Though nary a full two months beyond the hard-fought midterm elections in 2018, rumors, gossip and speculation have abounded as both Democrats and Republicans jockey to line up contenders for the contests in 2020. If you thought the last election was contentious, go ahead and take some aspirin now. Not only are all of the seats in the General Assembly up for grabs, along with the 13 Congressional districts (which will probably be redrawn by then), but so is Thom Tillis’ seat in the U.S. Senate and every Council of State position. That’s a huge number of statewide elections, and almost all of them should be competitive.
Which leads me to the focus of this piece. Andrew Dunn wrote about Jen Mangrum and her interest in running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Mangrum has name recognition, at least in politically engaged circles, because of her high profile race in 2018 against arguably the most powerful man in the state, Senate President Pro Ten Phil Berger. She lost, unsurprisingly, but against a powerbroker such as Berger waged an impressive campaign and established herself politically.
Mark Johnson, the Republican incumbent Superintendent, has been running for election since the day he took office, apparently. I say election, and not reelection, because Johnson has the appearance and actions of a politician. To think he’s satisfied staying at DPI seems naive. At just over two years on the job, Johnson has now doubled his experience in education. Prior to winning in 2016, he had two years of teaching experience during his time with the Teach for America program. I’m not taking shots at Mark Johnson here, but it looks more like he’s interested in being a politician than being a supporter of public schools. In fact, he’s used his current position to launch PR campaigns promoting himself over and over again, redirecting people to his personal website and promoting bogus surveys to collect emails for future fundraising.
Jen Mangrum, on the other hand, has an extensive background in education, from the bottom up. Mangrum was a classroom teacher for years in public schools, eventually moving to higher education and work as a professor both at North Carolina State University and, currently, UNC Greensboro. She’s plugged into the world of public education, a perennial issue in the Tar Heel State. Students and employees of North Carolina schools would do well under the stewardship of a Superintendent Mangrum. She ought to run in 2020, and if her website is any indicator, it looks like she already is.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.