The secretary of state’s office handles an agglomeration of matters, from enforcing ethics laws to investigating securities fraud. But the four Republicans competing for the job all contend the Council of State post is about one thing in this weak economic climate: helping create jobs.
Mike Beitler, A.J. Daoud, Kenn Gardner and Ed Goodwin want to stretch the agency’s bounds beyond handling corporate records and use it to serve as a business ambassador to lure more companies to North Carolina.
“Promoting the state is the job’s top responsibility,” Gardner said, echoing his challengers. “My focus will be on helping our businesses succeed.”
The winner will face Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall in November. Given the packed primary, the race is likely to be decided in a summer runoff unless one candidate can win 40 percent of the vote May 8.
Two of the contenders have elected experience. Gardner, 53, served for eight years as a Wake County commissioner and Goodwin is the current chairman of the Chowan County Commission.
Gardner, an architect, believes his experience leading a fast-growing county makes him the most prepared for the statewide position. But his elected tenure included some controversy after he pushed for a local aquatics center as he sought the design contract for the project.
If elected, Gardner said he would make the job a high visibility position and use it to promote the state and improve the agency’s website, though he offers no specifics.
Goodwin represents a county with many problems in recent years. He said he helped dig his government out of financial ruin but used tax increases to raise revenues.
He calls the state’s business climate “detrimental.”If he wins the job, Goodwin said he would operate as a “business diplomat” and conduct a survey to ask businesses and counties to identify areas for improvement.
For Daoud, a funeral home director from Pilot Mountain, this is his first bid for elected office in North Carolina. In 1986, the then-Miami Beach police officer ran as a Democrat for a Florida state House seat. But he also said he worked to get Republicans Jim Holshouser and U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms elected.
His platform stands out among his competitors. Daoud (pronounced “Dowd”) proposes developing job creation fairs at community colleges and requiring corporations to provide proof their employees are U.S. citizens.
Beitler, a 58-year-old former UNC-Greensboro business professor, has the most recent electoral experience. He campaigned for the U.S. Senate in 2010 as a Libertarian candidate, receiving just 2 percent of the vote in an election won by Republican Richard Burr.
He said he was a Republican all his life but felt the party drifted off track in regard to spending and government intervention. This time, Beitler said he started his campaign much earlier and it’s giving him an advantage.
He has traveled the state for months talking about reducing the regulations on businesses that drive up costs. “I’m not anti-regulation – obviously we need some regulation – but if it doesn’t help customers ... let’s get rid of it,” he said.