Here are a few key points from our Council of State Candidate Forum at CLC; we hope to have a video soon that will bring out the full discussion.
Beth Wood, State Auditor:
“What’s at stake? Forty-four billion of your tax money.” That’s federal and state tax money the state auditor helps monitor.
Plus, “Our Triple-Triple-A bond rating … [which] ensures we pay the lowest interest rates.”
Her office “audits all the tax dollars flowing through the state.” Her purview includes “inefficient and wasteful spending.”
“I am a practicing CPA,” she said, only the second CPA to hold the office.
Her message to state agencies: “If you’re wasting tax dollars, you gotta quit it.”
Wayne Goodwin, commissioner of insurance:
He says he’s the “insurance sheriff” and must balance consumer protection and industry news.
“North Carolina has some of the lowest auto insurance prices in the nation,” he said.
He is pressuring Congress to allow private flood insurance.
He touts smart deregulation in his office, streamlining processes, encouraging businesses to come here. And he decries federal drive to regulate auto insurance.
Cherie Berry, Commissioner of Labor:
She touts this: she stands between businesses and OSHA.
Federal bureaucrats wanted her to rescind safety recognition awards. She politely told them no. Other states followed. The feds said: Never mind.
Industry injury rate is the lowest ever, she noted
Elaine Marshall, Secretary of State:
With a raspy voice, from a cold, she talked of growing up on a family farm. She owned business, practiced law in a rural area. “I learned about the hopes and fears of ordinary people.”
What her office doesn’t do: elections, issuing regulations. Her main job: public recordkeeping. “We operate mostly to facilitate business creation.”
June Atkinson, Superintendent of Public Instruction:
She cited progress in state graduation rates from high school. However, teacher pay is too low she said, making NC uncompetitive with other states.
Greg Brannon, U.S. Senate
As a doctor, he delivered more than 9,000 babies, make him a staunch advocate of the right to life, as in the Declaration’s affirmation that we “are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” He affirmed also the basic principles of the Constitution in being a senator today.
Sean Haugh, U.S. Senate
To cut down on government, he said, we need to cut down on war spending. And we need to back away from the culture wars, so we can live with each other.
Lon Cecil, Governor
He noted how easily government grows. A prime example, he said, was how Congress took a seemingly benign bill, gutted it, and turned it into Obamacare.
Jim O’Neill, Attorney General:
As Forsyth County D.A., he prosecuted a heinous murder, and secured the death penalty for a killer. That case went on to the state attorney general. “But imagine that the next attorney general had never prosecuted a case.”
“North Carolina needs a tough prosecutor,” he said. “I am the only one in the race who is a prosecutor.”
Chuck Stuber, State Auditor:
He’s a CPA, attorney and former FBI special agent. When he took on the task of investigating corruption in North Carolina, “people said I was wasting my time: there was no corruption in North Carolina.” He led the successful investigations of politicians such as Jim Black, Mike Easley and John Edwards.
People also said he was wasting his time when he went to the State Board of Elections, because there was no vote fraud in the state. In a year and a half, he sent 300 cases of vote fraud to district attorneys.
“I hope to take the State Auditor’s Office to a higher level,” he said.
Walter Smith, Commissioner of Agriculture:
He grew up on a small farm in North Carolina and learned many lessons, as in his father’s adage of “a farmer quits for the day when the job is done.”
Though agriculture remains the state’s biggest industry, output has actually decreased. “We need to embrace new techology that will make farming more profitable,” he said.
Also, consumers want to know more about where their food comes from. “We need to do a better job of personalizing farmers and telling their stories,” he said.
Joe McLaughlin, Commissioner of Insurance:
Among the points he cited:
- Insurance is too important to leave to a professional politician; McLaughlin noted he is in the insurance industry.
- His military experience — he’s a retired infantry officer — is a valuable resource.
Ron Pierce, Commissioner of Insurance
His experience as a contractor showed him problems with the insurance companies and the department. He said he would:
–Hold the insurance companies accountable.
–NOT be in bed with the insurance companies.
–be a public advocate.
Mazie Ferguson, Commissioner of Labor
She opened by saying “I must confess I am a declared liberal” speaking to a conservative conference. But there are other paradoxes in the field, she said.
“At the Department of Labor, no one is speaking for the workers,” she said. She herself began as a hotel maid, before becoming an attorney. “That is a perspective I want to bring to the Council of State.” She added, “I want to work for the workers.”
Michael LaPaglia, Secretary of State
He spoke of working at his family’s business, the Empire Pencil Co. in Tennessee, then working with Fred Thompson and Lamar Alexander to straighten out corrupt government in that state.
Wesley Sills, Superintendent of Public Instruction
“I am the only teacher running for Superintendent of Public Instruction,” he said. “I see every day what works for students.”
His goals include cutting back on mandatory tests and instead boosting literacy education, especially at early ages. “I love vocational education,” he said. But why wait till high school? he added, suggesting vocational education could start in middle school.
And the state could save tax dollars by not forcing the ACTs on kids who don’t want to go to college.
Mark Johnson, Superintendent of Public Instruction:
A lawyer, he has served on the Winston-Salem School board, and says the state school system needs reforms. This includes more vocational education, and increasing the use of smart technology in the classroom.
Dale Folwell, Treasurer
He noted his work for the Division of Employment Security. He noted that when he took that post 32 months ago, “it was the most broken agency in the United States,” but under his leadership the agency is now a national leader in serving the unemployed.
And when he took over, the state had a $2.7 billion debt to Washington for unemployment insurance funds. In that four years, he spearheaded reforms that paid off that debt then built up a $1 billion surplus.
As treasurer, his goal is to have similar success in tackling North Carolina’s $30 billion liability for health insurance. “We’re going to be a national leader in paying [that] off.”