State Races Heating Up Even Before Filing Date
Part One of a Series
Statewide filing for offices begins Dec. 4 for the March 4 primary elections. While most eyes are focused on the races for governor and lieutenant governor, several other contests are seeing some early activity.
Several of the races are being watched nationally to see if Republicans can gain control of the governor’s seat, as well as maintaining control of the General Assembly.
State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, announced in a legislative committee hearing Wednesday that she will not be seeking reelection. Wood said that at the age of 70, she wants to spend more time with her family and personal interests.
Wood was at the center of a firestorm in December when she left a Christmas party in Raleigh, and struck a parked car while driving her state vehicle. Wood left the scene of the wreck and immediately drove to the office of powerful Democrat attorney Rufus Edmisten.
Wood eventually turned herself in, and in court denied being impaired at the time of the crash. The charge was dismissed after she paid the car’s owner $11,000 in restitution.
Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who made headlines with his personal crusade for transparency in medical bills, has also said he plans to run for governor. John Bradford III is running in the Republican primary, while Gabriel Esperanza and Wesley Harris said they plan to run for the Democrat nomination.
Secretary of Agriculture Steve Troxler this week received a sustained standing ovation when he announced his intentions to seek reelection. Troxler was speaking to a group of supporters at an agribusiness rally.
While no Republicans have signed up to face Troxler in the primary, Democrat Sarah Taber of Fayetteville said she plans to file. Taber bills herself as a crop scientist, ex-farmworker and “grower of farms and food systems”.
Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey also plans to run for reelection for what would be his third term as the state’s first Republican in that office. Causey was at the center of the fight against Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance company’s move to loosen rules on how profits could be used by the state’s largest health insurer. He has also questioned the decision by the General Assembly to remove the title of state Fire Marshal from the commissioner’s position, instead requiring the commissioner to appoint a state fire marshal, and that nominee be confirmed by the legislature.
Three of Causey’s top staff in the fire marshal’s office, including the man who was the state’s top firefighter, were dismissed from their jobs last week.
Causey is being challenged in the primary by former state Rep. Robert Brawley, a career insurance agent from Mooresville. David Wheeler of Spruce Pine, a Democrat, also announced plans to run.
In the state’s top two executive positions, all three declared frontrunners are well known.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the state’s first Black to hold that position, and Attorney General Josh Stein are the expected party nominees, but both face a number of challenges in March.
Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who made headlines with his personal crusade for transparency in medical bills, has also said he plans to run for governor.
Former State Sen. Andy Wells, retired health care executive Jesse Thomas, and firebrand Bill Graham are also running for the GOP nomination. Graham has made headlines recently with a series of aggressive positions that include expanding the use of the death penalty. Former Congressman Mark Walker dropped his bid for governor to run for a newly-drawn congressional seat.
On the Democrat side of the gubernatorial coin, former State Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan is currently Stein’s only declared contender.
The voids left by Stein and Robinson have drawn a slew of candidates with a variety of experience and often opposing platforms within their parties.
Democrats have only had two declared hopefuls so far for the lieutenant governor’s seat.
Rachel Hunt is the daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt, and has served in the state Senate for District 42 since 2022. She is a frequent critic of Lt. Governor Mark Robinson.
Ben Clark spent five terms in the State Senate, but did not seek reelection in 2022. He lost a U.S. Congress bid that year to a Republican. Clark is a 20 year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a graduate of N.C. A&T University.
On the Republican side, Marlenis Hernandez Novoa is a female firefighter, paramedic and business owner from Wake County. Novoa is a virtual unknown in the political field.
Hal Weatherman, while never having held elected office, worked for several Republicans of note, including Sue Myrick, former Lt.Gov. Dan Forest, and Madison Cawthorn.
Jeffrey Elmore has served in the state house since 2013, easily winning reelection to the 94thDistrict seat in every election. He is a teacher and has chaired the education committee in the General Assembly.
Rivera Douthis of Mooresville is an author, evangelist and small business owner who has never held public office.
Attorney Seth Woodall of Rockingham County – whose firm merged with State Sen. Phil Berger’s law firm in 2020 – announced in August that he will spend $1 million of his own money for the state’s number two executive position.
Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page is one of several hopefuls with ties to former President Donald Trump. The seven term sheriff is a vocal opponent of casinos in the state. He has testified before Congress, and served as the 2020 state chair for Trump’s reelection.
Deanna Bullard, a former 45th District State Senator, worked in President George Bush’s administration. She has also worked with Billy Graham’s international relief ministry, Samaritan’s Purse.
Peter Boykin lost bids in 2018 and 2022 for the state house. He founded “Gays for Trump” in 2016, drawing national attention to the conservative movement in the LGBQT community.
Allen Marshburn is pastor of Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove, and has worked as an insurance agent. He has received a number of endorsements from state and national groups.