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68 days and counting until the North Carolina primary election: Do you know your state executive candidates?

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March 1, 2012

By Ballotpedia's State Executive Project team: Greg Janetka, Maresa Strano and Lauren Rodgers

North Carolina

RALEIGH, NC: Everyone knows that leap day comes but once every four years. But did you know that the candidate filing deadline for state executive offices in North Carolina is also a once-every-four-year occurrence? This year, the two worlds collided and they happened on the same day! Candidates seeking election to statewide office in the Tarheel State had until yesterday at noon to file with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. With the primary just 68 days away, the candidates must make use of every day on the campaign trail between now and the May 8 primary election.

2008 was an historical election in North Carolina. It was the first time since 1976 the state went to a Democratic presidential candidate, and many of the state's executive positions were filled by women for the first time ever. This year, eight incumbents are running for re-election to the seat they currently hold. Of those eight, only two - Treasurer Janet Cowell and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler- face a primary challenger. Click on the tabs below to learn more about each of the state executive races on the May 8 ballot.


With incumbent Beverly Perdue opting to not seek a second term in office, the state's top executive seat is open and there are 13 candidates in the running: 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats, and 1 Libertarian candidate. In each of the two main partisan primary contests, a June runoff election is a distinct possibility. 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 June 26th runoff election to determine who will be on the November ballot.[1]

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Pat McCrory, the former Mayor of Charlotte and 2008 gubernatorial candidate who was narrowly defeated by Perdue, leads a pack of six Republicans clamoring for the votes of the state's Republican base. McCrory has everything going for him: name recognition, bankroll, unknown challengers, and a supportive Republican constituency willing to forgive his 2008 defeat. But he must fend off 5 challengers in the May 8 primary before he gets another chance at the governor's seat in November:

  • Jim Harney, a Cumberland County resident, has owned and operated Harney's Design, a promotional advertising company, since the 1990s. He argues McCrory has "never been the little guy,"[2] and is an advocate of replacing property tax with an additional penny to the state sales tax.
  • Scott Jones of Greensboro, NC is a self-identified "Republican with Independent views." He supports the FairTax plan to replace all federal and payroll-based taxes with a multi-faceted approach that includes a progressive national retail sales tax and has pledged to uphold the 2nd amendment by openly carrying a gun as he campaigns.[3]
  • James Mahan, the co-founder of Carolina Eye Care Technician in Denver, NC, claims North Carolina would have full employment after his first 185 days in office. He wants to return prayer to every school in the state, and to require banks to fund all acceptable loan applications within 30 days. He also challenges all North Carolinians to lose 10 percent of their body weight and start a sports activity[4]
  • Paul Wright retired from the North Carolina court system after a 22 year career, during which he worked as both an assistant district attorney and judge. He wants to "empower the middle class" by resisting the implementation of "ObamaCare" and changing the state tax structure. He supports the "marriage protection amendment" and the recitation of Christian prayers at the state legislature[5]
  • Charles Moss

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On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have been scrambling to organize their campaigns after Perdue's January 26 announcement she was not seeking a second term in office. As one Democratic strategist put it, "this campaign is going to be a 40-yard dash rather than a marathon like primaries we have had in the past.[6] North Carolina's current lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton (D), is hoping to follow Perdue's path to office. He has the advantage of a large staff and a high balance in his campaign finance account, but faces tough opposition from former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, whom he trailed in a February 2012 poll by 3-6 points.[7] Etheridge is arguably the best-known of the Democratic candidates, having served 40 years in public service in several local and statewide offices, but will need to beef up his campaign finances in order to compete with Dalton.

Another name familiar to North Carolina voters is Bill Faison, a current member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. His campaign is centered around a jobs plan that would reinstate a fraction of a penny to the state's sales tax that would allow the state to rehire thousands of public-sector employees who lost their jobs in the midst of budget cuts last summer.[8]

Other Democratic candidates include:

  • Bruce Blackmon, a retired physician from Buies Creek, is running on a single platform: cut taxes. A nonagenarian, Blackmon is the oldest candidate in the race by 20 years but will not let his age stop him. "I am but 90. I will just do what I have to do."[9]
  • Gardenia Henley, of Winston-Salem, is an Air Force veteran and retired from the U.S. Department of State's Agency for International Development. She is interested in initiating a Buy Local Act to promote economic development in the local community.[10]
  • Gary M. Dunn


One Libertarian candidate has filed for governor. Barbara Howe, who made unsuccessful gubernatorial bids in both 2000 and 2004, is the chair of the North Carolina Libertarian Party. Speaking to the Libertarian Party of Mecklenburg County, Howe "stressed the importance for voters to come out and vote for a candidate that won’t abandon her principles and help LPNC maintain ballot access by attaining 2% of the vote."[11]

North Carolina's current lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton, is vacating his post to run for Governor of North Carolina. Two Democrats and five Republicans have filed to fill his seat.

The Democratic primary on May 8 will be a battle between state legislators past and present: current state Senator Eric Mansfield and former state Rep. Linda Coleman will compete for their party's nomination.

The Republican field is a bit more crowded, and with no clear favorite the May 8th primary contest will likely be one of the most competitive of the 2012 election season. Former state Rep. Dale Folwell, Charlotte architect Dan Forest, Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley, state Rep. Grey Mills, Jr. and Bladen County businessman Arthur Rich are all competing for the chance to represent the party in the November general election. As with the Democratic gubernatorial primary race, the large field of highly qualified candidates may force a June 26th runoff if no candidate receives more than 40% of the vote in the primary.

The attorney general race looks to be finished at the start. Current Democratic officeholder Roy Cooper was the sole candidate to file for Attorney General by deadline yesterday, clearing his path to a fourth term as North Carolina's chief law enforcement officer. He was the only statewide official to not attract a challenger.[12] A potential bid by an independent candidate could give Cooper some competition, but such an obstacle is unlikely.[13] His strong record in crime-rate reduction, the protection of sexual and domestic abuse victims, and consumer protection from identity theft make him a popular official, and in the 2008 elections, he received the most votes of any statewide Democrat in North Carolina.[14]

Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall is unopposed in her party's primary. With her spot on the general election ticket secure, as well as her place in the record books --she is the first ever woman to be elected to a state executive office in North Carolina-- Marshall can relax for the time being. First winning the seat in 1996, a victory this November would seal her fifth term as secretary.

Far from certain, the matter of who among the four Republican candidates will proceed to the general election is anyone's guess at this juncture.

With no campaign structure in place as of the filing date, two of the candidates, Ed Goodwin and Kenn Gardner, seemed to have materialized out of thin air to run for secretary of state. Goodwin is the Chairman of the Chowan County Board of Commissioners, and Gardner is an architect by trade who formerly served as Wake County Commissioner.[15]

Candidates Mike Beitler and AJ Daoud have been campaigning in earnest for months leading up to their official entries into the race. Beiter, a business professor, consultant, and author, made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, running on behalf of the Libertarian party. Daoud is a funeral home owner, community activist, and retired police officer. Both cite fostering small business growth as a top priority, but Daoud's approach is centered on state budget cuts and reducing the power of corporations, while Beitler's Libertarian background is visibile through his main platform of limiting government interference in the free markets.[16][17]

Democratic incumbent Janet Cowell is running for a second term as State Treasurer. She said she seeks "to continue to be an anchor of stability and a force for continuity for the State of North Carolina in a year characterized by volatility and change."[18] Cowell will first have to face a primary challenge from Ron Elmer.

Over on the Republican side, accountant Steve Royal and Conservative talk radio host Frank Roche will compete for the nomination.

Incumbent Beth Wood, the first woman elected as State Auditor, will be unopposed in the Democratic primary as she seeks a second term. The Republican primary will be a crowded affair - Hospital CFO Joseph Hank DeBragga, Beaufort County GOP Chair Greg Dority, Wake County school board member Debra Goldman, accountant and former state legislator Fern Shubert and Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright are all seeking the nomination.[19]

Democratic incumbent June Atkinson, the first woman elected as Superintendent of Public Instruction, will be unopposed in the primary as she makes her bid for a third term in office. Her campaign announcement caught many off guard, including fellow Democrats. In January, Atkinson had not been raising money or campaigning, and Democrats have been outspokenly critical of her performance.[20] State Rep. Rick Glazier had initially filed to challenge her, but withdrew his candidacy on Tuesday, choosing to run for re-election to the House instead.[21]

Former teacher Richard Alexander, former state legislator Mark Crawford, current teacher Ray Martin, Union County school board member David Scholl and Wake County school board member John Tedesco will face off in the Republican primary.

Two-term incumbent Steve Troxler (R) will face a primary challenge from Bill McManus. Troxler will assume presidency of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in September 2012.[22]

For the Democrats, retired USDA Farm Service Agency Official Walter Smith will face Chatham County cattle farmer Scott Bryant.

Democrat Wayne Goodwin is seeking a second term as Commissioner of Insurance. He previously served as Assistant Commissioner of Insurance from 2005 to 2008 and was in the state House from 1996 to 2004. He is unopposed in the primary.

The Republican primary will be a three way battle between farmer and political consultant Mike Causey, insurance agency owner James McCall and former state Speaker of the House Richard Morgan.

Republican Cherie Berry is unopposed in the primary as she seeks her fourth term as Commissioner of Labor. She is the first woman in state history to hold that position.

On the Democratic side, former Labor Commissioner John C. Brooks is looking to retake the seat he held from 1977 to 1993. He will face lobbyist Marlowe Foster and businessman Ty Richardson in the primary.

See also


Ballotpedia News
  1. Charlotte Observer, "Lively N.C. political season begins," February 13, 2012
  2. Fayetteville Observer, Inside Politics: Harney says governor's bid "stepped on some toes"," February 27, 2012
  3., "Scott Jones for NC Governor 2012," accessed March 1, 2012
  4. "ECU alumnus seeks GOP nomination for governor," February 27, 2012
  5. Paul Wright for Governor, "Issues," accessed March 1, 2012
  6. News & Observer, "Democrats' primary for governor to be short and sweet," March 1, 2012
  7. Public Policy Polling, "Etheridge starts with lead in NC gov. primary," February 8, 2012
  8. NC Policy Watch, "A baker's dozen eye NC governor's mansion," February 29, 2012
  9. News & Observer, "90-year old physician files in Democratic primary for governor," February 28, 2012
  10. The People's Candidate, "Gardenia M. Henley: Bio," accessed February 22, 2012
  11., "Libertarian Party of Mecklenburg County convention draws record crowd," February 24, 2012
  12. News Observer, "An election primer for the 2012 races in North Carolina, February 29, 2012
  13., "Cooper has clear ride for NC attorney general win," February 29, 2012
  14. News Observer, "Roy Cooper NC's most popular democrat," November 5, 2008
  15., "North Carolina 2012 elections," accessed February 29, 2012
  16. AJDaoudforNC, "Priorities," accessed March 1, 2012
  17. Beitler for NC, "About," accessed March 1, 2012
  18. Biz Journals, "State Treasurer Cowell running again," February 14, 2012
  19. Politics1, "North Carolina," accessed March 6, 2012
  20. News & Record, "Atkinson not in best of shape to get third superintendent term," January 23, 2012
  21. Fay Observer, "Rick Glazier drops out of N.C. superintendent race, seeks re-election in state House," February 29, 2012
  22. North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services," About N.C. agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler," accessed December 19, 2011