By Pete Zamplas- North Carolina voters will decide leadership of state executive, legislative and judicial branches in the election Nov. 8, and by then in ongoing early voting.
The marquee match is a close one in polls between Gov. Pat McCory and Democrat Roy Cooper, 59, state attorney general since 2001. McCrory turned 60 on Oct. 17. The bubbly former Charlotte mayor, who periodically visits the mountains, seeks a second term. The two have exchanged attack ads, debating their records and impact. Libertarian Lon Cecil is in the mix.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, 49, four years ago became merely the second Republican elected to that post since 1897. That snapped a drought longer than that for the Chicago Cubs’ world titles.
Forest has on some roadsigns a take-off on the classic Burma-Shave roadside sign sequence. It parodies Forrest Gump, a word at a time: “Run…Forest…Run.” He is in a rematch with Linda Coleman. The former state House lawmaker beat Buncombe County commissioner Holly Jones and two others in the primary in May.
Two Council of State races are open. Cooper vacates his post to try for governor. His successor will be a state senator — Republican Buck Newton, or else Josh Stein. The treasurer contest is between Democrat Dan Blue III, son of State Sen. Dan Blue, and Republican Dale Folwell who led the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
Two other incumbent Republicans are three-term Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler (again challenged by Walter Smith) and Insurance Commissioner Cherie Berry, who faces former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.
State Sec. of State Elaine Marshall first won that office 20 years ago, by beating NASCAR legend Richard Petty. Now she is opposed by Republican “entrepreneur” Michael LaPaglia. He calls Marshall too liberal, and in office for too long. He was among 17 local and statewide candidates at a monthly Henderson County Republican Breakfast early this year, and among several who spoke on their qualifications and chief issues.
Former FBI white collar crime investigator Chuck Stuber challenges State Auditor Beth Wood. He vowed at the local forum to ferret out fraud, as a financial “watchdog.”
Mark Johnson is up against State Supt. June Atkinson. He is on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board. He also spoke to GOP locals.
Raleigh insurance agency owner Mike Causey again takes on Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. Causey touts greater free market competition to ease pricing. He told the local GOP crowd that the state insurance office passes the buck, in telling customers angry their insured property is not fully reimbursed to “get a lawyer.”
Judicial statewide races are one Supreme Court associate justice seat, and several Court of Appeals seats. Incumbent Justice Robert Edmunds, a Republican, has served on the state’s highest appellate court since 2001 — for most of this millennium. He points to his legal opinions’ “impartiality, respect for our state and federal constitutions, and dedication to the rule of law.” His comments are part of the N.C. State Board of Elections 2016 Judicial Voting Guide.
Edmunds chaired the American Bar Association’s Appellate Judge Conference in August. Ten years ago, he was selected by U.S. Sup. Ct. Chief Justice William Rehnquist to be the only state judge on the Federal Criminal Rules Committee and was later reappointed.
Superior Court Judge Michael R. Morgan of Raleigh is running against Edmunds. He stated he can “legally analyze, assiduously study yet humanely understand the challenges of society” the court faces. He teaches in the National Judicial College. His law degree is from N.C. Central, in 1979.
Others on the Supreme Court are not yet up for reelection. Chief Justice Mark Martin’s seat is up next in 2022, fellow Republican Justice Paul Martin Newby’s in 2020. Democrats have a majority of four justices, out of seven. Sam J. Ervin IV and Barbara Jackson’s seats are up in 2018, Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson’s both in 2022.
Court of Appeals judges up for reelection are Republicans Richard Dietz of Winston-Salem, Bob Hunter of Morehead City, and Valerize Zachary of Yadkinville; also Democrats Margaret Eagles of Raleigh, and Linda Stephens of Wake County.
Democrat challengers are Vince Rozier (vs. Dietz), Abe Jones (vs. Hunter), and Rickye McKoy-Mitchell (vs. Zachary). In what may be a first for a party’s slate of appellate court challengers, they and Michael Morgan are all black.
Waynesville attorney Hunter Murphy, a Republican, is running for Eagles’ seat along with unaffiliated Donald Buie of Greensboro.
Administrative law judge Phil Berger Jr. of Hillsborough challenges Stephens, who has served in that post for 10 years. His father is N.C. Senate Pres. Pro Tempore Phil Berger. Berger Jr., a former district attorney, spoke at the local forum. He said his decisions will be strict upholding of constitutional rights, “the rule of the law, and will be grounded in North Carolina values.”
One-stop registration and voting started Oct. 20, and continues at several precincts to Saturday, Nov. 5. Tuesday, Nov. 1 is the last chance to get a request for a mail-in absentee ballot to the county elections office.
A first-time voter who had registered to vote without providing a valid social security number or driver license number must show proof of identity when voting.
Otherwise, voters are no longer required to present a photo ID at polls. This is from a federal appellate ruling July 29, that claimed there is not enough apparent voter fraud to justify the requirement. It overturned a district court upholding of the 2013 state law, which the U.S. Justice Department and civil rights advocates tried to block in a lawsuit.
The latest, far-reaching decision is criticized by many as a political pro-Democrats move to “reopen the door for voter fraud,” as State Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore jointly declared. Fraud can be by illegal aliens ineligible to vote, people posing as voters recently deceased but still registered, or those voting in several precincts instead of only once as is the law.
Gov. McCrory stated,“Photo IDs are required to purchase Sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal courtroom. Yet three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections, while also maligning our state.”