North Carolina Council of State choices: Our endorsements

Council of State members are independently elected statewide and preside over important areas of government such as agriculture, insurance regulation, schools and management of the state pension fund. They also come together to consider some matters cooperatively, such as the sale of state property. Today, The News & Observer editorial page offers endorsements in some of the lower-profile races for Council of State. Those for State Treasurer, Attorney General and Commissioner of Labor have been covered separately.

Commissioner of Agriculture

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a Republican, 64, is seeking a fourth term as commissioner, and his opponent, Democrat Walter Smith, a Yadkinville farmer and former vocational agriculture teacher, frankly has a hard time making a case to replace Troxler. That’s not because Smith isn’t a nice guy, but rather because Troxler has done a credible job managing a complex department that touches many lives in North Carolina.

Troxler may have run for office 12 years ago focusing on his experience as a farmer, but he’s expanded his own interests as those of his department have become more far-reaching. He’s been a solid commissioner and has earned another term.

Commissioner of Insurance

Democrat Wayne Goodwin, 49, a two-term incumbent, wants another four years as commissioner of the Department of Insurance, and he deserves it. Goodwin has been a strong advocate for tough regulation, for holding down insurance premiums, for monitoring the performance of the industry for consumers’ best interests.

Republican Mike Causey is a retired insurance agent from Greensboro and a five-time candidate for this office.

State Auditor

Two-term incumbent State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat,won the office in 2008, and has done a sound job as auditor, closely monitoring state agencies and on occasion ruffling feathers of Republicans and Democrats alike when her office has turned up instances of mismanagement. Wood’s experience in the office is valuable and she has done the job and deserves the chance to continue doing so.

Republican Chuck Stuber, 56, a retired FBI agent and until this campaign, an investigator for the N.C. Board of Elections, comes to the race with impressive credentials, including a law degree and an accounting degree. Stuber led investigations of some prominent state politicians, including former House Speaker Jim Black and former Gov. Mike Easley. Absent a qualified incumbent, he’d be a good choice, but Wood’s experience gives her an edge in this race.

Secretary of State

Incumbent Elaine Marshall, 70, probably got the most attention for winning this office in 1996 because the Democrat out of Lillington beat Republican Richard Petty, the stock car king. Marshall’s also sought a U.S. Senate seat (in 2002) but as secretary of state, she’s brought the office into the digital age, an important matter given that the office keeps track of corporations and lobbyists.

Marshall loves North Carolina and its people, and she may know more of them personally than any other state official. She has been a worthy secretary of state and should retain the office.

Businessman Michael LaPaglia, a Republican, is touting the standard Republican mantras of “less government” and free markets and he simply hasn’t made a case against a strong incumbent.

State Superintendent

Challenger Mark Johnson, 32, is a member of the Forsyth County school board and brings an energetic conservatism to his campaign against three-term incumbent June Atkinson, 68. Johnson, a lawyer, opposes Common Core, favors expansion of charter schools and supports the voucher program whereby public money goes to parents who want to send their kids to private schools. While Johnson has experience as a teacher and possesses an admirable passion for education, his support of expanding charter schools and vouchers are troubling, particularly when the job he seeks is one requiring a passionate commitment to traditional public schools.

But Atkinson has done a good job for a long time under difficult circumstances, with GOP legislative leaders showing a disdain for public schools. She’s earned re-election.