Council of State: Our Preferences
N orth Carolina has way too many statewide elective jobs. There are seven Council of State positions up for grabs on Nov. 6, cascading down the ballot after the names for governor and lieutenant governor.
Chances are the average voter has heard of few if any of these candidates. Ideally, most of them should be appointed by the governor, the same way a president chooses his Cabinet. But as long as they're on the ballot again this time around, here is a brief rundown of our recommendations.
Auditor: This one is a no-brainer. Democratic incumbent Beth Woods is not only a widely respected professional accountant but also a certified instructor in auditing practices. She has a long record of auditing local governments and worked in the auditor's office for 10 years before her election in 2008. Her Republican opponent, Debra Goldman, is an emergency medical technician who now serves on the Wake County school board. She has also made headlines because of a couple of bizarre scandals and hardly seems qualified for the job either professionally or personally.
Agriculture commissioner: Both candidates seem strong. We endorse Republican Steve Troxler, a Browns Summit farmer who, since his election in 2004, has established a strong record in important areas like food safety and agricultural marketing. Troxler's Democratic opponent, Yadkin County farmer Walter Smith, has an impressive background with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But we see no reason to replace the experienced Troxler.
Insurance commissioner: We endorse the candidacy of Democratic incumbent Wayne Goodwin, who has a record of integrity and fairness. He beat back a legislative maneuver designed to weaken his rate-setting authority and, while doing all he can to create a welcoming environment for insurance companies, has still made it clear that he works for the people. As to challenger Mike Causey (who defeated Moore County's own Richard Morgan in a primary runoff), his main claim to fame seems to be a dubious desire to "nullify" the Affordable Care Act at the state level. No, thanks.
Labor commissioner: The Pilot endorses the Republican incumbent, Cherie Berry. She has performed well over 12 years. There may have been a couple of rough spots - as when the U.S. Labor Department criticized her in 2010 for what it called an instance or two of lax supervision. But that seems to pale compared with the record of her Democratic opponent, former Labor Commissioner John Brooks, on whose watch the horrendous Hamlet chicken plant fire happened. Voters would do best to keep Berry on the job.
Secretary of state: The North Carolina version of this job has nothing to do with foreign affairs. Rather, the holder of this Raleigh office handles matters such as registering incorporation documents and protecting citizens from fraud. By all accounts, four-term Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall has done an outstanding job of covering all those bases. She has also overseen an array of high-tech improvements that help speed up process in her department. Her Republican challenger, Chowan County Commissioner Ed Goodwin, whose website dwells on subjects like gun rights and abortion, does not seem a viable alternative. Stick with Marshall, we say.
Superintendent of public instruction: The Democratic holder of this office, June Atkinson, runs a tight ship and seems a clear favorite over challenger John Tedesco, whose most notable accomplishment is a tumultuous and highly controversial tenure on the Wake County school board.
Treasurer: Here again, Republican challenger Steve Royal, an Elkin CPA, seems to offer few valid reasons for unseating incumbent Janet Cowell, who has presided rationally and responsibly over a job that has experienced unprecedented pressures in recent years. Perhaps most significantly, she has kept North Carolina's pension system on an even keel, while helping maintain the state's spotless triple-A bond rating. We enthusiastically endorse Cowell.
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