One of the crowded Democratic primary races in North Carolina next March will be the contest for lieutenant governor. There are five declared candidates already, profiled below, with more very possible once the filing period opens in December.
Terry Van Duyn, a state senator (District 49, Buncombe County) since 2014, was the first Democrat into this race, announcing back on December 10, 2018. She's a boomer, born in 1952, and one of three boomers in this primary (pitted against two millennial black men -- see below). Van Duyn grew up in Chicago, earned a degree in economics from the University of Illinois, and moved to Asheville with her husband and two children in 1992. She became a schools activist as well as a political organizer. She was appointed to her Senate seat following the death of Senator Martin Nesbitt and was elected minority whip in her first term. She was last reelected in 2018 with over 63% of the vote. In March of this year she introduced the act whereby North Carolina would ratify the dormant Equal Rights Amendment, an initiative which Senate President Phil Berger immediately consigned to death by strangulation in the Rules Committee. Her endorsements (touted on her website) include State Auditor Beth Woods and former Attorney General Rufus Edmisten, and I can't help supposing that she's the anointed one among the Democratic Party establishment, based on her status in the senate. But despite an obvious head start for networking prominent Democratic Party leaders across the state, she had been out-raised by fellow candidate Bill Toole by July (see below). From the evidence posted on her Facebook page, she seems to be getting around the state a little more energetically than her rivals for the nomination.
While the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina doesn't deliver the mail, or much of anything else, the office can be a steppingstone to something more dynamic. Van Duyn's website is perhaps the most completely built-out of any of her rivals, though when I last visited, there were broken buttons on the homepage. Since the lieutenant governor is primarily a way-station for politicians headed on up, she's got to convince Democratic voters that she's a good bet for governor down the line. A strong video presence will help that impression.
Yvonne Lewis Holley announced her candidacy on February 27, 2019. She's a boomer also born in 1952. She grew up in Wake County, was a front-line elementary student in the desegregation of the Raleigh school system, excelled and went to Howard University. She spent her entire working career in state government, retiring as a state procurement and contract agent. She ran for and easily won her seat in the NC House (majority-black District 38) in 2012 and has never gotten less than 79.9% of the vote in any of her reelections. She's not been "a mover and a shaker" in the House. She represents an older style of black politician -- reverent of institutions, a calming presence, standing respectfully but with a spine made of hardened steel. She's very much in the moderate tradition of her father, J.D. Lewis, the first African-American TV broadcaster in the Raleigh/Durham market and Director of Minority Affairs for WRAL-TV (which had also been the editorial home until 1972 of one Jesse Helms). J.D. Lewis "is remembered today as having contributed significantly to the positive dialogue between polarized sectors during an epic time in the nation’s history" (Holley's website).
Holley has a too barebones website (which unaccountably doesn't provide links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts), but she makes a good video impression and should do more:
Yvonne Lewis Holley for Lt. Governor from Watricia Shuler on Vimeo.
Allen Thomas Jr. announced his candidacy on March 5, 2019. He was elected to the Hoke County Commission (Raeford) in 2014, the youngest at the time ever elected in that county, and he was reelected to another four-year term in 2018. A millennial born in 1987, he emphasizes his toughness, his fighting spirit, and attributes it to a hard-knocks upbringing by an elementary schoolteacher mother and a drug-addicted father. While Thomas was a student at East Carolina University in 2008, his father became a fugitive from the brutal stabbing death of his mother, which became a life passage for Allen Thomas that few have experienced and fewer still have successfully navigated. Thomas rose above the tragedy and has clearly determined to do good in this world. After his mother's murder he chose to go public about domestic violence and work with communities to prevent it. He earns his living as a youth counselor for the NC Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. As a county commissioner and following Hurricane Matthew, Thomas successfully advocated to allocate $100,000 of county funds to go to food vouchers for victims while the federal government diddled for weeks to approve disaster food stamp benefits. He became locally famous in Pitt County soon after his announcement of candidacy last March when he held off multiple home-invaders (they may have been squatters he surprised in the act) in a second residence he leases in Greenville. The details were covered by the Fayetteville Observer. Thomas recorded the entire event on his cell phone, which he shared with the reporter. Makes for good reading!
Thomas announces on his website a statewide "car giveaway" campaign to provide affordable transportation to the working poor who often can't get jobs because they lack a vehicle. "Thomas grew up in a home with one car. He remembers waiting for his father to return home so that he could go to his little league baseball game. Tears rolled down his face as he realized that he would miss the game because he didn’t have transportation" (Thomas website). It's an interesting gimmick because it does help individual people but also shines a light on "the many issues facing everyday people." So far the Thomas campaign is mighty thin on social media. He has a Facebook page but no Twitter. He has a long way to go to catch up with his better known competitors. For example, for much of the bio sketched above, I had to dig deep into secondary sources because his official bio omits most of it.
Bill Toole, until recently a Charlotte environmental lawyer with Robinson Bradshaw Hinson -- he took a leave from his firm and announced on March 14, 2019. He's another boomer, born in 1959. He grew up in Winston-Salem, earned his law degree at Wake Forest, and served a term as city councillor in Belmont, a Gaston County suburb of Charlotte, from 2009-2013. He was also the chair of the Gaston County Democratic Party. Not surprisingly, environmental protections are high on his priority list, and he may be unique among lieutenant governor candidates for talking about the crisis of global climate change. Also the rare candidate for publicly advocating for the legalization of cannabis. He touts himself as "the progressive" in the race, a bold claim meant to negatively define Terry Van Duyn. In July Toole was leading the pack on fundraising -- $308,331, although $100,000 of that was a loan from the candidate himself. He became prominent while fighting the "corruption" behind a proposed toll road in Gaston County, which he describes in this video:
Toole has been running the most aggressive social media campaign of all the candidates I've surveyed, with a very active Facebook page, peppered with video, and a Twitter account. He's got the money to break open statewide, getting his name known widely, which is what it will take since the lieutenant governor doesn't really have a policy constituency (as such).
Chaz Beasley announced his candidacy on March 21, 2019. A millennial lawyer trained at Harvard and Georgetown Law School, Beasley became a success in Charlotte with the Alston and Bird law firm in the high-octane world of finance and debt management for corporations and financial institutions. He's serving his second term in the NC House, representing the south Mecklenburg District 92. He's originally from our neck of the woods. He was raised by a single mother in Alexander and Catawba counties, graduated from Newton-Conover High School as valedictorian.
The office of Lieutenant Governor is notoriously un-demanding, so the Beasley academic brilliance might be more enervated than energized by the office. Beasley is running on steppingstone ideas: "...expanding affordable health care and working to create more high quality jobs." Etc. Standard Democratic boilerplate. He did introduce and was chief sponsor for HB393, "Modernizing Sexual Assault Laws," which makes it illegal to tamper with someone’s drink or to have sex with an incapacitated person even if the person was responsible for causing that condition. It passed the House unanimously -- a feather in the Beasley hat. Beasley's reforms eventually passed the Senate too this year, after getting importantly expanded in scope. Governor Cooper signed the omnibus bill into law on Halloween as "The Right to Revoke Consent and Modernizing Sexual Assault Laws." Beasley has also been the lead sponsor on the complete repeal of HB2, and he's introduced bills on workforce rights and affordable housing finance. He's reform-minded, no doubt about it, which might productively become the identity of his candidacy. He has his eye on the jail bond industry and introduced a bill to investigate how it operates and at whose expense.
Beasley has both Twitter and Facebook, but neither contributes much to an impression of the candidate. While upping his game on social media, he needs a video presence. When he gets on camera, why not build the persona of a millennial reformer who's had success but still must fight hard against hostile forces and age-old inertia? Lieutenant Governor is a vanilla job, but you don't have to be a vanilla candidate to get there.
Helpful and informative piece, Jerry. Thanks for the research.
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