Local Politics

Tight battles expected in statewide races

Posted October 28, 2008 4:28 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2008 9:23 a.m. EDT

— The nine statewide elected offices that make up the Council of State are on the ballot next week, and political observers expect some new faces to join what is essentially the governor's cabinet.

Aside from the governor, the Council of State includes the lieutenant governor, the state treasurer, the state auditor, the agriculture commissioner, the insurance commissioner, the labor commissioner, the education superintendent and the attorney general.

"The really close races are going to be state treasurer and the (agriculture commissioner) races. It will depend on the surge for either side," political consultant Brad Crone said.

State Treasurer Richard Moore ran unsuccessfully for governor, leaving his office without an incumbent in the election. Crone said Democrat Janet Cowell and Republican Bill Daughtridge both have experience in business and state government, setting up a good fight.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is defending his seat, which he narrowly won in 2004 amid a political corruption case against his predecessor, Meg Scott Phipps. Democrat Ronnie Ansley could make it a close race, Crone said.

Another other open seat is for insurance commissioner, where longtime Commissioner Jim Long is retiring. Assistant Commissioner Wayne Goodwin faces Republican business owner John Odom and Libertarian Mark McMains.

Political consultant John Davis said that he's struck by the number of women running for statewide office, from Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue in the gubernatorial race to others further down the ballot.

"There's the distinct possibility that women could hold the majority of seats ... a week from now. That's never happened before," Davis said.

Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry is running for re-election. Her Democrat rival, Mary Fant Donnan, worked under Berry's predecessor.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was the first woman elected to the Council of State in 1996. The former home economics teacher and small-business owner faces Republican Jack Sawyer, a real estate lawyer and small-business owner.

Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson is running for re-election against Republican Richard Morgan, a former co-speaker of the state House.

"I think the Council of State races will all be close because we're starting to get parity. The Republicans are doing very well in those seats," political consultant Ballard Everett said.

Democrat Roy Cooper is running for a third term as Attorney General. His Republican rival Bob Crumley touts his reputation for running a large consumer-based law firm.

"I think in the races where there's an incumbent, the incumbent wins," Everett said.