With at least 66 million ballots already cast, the 2020 election has finally arrived after several years of campaigning for some candidates. With 470 seats up for grabs in Congress and the President of the United States up for reelection, some races have undoubtedly received more national attention from the media than others. However, the importance of local and statewide elections cannot be overstated, even though they can be easy to overlook.
Of the 99 state legislative chambers throughout the United States, 86 are holding regular elections in November 2020. These chambers will soon have the responsibility of drawing district lines for congressional and state legislatures once the census is completed. There are 11 gubernatorial races and 10 races for state attorneys general. The outcome of the 2020 election cycle will decide who holds important offices, such as District Attorneys, Judges, local legislators, sheriffs, and school boards, affecting issues such as education, transportation, and criminal justice for countless Americans. For Duke students voting here in Durham, their ballot will have 27 races to vote for. Below are the responsibilities, candidates, and importance of some of the local and state offices that are on the ballot.
Governor Roy Cooper (D) vs. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R)
Incumbent Governor Roy Cooper (D) is facing off against Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (R) for the chief executive of the state. Governor Cooper’s campaign website lists some of his key accomplishments in office, including raising teacher pay, decreasing deaths and hospital visits from the opioid crisis, fighting for Medicaid expansion, banning funding to organizations engaging in conversion therapy, and prohibiting workplace discrimination. A former architect and businessman, Dan Forest has served nearly eight years as Lieutenant Governor. Based off of his campaign website, a central tenet of Lieutenant Governor Forest’s gubernatorial campaign is the reopening businesses and schools, which were shut down to prevent the spread of the pandemic. The Republican nominee also frequently espouses “restoring law and order”, in which he promises to direct local law enforcement to work with ICE to prevent undocumented immigrants from remaining in the state, “defend the police,” and not hesitate to activate the National Guard when faced with riots.
Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley (D) vs. Mark Robinson (R)
In North Carolina, there is a separate general election for the Lieutenant Governor, hence why there is currently a Democratic governor and Republican lieutenant governor. The main responsibility is to preside over the North Carolina Senate, while also serving as a member of the Governor’s Council of State, the Board of Education, Board of Community Colleges, and Capital Planning Commission for North Carolina. As the current lieutenant governor has reached his term limit and is running for governor, Mark Robinson (R) faces off against Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley (D). Robinson, a Greensboro native, has a very compelling background. Born to a poor family, Robinson ended up in foster care, eventually serving as an Army reservist and running a daycare center. In 2018, he spoke against gun control in a Greensboro City Council meeting launching him into stardom among conservatives. His campaign website lists his support for the Second Amendment, the “sanctity of life”, school choice, stricter immigration policies, and voter ID laws. The Democratic candidate, Yvonne Lewis Holley, also is running with a compelling story. Attending a public school in Raleigh amidst the beginning of its desegregation, Holley went on to serve 25 years as a state government employee before being elected as a state representative in 2012. Her campaign lists her work to relieve Food Deserts as one of her most notable accomplishments in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Her campaign website details her comprehensive plan for criminal justice reform, including ending the use of bail as punishment, supporting the Second Chance Act for released felons, and prioritizing mental health and drug treatment over incarceration. She identifies as pro-choice and supports gun control, including the ban of assault weapons. On immigration, Holley supports local sheriffs determining their cooperation with ICE and granting in-state tuition for undocumented students. Holley also boasts a comprehensive list of stances on environmental issues, including opposition to coastline drilling and support of offshore wind development.
Attorney General Josh Stein (D) vs. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill (R)
Incumbent Attorney General Josh Stein (D) faces off against Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill (R) for the head of North Carolina’s Department of Justice, which holds the responsibility of representing state agencies, rendering legal opinions for laws and executive orders when requested, handling criminal appeals at the state court, and advising local district attorneys when asked. Attorney General Stein’s campaign website cites increasing funding for sexual assault kit testing, requiring de-escalation and cultural sensitivity training for School Resource Officers, co-charing the Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, suing several opiod manufacturers, offering grants for enviornmental protection, and supporting the Second Chance Act as some of his accomplishments in office. On the Republican side, O’Neill’s listed accomplishments on his campaign website include his service as his county’s first dedicated Domestic Violence prosecutor, the lowest dismissal rate in the state among urban counties for violent crime offenders, and the highest conviction rate in the state for sexual assault crimes.
Auditor Beth Wood (D) vs. Anthony Wayne Street (R)
A member of the Council of the State, the North Carolina Auditor is responsible for overseeing and reviewing the financial accounts for all state government agencies. The incumbent, Beth Wood (D), was first elected in 2008 and is running for her fourth term against Anthony Wayne Street (R). With experience in teaching, state government, and the private sector, Wood’s auditing experience has spanned over thirty years. Among her listed accomplishments on her campaign website, she has identified millions in wasteful taxpayer dollars from poor contracting practices, revealed the advantages of the state using Medicare and Medicaid for inmate healthcare services, and improved the accountability of audits by her office. The Republican nomination for this office shows the lack consideration paid to the Auditor position, as a small businessman and member of the Brunswick County Soil and Water Board without any accounting experience beat Tom Hoegeymeyer, a Marine and lawyer for the State Auditor’s Office. Even more troubling, while little information is known about Anthony Street, it is known that he was placed on probation for a stalking charge and has been involved, yet not convicted, on charges of simple assault, resisting a public officer, disorderly conduct, and communicating threats. It is imperative that voters pay close attention to the types of candidates they may be voting for.
Commissioner of Agriculture:
Jenna Wadsworth (D) vs. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler (R)
As the head of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture has an essential role in issues far past farming, such as energy, climate change, conservation, healthcare, and racial equity. Since taking office in 2005, Steve Troxler (R), owner and operator of Troxler Farms, has cited the 29% increase in agriculture activities in the state as a major accomplishment of his office. His opponent, Jenna Wadsworth (D), is known for becoming the youngest woman ever elected to public office in North Carolina, serving on the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors at age 21. Wadsworth is running on a progressive platform of fighting against climate change, introducing more research and education on environmental and food science, protecting water quality, fuel safety, and soil health, supporting renewable energy, expanding rural healthcare and internet access, and defending labor and immigrant rights.
Secretary of State:
Secretary Elaine Marshall (D) vs. E.C. Sykes (R)
In North Carolina, unlike many other states, the Secretary of State handles economic and business operations of the state government rather than oversee state elections. First elected in 1996, the incumbent, Elaine Marshall (D), is the first woman to be elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina. Marshall stated in an interview that her priorities are expanding internet access, cyber security, and educating seniors about investment scams. Her opponent, E.C. Sykes (R), an engineering manager and entrepreneur, served as Senator Ted Cruz’ presidential campaign’s Executive Director of Faith and Religious Liberty.
Ronnie Chatterji (D) vs. Treasurer Dale Folwell (R)
North Carolina’s Treasurer has more responsibilities than its lack of media attention suggests, such as serving as the state’s chief financial officer, maintaining the state pension fund and healthcare plans, reducing state investment costs, accounting for all finances by the state government, and managing the state’s bond rating. Incumbent Dale Folwell (R) has served as North Carolina’s State Treasurer since 2017, and his top priorities include maintaining North Carolina’s AAA bond rating and the pension and healthcare for government employees. Ronnie Chatterji (D), Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy chaired professor and former economist for the Obama Administration, is running with goals that include modernizing the North Carolina Retirement Systems and advocating for a more inclusive economy.
In North Carolina, there are nine races for positions in the state’s judicial system: Supreme Court Chief Justice, two Supreme Court Associate Justices, five Court of Appeals Judges, and a District Court Judge. For the North Carolina Court of Appeals, a third of the seats are up for election while the current bench has eight Democrats and 7 Republicans. In the appellate court of North Carolina, the fifteen members rotate in panels of three to deliberate. This election can easily change the political ideology of the appellate court, which serves as an intermediate court for the Supreme Court.
For those wishing to see information for all of the races this election cycle in their district, visit: