THE PILOT ENDORSES: Council of State: A Mixed Field
The Pilot today offers its recommendations for the important but sometimes obscure administrative posts in the Council of State.
Lieutenant Governor: Though lacking power, the lieutenant governor serves as president of the state Senate and member of educational boards. We recommend Democrat Walter H. Dalton over Republican Robert Pittenger. State Sen. Dalton is a defender of open government with a reputation for quiet competence.
Attorney General: The attorney general serves as the state's chief law-enforcement officer. The Pilot endorses two-term Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper over Republican lawyer and businessman Bob Crumley. Cooper has pressed federal lawsuits to alleviate pollution from adjoining states and fought to shut down illegal drug labs and control gangs.
Auditor: The state auditor keeps an eye on the bookkeeping and budgeting practices of state agencies. Republican incumbent Leslie Merritt has uncovered problems in the mental health system and state contracts. But Merritt also made a couple of judgment errors that damaged his effectiveness, one involving a seemingly misdirected investigation of the State Ethics Commission and another in which he seemed to exceed his authority in trying to get the state Senate to hold up on an elections bill. The Pilot endorses Merritt's Democratic opponent, Beth Wood. She has solid experience as an auditor and instructor of auditing principles.
Agriculture Commissioner: The Pilot urges the re-election of Republican incumbent Steve Troxler. He has been a popular and efficient commissioner in his first four years, helping preserve family farms and keep them in operation. His Democratic opponent, Raleigh lawyer Ronnie Ansley, is a good communicator with forward-thinking agricultural ideas, but we think North Carolina would be better off keeping Troxler on the job.
Insurance Commissioner: To replace retiring incumbent Jim Long, we recommend Republican John Odom, a former Raleigh City Council member and deputy mayor who promises to be a devoted consumer advocate. Democrat Wayne Goodwin has valuable experience as Long's assistant. But Long's manipulation in placing his No. 2 as his hand-picked successor left a bad taste.
Labor Commissioner: We recommend Democratic challenger Mary Fant Donnan of Winston-Salem, who has past experience in the department, over Republican incumbent Commissioner Cherie Berry. On Berry's watch, the department has been soft on enforcement of employee safety rules while showing a proneness to reduce fines for safety infractions committed by employers who contribute to Berry's campaigns.
Secretary of State: North Carolina's secretary of state deals with matters of small business, job creation and consumer protection. The Pilot endorses Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall, who has brought skill and professionalism to her job for 12 years. She has helped reform lobbying laws and bring her department into the computer age. Republican opponent Jack Sawyer, offers experience in real estate and finance, but Marshall's judgment and hard work qualify her for another term.
Superintendent of Public Instruction: This job has been totally bypassed by an appointed State Board of Education that names its own chief executive. We favor the election of the Republican candidate, our own homegrown Richard Morgan, who supports a change in the law to make the job appointive. Former House Co-Speaker Morgan, who rose to prominence as the state's most powerful Republican before his 2006 defeat, is now seeking a different route back to Raleigh. We think his candidacy offers more hope for meaningful change than that of the Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson.
State Treasurer: Both candidates for treasurer offer impressive educational and professional background. On balance, we endorse Democratic state Sen. Janet Cowell of Raleigh over Republican state Rep. Bill Daughtridge of Rocky Mount. Either would do well in replacing outgoing Treasurer Richard Moore, but Cowell's experience seems to make her better suited for the job.
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