JOHN HOOD COLUMN: Lieutenant governor race draws 14 candidates

RALEIGH — Most of the executive-branch offices comprising North Carolina’s Council of State are either open seats in 2024 or will feature highly competitive races in both the primary and general elections. But none has attracted as many candidates as lieutenant governor.

John Hood

GOP incumbent Mark Robinson is running for governor. Fourteen North Carolinians want to succeed him as lieutenant governor: three Democrats and 11 Republicans. Although the state’s lieutenant governor was once a powerful position, truly running the North Carolina Senate, its powers now consist primarily of breaking ties in that chamber as well as serving on the boards that govern the state’s public schools and community colleges.

Democrat Rachel Hunt is a state senator and former House member representing Mecklenburg County. She’s the daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt. Education and health care are among her priority issues. “When it comes to women’s bodies,” Hunt says, “MAGA politicians in Raleigh care more about control than improving the quality of life for mothers and children.”

Another Democratic candidate, Ben Clark, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Fayetteville and served five terms in the state senate. He told the Raleigh News & Observer he wants to “help shape the future of this state, in education, health care, the economy, the environment and by preserving our constitutional and civil rights.”

A third Democrat in the race, Mark H. Robinson, is a Navy veteran from Sampson County who shares only his name with current Republican lieutenant governor. “I want the people of North Carolina to get behind things that will benefit the state 20 to 50 years from now,” he says.

As for the 11 candidates in the Republican primary, I’ll focus on the six that appear to be running the most competitive campaigns, starting with Jeffrey Elmore. He’s a six-term House member representing Wilkes and Alexander counties. A public schoolteacher by profession, Elmore chairs the House Appropriations Committee, serves on the board of the Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission, and describes himself as “a conservative who gets things done.”

Jim O’Neill is the four-term district attorney in Forsyth County and got the GOP nomination for attorney general in 2020, losing narrowly to Democrat Josh Stein. He says that as lieutenant governor, he will be “tough on crime,” champion “innovative programs” to combat substance abuse, and create a panel to study solutions to the mental-health crisis.

Sam Page has served as the sheriff of Rockingham County since 1998 and is a past president of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association. He promises to “reduce fraud and wasteful government spending,” push for more funding to enhance school safety, and “raise teacher pay to meet national standards.”

Currently president of the Electoral Education Foundation, Hal Weatherman previously served as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and to Forest’s mother, Sue Myrick, when she represented the Charlotte area in Congress. He describes himself as “a principled limited government conservative — fiscal and social.”

Seth Woodall is an attorney in Rockingham County and also owns a contracting company. “From championing fiscal responsibility to ensuring our children receive the education they deserve,” Woodall says, “I’m committed to fighting for the core values that make our state great.”

Deanna Ballard of Watauga County served four terms in the state senate, where she helped write school-choice legislation and the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Formerly a White House staffer and an executive with Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Ministry, she says she’s a “family-first conservative” who believes “our financial security and constitutional freedoms are in jeopardy.”

The other five GOP candidates for lieutenant governor include small-business owner Rivera Douthit of Matthews, paramedic and firefighter Marlenis Hernandez Novoa of Raleigh, minister Allen Marshburn of Robbins, retired Army captain Ernest Reeves of Greenville, and Mebane activist Peter Boykin, president of Gays for Trump.

All these candidates have campaign websites where you can find more about their backgrounds, endorsements, and positions. Early voting is now underway. Primary election day is March 5.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member.