North Carolina is among the minority of states (17) that elect their lieutenant governors separately from the governor. On Nov. 6, voters here will choose either Democrat Linda Coleman or Republican Dan Forest. The choice is especially clear-cut, to a degree that moderate-minded supporters of Republican Pat McCrory should consider a split vote for governor and lieutenant governor.
Forest, of Raleigh, has no experience in public office, while Coleman, of Knightdale, has served creditably on the Wake County Board of Commissioners, in the legislature and in the executive branch of state government.
Coleman holds strong Democratic views, while Forest is an equally ardent Republican – but, worryingly, he goes beyond traditional GOP stances to dally with tea party causes such as opposition to an imagined threat from “U.N. Agenda 21” and the supposed looming imposition of Shariah law on the United States.
His giving credence to such nonsense belies Forest’s self-description as “Principled. Conservative. Republican.” It’s likely that Forest would do more than just bring a business background (as an architect in a large firm) to the lieutenant governor’s office. Indications are, he comes with a built-in tea party agenda.
He’s also a strong supporter of vouchers and tax credits for home schoolers and private school tuition, which he says would make public schools more competitive but which would more likely weaken local school systems and lessen the state’s commitment to its public schools (Forest and his wife home-school their children.).
Finally, he appears to favor a sub-minimal level of state government spending that would do untold harm to education and other essential services: Based on parameters set by a (so-far unenacted) balanced budget amendment, “We’re spending $10 billion more than we need to in our general fund budget” he told an interviewer this year.
North Carolina’s general fund budget is about $20 billion.
And while he tempered that statement by saying huge budget cuts couldn’t be accomplished overnight, it’s evident where he stands: He favors an ultra-low tax state government that can’t afford to provide much beyond the bare essentials.
To put it mildly, that’s not how North Carolina rose above so many of the states of the Old Confederacy, it’s not how it has protected its environment or built its higher education system, and it’s not why so many people have chosen to move here.
Coleman, in contrast, is a mainstream, traditional Democrat. She’s picked up support from the State Employees Association of N.C. for her advocacy on behalf of state employees and workers in general – folks who haven’t had it easy, and who have been convenient targets for politicians out to make political points.
She’s a former teacher and a strong supporter of public education. That’s doubly important because one duty of the lieutenant governor is to sit on the state Board of Education. Given the legislature’s current attitude – unembarrassed at statewide per-pupil spending that’s among the nation’s lowest – a fighter for students and teachers is just what’s needed in that board seat.
She’s also had local government and legislative experience. That includes serving as chair of the Wake commissioners, which oversees a budget of several hundred million dollars, including school expenditures, in a fast-growing (and business-friendly) county. She subsequently won election to the state House, and then served as director of the Office of State Personnel until leaving to campaign earlier this year.
In The N&O’s editorial view, Linda Coleman is the better-qualified and more moderate choice for a post that often has been a stepping stone to North Carolina’s governorship.