With 2020 approaching faster than some of us may have imagined (or hoped), Politics N.C. 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 January 17, 2019.

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

          To develop the most comprehensive list possible, I aggregated the number of times each presidential candidate was mentioned in a set of twenty-five news articles listing potential candidates. A candidate needed only three mentions out of the twenty-five articles to be included in my list. I’m sure some candidates on my list will end up declining a presidential bid, but I hope my list does include all candidates who do run.


          On the Democratic side, fifty names passed my criterion. I’ve sorted the plausible candidates by their most recent notable occupation. Bold candidates have already declared or formed an exploratory committee, italicized candidates are yet to declare, and underlined candidates have declared they will not run.


Democratic Presidential Primary Candidates Tracker

U.S. Senators Governors Obama Administration
Elizabeth Warren (MA)
Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)
Bernie Sanders (VT)
Kamala Harris (CA)
Cory Booker (NJ)
Amy Klobuchar (MN)
Sherrod Brown (OH)
Jeff Merkley (OR)
Michael Bennet (CO)
Bob Casey (PA)
Chris Murphy (CT)
Tim Kaine (VA)
Jay Inslee (WA)
John Hickenlooper (CA)
Steve Bullock (MT)
Terry McAuliffe (VA)
Martin O’Malley (MD)
Andrew Cuomo (NY)
Deval Patrick (MA)
Julian Castro (TX)
Joe Biden (DE)
Eric Holder (DC)
John Kerry (MA)
Hillary Clinton (NY)
Michelle Obama (IL)
U.S. Representatives Mayors Businesspeople
John Delaney (MD)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI)

Beto O’Rourke (TX)
Joe Kennedy (MA)
Eric Swalwell (CA)
Tim Ryan (OH)
Seth Moulton (MA)
Michael Bloomberg (NY)
Eric Garcetti (CA)
Mitch Landrieu (LA)
Bill de Blasio (NY)
Pete Buttigieg (IN)
Andrew Gillum (FL)
Andrew Yang (NY)
Howard Schultz (WA)
Tom Steyer (CA)

Mark Cuban (TX)
State Legislators Statewide Elected Officials Celebrities
Richard Ojeda (WV) Jason Kander (MO) Oscar De La Hoya (CA)
Marianne Williamson (CA)
Oprah Winfrey (CA)
Angelina Jolie (CA)
Dwayne Johnson (FL)
Michael Avenatti (CA)


           I used the same criterion to determine potential candidates for the Republican nomination. Listed below are the twelve candidates mentioned in at least three of twenty-five articles analyzing the Republican primary. Bold candidates have already declared or formed an exploratory committee, italicized candidates are yet to declare, and underlined candidates are among those unlikely to run.

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)
John Kasich (OH)
Charlie Baker (MA)
Jeff Flake (AZ)
Bob Corker (TN)

Ben Sasse (NE)
Ted Cruz (TX)
Mitt Romney (UT)
Paul Ryan (WI) Bill Kristol (VA)

U.S. Senate

          North Carolina’s Class II United States Senate seat is up in 2020, and national Democrats have identified the race as a prime target necessary to retake the chamber.


          On the Republican side, incumbent Senator Thom Tillis is the clear frontrunner, although Tillis may forgo seeking another term in favor of returning to state-level politics. If Tillis does run for reelection, his only major speculative primary challenger is state Senate President pro tempore Phil Berger, who supposedly considered a run against Tillis in 2014. Other Republican challengers may include those who ran against Senator Richard Burr in the 2016 GOP primary – physician Greg Brannon, attorney Paul Wright, and businessman Larry Holmquist. Of course, if Tillis declines to seek another term, other major candidates will enter the race.


          The Democratic field is much more open, with a plethora of candidates hoping to retake the seat lost by Senator Kay Hagan in 2014. So far, two Democrats – Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and attorney Eva Lee – have announced their candidacies, although both will need to focus on cultivating broader name recognition statewide. The more well-known potential challengers are yet to officially enter the race, with State Senator Jeff Jackson and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx seen as the two likely frontrunners. Other speculative candidates include incumbent Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles, state Representatives Grier Martin, Graig Meyer, and Brian Turner, former state Representative Linda Coleman, former UNC System President Tom Ross, former state Treasurer Janet Cowell, attorney Dan Blue III, and philanthropist Kathy Manning. The Democratic candidates who challenged Senator Richard Burr in 2016 – Deborah Ross, Chris Rey, Kevin Griffin, and Ernest Reeves – may also run. 


U.S. House of Representatives

          All thirteen of North Carolina’s seats in the U.S. House are up in 2020, with an additional special election for the 9th District likely to occur in 2019. However, North Carolina’s congressional district map was struck down in federal court last year as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, so unless GOP legislators appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the 2020 elections will occur using new boundaries. A new map will presumably be more favorable to Democrats, who carried only three seats in 2018 despite winning the statewide popular vote in contested races. Either way, the 2019 special election will take place using the current 9th District boundaries. If the districts are redrawn ahead of 2020, the list of 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. Holding’s 2018 challengers included Republican Allen Chesser and Democrats Linda Coleman, Ken Romley, and Wendy May.


District 3

          Incumbent Republican Walter Jones has already declared he will not seek another term in 2020, and his recent health problems suggest a special election for the seat may occur before then. This district is strongly Republican, so the real contest will be in the GOP primary – declared candidates include former Jones primary challenger Phil Law and Dare County Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Paul Wright, while potential candidates include state Senator Harry Brown, state Representatives Greg Murphy and Phil Shepard, and NCGOP Second Vice Chair Michele Nix. Other candidates who challenged Jones in previous Republican primaries include Taylor Griffin and Scott Dacey.


District 4

          Incumbent Democrat David Price, the longest-serving member of the state’s congressional delegation, 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, Scott Huffman, and Marc Tiegel.


District 9

          A special election will likely be held for this now-vacant seat in 2019, with an election for the next full term to occur in 2020. Authorities are yet to determine whether the 2019 special election will include party primaries, but either way, Dan McCready will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee. On the Republican side, Mark Harris will be the nominee if primaries don’t occur, but if they do, he will likely face challengers. Outgoing Congressman Robert Pittenger and former Governor Pat McCrory have declined to run, but other potential GOP contenders do include former Mecklenburg County commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, Charlotte City Councilman Kenny Smith, state Senator Dan Bishop, former state Representatives Bill Brawley, Andy Dulin, and Scott Stone, Union County Republican Party chair Dan Barry, and 2018 GOP primary candidate Clarence Goins.


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, Steve Woodsmall, and Scott Donaldson.


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 is popular within his party and will face little intraparty opposition in his likely reelection bid, save a potential challenge from 2016 primary contender Ken Spaulding.


          On the Republican side, four major candidates have been discussed – Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (the clear frontrunner) and former Governor Pat McCrory have openly considered bids, while United States Senator Thom Tillis and state Senate President pro tempore Phil Berger are outside possibilities.


Lieutenant Governor

          With incumbent Republican Dan Forest 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, state Senator Terry Van Duyn and former state Senator Cal Cunningham have already announced their candidacies, with former state Senator Malcolm Graham also exploring a bid. State Representatives Chaz Beasley and Yvonne Holley have also been subjects of speculation. 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 major Deborah Cochran is the only announced candidate, while former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, state Representative Mark Brody, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, state House Speaker Tim Moore, former Democratic state Senator Joel Ford, and realtor Clark Twiddy have also been subjects of speculation.


Attorney General

          Incumbent Democrat Josh Stein, already seen as a gubernatorial contender for 2024, will likely run for reelection. He was challenged in 2016 by Democrat Marcus Williams and Republicans Buck Newton and Jim O’Neill.


Secretary of State

          Longtime incumbent Elaine Marshall, the most popular Democrat on the Council of State, 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 has also indicated he will enter the race for the Republican nomination. Republican AJ Daoud, who LaPaglia defeated in the 2016 primary, may also run again.



          Incumbent Republican Dale Folwell has not announced his intentions for 2020 but will likely run again. He was challenged in 2016 by Democrats Dan Blue III and Ron Elmer. Might former Democratic Treasurer Janet Cowell seek to retake her old office?



          Incumbent Democrat Beth Wood has not announced her intentions for 2020. She was challenged in 2016 by Republican Chuck Stuber.


Superintendent of Public Instruction

          Incumbent Republican Mark Johnson is yet to announce his intentions for 2020, and while he may seek reelection, he is widely seen as a possible contender for higher office. Confirmed Democratic challengers include Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board member James Barrett and UNC-Greensboro professor Jen Mangrum (the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Phil Berger’s state Senate seat in 2018), while potential Democratic candidates include North Carolina Association of Educators President Mark Jewell and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who Johnson defeated 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, the most popular Republican statewide, has not announced his intentions for 2020. He was challenged in 2016 by Republican Andy Stevens and Democrat Walter Smith.


Commissioner of Labor

          Incumbent Cherie Berry, another popular Republican, appears to be running in 2020. She was challenged in 2016 by Democrats Charles Meeker and Mazie Ferguson.


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, but some have suggested he will retire and allow another state Department of Insurance official 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. In 2020, one seat on the Supreme Court and three on the Court of Appeals are up.


          Democrats have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court, and as the justice up in 2020 is a Republican, the party has the opportunity expand its majority even further. Republicans will be unable to gain a Supreme Court majority until 2022 at the earliest. On the Court of Appeals, meanwhile, Republicans have a 8-7 majority, and as two Democrats and one Republican are up in 2020, control of the court is up for grabs.


Supreme Court – Newby Seat

          Incumbent Republican Paul Newby has not announced his plans for 2020.


Court of Appeals – McGee Seat

          Incumbent Chief Judge Linda McGee, a Democrat, is unlikely to seek another term, as she would hit the mandatory retirement age of seventy-two 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.


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