State executive primary preview: More than Amendment One on the ballot in North Carolina tomorrow
RALEIGH, NC: With ten state executive offices up for election this year, North Carolina has more statewide races than any other state. Of the 20 primary races, 13 are contested and only one - the Republican primary for attorney general - has no candidates.
Incumbents are seeking election in all but the top two offices: Gov. Beverly Perdue is not running for a second term and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton has decided to run for governor rather than seek re-election to his current office.
Under a new North Carolina election law, a candidate must receive at least 40% of the popular vote in order to secure the party nomination. In the event that no candidates wins 40% of the vote, the top two finishers will go head-to-head in a July 17th runoff election to determine who will be on the November ballot.
Polls are open tomorrow from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, EST.
- Lt. Governor
- Secretary of State
- Attorney General
- Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Agriculture Commissioner
- Insurance Commissioner
- Labor Commissioner
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. 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."
As it turns out, education has been one of the key issues of this gubernatorial race. Pat McCrory, the presumptive Republican nominee, talks of his experience of educating young immigrants as Mayor of Charlotte. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, speaking at a fundraiser at which he formally endorsed McCrory, said McCrory "has the experience that's unique in being mayor of a big city."
The two leading Democratic candidates are in one of the closest primaries of the season thus far. Bob Etheridge, a former Congressman and former state superintendent of public instruction, has direct experience leading the state's education system. He is concerned that the state "cannot move forward by taking the legs off public education, our community colleges, and our universities." His main competition, Walter Dalton, is current lieutenant governor and former chair of the state Senate's Education committee. He believes improvements in the science, technology and math curricula are key for North Carolina's future success in the global marketplace. While in the Senate, he lead efforts to raise teacher pay and reduce class size.
Financially, McCrory is in the best position of all the candidates. He has a huge fundraising advantage over everyone else in the race, regardless of party, and hasn't spent much of that money on the primary. Polls show McCrory with an all-but guaranteed victory in the Republican primary, and Dalton and Etheridge in a virtual dead lock with a large portion of the voters still undecided.
The Democratic race heated up in the weeks leading up to tomorrow's primary election. Linda Coleman has maintained an almost 20-point lead over Eric Mansfield in the polls.. But that lead hasn't stopped Mansfield, a freshman state Senator, from drawing attention to the $144,411 the State Employees Association of North Carolina and its affiliates have spent supporting Coleman, the current director of state personnel. Mansfield writes "I don't know what SEANC will want for their money, but I know this is the same organization that supports Republican Senate Majority Leader Phil Bryant and his friends, the ones who brought you Amendment One. Coleman's campaign, which is "proud" to embrace the support of SEANC, is quick to point to her work as a freshman member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, when she pushed for a raise for state employees, as a cause for SEANC's support.
The Republican race for lieutenant governor will likely be decided in a June primary runoff election, as no single candidate appears likely to receive the 40% of the vote on Tuesday that is required to avoid a runoff. Polls show a slight advantage for state Rep. Dale Folwell, who gained 5 points in the latest round of polling, but show Dan Forest, Tony Gurley and Grey Mills, Jr. all within 5 points of each other.
This may be due, in part, to Folwell's recent accusation that Mills, an attorney and current state Rep., is opposed to tort reform. Mills was "one of the few" GOP lawmakers who broke with the party line and opposed changes in the law regarding medical liability - an effort that ultimately overturned a veto by gov. Perdue. Folwell argued "Tort reform was a cornerstone of the Republican platform."
- Grey Mills, Jr. is the only Republican candidate in the race who was endorsed by the trial lawyers association N.C. Advocates for Justice. He has served two terms on the Iredell County Board of Commissioners and is stressing the need to help businesses create new jobs for North Carolinians.
- Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley, a close second to Folwell in the polls, noted in a recent interview that many voters are likely undecided because "we are probably saying similar things," and encouraged voters to look at the records of each of the candidates in making their decisions.
- Dan Forest, right behind (and in some cases, matching) Gurley in the polls, is the other likely candidate to meet Folwell in the June primary runoff. His campaign has intentionally decided to not use television ads, and as he is campaigning around the state, he is stressing that he is not a sitting lawmaker. "My opponents are good guys, but the problem with politicians is that they get institutionalized very quickly. People in North Carolina are tired of politicians telling them how we can't do things."
- Arthur Rich, the other non-politician in the race, runs a business consulting and tax business. He believes people should be able to deduct their down payments on homes from their state income taxes. Campaigning on weekends when he has time off from work, he notes "I am one of the people. I am not a career politician. I want to be somebody that people can depend on and trust and say, 'He is in it for us. He is not in it for the money.'"
On the Republican end, four candidates have been campaigning in earnest for months in hope of securing their party's nomination. First to launch his candidacy, Mike Beitler, a Business Professor and Consultant who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2010 on the Libertarian ticket, will be joined by ex-Wake County Commissioner Kenn Gardner, and Chowan Commissioner/Farmer Ed Goodwin and funeral home owner/former law enforcement officer AJ Daoud on the primary ballot tomorrow.
To win the Republican nomination, one of the four candidates must garner 40% of the total vote in the primary- an improbable occurrence given the crowded ballot. For this reason, the race is expected to be settled in a runoff election this summer.
Cooper was first elected to the office of Attorney General in 2000 and is the odds-on favorite win his third consecutive term this year.
When Democrat Janet Cowell was elected North Carolina Treasurer in 2008, she became the first female to hold the position in state history. She is seeking a second term in office but to get to the general election Cowell will have to fend off a primary challenge from investment manager Ron Elmer.
Elmer recently noted his campaign is a long shot, stating, “I can’t say I expect to win. My main focus is to shine a light on a number of issues and affect change.” Elmer has said the most important issue is the state pension fund, explaining, "The single biggest impact the State Treasurer can have on North Carolina is by increasing the investment returns within the $75 Billion pension fund. We can reduce the burden placed on state taxpayers and still secure the rightful benefits earned by our faithful public servants."
Cowell, meanwhile, has stressed her performance since taking office, 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."
On the Republican side, Certified Public Accountant Steven L. Royal is facing off against conservative talk radio host Frank Roche. 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."
Roche, a financial market economist, came in second in the 2010 primary for North Carolina’s 4th US Congressional District, receiving 40.6 of the vote.
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, is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The Republican race, meanwhile, is a five-way battle:
- Joseph Hank DeBragga - DeBragga, a certified public accountant, has been a governmental auditor and finance officer at several North Carolina hospitals. In explaining why he is seeking the office, he stated, "In addition to having the work and academic background to identify fraud and mismanagement, I have proven leadership skills to be in charge of this agency. For the past four years it appears that certain reports issued by the current State Auditor reflected bias of subject matter or publication timing. This Office always needs to maintain the highest standards of independence and objectivity."
- Greg Dority - Dority is the former Managing Partner of Sterling Security in Washington, North Carolina. His website states Dority "fears a currency collapse is on the horizon unless a return to fiscal conservatism is implemented and interest rates are permitted to find their natural level -- without government manipulation."
- Debra Goldman - Goldman currently serves as a member of the Wake County Board of Education, a position she was first elected to in 2009. Her website states, "As State Auditor, Debra will revolutionize the way State Government is assessed. In taking on the role of auditor, Debra will crack down on the numerous public financial scandals and reports of fiscal mismanagement."
- Fern Shubert - Shubert, a certified public accountant, previously served in the North Carolina House of Representatives as well as the state Senate. Noting her 40+ years of experience as a CPA, Shubert told the Charlotte Observer, "You would not hire a mechanic who had never worked on a car or a surgeon who had never performed an operation. Experience matters."
- Rudy Wright - Wright is currently serving his third 4-year term as Mayor of Hickory City. He also noted the importance of experience, stating, "My 11 years as Hickory's mayor has been valuable experience and does demonstrate my leadership, but my passing the CPA exam and 24 years as an auditor should be the deciding factor to voters."
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 is unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Five are competing for the Republican nod:
- Richard Alexander - Alexander, a teacher and Board Member of the Union County Public Library, calls himself "the only true fiscal conservative candidate that wants to drastically reduce the size and scope of the DPI."
- Mark Crawford - Crawford, a realtor and former state Rep., says he will fight to improve all levels of the educational system, reduce bureaucracy and waste while focusing spending on the classroom level and make the system more efficient.
- Ray Martin - Martin, a teacher, told the Charlotte Observer, "With over 40 years of educational teaching experience, along with 20 years of U.S. Naval leadership, I am the only GOP candidate with “The Plan” that will return the passion for learning to every student, the passion for teaching, and respect for public education."
- David Scholl - Scholl is a businessmen and member of the Union County School Board. He has called for more technology and expanded vocational education, stating, "We need to create students who are able to work at jobs when they finish. Increasing rigor, offering relevant courses and engaging relationships at the community and school are key to raising student achievement."
- John Tedesco - Tedesco is a member of the Wake County School Board Member and President/CEO of The North Carolina Center for Education Reform. His plan focuses on four major issues - "Build a Better Educated Workforce," "Protect, Develop and Empower Teachers," "Reinforce the basics and innovate forward," and "Empower Parents and Strengthen Communities."
Republican incumbent Steve Troxler has served as North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture since February 2005. He is seeking re-election and will face a primary challenge from Bill McManus. McManus, an accountant and attorney by trade, has worked at KPMG, Peat, Marwick, been a tax auditor, owned family restaurants and served as a senior manager for Fresh Point Produce. If elected he said he would make public health and safety his number one issue.
The Democratic race is between rancher and farmer Scott Bryant and Retired USDA Farm Service Agency Official Walter Smith. On his website Bryant states, “I’m not a politician, far from it. I am a production farmer working every day to make a living off the land. I will offer farmers and consumers new leadership, a strong voice and a commitment to work to advance agribusiness and food safety.”
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.”
Three are seeking the Republican nomination:
- Mike Causey - Causey, a farmer and political consultant, 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."
- James McCall - McCall, an insurance agency owner, says he wants to reduce hidden taxes in insurance products while modernizing rating mechanisms and making the department more accessible.
- Richard Morgan - Morgan is an insurance broker and former State House Speaker. He said, "There are three problems at the Department of Insurance: Too much politics, too much bureaucracy and too much spending. First, as I did as Speaker of the House, I will fight to cut the bureaucracy. Second, let’s get politics out of setting insurance rates. It’s time to get needless insurance mandates off the backs of business and out of the way of creating jobs."
Three Democrats are seeking to take on Berry in the general election:
- Marlowe Foster - Foster has worked at Winston-Salem State University as a budget director, been in government relations for Pfizer, Inc. and Lowe's Home Improvement. He says he is running because "The citizens of North Carolina deserve solutions. As your Labor Commissioner I will focus on creating jobs, utilizing the community college system to train and re-train our workforce and promoting work-family balance. Putting our hands to work, puts North Carolina back to work."
- Tyrone Richardson - Richardson is a businessman, community activist, and USMC Veteran. On his website he states, "I have a duty to use my experiences, training, commitment and knowledge from the front lines of war and peace, industry and soil, faith and challenge to be the eyes, ears, and voice of the many co-workers, neighbors and friends across NC with whom I served and toiled whose concerns are and were my own to stand for JOBS NOW!”
- John C. Brooks - Brooks is an attorney and previously served as Labor Commissioner from 1977 to 1993.
- North Carolina state executive official elections, 2012
- North Carolina gubernatorial election, 2012
- North Carolina lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2012
- North Carolina secretary of state election, 2012
- North Carolina attorney general election, 2012
- North Carolina down ballot state executive elections, 2012
- 68 days and counting until the North Carolina primary election: Do you know your state executive candidates?
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