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Meet the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor

Volunteers at the Chapel of the Cross assist voters with registration for the upcoming primary election on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020.

The North Carolina primary election is coming up, so The Daily Tar Heel is breaking down every office on the ballot from president to county commissioner. Here we broke down who the Republican candidates are for lieutenant governor.

Nine candidates will be on the ballot for the Republican lieutenant governor primary on March 3.

In November, the winner of the Republican race will face off against the victor of the six candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

Republican incumbent Dan Forest has been lieutenant governor since January 2013. Forest has reached his term limit and is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

In addition to serving on the Governor's Council of State, the lieutenant governor’s responsibilities include presiding over the state senate with a tie-breaking vote and serving on the State Board of Education, N.C. Board of Community Colleges, State Economic Development Board and the Military Affairs Commission.

Here are the candidates vying for the nomination:

Andy Wells is a three-term state senator who represents Catawba and Alexander counties.

According to his website, his main campaign issues include disempowering sanctuary sheriffs, who offer protection for illegally harbored immigrants, cutting taxes and instituting work-fare, a policy that only gives welfare to those who have jobs. 

On his website, Wells criticized Governor Cooper for vetoing the Republican-majority House’s budget, but said the lack of taxation resulting from the delay was beneficial to taxpayers.

“No budget, less government,” Wells said in a campaign video. “The legislature ought to say ‘amen’ and go home.”

Wells' team did not reply to requests for comment.

Photo courtesy of Buddy Bengel.

Buddy Bengel is a restaurant owner from New Bern.

Bengel said that North Carolina should focus on workforce-ready education, especially for people in the military, citing lowering veteran suicide rates as a priority.

“North Carolina shouldn’t be talking about being the top state for military,” Bengel said. "It should be the top state.”

Bengel founded the New Bern Relief Fund after Hurricane Florence and said this experience would help him unify a polarized North Carolina.

“We saw some good, we saw some bad, we saw some ugly,” Bengel said. “It was that experience that really put together the skill set and understanding of how to lead.”

Photo courtesy of Deb Cochran.

Deborah Cochran is a high school business education teacher and the former mayor of Mount Airy.

Cochran said her careers have prepared her to encourage economic growth without subsidies and educational opportunity through trade careers.

“In order to fully understand education, it’s important to be in the classroom,” Cochran said. 

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Cochran said she espouses conservative values.

“I have passed two extensive background checks — one as a teacher and one for my concealed carry,” Cochran said in a campaign video. “I believe in Republican principles.”

Photo courtesy of Greg Gebhardt.

Greg Gebhardt is a policy adviser and active major in the N.C. National Guard who lives in Holly Springs.

Gebhardt, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy after growing up in a trailer park, said he was running so others could experience a similar American dream.

“That could never happen under socialism,” Gebhardt said. “That could only happen in a constitutional republic rooted in capitalism.”

Gebhardt said that polarization is not along party lines, but city limitations. He said expansion of broadband is key to bridging rural opportunity deficit.

“Rural North Carolina is lacking in those opportunities,” Gebahrdt said. “What are we doing to provide an economic climate and environment such that employers want to come invest in rural North Carolina?”

John Ritter is an attorney from Moore County.

Ritter, who graduated from UNC after receiving his two-year degree from a community college, said he is passionate about promoting community college as an option without further monetary investment.

“I’m all for utilizing the resources that we have and being fiscally conservative,” Ritter said. “Not necessarily that we need to spend more money, but spend it more wisely.”

Despite his own conservatism, Ritter said he would negotiate across political divides.

“We need to get a point where we can work together on issues that are of prominence for us, and things that surely we can agree on,” Ritter said. 

Mark Johnson is the N.C. superintendent of public instruction.

According to his Twitter, Johnson is against the Common Core curriculum. His website says he plans to fight “Deep State” bureaucracy.

In his tenure, Johnson has faced controversies from this lack of support for Common Core, and more recently for changing the state’s childhood literacy service to a new software provider.

Superintendent Johnson’s team did not reply to requests for comment.

Mark Robinson is a member of the National Rifle Association's outreach board.

Robinson said he would end Common Core and keep race and gender issues out of the classroom.

“I know there’s some of this stuff about gender-fluidity we’re trying to teach these young people,” Robinson said. “To me, this has no place in an elementary school classroom. Some of it has no place in a classroom, period.”

Robinson gained national notoriety for a viral pro-gun speech he gave to the Greensboro City Council in 2018.

 “I’m going to come down to this city council and raise hell, just like these loonies from the left do, until you listen to the majority of people in this city,” Robinson said in that speech, “And I am the majority.”

Scott Stone is a former N.C. representative (R-Mecklenburg) and the president of Charlotte company American Engineering.

According to his website, Stone’s main concerns include tax cuts for businesses, supporting law enforcement and ending support of sanctuary sheriffs. 

“North Carolina is this amazing corner of America, which really just embodies everything that’s good about our country,” he said in his campaign video.

Stone’s team did not reply to requests for comment.

Renee Ellmers is a former three-term U.S. Representative for N.C. District 2.

Ellmers, who served as regional director of U.S. Health and Human Services for much of the Southeast, said concerns about rising socialism and waning patriotism have brought her home.

“I decided that I needed to come back to North Carolina to run for elected office so that I could help to serve North Carolinians,” Ellmers said.

Ellmers said she would use this experience in the lieutenant governor’s bully pulpit to encourage reforms in healthcare policy and technology.

“Anyone within the healthcare system, we can bring together to have at the table and really have the same focus of improving healthcare,” Ellmers said. “I think you need to have a variety of opinions.”


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