Lieutenant Governor: Yvonne Lewis Holley (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

Yvonne Lewis Holley is a lifelong North Carolinian who has served in the General Assembly for the last eight years. Holley touts her bipartisan work to address food deserts in low-income communities. She thinks college students who were forced to abandon their dorm rooms after COVID-19 outbreaks should be offered off-campus housing at reduced rates. Holley says the state should expand Medicaid along with strengthening and modifying the Affordable Care Act so that more residents can have access to health care.

Holley sponsored a bill to help residents affected by the pandemic pay their rent and mortgage, and she wants to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. She supports raising the minimum wage, affordable housing, and initiatives to address the impact of climate change on the state. Holley also supports Black Lives Matter and calls for structural changes in the criminal justice system.

Her opponent, Mark Robinson, is a Greensboro native and small-business owner who served in the U.S. Army reserves. Robinson did not submit a questionnaire to the INDY. But he has posted views on his Facebook page that raised five-bell alarms. In mid-March, Robinson opined that COVID-19 was a “globalist” conspiracy to destroy “the progress of American exceptionalism that this president has promised and delivered.” As previously reported by the INDY, Robinson’s love for Trump is surpassed only by his hatred of the Obamas, LGBTQ people, Muslims, Mitt Romney, and just about everyone else.

Few candidates are as diametrically opposed to what the INDY stands for as Robinson. Luckily, we can wholeheartedly endorse Holley in her bid to be the state’s first Black lieutenant governor. —TM

Governor: Roy Cooper (D)

Read his candidate questionnaire here.

In 2020, Roy Cooper went from being an OK governor to a pretty good one. 

After defeating Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in 2016, Cooper made good on his promise to repeal House Bill 2—the notorious anti-LBGTQ “bathroom bill”—but found his hands tied with Republican supermajorities in the state House and Senate. That changed in 2018 when the Democrats’ modest gains were enough to give Cooper a veto, which he used to override Republican budgets stacked with corporate tax cuts instead of teacher pay hikes. He’s also vetoed bills that would have forced sheriffs to cooperate with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and concealed the investigation reports of people that die in police custody. More recently, he’s vetoed Republican attempts to force the state to reopen businesses such as amusement parks and gyms despite the ongoing public health crisis. 

To this end, Cooper has stepped up. He’s shown competence and moral fortitude amid the pandemic, as reflected by his 59 percent approval rating in a recent poll. 

The praise is well-deserved; to date, North Carolina’s battle with COVID-19 has been relatively stable. Cases may not be going down, but they haven’t spiked at the rate of other Southern states like Florida and Georgia. Businesses bemoaned mandated closures, and the economy has taken a hit, but our hospitals never hit surge capacity, and the virus’s fatality rate here is nearly half that of South Carolina and Virginia.   

For that, we have Cooper to thank. 

His challenger, Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, is an anti-science, anti-LGBTQ Trump fanboy. We really don’t need to say much more. He championed HB 2 and believes “transgenderism is a feeling.” He opposes a statewide expansion of Medicaid. Ideologically, Forest is everything we stand against. 

But he’s also anti-common-sense: Forest has gone on record saying masks are ineffective at preventing the spread of the virus and wants to push for the state to reopen immediately. Like Trump, he thinks North Carolina can will away the virus by returning to business as usual. He’s delusional, and his approach would endanger the lives of countless North Carolinians. 

Cooper’s main accomplishment these last four years has been what he’s able to prevent: a reckless Republican agenda. In his next term—fingers crossed, empowered by a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Council of State—we hope to see him achieve a statewide expansion of Medicaid and enact substantive policies to combat climate change. 

If he can do that, he’ll go from a good governor to a great one. —LT

Attorney General: Josh Stein (D)

As a testament to Josh Stein’s rising political star, he was a top recruit of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to run against Senator Thom Tillis this year. He declined, and for good reason—should he decide to run, he’d be the Democratic frontrunner for governor in 2024. 

As Attorney General, Stein has been a national leader among the state attorneys general fighting the Trump administration. He’s sued the administration over family separation, the U.S. Postal Service slowdowns, a whole host of environmental issues including methane emissions and offshore drilling, and so on. Stein’s office also created a new sexual-assault-kit tracking system in 2018; in the space of a year, it logged more than 10,000 kits.

Stein’s opponent this year is Republican Jim O’Neill, the Forsyth County district attorney. O’Neill, who ran for the nomination unsuccessfully in 2016, has recently been in the national spotlight. In July, he filed involuntary-manslaughter charges against five detention officers and a nurse who allegedly killed 56-year-old Black man John Neville, who told them he couldn’t breathe, while in county lockup in December 2019.

But part of O’Neill’s pitch is that he would bring back the death penalty and “stand strong against rioting in N.C.,” which is code for cracking down on peaceful protests and opposing democratic agitation for racial justice. Stein has also said he supports the death penalty, which is frustrating, but the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006—let’s hope it stays that way. Stein gets our vote. —PB

Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

A lot has changed in the Secretary of State’s office since Elaine Marshall was first elected in 1997. For starters, the internet. For more than two decades, Marshall has effectively helmed the department, kept there perhaps by an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2010 (which critics say wasn’t helped by rival Cal Cunningham demanding a runoff in the primary).

Her loss is ostensibly our gain. Marshall has been a progressive advocate from her office, focusing on transparency and investing in the department’s employees. Her challenger is Republican E.C. Sykes, who for some reason is fixated on stopping undocumented immigrants from becoming public notaries. For us, this is the wrong priority.

Marshall, on the other hand, has used her office to help small businesses secure PPP loans during the pandemic. She also hopes to bolster cybersecurity by investing in software and training to help businesses avoid identity theft and fraud. Sykes criticizes Marshall for maintaining the status quo, but in our estimation, there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken. We want to see Marshall continue to bring innovation to the Secretary of State’s office rather than partisan politics. —LT

Treasurer: Ronnie Chatterji (D) 

Read his candidate questionnaire here.

On paper, there are few more qualified candidates than Ronnie Chatterji, whose career spans the public and private sectors. As an academic, he chaired Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and served as a senior economist on the White House Council of Economic Advisors, helping to craft policies to lift America out of the Great Recession through tax cuts for small business and investment in local economic development. He’s also served on the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Council, helping to guide strategic investments in transportation. 

To revamp North Carolina’s economy, Chatterji takes a smart approach; for one, he’s in favor of expanding the state’s Medicaid program and is willing to throw the weight of his office behind it (the state is the single biggest health care provider in the state). He also wants to focus on revamping the state’s retirement system with better investment strategies while also encouraging individuals to save for retirement. 

Republican Dale Folwell isn’t a terrible treasurer; in the last four years, he’s managed the department effectively enough. But he’s let his ideology leak into his fiscal policy, namely with the exclusion of treatments for gender dysphoria from the state’s health plan, which previously included it. Folwell has previously said covering the treatments, which cost less than $850,000, is fiscally irresponsible, but it accounts for just a fraction of a percent of the state’s $3.3 billion healthcare plan. In our questionnaire, he dodged our question on the topic, citing pending litigation. 

Chatterji supports funding such treatment for gender dysphoria and promised to restore funding for it immediately if elected. For that, he’s gained the support of Equality NC. He gets our support too, and we hope he can bring fresh ideas to this department that result in smarter investments in the state’s future. —LT

State Auditor: Beth Wood (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

In more than a decade as state auditor, Democrat Beth Wood has become one of the chief reasons why anything in this state works at all. The North Carolina native leads an office that caught the Department of Agriculture allowing dairy farmers to label their milk Grade A despite the presence of rodents and insects and generally unclean facilities. They found that Medicaid eligibility requirements were not consistent throughout the state and that in some counties, errors were made while processing as much as 25 percent of Medicaid applications. 

Wood helped uncover gross overspending by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission, revealing such disarray that the findings called the idea of a state monopoly on liquor stores into question. Her office’s audit of the Department of Transportation showed that the agency was under-budgeting in ways that failed the state’s residents. Most recently, she led an audit of North Carolina’s virtual public school system and found that it failed to live up to state standards for quality and rigor. She’s made her fair share of enemies across the state government, and in a job like hers, that’s a good thing. 

Meanwhile, her Republican opponent, Anthony Wayne Street, has a record of personal conduct that seems unbefitting of the position he seeks. The guy’s been accused of punching a man in the face, threatening to harm another man’s family if he didn’t give him money, and resisting arrest. And in 2018, Street was put on probation for stalking a woman. The choice couldn’t be clearer: Beth Wood has done more than enough to keep her job, so go ahead and vote for her. —DM

Commissioner of Agriculture: Jenna Wadsworth (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

Republican Steve Troxler has helmed the Department of Agriculture since 2004 when he narrowly clinched victory against Democrat Britt Cobb by a fraction of a percent. Since then, his margin of victory has steadily increased over Democratic challengers, as has his name recognition; he’s known as the face of the North Carolina State Fair, which draws millions of visitors to Raleigh each year. To his credit, Troxler made the hard but necessary call to cancel the fair this year due to safety concerns over COVID-19. 

But Troxler’s full repertoire doesn’t serve a progressive agenda—for instance, he thinks it’s cool that the Sons of Confederate Veterans pass out Confederate flags at the state fair and has used the First Amendment to defend the group. (He’s also taken their money through the N.C. Heritage PAC.) He’s also against marijuana legalization. 

We think someone like Jenna Wadsworth, a 31-year-old Democrat who has spent the last decade serving as Wake County’s Water and Soil District Supervisor, can bring the fresh perspective needed to modernize the state fair. Step one: Kick out the racists. Step two: Lift up small businesses and develop apps to make the fair’s ever-increasing culinary options easier to navigate. In addition, Wadsworth wants to use her platform to support immigrant farmworkers, legalize marijuana, address climate change, and disentangle corporate interests from the state’s environmental policy. If elected, she’d be the first openly LGBTQ person ever to serve on North Carolina’s Council of State. 

Republicans threw a hissy fit after Wadsworth posted a glib TikTok about Trump contracting the coronavirus, and while the video wasn’t in the best taste, it showed she isn’t afraid to take bold stances and speak truth to power. What’s more, a Democrat winning this seat and potentially a majority on the council of state will further empower Governor Cooper. Such a change-up, we think, is worth it. —LT

Commissioner of Insurance: Wayne Goodwin (D)

Read his candidate questionnaire here.

Riding the red wave of 2016, Mike Causey became the first Republican insurance commissioner in the state’s history after defeating Democrat Wayne Goodwin, an eight-year incumbent. Back then, Causey earned points by promising to overhaul the state’s insurance system to attract big business, while Goodwin defended the current system and its low rates. Following his defeat, Goodwin went on to chair the N.C. Democratic Party and wait for a rematch. 

This race is muddied by the FBI’s investigation into convicted billionaire Greg Lindberg. Causey wore a wire and helped nail Lindberg on federal bribery charges after recording a conversation where Lindberg and the state’s former GOP chair, Robin Hayes, offered to bribe Causey with campaign funding in exchange for taking action to benefit Lindberg’s insurance companies. 

Meanwhile, Lindberg heavily backed Goodwin’s 2016 campaign, prompting the criticism that Goodwin was “bought and paid for” by Lindberg. While the optics of the Lindberg debacle give us pause, we also have no doubt Goodwin could run the department as effectively as Causey based on his record. As in the treasurer’s race, we don’t necessarily think Causey has done a bad job these last four years—in fact, as far as Republicans go, he’s probably one of the good ones. But Goodwin’s win could shift the balance of power by creating a Democrat-majority Council of State, which would bolster Governor Roy Cooper by giving him greater leverage on things like emergency orders. That’s a deal we’re willing to make. —LT

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jen Mangrum (D)

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

One of the low-key most-disappointing losses of 2016 was June Atkinson, who had done a good job as North Carolina’s Superintendent of Public Instruction for 12 years. Mark Johnson, the Republican who beat her, gave up the office after just four years to run for lieutenant governor, a nomination he lost. 

Jen Mangrum, who ran a valiant effort against Phil Berger two years ago, is an assistant professor and former elementary school teacher who has a real potential to be one of the more progressive members of the Council of State. She wants to ensure a living wage for all school personnel and boost pay for teachers as well as tackle systemic bias in schools, which is all the more important after recent demands of activists to remove school resource officers.

Her Republican opponent, Catherine Truitt, is a former high school English teacher and education advisor for Pat McCrory, the former governor. For much of the year, she’s been campaigning on giving local governments full control of whether or not schools should reopen, and she’s echoed Trump administration talking points on reopening schools. No thanks. —PB

Commissioner of Labor: Jessica Holmes (D) 

Nearly everyone in North Carolina knows Cheri Berry, not because of her policies—which were generally lax; a 2015 investigation by The News & Observer found her reluctant to enforce wage-theft violations—but because she plastered her face in the state’s elevators. As “Elevator Queen,” Berry enjoyed wide name recognition, which made her a formidable opponent who most recently bested former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker by 10 points in 2016.

Berry’s decision not to run for re-election leaves this seat open for the first time in two decades. Democrat Jessica Holmes is the obvious choice to fill it, and should she win, she’ll be the first African American ever elected to statewide office (along with Holley, we hope). But this election isn’t just about breaking barriers for Holmes, something she’s used to as the youngest person ever elected to the Wake County Board of Commissioners. It’s about restoring regulatory oversight and fighting to get North Carolina’s workforce better protections and pay. That starts by investigating and enforcing wage-theft violations, which Berry was notorious lax on. 

The Republican pick to replace Berry is Josh Dobson, who currently serves in the state House of Representatives. Dobson is a run-of-the-mill Republican who was recently accused of “double-dipping”—using the state as a piggy bank by collecting reimbursements for expenses such as housing and travel while also funding those expenses through his campaign to the tune of nearly $90,000, according to a complaint by watchdog Bob Hall. Dobson denied any impropriety, chalking up the complaint to partisan politics. 

But if Dobson has been manipulating the system for his own personal profit, can we really trust him to be an effective regulator? We’d rather go with Holmes, who is qualified, driven, and committed to bringing enforcement back to the office.  —LT

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One reply on “2020 Endorsements: Council of State”

  1. Basically, Causey was remarkably honest and incorruptible and went against his party leadership, but you want to endorse the guy supported by the corrupt businessman because he’s got a D after his name. No better than Trump supporters, Indy.

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