Political scion, veteran face off for GOP lieutenant governor nod

Posted July 13, 2012 4:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 14, 2012 5:53 p.m. EDT

— When Republicans head to the polls next Tuesday to pick their nominee for lieutenant governor, they will be faced with a choice between an experienced politician and the son of an experienced politician.

Dan Forest, who won the most votes in the May primary, has never held elected office before, but politics runs in his family. He's the son of nine-term Congresswoman Sue Myrick of Charlotte, who is retiring at the end of the year.

The Raleigh architect says his business background and conservative values make him the right choice to be the second-highest-ranking official in North Carolina.

"My belief in God – my faith – is foundational to everything I do in life, so it's certainly foundational to how I would operate in political worlds as well," he said recently. "I think we need to get back to a place in America where values mean something."

Forest has won endorsements from tea party groups, while his opponent, Tony Gurley, has won the backing of state Republican leaders.

Gurley, a pharmacist and lawyer, has been a Wake County commissioner since 2002. He shares many of Forest's positions, but says he has a track record to back it up.

"The key difference is my level of experience," he said. "I've been on the Board of Commissioners in Wake County for 10 years. We've implemented a lot of those conservative policies that my opponent talks about."

The position of lieutenant governor is pretty low-profile and doesn't actually wield much power. Its primary job is to serve as president of the state Senate, running sessions every day and voting when needed to break a tie, which is rare.

Gurley said he would enjoy that responsibility.

"I've been chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners for three years of my 10 years of service, so I know how to preside over an elected body," he said.

Forest said he believes he could learn the Senate rules quickly.

"Is it government experience that is needed to run government? I don't think so," he said. "I think you can look at career politicians across the board and say, many times, they've been the problem."

Lieutenant governors are elected separately from the governor, but both candidates said they would seek a close working relationship with Republican contender Pat McCrory if the GOP takes both offices.

The position operates independently from the governor, and previous lieutenant governors have chosen one or two main policy issues as their focus.

Forest's issues would be tax reform and education. He and his wife have home-schooled their four children.

"I believe that, fundamentally, you have to change the way we're going about educating our kids right now, and to me, that equates to eliminating the government-controlled monopoly on education," he said.

Gurley said he would focus on growing small business in North Carolina.

"We need to look at all of the taxes, all of the regulatory reforms (and) get rid of a lot of the red tape and impediments that government has put in the way of business growth," he said. "I look forward to doing that as lieutenant governor."

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Linda Coleman in November.