At noon on Friday, December 20, 2019, many of North Carolina’s schoolchildren began finishing school for the year and started counting the hours until Santa’s surprises are ready to be opened. Meanwhile, incumbent officeholders were refreshing their web browsers to see if they attracted an opponent, or if by merely filing for office, they were functionally elected at the deadline.
As candidate filing closed, many exciting races and storylines began to take shape in federal and statewide races.
Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis failed to avoid primary challengers, but not the challengers have that have been the subject of much discussion in the past few months.
Sharon Hudson, who lists herself as Board Secretary of a group opposed to tolls on Interstate 77 (Widen I-77), has filed as a primary challenger. Two other candidates, Larry Holmquist and Paul Wright have also filed.
Garland Tucker had been widely cited as a serious challenger to Sen. Tillis. However, Tucker declined to run as candidate filing opened. Sandy Smith who also had announced a challenge to Tillis, instead filed for the 1st Congressional District.
Regarding a public letter by Tucker, on his reasons for not running, the Raleigh News & Observer wrote:
The letter cited the attention on the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as well as Tillis’ role as one of his defenders in the Senate as a reason for Tucker’s decision to end his campaign.
Senator Tillis will face a tough challenge from one of five Democrats who have filed for U.S. Senate, perhaps led by former state Senator Cal Cunningham, who is being supported by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). While Cunningham has racked up endorsements from the Democrat establishment, look for a spirited challenge from current state Senator Erica Smith, who has served in the General Assembly’s upper chamber since 2015.
U.S. House of Representatives
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No candidate filing news was bigger across North Carolina that the unexpected news that key Trump supporter, 11th District Congressman, Mark Meadows was retiring from Congress.
Meadows’s late announcement set off a mad scramble to file in the 11th Congressional District, which covers the western reaches of North Carolina. Jim Davis, a former state senator, has filed for the office along with Lynda Bennett from Haywood County, who is a realtor in Haywood County and involved in the county Republican Party. This list Includes longtime Meadows staffer Wayne King of Cleveland County, a former Vice-Chair of the North Carolina Republican Party.
In total, 12 Republicans, five Democrats, one Libertarian, and one Green Party candidate have filed to run for the seat in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Democrats will host competitive primaries in the newly created 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts that are now widely expected to elect Democrats in the general election. Former state legislator and U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross is the most commonly known candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.
Democrat Kathy Manning, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat in 2018 and former state representative, Ed Hanes, a Democrat who represented state House District 72 for three terms, will be the most familiar names to voters.
Lt. Governor Dan Forest will meet state Representative Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) in the Republican primary for governor. According to a recent Civitas poll of primary voters, Lt. Governor Forest has a wide lead over Representative Grange.
Both Republicans and Democrats are likely headed to run-offs in their primary elections for lieutenant governor as both parties fielded a bevy of candidates, with Republicans and Democrats fielding nine and six candidates, respectively. The December Civitas Republican primary election poll showed no Republican candidate for lieutenant governor above single digits.
Secretary of State
The same poll showed former professional baseball player Chad Brown with a slight edge in the Republican primary for secretary of state, with 7 out of 10 voters undecided. Michael LaPaglia and E.C. Sykes have also filed in that race.
Christine Mumma, head of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, jumped into what is now a three-way Republican race with Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill and Sam Hayes, General Counsel at the State Treasurer’s Office to take on Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein. Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson, a Republican told WRAL Mumma’s candidacy, “seems like a game-changer.”
Commissioner of Labor
One of the most pressing questions in all of state government is whose name and photograph will be on display in the state’s 28,000 elevators November 2020.
The state Labor Department promotes safe worksites and fair labor practices while also investigating violations. Current Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, a Republican who is best known as the “Elevator Lady,” after elevator inspection documents began featuring her name and likeness, announced earlier this year that she would not run for a sixth term after holding office since 2001.
State Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell) has filed to run for the office of the state commissioner of Labor. Since January 2013, Dobson has served as the state representative for the 85th Legislative District, which comprises McDowell, Mitchell, and Avery counties. He is also a former McDowell County commissioner. Dobson will meet former State Representative Pearl Burris-Floyd from Gaston County. Burris-Floyd has served on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors since 2015 and was the first and only African American to ever serve on the Gaston County Board of Commissioners.
Burris-Floyd went on to serve one term in N.C. House, representing District 110 from 2009-2011. Dobson and Burris-Floyd will also face Chuck Stanley of Clarendon. The GOP winner will face Democrat Jessica Holmes of Raleigh.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Republicans fielded two quality candidates in the race to succeed Mark Johnson as state superintendent of public instruction. State Representative Craig Horn, who led many education issues in the state House, has filed to replace Johnson, who is now running to become lieutenant governor.
Rep. Horne will face Catherine Truitt, a former teacher and current chancellor of the non-profit Western Governors University – North Carolina. Truitt previously served as a senior education advisor to Gov. Pat McCrory.
Five Democrats, all with unique regional appeal, have filed in the race, which could also be headed for a run-off. Despite Republican Mark Johnson’s improbable 2016 victory, this is an elected office that historically favors Democrats. This elected position with few delegated and specific constitutional duties has been the subject of constant power struggles between the State Board of Education and other elected officials, leading some to call for the position to be eliminated.
State Supreme Court
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who was appointed to the post after the retirement of Chief Justice Mark Martin, will face the court’s Senior Associate Justice and Republican Paul Newby for the eight-year term as chief justice.
North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger, Jr. will try to join the state’s highest court and will take on fellow Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman. Former Republican state Senator Tamara Barringer will challenge Democrat incumbent Supreme Court Justice Mark Davis for the third state supreme court seat in 2020.
North Carolina’s 2020 elections will not fail to excite, evoke debate, and garner national attention. Hold on for the ride!
*Several members of the Civitas Institute staff contributed to this article.