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Candidates See Larger Role for Lieutenant Governor

Posted October 19, 2000

— The death of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan in a plane crash reminds us that the lieutenant governor is just a heartbeat away from the highest office in the state. North Carolina's next lieutenant governor will make history.

All of the candidates for lieutenant governor are women. The winner will be the first woman in North Carolina to hold that position. The candidates want to transform the job from one ceremony to one of substance.

N.C. State political science professor Andy Taylor says that in North Carolina, the lieutenant governor is not a very powerful position.

"They have a role in the state Legislature as president of the Senate, but like the vice president, their only power is to vote in case of a tie," Taylor says.

He thinks most voters do not give much thought to their choice for lieutenant governor.

Tell that to the women running for the job.

Democrat Beverly Perdue is a state senator. She helped craft the state budget, which is not what you would call a ceremonial position. If she wins, she wants to redefine the job of lieutenant governor.

"I actually believe in the potential of the office," she says. "It was so apparent to me that a hardworking, committed lieutenant governor can make a true difference in the lives of people throughout the state."

State Sen. Betsy Cochrane is the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. If elected, she believes she can use the position to influence policy.

"I'm the first woman ever to preside over the [state] Senate," she says. "I see the lieutenant governor's role as one of advocacy. I believe you could use the position to work with people and the influence the General Assembly to respond to the people."

Reform Party candidate Catherine Carter is also running in the race.


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