and $10,000 in collectible coins was stolen. Goldman said she kept the cash in a "ratty pink backpack" in her bedroom because "she found it very difficult" to get money right after the terrorist attacks of September 11.[13]

While it is unclear what impact the story had on the race, the most recent numbers from Public Policy Polling has Wood over Goldman by a margin of 45-38 percent. Although a PPP poll back in June showed the race to be neck and neck, Wood has consistently outpolled Goldman since.[6]

 Candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party June Atkinson (D) Incumbent
Republican Party John Tedesco (R)

Democratic incumbent June Atkinson, the first woman to be elected as North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, is seeking a third term in office. She was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. Five Republicans filed for the seat, with Wake County School Board member and President/CEO of The North Carolina Center for Education Reform, John Tedesco emerging the victor.

Tedesco has portrayed Atkinson's time at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as a disadvantage, stating, "If you do what you always do, you get what you always get." Atkinson, meanwhile, shot back at Tedesco for his efforts while a member of the Wake County Board of Education. Tedesco and the Republican majority board ended the long-standing policy of busing students, which was set up in order to create a socio-economically diverse student body.[14]

Atkinson has led in the polls throughout the campaign, although her lead has shrunk. The most recent data from Public Policy Polling has her leading Tedesco 42-40. However, with 18 percent still undecided, Tedesco appears to have a chance to unseat the incumbent.[6]

 Candidates for Agriculture Commissioner 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Republican Party Steve Troxler (R) Incumbent
Democratic Party Walter Smith (D)

Republican incumbent Steve Troxler has served as North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture since February 2005. He is seeking re-election and will face retired USDA Farm Service Agency Official Walter Smith (D) in the election.

Smith, who has served as Mayor of Boonville, said, "I have been involved in agriculture my entire life. I will provide a strong voice for agriculture, agribusiness, and the consumers in this great state. I will be a full- time commissioner and will fight on your behalf.”[15]

During the campaign Troxler has focused on his accomplishments while in office, including advances to food safety, the increased popularity of the North Carolina State Fair, and his efforts to increase exports. Smith has criticized Troxler for not placing a greater emphasis on marketing, saying, "We’re No. 1 in food safety and this is a tremendous asset to our marketing efforts that just hasn’t been used. I would take a multifaceted approach, and aggressive marketing that takes advantage of what we have to offer would be key."[16]

The majority of polls have shown Troxler with a double-digit lead over Smith and it appears likely he will be re-elected.

 Candidates for Insurance Commissioner 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party Wayne Goodwin (D) Incumbent
Republican Party Mike Causey (R)

Democratic incumbent Wayne Goodwin was first elected North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance in 2008. He was unopposed in the primary and will face farmer and political consultant Mike Causey (R) in the general election.

Causey has promised "sweeping reforms" if elected, saying, "I will review every operation in that department, from bottom to top, from wall to wall, and will cut the red tape and modernize this office and make it work for the people."[17]

Of his campaign, Goodwin stated, "What distinguishes me from my opponent? I have a proven, successful record of helping consumers. My opponent- running a 4th time for this office! - has been on insurance company executive for 20+ years and a paid lobbyist for insurance & other special interests. Don't let the fox guard the henhouse!"[18]

Like the rest of the down ballot races, polls have shown a large percentage of voters who are undecided, yet Goodwin has consistently led throughout the race and looks to be in a solid position to be re-elected.

 Candidates for Labor Commissioner 
See also: North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Democratic Party John C. Brooks (D)
Republican Party Cherie Berry (R)

Republican incumbent Cherie K. Berry became the state's first female Commissioner of Labor when she was elected in 2000. She was unopposed in the primary and will face Democrat John C. Brooks in the general election.

Brooks, an attorney, previously served as Labor Commissioner from 1977 to 1993.

Berry has led in the polls throughout the campaign. Current numbers from Public Policy Polling have her up 43-37 percent, with 19 percent undecided.[6]

See also

North Carolina


Ballotpedia News
  1. News and Observer, "Gov. Bev Perdue will not run for re-election," January 26, 2012
  2. Chicago Tribune, "NC Gov. Perdue gives up on 2nd term run; says it would politicize school funding fight," January 26, 2012
  3., "McCrory boasts big funding lead in gubernatorial race," April 30, 2012
  4. Rhino Times, "North Carolina's down Ticket Races," October 18, 2012 (dead link)
  5. Civitas Institute, "Poll June 29 – July 1, 2012"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Public Policy Polling, "Poll October 23 – 25" (dead link)
  7. The Republic, "Dalton hammering McCrory on ethics allegations as NC governor's election nears," October 25, 2012
  8. Public Policy Polling, "Poll October 12 – 14"
  9. Charlotte Observer, "Statewide candidates speak," April 27, 2012 (dead link)
  10. Biographical submission to Ballotpedia, April 25, 2012
  11. WRAL, "Incumbent auditor faces Wake school board member," October 25, 2012
  12. News and Observer, "Fallout over Goldman-Malone drama uncertain," October 21, 2012
  13. Charlotte Observer, "State GOP distancing from Goldman," October 23, 2012 (dead link)
  14. WRAL, "Wake assignment debate gets hearing at candidate forum," October 15, 2012
  15. Yadkin Ripple, "Yadkin County resident running for commissioner of Dept. of Agriculture," April 19, 2012 (dead link)
  16. News and Observer, "Agriculture commissioner candidates offer divergent visions," October 16, 2012
  17. Mike Causey, "Homepage," accessed April 27, 2012
  18. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "2012 General Election Voter Guide," accessed September 25, 2012