With 2020 approaching faster than some of us may have imagined (or hoped), Politics NC has developed a feature to track the current and potential candidates for the presidential race and North Carolina’s elections for Congress, the Council of State, and the state appellate courts.

This feature was last updated on May 14, 2019.

If you have information regarding potential candidates for elections mentioned in this article, please contact darren.janz@gmail.com.

          In January, I identified the following fifty-four Democratic candidates as potential contenders for their party’s 2020 nomination. Since then, most have announced whether they will or will not run – names in bold have declared they will run, italicized names are yet to declare, underlined names have announced they will not run, and asterisked names have declared bids but since dropped out. Candidates are sorted by their most recent notable occupation.

Democratic Presidential Primary Candidates Tracker

U.S. Senators Governors Obama Administration
Elizabeth Warren (MA)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
Kamala Harris (CA)
Cory Booker (NJ)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Bernie Sanders (VT)
Mike Gravel (AK)

Michael Bennet (CO)
Sherrod Brown (OH)
Jeff Merkley (OR)

Chris Murphy (CT)
Bob Casey (PA)
Tim Kaine (VA)
Jay Inslee (WA)
John Hickenlooper (CO
Steve Bullock (MT)
Terry McAuliffe (VA)
Martin O’Malley (MD)
Andrew Cuomo (NY)
Deval Patrick (MA)
Joe Biden (DE)
Julian Castro (TX)
Hillary Clinton (NY)
Michelle Obama (IL)
John Kerry (MA)
Eric Holder (DC)
U.S. Representatives Mayors Businesspeople
John Delaney (MD)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI)

Beto O’Rourke (TX)
Tim Ryan (OH)

Eric Swalwell (CA)
Seth Moulton (MA)
Joe Kennedy III (MA)
Pete Buttigieg (IN)
Wayne Messam (FL)

Bill de Blasio (NY)
Michael Bloomberg (NY)
Andrew Gillum (FL)

Eric Garcetti (CA)
Mitch Landrieu (LA)
Andrew Yang (NY)
Joseph Sanberg (CA)
Howard Schultz (WA)
Tom Steyer (CA)

Mark Cuban (TX)
State Legislators Statewide Elected Officials Celebrities
Stacey Abrams (GA)
*Richard Ojeda (WV)*
Jason Kander (MO) Marianne Williamson (CA)
Oscar De La Hoya (CA)

Oprah Winfrey (CA)
Angelina Jolie (CA)
Dwayne Johnson (FL)
Michael Avenatti (CA)

            I further identified fourteen potential Republican candidates – again, names in bold are running, italicized names are yet to declare, underlined names have announced they will not run, and asterisked names have declared bids but since dropped out. 

Republican Presidential Primary Candidates Tracker

Trump Administration Governors U.S. Senators U.S. Representatives Political Analysts
Donald Trump (NY)
Mike Pence (IN)
Nikki Haley (SC)
Bill Weld (MA)
John Kasich (OH)
Larry Hogan (MD)
Charlie Baker (MA)
Bob Corker (TN)
Ben Sasse (NE)
Jeff Flake (AZ)
Ted Cruz (TX)
Mitt Romney (UT)
Paul Ryan (WI) Bill Kristol (VA)

            In addition, the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Party nominees will have ballot access in North Carolina, and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is further considering an independent presidential bid.

U.S. Senate

          North Carolina’s Class II United States Senate seat is up in 2020, and both parties have identified the race as a must-win to control the chamber.

          On the Republican side, incumbent Thom Tillis is the clear frontrunner, although he may forgo seeking reelection in favor of returning to state politics. Tillis faces primary challenges from accountant Sandy Smith and businessman Garland TuckerOther potential GOP challengers include those who ran against Senator Richard Burr in his 2016 primary – physician Greg Brannon, retired Judge Paul Wright, and businessman Larry Holmquist. Of course, if Tillis declines to seek another term, other candidates will enter the race.

          The Democratic field is much more open. So far, two Democrats – state Senator Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller – have announced their bids. Former state Senator Eric Mansfield is also exploring a run. Speculative candidates include former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, former state Treasurer Janet Cowell, state Senators Jeff Jackson and Dan Blue, state Representatives Rachel HuntGrier Martin, Graig Meyer, and Brian Turner, former state Representative Linda Coleman, former UNC System President Tom Ross, 2018 and 2019 CD-09 nominee Dan McCready, and 2018 CD-13 nominee Kathy Manning. The Democratic candidates who challenged Richard Burr in 2016 – Deborah Ross, Chris Rey, Kevin Griffin, and Ernest Reeves – may also run again. 

U.S. House of Representatives

         Special elections for the 3rd and 9th districts will occur in 2019, with all thirteen of North Carolina’s U.S. House seats up again in 2020. However, North Carolina’s district map was struck down in federal court as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, so unless legislators’ appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is successful, the 2020 elections will occur using new boundaries. Either way, the 2019 special elections will take place using current boundaries. Of course, if the districts are redrawn ahead of 2020, the candidates for each seat will change substantially.

District 1

          Incumbent Democrat G. K. Butterfield, now part of the House majority’s leadership, will likely seek another term in this majority-minority district. Republican Roger Allison, who challenged Butterfield in 2018, is another potential candidate.

District 2

          Incumbent Republican George Holding is the frontrunner in this potentially competitive GOP-leaning seat. Retired Marine Scott Cooper (D) has announced he will challenge Holding in 2020. Holding’s 2018 challengers included Republican Allen Chesser and Democrats Linda Coleman, Ken Romley, and Wendy May.

District 3

          In this year’s special election for the seat of late Congressman Walter Jones, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas won the April 30 Democratic primary, while state Representative Greg Murphy and pediatrician Joan Perry will face off in a runoff for the Republican nomination. Tim Harris won the Libertarian primary, and Greg Holt won the Constitution Party nomination without opposition. The GOP primary runoff will occur on July 9 and the general election on September 10, with a regularly-scheduled election for the next full term to occur in 2020.

District 4

          Incumbent Democrat David Price has yet to declare his intentions for 2020. Candidates who challenged Price in 2018 include Democrat Michelle Law, Democrat Richard Watkins, and Republican Steve Von Loor. Price will be the clear frontrunner in this strongly Democratic district if he chooses to run again, but if he retires, expect a large field of Democratic contenders to enter the race.

District 5

          Incumbent Republican Virginia Foxx is the frontrunner in this strongly Republican seat. Foxx’s 2018 challengers included Republicans Dillon Gentry and Cortland Meader and Democrats DD Adams and Jenny Marshall.

District 6

          Incumbent Republican Mark Walker is the frontrunner in this strongly GOP seat. Walker’s 2018 challengers included Democrats Ryan Watts and Gerald Wong.

District 7

          Incumbent Republican David Rouzer is the frontrunner in this strongly GOP seat. Rouzer’s 2018 challengers included Democrats Kyle Horton and Grayson Parker.

District 8

          Incumbent Republican Richard Hudson is the frontrunner in this strongly GOP seat. Hudson’s 2018 challengers included Democrats Frank McNeill, Mark Tiegel, and Scott Huffman, who has announced he will run for the seat again.

District 9

          A special election for this seat will occur in 2019, with an election for the next full term in 2020. The filing period has ended, and three candidates have emerged as their parties’ default nominees – Dan McCready (D), Jeff Scott (L), and Allen Smith (G). The GOP field, meanwhile, includes ten candidates – businesswoman Stevie Rivenbark, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, former state Senator Fern Shubert, retired oncologist Albert Lee Wiley Jr., attorney Chris Anglin, state Senator Dan Bishop, realtor Leigh Thomas Brown, realtor Kathie C. Day, and businessman Gary Dunn.

District 10

          Incumbent Republican Patrick McHenry is the frontrunner in this strongly GOP seat. McHenry’s 2018 challengers included Democrat David Brown and Republicans Gina Collias, Jeff Gregory, Ira Roberts, Seth Blankenship, and Albert Wiley.

District 11

          Incumbent Republican Mark Meadows is the frontrunner in this strongly GOP seat. Meadows’ 2018 challengers included Democrats Philip Price, Scott Donaldson, and Steve Woodsmall, who has announced he will run for the seat again.

District 12

          Incumbent Democrat Alma Adams is the frontrunner in this strongly Democratic seat. Adams’ 2018 challengers included Democrats Keith Young, Patrick Register, and Gabe Ortiz and Republicans Paul Wright, Paul Bonham, and Carl Persson.

District 13

          Incumbent Republican Ted Budd is the frontrunner in this potentially competitive GOP-leaning seat. Budd’s 2018 challengers included Democrats Kathy Manning and Adam Coker.

          The ten statewide elected officials of North Carolina’s Council of State, last elected in 2016, are all up again in 2020.


          Democratic Governor Roy Cooper will face little intraparty opposition in his reelection bid, save a potential challenge from 2016 primary contender Ken Spaulding.

          On the Republican side, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest is the clear frontrunner, although state Representative Holly Grange is also considering a bid. Former Governor Pat McCrory, United States Senator Thom Tillis, and state Senate President pro tempore Phil Berger are outside possibilities.

Lieutenant Governor

          With incumbent Dan Forest (R) term-limited, this open race will serve as a proxy for who will seek the Executive Mansion in 2024 and beyond. On the Democratic side, six candidates have announced – state Senator Terry Van Duyn, former State Senator Cal Cunningham, state Representative Chaz Beasley, state Representative Yvonne Holley, Hoke County Commissioner Allen Thomas, and former Belmont City Councilman Bill Toole. Former state Senator Malcolm Graham is also exploring a bid. Of the four Democrats who sought the office in 2016, two – Robert Wilson and Ronald Newton – have not ruled out another run.

          On the Republican side, former Mt. Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran, former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, and former state Representative Scott Stone have announced their candidacies, while potential contenders include state Representative Mark Brody, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, attorney Neal Robbins, restaurateur Buddy Bengel, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, state House Speaker Tim Moore, former Democratic state Senator Joel Ford, and realtor Clark Twiddy.

Attorney General

          Incumbent Democrat Josh Stein is running for reelection. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, who lost the GOP primary for Attorney General in 2016, will seek the office again. Other 2016 candidates who may run again include Republican Buck Newton – the 2016 GOP nominee – and Democrat Marcus Williams.

Secretary of State

          Longtime incumbent Elaine Marshall will run for another term in 2020. Her 2016 GOP challenger, Michael LaPaglia, has announced he is seeking a rematch, and Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown is also in the race for the Republican nomination. Republican AJ Daoud, who LaPaglia defeated in the 2016 primary, may also run again.


          Incumbent Dale Folwell (R) will likely run for reelection. Potential Democratic challengers include former Department of State Treasurer Policy Director Matt Leatherman, Duke University business professor Ronnie Chatterji, and former Vice President of First Citizens Bank Ron Elmer. Could former state Treasurer Janet Cowell (D) seek to reclaim her old office?


          Incumbent Democrat Beth Wood is running for reelection in 2020. She was challenged in 2016 by Republican Chuck Stuber.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

          Incumbent Mark Johnson (R) has not announced his plans for 2020, but he may run for Lieutenant Governor rather than seek another term as superintendent.

         So far, six Democratic challengers have emerged – Wake County School Board member Keith Sutton, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board member James Barrett, UNC-Greensboro professor Jen Mangrum (Phil Berger’s 2018 opponent), North Carolina State University Assistant Dean for Professional Education Michael Maher, Department of Public Instruction division director Amy Jablonski, and consultant Constance Johnson. Speculative Democratic candidates include North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who lost to Johnson in 2016.

         Other unsuccessful 2016 candidates for this office included Democrat Henry Pankey and Republicans Rosemary Stein and Wesley Sills.

Commissioner of Agriculture

          Incumbent Steve Troxler (R) has not announced his intentions for 2020. Declared Democratic candidates include Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Jenna Wadsworth, while potential Democratic contenders include 2016 Democratic nominee Walter Smith and businessman David Wheeler. Republican Andy Stevens, who challenged Troxler in the 2016 GOP primary, may also run again.

Commissioner of Labor

          Incumbent Cherie Berry (R) is not seeking another term. On the GOP side, state Representative Josh Dobson has announced a bid, while state Representative Nelson Dollar is rumored to be considering one. Declared Democratic candidates, meanwhile, include Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Jessica Holmes and attorney Eva Lee. Berry was challenged in 2016 by Democrats Charles Meeker and Mazie Ferguson, either of whom may run again.

Commissioner of Insurance

          Incumbent Republican Mike Causey, a perennial candidate whose 2016 win was widely seen as incidental, has not announced his plans for 2020. Some have suggested Causey will retire and allow another Department of Insurance official – perhaps Chief Deputy Commissioner Michelle Osborne – to win the GOP nomination. Causey was challenged in the 2016 Republican primary by Joe McLaughlin and Ronald Pierce, either of whom may also run again. In the 2016 general election, Causey narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Wayne Goodwin, who later become chair of the state Democratic Party and has indicated he will seek to reclaim his old office.

          The seven justices of the state Supreme Court and the fifteen judges of the state Court of Appeals are each elected statewide to staggered eight-year terms.

          On the Supreme Court, Democrats now have a 6-1 majority, with the resignation of Chief Judge Mark Martin (R) in early 2019 triggering Governor Cooper’s appointment of Associate Justice Cheri Beasley (D) to the Chief Justice’s seat and Court of Appeals Judge Mark Davis (D) to Beasley’s former Associate Justice seat. Both Beasley and Davis will have to defend their seats in 2020 special elections. In addition, the seat of Associate Justice Paul Newby (the only remaining Republican on the court) is regularly scheduled to be up in 2020. Thus, voters can expect three of the seven Supreme Court seats to be on the ballot next November, with potential outcomes ranging from a 7-0 Democratic sweep to a slim 4-3 Democratic majority. 

         On the Court of Appeals, Democrats boast an 8-7 majority, with Governor Cooper having appointed Judge Chris Brook (D) and Judge Reuben Young (D) to the bench after Judge Mark Davis (D) was elevated to the Supreme Court and Judge Robert Hunter (R) reached retirement age. Both of Cooper’s appointees will face voters in 2020, as will three more judges (two Democrats and one Republican) regularly scheduled to be on the ballot. The five elections to occur in 2020 mean the Court of Appeals may see outcomes ranging from a 9-6 Democratic majority to a 11-4 GOP majority.

Supreme Court – Beasley Seat (Special Election)

         Governor Roy Cooper appointed Associate Justice Cheri Beasley (D) to fill the Chief Justice’s seat previously occupied by Mark Martin (R), triggering a special election for Chief Justice in 2020. Associate Justice Paul Newby (R), the most senior Associate Justice, is also running for the seat. Newby’s current Associate Justice seat is already up in 2020, so he will either be elected Chief Justice or leave the court altogether.

Supreme Court – Davis Seat (Special Election)

          Governor Roy Cooper appointed Court of Appeals Judge Mark Davis (D) to the Associate Justice seat vacated by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D), so Davis will be on the ballot in a 2020 special election. Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. (R) and former state Senator Tamara Barringer (R) have announced they will run for Supreme Court in 2020, although either of them may choose to seek the other Associate Justice seat (see below). Court of Appeals Judge Donna Stroud (R) is also exploring a run.

Supreme Court – Newby Seat

          In the only Supreme Court race regularly scheduled for 2020, Justice Paul Newby (R) – the last Republican on the court after Chief Justice Mark Martin’s resignation – is expected to run for Chief Justice. Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman (D), Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. (R), and former state Senator Tamara Barringer (R) have announced they will run for Supreme Court in 2020, although either of the Republicans may instead seek the seat of Justice Mark Davis (see above). Court of Appeals Judge Donna Stroud (R) is also exploring a run.

Court of Appeals – McGee Seat

          Incumbent Chief Judge Linda McGee (D) is unlikely to seek another term, as she would hit the mandatory retirement age of seventy-two years shortly thereafter.

Court of Appeals – Bryant Seat

          Incumbent Democrat Wanda Bryant has not announced her plans for 2020.

Court of Appeals – Dillon Seat

          Incumbent Republican Chris Dillon has not announced his plans for 2020.

Court of Appeals – Brook Seat (Special Election)

          Judge Chris Brook (D) was appointed to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals by Governor Cooper in 2019 and will face voters in a 2020 special election.

Court of Appeals – Young Seat (Special Election)

         Judge Reuben Young (D) was appointed to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals by Governor Cooper in 2019 and will face voters in a 2020 special election.


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