Politics & Government

Who’s gearing up to run in North Carolina’s 2020 statewide races?

Candidates prepare for 2020 statewide races in NC

2020 candidates for North Carolina state offices begin campaigns. Here's a look at who's who in the major races.
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2020 candidates for North Carolina state offices begin campaigns. Here's a look at who's who in the major races.

Corrected on March 11, see story for details. Updated on March 27 with developments.

We’re barely into 2019, but candidates looking for 2020 election victories have already started campaigning.

State Rep. Yvonne Holley, a Raleigh Democrat in her fourth term, is among the latest to announce she is running for lieutenant governor. She joins a host of candidates looking to fill the open seat held by two-term Republican Dan Forest.

Forest is term-limited and has filed paperwork with the State Board of Elections saying he has organized a committee to run for governor. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is expected to seek re-election.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and state Sen. Erica Smith of Northampton County, both Democrats, have announced they are running for U.S. Senate. Republican Thom Tillis is the incumbent.

Candidate filing, when politicians sign to get their names on the ballot, begins Dec 2.

Lieutenant governor

Other Democrats who have begun campaigns for lieutenant governor include:

State Sen. Terry Van Duyn, an Asheville Democrat who has been a member of the legislature since 2014.

Former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who lives in Raleigh and started campaigning in early January.

Hoke County Commissioner Allen Thomas, a Democrat.

Bill Toole, a Charlotte lawyer and a former chairman of the Gaston County Democratic Party.

State Rep. Chaz Beasley, a Charlotte Democrat serving his second term.

Republican former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn formally announced her candidacy in late March. Ellmers served three terms in Congress before losing a GOP primary in 2016.

Republican Deborah Cochran, a former Mount Airy mayor, announced she was running for the office last year.

GOP former state Rep. Scott Stone of Mecklenburg County said in a text message he is “proceeding full speed ahead with a run for lieutenant governor.”

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Hoke County Commissioner Allen Thomas sponsors a Community Appreciation Day Giveaway on Sunday, March 3, 2019, in Raeford, N.C. Thomas also announced his run for N.C. Lt. Governor at the event. (Photo by Andrew Craft) Andrew Craft Courtesy of Allen Thomas campaign for lieutenant governor

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Deborah Cochran Courtesy of the Deborah Cochran campaign for lieutenant governor


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Sen. Terry Van Duyn

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Renee Ellmers Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com

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Scott Stone Aesthetic Images Photography


Yvonne Holley House 38
Yvonne Holley


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Cal Cunningham

The field of candidates could get bigger still. Other Democrats and Republicans have said they are thinking about running for the office.

The governor and lieutenant governor don’t run as a ticket in North Carolina.

The lieutenant governor presides over Senate debate and is a member of the State Board of Education. The position does not come with many formal duties, so the office holders tend to pick their own areas of interest.

State superintendent

Four Democrats have said they’re running for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, a job Republican Mark Johnson now holds.

They are Wake County school board member Keith Sutton; Michael Maher, assistant dean for professional education and accreditation at the College of Education at NC State University; James Barrett, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member; and Jen Mangrum, a clinical associate professor in the School of Education at UNC-Greensboro. Mangrum ran for a seat in the legislature last year against Senate leader Phil Berger. (James Barrett’s name has been corrected.)

Secretary of state

Two Republicans have announced they are running for secretary of state, where Democrat Elaine Marshall is the incumbent.

Republican Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown has filed a statement with the state elections board to organize a candidate committee. Michael LaPaglia, who challenged Marshall in 2016, is running again. Marshall was first elected to the office in 1996.

Labor commissioner

Two Raleigh Democrats have announced they are running for state labor commissioner, an office Republican Cherie Berry has held since 2001.

Eva F. Lee, a tax attorney, is running for the seat, as is Jessica Holmes, an attorney and Wake County Board of Commissioners chairwoman.

Attorney general

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, a Republican, is running for state attorney general. He lost a GOP primary in 2016 for attorney general. Democrat Josh Stein won the 2016 general election.

NC Supreme Court

Former Chief Justice Mark Martin’s retirement triggered a new appointee to that seat and a 2020 election. Cooper appointed Justice Cheri Beasley to replace Martin as chief justice. Beasley, a Democrat, plans to run to keep the seat in 2020. Republican Justice Paul Newby also plans to run for the seat.

With Martin gone, there’s still a seat on the state’s top court for Cooper to fill.

With Supreme Court elections next year, some members of the state Court of Appeals will try to take a step up.

Appeals Court Judge Phil Berger Jr., son of Senate leader Phil Berger, and former state Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary, both Republicans, announced they’re running for associate justice seats on the Supreme Court. Judge Lucy Inman, a Democrat on the Court of Appeals, has also announced she’s running for associate justice on the Supreme Court.

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Lynn Bonner has worked at The News & Observer since 1994, and has written about the state legislature and politics since 1999. Contact her at lbonner@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4821.


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