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 March 23, 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-three names passed my criterion. I sorted the candidates by their most recent notable occupation. Bold candidates have declared or formed an exploratory committee, italicized candidates are yet to declare, underlined candidates are those unlikely to run, and asterisked candidates have dropped out.

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)
Julian Castro (TX)
Joe Biden (DE)
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)
Eric Swalwell (CA)
Tim Ryan (OH)
Seth Moulton (MA)
Joe Kennedy III (MA)
Pete Buttigieg (IN)
Wayne Messam (FL)

Bill de Blasio (NY)
Andrew Gillum (FL)
Michael Bloomberg (NY)
Eric Garcetti (CA)
Mitch Landrieu (LA)
Andrew Yang (NY)
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 used the same criterion to determine potential candidates for the Republican nomination. Listed below are the fourteen candidates mentioned in at least three of twenty-five articles analyzing the Republican primary. Bold candidates have declared or formed an exploratory committee, italicized candidates are yet to declare, underlined candidates are those unlikely to run, and asterisked candidates have 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, with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz further considering an independent presidential bid.

U.S. Senate

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

          On the Republican side, Senator Thom Tillis is the clear frontrunner, although he may forgo seeking reelection in favor of returning to state politics. If Tillis does run for reelection, he may face a primary challenge from businessman Garland TuckerLess likely potential primary challengers include state Senate President pro tempore Phil Berger and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, both of whom supposedly considered running against Tillis in 2014. Other Republican challengers may include those who ran against Senator Richard Burr in the 2016 GOP primary – physician Greg Brannon, former Judge Paul Wright, and businessman Larry Holmquist. Congressman Mark Walker, who had previously declined to rule out a primary challenge to Tillis, has now confirmed he will not run. 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 – state Senator Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller – have announced their bids. Potential candidates include former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, state Senators Jeff Jackson and Dan Blue II, state Representatives Chaz BeasleyGrier 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 again. Attorney General Josh Stein and incumbent Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, once seen as potential candidates, have ruled out bids. Attorney Eva Lee, previously a candidate for the Democratic nomination, has since switched to run for Labor Commissioner.

U.S. House of Representatives

          All thirteen of North Carolina’s U.S. House seats are up in 2020, with additional special elections for the 3rd and 9th Districts in 2019. 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. A new map will presumably be more favorable to Democrats, who carried only three seats in 2018 despite winning the statewide popular vote among contested races. 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. Holding’s 2018 challengers included Republican Allen Chesser and Democrats Linda Coleman, Ken Romley, and Wendy May.

District 3

          Congressman Walter Jones (R) passed away earlier this year, so a special election for his seat will occur in 2019 and an election for the next full term in 2020. Candidate filing has ended, so we have a final list of the twenty-six candidates running. The seventeen Republican contenders include state Representatives Greg Murphy, Phil Shepard, and Michael Speciale, Currituck County Commissioners Paul Beaumont and Mike Payment, Lenoir County Commissioner Eric Rouse, former NCGOP Second Vice Chair Michele Nix, former Jones primary challenger Phil Law, former Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca, reporter Jeff Moore, pediatrician Joan Perry, singer Don Cox, librarian technician Gary Ceres, businessman Chimer Clark, medical doctor Kevin Baiko, accountant Celeste Cairns, and North Carolina Tobacco Growers’ Association Vice President Graham Boyd. The six Democratic contenders include New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, retired Marines Richard Bew and Ike Johnson, community center leader Gregory Humphrey, and perennial candidate Ernest Reeves. The two Libertarian candidates are Shannon Bray and Tim Harris, while the only Constitution Party candidate is Greg Holt.

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 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 Hull, 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, 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, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest (the clear frontrunner) and former Governor Pat McCrory have openly considered bids, with Forest operating an exploratory committee. 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 major Deborah Cochran is the only announced candidate, while former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, state Representative Mark Brody, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, attorney Neal Robbins, restaurateur Buddy Bengel, Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, state House Speaker Tim Moore, former state Representative Scott Stone, 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, is running for reelection. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, who lost the GOP primary for Attorney General in 2016, has announced he will seek the office again. Other 2016 candidates who may run again include Republican Buck Newton – the party’s 2016 nominee – and Democrat Marcus Williams.

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 plans for 2020 but will likely run again. He was challenged in 2016 by Democrats Dan Blue III and Ron Elmer. Might former Treasurer Janet Cowell (D) seek to retake 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 Republican Mark Johnson has not announced his plans for 2020, but he may run for Lieutenant Governor rather than seek another term in his current office.

         So far, five Democratic challengers have announced – Wake County School Board member Keith Sutton, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board member James Barrett, UNC-Greensboro professor Jen Mangrum (the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Phil Berger’s state Senate seat in 2018), North Carolina State University Assistant Dean for Professional Education Michael Maher, 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 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. Her Democratic challengers include Jessica Holmes, the chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, and Eva Lee, an attorney who had previously announced a run for United States Senate. Berry was also 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, Republicans currently have an 8-6 majority, with one vacancy due to the recent appointment of Judge Mark Davis (D) to the Supreme Court. Governor Cooper is expected to soon appoint a replacement for Judge Davis and Judge Robert Hunter (R), who will resign from the court at the end of March after reaching the mandatory retirement age of seventy-two. The appointed replacements for Judge Davis and Judge Hunter will both be on the ballot in 2020, as will three Court of Appeals seats regularly scheduled to be up next November.

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, triggering a special election for Chief Justice in 2020. Associate Justice Paul Newby (R), the most senior Associate Justice on the court who hoped to be appointed Chief 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 after the election.

Supreme Court – Davis Seat (Special Election)

          Governor Roy Cooper appointed Court of Appeals Judge Mark Davis (D) to the Associate Justice seat vacated by now-Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, 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 open 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 forgo reelection and instead 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 – Davis Seat (Special Election)

          Judge Mark Davis (D) was appointed by Governor Cooper to a vacancy on the Supreme Court, triggering a gubernatorial and subsequent special election for this seat.

Court of Appeals – Davis Seat (Special Election)

         Incumbent Republican Robert Hunter will hit the mandatory retirement age on March 31, triggering a gubernatorial appointment and subsequent special election.


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