State Auditor Beth Wood announced yesterday that she was planning to seek reelection to a third term. Wood, a Democrat, was first elected in 2008, but has been praised for her performance by GOP legislators. The lack of animus between Wood and Republicans in Raleigh could mean that the upcoming race will get a pass from top-tier candidates. In 2012, Wood defeated Debra Goldman, who served on the Wake County Board of Education, by 7%.
Wood’s announcement means that four of the ten Council of State members have announced that they plan to seek reelection. The following is an overview of what’s going on there.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) – Yes, he’s part of the Council of State. So far, 2012 Democratic nominee Linda Coleman has announced she’s running again, and Chris Rey, Mayor of Spring Lake, is making noises. Other candidates may step in as well. This race has the potential to be just as razor-thin as the last one, which Forest won by less than a fifth of a percentage point.
Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (R) – The Elevator Queen is seeking a fifth term. Charles Meeker, former Mayor of Raleigh, is one Democrat considering the race and he would be a very credible candidate.
Treasurer Janet Cowell (D) – Some Democrats wanted Cowell to run for Senate, but she likes her current job. Fairly popular, Cowell would be strongly favored over any Republican.
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D)
Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin (D)
Auditor Beth Wood (D) – See above.
Not running again
Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) – Stepping down to run for governor. Hasn’t made an announcement yet, but we know the deal. State Sen. Josh Stein will run for his former boss’s open seat. Potential GOP opponents for Stein include State Senators Buck Newton (likely) and Tamara Barringer (less likely). Stein will probably be opposed in the Democratic primary by Tim Dunn, a former congressional candidate from Fayetteville.
Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson (D) – Once again, this isn’t official but it’s pretty much an open secret that Atkinson isn’t running again. Democrat Tricia Cotham, State Rep. who received attention for a speech in opposition to the 72 hour-delay for abortions bill, is apparently interested in the position.
Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler (R) – Hasn’t made any announcement so far but I’d expect him to run again.
Overall, the Council of State races in 2016 should be more competitive than last time around, with a lot of open seats and strong candidates on both sides of the aisle. In the end, the outcomes of many of these contests will depend in part upon the strength of the party’s presidential nominees in the state. In North Carolina, the stakes will be very high.