The November election is coming up, so The Daily Tar Heel is breaking down every state and local office on the ballot, from governor to county commissioner. Here, we broke down who the candidates are for N.C. secretary of state.
As the 2020 general election approaches, voters in North Carolina will be voting for either incumbent Elaine Marshall or her opponent E.C. Sykes for secretary of state.
Voting is complicated. Before You Vote is a new podcast from The Daily Tar Heel's City and State desk breaking down all you need to know about voting before the 2020 election.
The secretary of state is responsible for supporting business development and economic growth by providing a business infrastructure, including regulations and licensing for companies and investors.
The main duties of the secretary of state are to handle business and nonprofit corporations, file financing statements for banks and other lenders, register trademarks and provide regulation for the business sector.
Marshall, a Democrat, has served six terms as secretary of state. In 1996, she became the first woman in North Carolina to be elected to a statewide, executive branch office. She also served in the state Senate from 1993 to 1994.
Sykes is the Republican candidate. He was group president and executive officer of Flextronics, a Fortune 500 company that ran operations in 20 countries. He was also CEO of manufacturing company Black Box Network Services.
Here’s where the candidates stand on some key issues.
Marshall said the three parts of her mission as secretary are to facilitate business development, the creation of capital and the movement of that capital.
Sykes said he hopes to use his business experience in the office to drive economic growth. He said economic activities in the state should give everyone the same opportunity to pursue a job they're interested in, grow their skills and have fair compensation for that job.
“Poverty is bondage,” Sykes said. “We hear people talk about getting trapped in that cycle. And so we need to create opportunities for people.”
Business regulation and support
Marshall said she is using investment adviser workshops to help investment advisers and stockbrokers better understand state and federal regulations. She said most regulation comes in the form of checking investments for accurate information and making sure sellers of a product are registered.
“We want to work hand in hand with them to keep them regulated,” she said.
Sykes said he plans on growing and supporting the state’s small businesses by making regulatory processes simpler for entrepreneurs and using common sense business solutions. He said these solutions include listening to the needs of customers and reducing wasted government time or money due to credit processors.
“What’s really missing here is a strategic economic vision,” he said. “Where are we going, what’s our brand, what type of industries that we want to attract here.”
Marshall said the number one priority for her administration is cybersecurity. She said her office uses a database to help the business community make better business decisions and avoid fraud.
She also said she is making sure that investment advisers and stockbrokers have adequate cybersecurity themselves.
“This is kind of like a wellness check,” she said. “They have private, personal information that doesn’t need to be vulnerable and exposed.”
Sykes said that while the state already has an accredited cybersecurity lab in place to help protect consumers and businesses, there is much more that needs to be done. He said the technology that the state has can help us become a leader in cybersecurity.
“We need to be a leader in cybersecurity that other states could be able to use as to how we offer protection for our consumers,” he said.
Other key issues
Marshall said she will focus on broadband expansion if elected again. She said broadband will help better support education, medicine and economic development, especially during the pandemic.
“The local folks, including farmers, cannot participate in the global markets that they need us to participate in without broadband, so local, homegrown businesses are at a disadvantage,” she said.
Sykes said he plans on helping farmers and the agricultural business sector.
“By far the largest revenue driver in our state is agricultural business, and we need to continue to help them and support that sector of our society.”
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