EMERY P. DALESIO
RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Accomplished newcomers and veteran politicians who haven’t run for statewide office are among the seven candidates from the two major political parties vying to be North Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.
The job has limited authority and exists mainly to identify who takes over if something happens to the governor, which has happened five times. The lieutenant governor also presides over the state Senate, sits on the state’s community college and school boards and can be assigned other duties by the governor. The job pays $123,198 a year and is considered a stepping stone to higher office.
Lieutenant governors are elected independently from governors and the two offices can be held by members of opposing political parties.
The primary is May 8.
As Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton seeks his party’s nomination for governor, two Democrats are facing off for his job: former state personnel director Linda Coleman of Knightdale and state Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville.
Coleman served as a Wake County commissioner and as a state representative for three terms. She was the state personnel director until stepping down to campaign earlier this year.
Coleman, 62, advocates shifting state money to train a people for manufacturing jobs that attract businesses. Job-training programs are outdated, poorly coordinated and underfunded, she said.
“Many manufacturing companies right here in North Carolina have job openings because we don’t have a skilled work force to fill the positions,” she said.
Coleman said she wants to grow future industries rather than recruit individual companies with special incentives.
Mansfield, 47, is in his first two-year term in the state Senate, his first elected office. He earned a medical degree on an ROTC scholarship, was a regimental medical officer in Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division and is a practicing ear, nose and throat specialist.
Mansfield said he has worked with people of all backgrounds. He said he would fight to protect the social safety net that protects the poor, and to make sure schools have the money needed to turn out the well-educated workforce that companies say they need.
“Almost all of my experience is outside of public office, but I have seen enough of the broken politics in Raleigh to know it must change,” Mansfield said.
Five candidates are running on the Republican side.
They include state Rep. Dale Folwell, a 53-year-old accountant, private investor and financial advisor in his fourth term. The Winston-Salem lawmaker is the second-ranking Republican in the House, now controlled by the GOP.
“People don’t care for politics or politicians but it’s a means to an end of something they care about,” Folwell said.
Folwell’s son was killed in 1999 by a car that was passing the boy’s stopped school bus, and the lawmaker’s legislative efforts have featured traffic safety, law enforcement and organ donations. He also played a leading role in the General Assembly placing on the May ballot a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. He also led on the Legislature approving changes to the state’s workers’ compensation law and allowing prosecutors to charge those who kill a pregnant woman with the manslaughter or murder of an unborn child in addition to the pregnant woman.
He said he is trained to find ways to save taxpayers money. He warned that the state faces a collection of debts largely invisible to the public for state employee pensions, health care and unemployment obligations to the federal government.
“This debt bomb will mathematically crowd out all other needs for the next generation,” Folwell said.
Dan Forest, 44, of Raleigh is a former architect and the son of retiring U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a former Charlotte mayor. He headed a conservative non-profit that’s served as his vehicle for appearances at GOP events the past two years and founded a Christian organization for young families. He’s produced a long list of issue positions, and like Myrick advocates a tough stance on illegal immigration.
“I believe that no company that hires illegal aliens should receive public contracts,” he said. English should be the country’s official language, every company should be required to check whether potential employees are legal U.S. residents, every county jail should be required to check the immigration status of suspects at booking. He says illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to attend the state’s community colleges, as they are now if they pay the full cost of their education and get last choice at classroom slots.
Forest said he would use his position on the state school board to encourage home-schooling, as well as private and charter-schools.
“I believe it’s time to end the education monopoly that the government holds over our education system,” he said.
He also wants to eventually eliminate the state’s corporate income tax, but sharply cut tax rates in the meantime. Forest also would seek to end all government incentives to targeted companies.
Rep. Grey Mills, 46, is a Mooresville attorney and former public school teacher who has represented Iredell County in the state House for two terms. He also supports cutting corporate and personal income tax rates, a change he says would stimulate job growth. He supports a constitutional amendment that would take decision-making away from legislators and enforce a limit on state spending so that it grows no faster than the state’s population and inflation.
Mills said he’ll also champion worker training programs offered at community colleges and paying teachers based on merit, measured by the performance on their students.
Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley, 56, has been on the board since 2002, owns a Raleigh pharmacy and is a partner in a Raleigh law firm he established, though he doesn’t practice law. He said his service in local government allows him to understand the impact of state-level decisions.
Gurley said he wants to bring Tea Party values to Raleigh and would help parents educate their children in more charter schools or with tuition tax credits allowing them to afford private schools. Gurley said his small-business background tops the experience that Mills and Forest tout.
“My small business background is where I opened a business, managed a business, make up the budget, meet the budget, sign the paychecks,” Gurley said.
If he won at the same time a Democrat was elected governor, Gurley said he would fulfill his duties, treat the job as part-time and return half of his state salary.
“If I’m not able to pursue the projects that I find interesting and of benefit to the state, then that’s when you could declare that it’s just a part-time position,” Gurley said. “I can make more money filling prescriptions than I can as a lieutenant governor anyway.”
Arthur Jason Rich, 35, a Bladen County tax accountant, believes state government should encourage existing companies to grow rather than chasing relocating companies. His goals are to find new money for education so that teachers, along with other state employees, can get pay raises. He sees the lieutenant governor’s job as a “lobbyist for the people.”
“It’s a limited role, but you’re going to have to spread yourself around to help,” Rich said. “Traditional politicians have got us in this mess and what we need is someone who is not traditional.”
Emery Dalesio can be reached at – http://twitter.com/emerydalesio
Linda Coleman of Knightdale
Occupation: Stepped down as state personnel director earlier this year.
Occupation: Physician, first-term state senator.
Occupation: accountant, private investor and financial advisor. Second-ranking Republican in state House.
Occupation: Former architect
Occupation: Attorney, two-term state House representative
Occupation: Wake County Commissioner, pharmacist
Arthur Jason Rich
Occupation: tax accountant
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)