Know Your Options: What You Need to Know Before Going to the Polls

Katie Vick, Staff Relations

For many high school seniors, Tuesday, Nov. 3 will be their first time being eligible to vote in a major election. However, many do not know about their critical role in the March 3 primaries. If they will be 18 by election day, the state of North Carolina permits 17 year olds to vote in primary elections. It is important to vote in these elections because it sends a message to parties about what issues are most important and which candidate best represents these issues. 

A primary election, the preliminary step of electing a candidate, determines who will receive his or her political party’s nomination. The nominee will later run against other parties’ nominees in the general election. Many people choose not to participate in the primaries because they do not think they are important. Arguably, these elections are more impactful than the general election. Primaries shape the platform of major candidates in the November election. 

“General election voters might award the winner, but primary voters are the ones who set up the match,” said Danielle Ott of The Odyssey.

For those planning to vote, it is important to note that a photo ID is not required for the March 2020 election. While North Carolina has one of the more lenient photo ID laws within the United States, it has been a source of controversy within the last couple of years. Supporters of requiring photo IDs at the polls say it would help to reduce voter fraud. Critics say it will negatively affect voter turnout and participation; especially for minorities. However, this could change by the general election in November. Ongoing lawsuits within federal and state courts are attempting to block North Carolina Senate Bill 824 from taking effect. If this should fail, voters might need a photo ID at the polls this fall.

Republican Primary

For those voting in the Republican Party primary, they can vote for two federal office and nine state office nominations. Voters select their Presidential Preference and US Senate nominee. Voters may choose between President Donald J. Trump, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld for their Presidential Preference. It is widely believed that President Trump will easily win this nomination. 

For the US Senate nomination in the primary, Republican voters may choose between Thom Tillis, Paul Wright, Larry Holmquist and Sharon Y. Hudson. Thom Tillis, former Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, was elected to the United States Senate in 2014. As of early January, Tillis’ campaign has raised 5.3 million dollars that will give him a significant advantage going forward. Paul Wright, who is less likely to win the nomination, is advocating to “stop abortion, restrain the courts, and resist gun control,” according to his campaign website. Dissatisfied with Tillis’ performance in Congress, Larry Holmquist is running in his second U.S. Senate Republican primary advocating for stronger national defense, immigration reform and to repeal Obamacare. Also frustrated with Tillis, Sharon Y. Hudson, a small business owner from the Charlotte area, is running in the primary. While Tillis will most likely win the Republican nomination, the other candidates represent a growing number of Republicans displeased with Tillis’ “flip-flopping” behavior in regards to the Mueller investigation and immigration. 

Republicans have two candidates to choose from for the N.C. Governor nominee; Dan Forest and Holly Grange. The only female veteran in the N.C. House of Representatives,  Grange is advocating for veteran care and first responder support. Her campaign has also taken a strong pro-life position. The southern border is a national security issue, and Grange plans to treat it as such. She plans to lead the charge by forcing N.C. sheriffs to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Forest, her opponent in the primary, proves to be a formidable candidate for the Republican party. A two-term N.C. lieutenant governor, Forest aims to, “drive economic growth, create jobs and spur innovation,” according to his campaign website. He has defended free speech rights on public college campuses and advocated for the school choice movement during his past two terms. While Grange is a respectable candidate, Forest is the best choice for the Republican party. He has more name recognition among voters and carries a strong track record of common-sense conservatism. Forest has the political savvy needed to defeat Governor Roy Cooper this November.

Republicans can also voice who they want as their nominee in eight other state offices including lieutenant governor, attorney general and various commissioners. While these races attract less attention, they are equally as important to be informed about. There are nine candidates for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, including former U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers and current N.C. legislators. Mark Johnson, current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is also running for this office. This opened up the race for his current office. Catherine Truitt and Craig Horn are competing in the March primary for the Republican nomination. 

“I have shown that working with the General Assembly I am able to drive change to make government more accountable and more transparent,” said Johnson in an Associated Press interview this past November. 

For attorney general, Republicans have three choices for their nomination. Jim O’Neill, Sam Hayes and Christine Mumma are all running for this position. Forsyth County District Attorney since November 2009,  O’Neill wants to crack down on chronic criminal offenders and sex offenders. He spearheaded the Elder Abuse Task Force to protect North Carolina’s oldest, and arguably most vulnerable, citizens. Mumma, Executive Director of North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, set herself apart with her opposition of the death penalty while maintaining a strong sense of justice. Hayes, former attorney for the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer and Department of Environmental Quality, was the strongest candidate in the January 18 Debate on WRAL’s “On the Record.” Hands down, he is the best option for the Repubican party and, more importantly, the state of North Carolina.

Anthony Wayne (Tony) Street and Tim Hoegemeyer are both running for the Republican nomination for state auditor. While both would be a strong conservative voice for the position, Hoegemeyer has the experience needed to excel.  Hoegemeyer has overseen the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Investigative Division in the Office of the State Auditor for over 12 years. He is also a Marine Corp veteran. Street has served two terms on the Brunswick County Soil and Water Board. 

“If elected I will use the office of State Auditor to ensure that all of our state’s agencies spend our tax dollars in the most conservative, effective and efficient manner as possible,” said  Street on his campaign website. 

For the N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, Republicans have two candidates for the nomination; Ronald Pierce and Mike Causey.  Pierce, author of “Pissed Off,” is wishing to fight the North Carolina Department of Insurance and insurance companies from within. A military veteran,  Causey has served as the commissioner since 2017. He is, without a doubt, the best candidate for the job. He hopes to continue to advocate for more competition within the insurance industry, improved efficiency and greater accessibility. 

Chuck Stanley, Josh Dobson and Pearl Burris Floyd are running for the Republican nomination for N.C. Commissioner of Labor. Cherie K. Berry, the current commissioner, is stepping down at the end of her term. The Commissioner of Labor is responsible for combating wage theft, the rights of workers and educating the public about their rights as an employee. Regardless of who wins in November, there will be a new face in elevators across the state. 

For the Republican nomination for N.C. Secretary of State, E.C. Sykes, Chad Brown and Michael LaPaglia are running.Sykes, a businessman of various public and private companies, wants to create common sense policies that honor the rule of law. A former Toronto Blue Jays player,  Brown serves as Elected Chairman of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners. Brown wants to boost economic development and reduce tax rates as Secretary. LaPaglia aims to reduce regulations that are burdensome for businesses in North Carolina. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of North Carolina’s economy and we need a conservative in the Secretary of State’s office that will… work to get government out of the way and allow entrepreneurs and businesses owners to thrive,” said LaPaglia, according to his campaign website. 

Based on where students live, they may be eligible to nominate a candidate for a House of Representatives seat. In N.C. House of Representatives district 36, which includes Athens Drive students, Republicans can pick between Gil Pagan and Kim Coley.

Democratic Primary

For those voting in the Democratic Party Primary, they can vote for three federal offices, six state offices and three county offices. Voters select their Presidential Preference and U.S. Senate nominee. Voters may choose between Deval Patrick, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, Joseph R. Biden, Michael R. Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John K. Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar for their Presidential preference. While all of these people will appear on the March ballot, many of them have dropped out, including at least seven of the candidates. The President of the United States is responsible for enforcing the laws and recommending legislation to Congress. 

For the U.S. Senate nomination in the primary, Democratic voters may choose between Erica D. Smith, Steve Swenson, Cal Cunningham, Trevor M. Fuller and Atul Goel. Cunningham is focused on extending coverage under the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid and creating a public health insurance option. 

“One of the most frequent issues I hear about as I travel across the state is the urgent need to improve access and bring down the cost of healthcare for families, and I am committed to achieving those goals,” said Cunningham according to Vote411. 

Fuller believes that everyone deserves an affordable home, a living wage, healthcare for all, universal pre-K and a sustainable planet. He aims to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Goel, a retired family physician, believes lack of affordable access to healthcare is the greatest issue facing our country today. He promises to work across party lines to find common sense solutions to this issue. Smith, a current N.C. State Senator, believes that economic justice and rural/urban infrastructure development and revitalization is the most important action for her to accomplish in her first year as a U.S. Senator. Swenson is the only candidate in the primary who has not pledged to not take corporate PAC money. While Cunningham seems to be leading the pack, a poll by Public Policy Polling found that 52 percent of voters remain undecided. 

Some Athens Drive students will be eligible to vote in the US House of Representatives district two race. This district includes parts of Cary, Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina. George Holding, who currently represents this district, is retiring. The Democratic candidates for this position include Deborah K. Ross, Andrew (Andy) Terrell, Monika Johnson-Hostler and Ollie Oneal Nelson. A former Marine and educator, Nelson aims to enact legislation related to climate change, immigration reform, increase the minimum wage and Medicare reform. Ross, an attorney and NC Representative, believes her experience in economic development and infrastructure will help to increase job development in North Carolina. Additionally, she cites that 92 percent of her bills in the NC Legislature became laws. She plans to continue to work across the aisle in Washington. A supporter of the Green New Deal, Terrell plans to pass legislation to lead North Carolina towards 100 percent renewable energy. Executive Director of North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Johnson-Hostler aims to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and the Violence Against Women Act. She plans to combat “information bubbles” due to their contribution to the political polarization in America today. The constitutionality of her plan remains to be seen. 

I would co-sponsor a revamped Fairness Doctrine, that requires news coverage to be unbiased and factually based. I would break up and regulate the conglomerates that push disinformation that harms our Republic. News monopolies, Facebook, Youtube,” said Johnson-Hostler. 

Democrats can vote for their gubernatorial candidate March 3. While Roy Cooper is expected to win by all accounts, he faces a challenger in the primary. Ernest T. Reeves, a retired military officer, plans to prioritize the safety and security of North Carolinians if elected Commander In Chief of the National Guard and Chief Executive Officer. Incumbent Governor Cooper plans to continue to bring jobs to North Carolina, especially in rural communities with his Hometown Strong initiative. 

“I want a North Carolina where people are better educated, healthier, have more money in their pockets, and have the opportunity to live lives of purpose and abundance,” said Governor Cooper. 

Six Democrats are running for Lieutenant Governor including Allen Thomas, Bill Toole, Terry Van Duyn, Chaz Beasley, Yvonne Lewis Holley and Ron Newton. A lawyer and NC Representative for District 92, Beasley plans to combat the financial and social roadblocks placed in the way of working families, particularly families of color. Holley, a four-term NC Representative for District 38, plans to further develop her Affordable Living Initiative if elected. 

Ending poverty, specifically the many social and racial inequities that oppress economic mobility, is the cornerstone of Thomas’ campaign. Toole plans to prioritize education throughout the state, specifically strengthening community colleges and high school vocational programs. Van Duyn, a three-term NC Senator, aims to make public education our top priority, expand Medicaid and create more jobs. Newton, a tax professional, has a unifying message to voters. 

“Since 2009 I have traveled across the State of North Carolina and campaigned hard to address issues that affect all people. I know that all politics are local, and I look forward to continuing the fight. My goal will always be to provide solutions and not empty promises,” said Newton.

The NC Superintendent of Public Instruction serves on the North Carolina State Board of Education and is head of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Five democrats are running for this position including Keith A. Sutton, James Barrett, Constance (Lav) Johnson, Michael Maher and Jen Mangrum. Barrett’s first priority in office would be to reduce testing overall and create standards-based grading for statewide testing. Johnson would work to decrease the technology gap among students throughout the state while also raising the standard of living for teachers. Former high school science teacher and assistant dean of professional education at NC State University, Maher plans to focus on the ideals of equity, excellence, and innovation. Sutton plans to focus on working with the NC Legislature to increase funding for public schools. Mangrum aims to focus on uplifting majority-minority schools and schools with large numbers of children living in poverty. 

 “In order to best serve all 115 districts I will need to learn as much as possible about each district and I will commit to spending at least one day a week in NC public schools. It is imperative that our lowest performing schools see the Superintendent in their buildings. I want them to know I will work side by side to make improvements that enhance teaching and learning,” said Mangrum. 

Dimple Ajmera, Ronnie Chatterji and Matt Leatherman are running for NC Treasurer. The chief financial officer and official banker for the state, the Treasurer manages the state’s retirement system, investments and unclaimed property. Additionally, they provide financial support to local governments.Two-term Charlotte City Councilwoman and CPA, Ajmera plans to prioritize sustainable infrastructure development and affordable healthcare for state employees on the State Health Plan. Chatterji believes his experience as a business professor at Duke University and senior economist at the White House has prepared him to secure North Carolina’s financial future. He plans to improve the North Carolina Retirement System and create individual retirement accounts for every North Carolinian. Leatherman argues he is the only candidate who has worked in this office before. If elected, he plans to improve healthcare, increase teacher pay and manage bonds throughout the state effectively. 

Luis A. Toledo and Beth A. Wood are running for the Democratic nomination for NC Auditor, which oversees the financial accounts of all state government agencies. Toledo, former Assistant State Auditor, plans to proactively identify areas of need throughout the state and increase audit efficiency. Wood, seeking her fourth term as State Auditor, plans to continue to perform audits that highlight wasteful spending within state agencies. These funds, she argued, can be diverted to areas of need without increasing government spending. Wood is the first woman to ever be elected to this office.

Walter Smith, Jenna Wadsworth and Donovan Alexander Watson are running for the Democratic nomination for NC Commissioner of Agriculture. Smith plans to ensure an adequate and safe food supply, responsibly manage natural resources and work to save farm farms. 

“We need a well rounded commissioner who understands the needs of both rural and urban areas. The North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services has more impact on the daily lives of our citizens than any other state department and that is why every responsibility within the department must be addressed,” said Smith. 

Wadsworth, Vice Chair of the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District, plans to lead on climate change, support family farmers and advocate for hemp and cannabis legalization. She, among the other candidates, took issue with the performance of the current Commissioner Steve Troxler. 

Some Athens Drive students may be eligible to vote in county elections as well. Voters may cast their vote on the best candidates for Board of Commissioners District One and District Three. Additionally, they may choose between Tammy L. Brunner and William L. (Bill) Madden for Register of Deeds.

Regardless of which candidate voters choose in the March primary, it is paramount that this person best represents their values. Many voters complain in November that the candidates do not represent them well. The best way to prevent disillusionment in the general election is to vote in the primaries. Tell political parties which candidates are best. In the wise words of The West Wing’s President Josiah Bartlet, “decisions are made by those who show up.”