Politics & Government

Who’s gearing up to run in North Carolina’s 2020 statewide races?

Candidates prepare for 2020 statewide races in NC

2020 candidates for North Carolina state offices begin campaigns. Here's a look at who's who in the major races.
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2020 candidates for North Carolina state offices begin campaigns. Here's a look at who's who in the major races.

Updated most recently on June 17, 2019 with developments. Corrected on June 18, see story for details.

We’re not even halfway through 2019, but candidates looking for 2020 election victories have already started campaigning.

Democrats are looking to unseat first-term Sen. Thom Tillis, and they’re not the only ones. Republican Garland Tucker III, a Raleigh businessman and historian, kicked off his campaign in May to challenge the incumbent in the GOP primary election.

Meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has filed paperwork with the state saying he has organized a committee to run for governor. He’s described it publicly as an exploratory bid, but he’s widely expected to challenge first-term Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Candidate filing, when politicians sign to get their names on the ballot, begins Dec 2.

Senate

In addition to Tucker, Sandy Smith of Winterville has also announced that she will be challenging Tillis in the Republican primary.

Four Democrats have announced they are running for Tillis’ seat:

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller.

State Sen. Erica Smith of Northampton County.

Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who lives in Raleigh, and who had previously said he would run for lieutenant governor

Steven Williams, a businessman from Durham.

Lieutenant governor

Even without Cunningham in the race, a host of candidates are looking to fill the seat held by Forest, who is term-limited after two terms as lieutenant governor.

Those who have begun campaigns include:

State Rep. Yvonne Holley, a Raleigh Democrat in her fourth term.

State Sen. Terry Van Duyn, an Asheville Democrat who has been a member of the legislature since 2014.

Hoke County Commissioner Allen Thomas, a Democrat.

Bill Toole, a Charlotte lawyer and a former chairman of the Gaston County Democratic Party.

State Rep. Chaz Beasley, a Charlotte Democrat serving his second term.

Buddy Bengel, a New Bern Republican. Bengel is a businessman and owner of the Morehead City Marlins baseball team.

Former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican. Ellmers served three terms in Congress before losing a GOP primary in 2016.

Deborah Cochran, a former Mount Airy mayor and a Republican.

Former state Rep. Scott Stone, a Mecklenburg County Republican.

The field of candidates could get bigger still. Other Democrats and Republicans have said they are thinking about running for the office. The Charlotte Observer reported that former GOP Mecklenburg County commissioner Jim Puckett is also considering running for lieutenant governor.

The governor and lieutenant governor don’t run as a ticket in North Carolina.

The lieutenant governor presides over Senate debate and is a member of the State Board of Education. The position does not come with many formal duties, so the officeholders tend to pick their own areas of interest.

State superintendent

At least six Democrats have said they’re running for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, a job Republican Mark Johnson now holds.

They are educational consultant and former teacher Amy Jablonski of Raleigh; Charlotte educator and activist, Constance Lav Johnson; Wake County school board member Keith Sutton; Michael Maher, assistant dean for professional education and accreditation at the College of Education at NC State University; James Barrett, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member; and Jen Mangrum, a clinical associate professor in the School of Education at UNC-Greensboro. Mangrum ran for a seat in the legislature last year against Senate leader Phil Berger. (James Barrett’s name has been corrected.)

Johnson hasn’t said if he will run for a second term.

Secretary of state

At least two Republicans have announced they are running for secretary of state, where Democrat Elaine Marshall is the incumbent.

They are Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown and Michael LaPaglia, who challenged Marshall in 2016. Marshall was first elected to the office in 1996.

State treasurer

Ronnie Chatterji, a Durham Democrat, announced his campaign for state treasurer. He is a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy who served as a senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers under former President Barack Obama (Chatterji’s city of residence has been corrected).

Matt Leatherman, a Democrat from Raleigh who worked in the State Treasurer’s office under former Treasurer Janet Cowell, announced his campaign for the treasurer’s office.

The incumbent is Republican Dale Folwell, who was elected in 2016.

Labor commissioner

At least two Raleigh Democrats and a Republican from western North Carolina have announced they are running for state labor commissioner. Republican Cherie Berry, known for having her picture in the state’s elevators, has held the position since 2001 but is not running for re-election.

Eva F. Lee, a tax attorney, is running for the seat, as is Jessica Holmes, an attorney and Wake County Board of Commissioners chairwoman.

Republican state Rep. Josh Dobson of McDowell County also announced his bid.

Attorney general

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, a Republican, is running for state attorney general. He lost a GOP primary in 2016 for attorney general.

The incumbent, Democrat Josh Stein, won a first term in 2016, and he has said he will run for reelection in 2020.

Agriculture commissioner

Jenna Wadsworth, a Democrat and a member of the board of supervisors for the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District, is running for agriculture commissioner. The incumbent is Steve Troxler, a Republican who has held the position since 2005.

NC Supreme Court

Former Chief Justice Mark Martin’s retirement triggered a new appointee to that seat and a 2020 election. Cooper appointed Justice Cheri Beasley to replace Martin as chief justice. Beasley, a Democrat, plans to run to keep the seat in 2020. Republican Justice Paul Newby also plans to run for the seat.

With Martin gone, there’s still a seat on the state’s top court for Cooper to fill.

With Supreme Court elections next year, some members of the state Court of Appeals will try to take a step up.

Appeals Court Judge Phil Berger Jr., son of Senate leader Phil Berger, and former state Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary, both Republicans, announced they’re running for associate justice seats on the Supreme Court. Judge Lucy Inman, a Democrat on the Court of Appeals, has also announced she’s running for associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at lbonner@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4821.

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