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Voter Guide: What You Need to Know for the 2020 Elections

You may have heard that there’s a big election coming up, but there’s actually a ton of big elections coming up in 2020! While some of you have already cast your absentee ballots — nearly 48,000 Mecklenburg County residents had done so at the time of this writing — those who have waited for in-person voting can do so beginning with the launch of early voting on Oct. 15. Visit here for a full list of early voting locations.

Beyond the presidential race (you’ve heard enough about that by now), there are 40 contested races on the ballot in Mecklenburg County for the 2020 elections., though how many you have on your own ballot will depend on where you live. We’ve got a lot to cover here, so let’s get into it.

R-Republican, D-Democrat, L-Libertarian, C-Constitutional

U.S. Senate: Thom Tillis (R) vs. Cal Cunningham (D)

On Sept. 26, a New York Times headline read, “The White House, Senate and Supreme Court Could All Hinge On North Carolina,” and the article went into why the close race between incumbent Thom Tillis and challenger Cal Cunningham is critical to Democrats who hope to win back the Senate and may use Tillis’ deciding Supreme Court vote to rouse the support to do so. Third-party candidates: Kevin Hayes (C) and Shannon Bray (L). 

Governor: Roy Cooper (D) vs. Dan Forest (R)

Gov. Roy Cooper has found himself in as tough a spot as a politician can find themselves during the pandemic, with people either pissed that he isn’t fully reopening the state or claiming that he’s reopening the state too quickly. His challenger Dan Forest has gone full science-denier in not only pushing to fully reopen the state but refusing to wear a mask and encouraging his followers to do the same. Third-party candidates: Steven DiFiore (L) and Al Pisano (C). 

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Gov. Roy Cooper is sworn in on Jan. 1, 2017.

Lieutenant Governor: Mark Robinson (R) vs. Yvonne Lewis Holley (D)

Robinson has caught flak for Facebook posts in which he claimed that systemic racism doesn’t exist, climate change isn’t real, and former President Barack Obama is a “worthless, anti-American atheist,” but the sentiment seems right on par with talking points from his running mate Dan Forest.

Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)

Leigh Altman will fill Trevor Fuller’s at-large seat, as she and incumbents Pat Cotham and Ella Scarborough are the only ones running for three available seats. There will technically be no losers here, and the top vote-getter is no longer guaranteed the chair position, but who doesn’t love a good popularity contest? There are also three contested races taking place as Republicans try to break back into a 9-0 Democrat majority.

BOCC District 1: Elaine Powell (D) vs. Jim Puckett (R)

Powell beat out Puckett in 2018, and though the former commissioner had been exploring a run at Lieutenant Governor or Commissioner of Labor, he cited the “recent irrational and indefensible actions of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners” as reason to run for his old seat, showing the controversial Puckett still has a knack for hyperbole.

BOCC District 3: George Dunlap (D) vs. Friday Paul Okure (R)

Dunlap has served five terms on the BOCC and currently serves as the chair. Okure is a Nigerian immigrant who is big on Christianity and says he’s running on “governmental responsibility and accountability, family values, human dignity, protection of the unborn children, and the celebrated uniqueness and distinctions between man and woman.” Oh boy.

BOCC District 5: Matthew Ridenhour (R) vs. Laura Meier (D)

Like Puckett, Ridenhour is back to fight for the seat he lost in 2018. The difference here is that he is not challenging the person who took his seat two years ago; Democrat Susan Harden is not running for reelection. New candidate Laura Meier is co-founder of the Charlotte Women’s March and prioritizes “excellent, safe schools, first-class mental health services, green spaces, and affordable housing for all, including our teachers, firefighters, and other public servants.”

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Matthew Ridenhour is running for Mecklenburg Board of County  Commissioners District 5 in the 2020 elections. 

BOCC District 6: Susan Rodriguez-McDowell (D) vs. Joel Levy (R)

Along with Powell winning north Mecklenburg towns like Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson, Rodriguez-McDowell’s win in south Mecklenburg towns like Matthews, Pineville and Mint Hill was a big upset for incumbent Bill James. Now attorney Joel Levy is running on an anti-crime and homelessness platform to try to get the seat back to the Republicans.

U.S. House of Representatives District 9: Dan Bishop (R) vs. Cynthia Wallace (D)

Bishop is no stranger to controversy. As the author of the notorious HB2 law and winner of the never-ending 2018-19 District 9 race that ended in charges for Republican operatives and two failed bids by Democratic Dan McCready, Bishop wears his infamy like a well-fitting jacket. Challenger Wallace led Democratic efforts throughout McCready’s double campaign, so she’s no stranger to this fight. Let’s just hope it only takes one round of voting this time.

N.C. Attorney General: Josh Stein (D) vs. Jim O’Neill (R)

O’Neill is a three-term AG out in Forsyth County, looking to move up in the world as he challenges Stein, who was sworn in alongside Gov. Cooper in 2017.

N.C. Secretary of State: Elaine Marshall (D) vs. E.C. Sykes (R)

Marshall has held the seat now for 24 years and shows no signs of giving it up now to newcomer Sykes, who’s running on a shrink-the-government platform.

N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture: Steve Troxler (R) vs. Jenna Wadsworth (D)

The young TikTok-adept Wadsworth has brought fresh blood into a race that’s not been much of a race at all in recent years, as Troxler has held the seat for 15 years and enjoys the support of some of the state’s more powerful farming lobbies. While Wadsworth is passionate about progressive issues like climate change and marijuana legalization, this race is important for the simple fact that these folks oversee the inspection of our food.

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Jenna Wadsworth is running for N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture in the 2020 elections. 

N.C. Commissioner of Labor: Jessica Holmes (D) vs. Josh Dobson (R)

Everyone knew Cherie Berry, who served as the labor commissioner since 2000 and put her name and picture in every elevator. Name recognition aside, she was pretty awful on workers’ rights. It will be interesting to see how her replacement does. A complaint filed on Oct. 5 claims Dobson received more than $90,000 in government payments for housing, meals, and travel since 2017 for expenses he never incurred because he used campaign funds to pay for them.

State Treasurer: Dale Folwell (R) vs. Ronnie Chatterji (D)

Who would you trust with holding $100 billion of your money for safekeeping? Challenger Chatterji is an economist and professor of business and public policy at Duke University and a former economic adviser to President Obama.

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jen Mangrum (D) vs. Catherine Truitt (R)

Mangrum applauded Gov. Cooper’s school reopening plan, while Truitt wanted more freedom of choice for individual districts.

State Auditor: Beth Wood (D) vs. Anthony Street (R)

Four-term incumbent Wood faces a challenger with a troubled past who describes himself as a fiscal, moral and social conservative.

N.C. Commissioner of Insurance: Mike Causey (R) vs. Wayne Goodwin (D)

Former insurance commish and current head of the state Democratic Party Goodwin wants his seat back, and is going up against incumbent Causey, who’s doubled the amount of fraud and abuse investigators in the Department of Insurance since taking office.

N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice: Cheri Beasley (D) vs. Paul Newby (R)

Beasley was at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 this year, putting a halt to evictions and making other proactive decisions in a rapidly evolving situation. Appointed by Gov. Cooper, she’s running her first campaign now against a challenger who’s no newbie; he’s served on the N.C. Supreme Court for 16 years.

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Cheri Beasley is running to remain the N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice in the 2020 elections. 

Mecklenburg County District Court (MCDC)

Thanks to a challenge in the courts about the courts, folks will vote for all 12 districts in this year’s district court races, but only two are contested. Those are as follows.

MCDC District 1: Kimberly Best (D) vs. Pat Finn (R)

Best has sat on the Mecklenburg County District Court bench for 12 years. Her challenger Finn has experience as an assistant district attorney in Catawba County and on the defense side in private practice. (Listen to Best’s appearance on our Nooze Hounds podcast.)

MCDC District 9: Rex Marvel (D) vs. Sunny Panyanouvong-Rubeck (R)

Judging by names alone, this is the best race on the ballot. Appointed by Gov. Cooper, Marvel works in Family and Domestic Court, while also holding down a job teaching legal research and writing at CPCC. Challenger Panyanouvong-Rubeck is a refugee who began her legal career as an intern with the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office in 2009. According to the Commonwealth Club, Panyanouvong-Rubeck would be the first Laotian-American judge in U.S. history if she were to win. 

Sunny Panyanouvong-Rubeck is running for Mecklenburg County District Court judge in District 9 in the 2020 elections. 

Referenda (For Charlotte residents only)

Housing Bond: Funding from this $50-million bond would go to affordable housing projects such as the Tall Oaks redevelopment; renovation and expansion at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte; and finally opening the $17-million, 112-unit affordable housing Centra Square development in the Belmont neighborhood.

Neighborhood Improvement Bond: This $44.5 million bond would aim to improve infrastructure in established neighborhoods that are showing signs of distress and emerging high-growth areas in need of connectivity.

Transportation Bond: This bond is worth $102.7 million and would go toward improving walkability and pedestrian safety, street and intersection projects, improved Americans with Disabilities Act infrastructure, and repairs and construction of bridges, sidewalks and bike paths. This includes a collection of projects on the northeast corridor, on Bryant Farms Road in south Charlotte and Idlewild and Monroe roads in southeast Charlotte.

The following are district races, so you’ll have to look up your address to see where you fall

Mecklenburg County Superior Court District 26: Casey Viser (R) vs. Alicia Brooks (D)

A rematch of the 2014 race that placed Brooks on the district court bench. Viser ruled in August to keep RNC contracts under wraps until after the convention.

N.C. State Senate District 37: Jeff Jackson (D) vs. Sonja Nichols (R) and Jeff Scott (L)

It’s Jackson’s first race in a newly drawn district, but his popularity is only growing and there shouldn’t be much of a challenge, especially with two challengers. (Listen to Jackson’s appearance on our Nooze Hounds podcast.)

NC Senators Jeff Jackson (left) and Mujtaba Mohammed (right) join Queen City Nerve for a recording of Nooze Hounds. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

N.C. State Senate District 38: Mujtaba Mohammed (D) vs. Jack Brosch (R)

Mohammed continues to fight for youth in the justice system, while his challenger has been mostly missing from the race. (Listen to Mohammed’s appearance on our Nooze Hounds podcast.)

N.C. State Senate District 39: Joshua Niday (R) vs. DeAndrea Salvador (D)

Niday lists abortion as his main concern in a post about his platform from August 2019, while Salvador founded local energy efficiency and sustainability org RETI.

DeAndrea Salvador speaks during Fellows Session at TED2018. She’s running for N.C. Senate in District 39 in the 2020 elections.  (Photo by Ryan Lash / TED)

N.C. State Senate District 40: Joyce Waddell (D) vs. Bobbie Shields (R)

Former interim county manager Shields won’t give up after losing the same race to five-year incumbent Waddell in 2018.

N.C. State Senate District 41: Natasha Marcus (D) vs. Christopher Cole (C)

Cole has made the move from Libertarian to the similar but more traditionalist Constitution Party, while Marcus pushes health care and education.

N.C. State House District 88: Mary Belk (D) vs. David Tondreau (R)

While many pay lip service to working across the aisle, Belk has actually acted on it during her first four years in office, getting bills through the usually gridlocked NCGA.

N.C. State House District 92: Terry Brown Jr. (D) vs. Jerry Munden (R)

Munden is mostly missing in action, making Brown the likely replacement for Chaz Beasley in District 92.

N.C. State House District 98: Christy Clark (D) vs. John R. Bradford III (R)

After losing by less than 500 votes last time around (2018), the former District 98 rep is still fighting for his seat back. Expect another close one.

Christy Clark is running to keep her seat as N.C. Representative in District 98 in the 2020 elections. 

N.C. State House District 99: Nasif Majeed (D) vs. Russell Rowe (R)

Former Charlotte City Council rep and current state Senate incumbent Majeed is the sure bet here, as Rowe hasn’t been campaigning.

N.C. State House District 100: John Autry (D) vs. Kalle Thompson (R)

Also a former city council guy, Autry is up against Thompson, an anti-abortion conservative who wants to increase funding for law enforcement.

N.C. State House District 101: Carolyn Logan (D) vs. Steve Mauney (R)

The former cop (Logan) and former paramedic (Mauney) face off in northwest Charlotte. This is dispatch, where should we direct your call?

N.C. State House District 102: Becky Carney (D) vs. Kyle Kirby (R)

Former Mecklenburg County commish Carney has been holding her seat in Raleigh for damn near two decades now, and this year faces a Republican with a surprisingly progressive platform.

N.C. State House District 103: Rachel Hunt (D) vs. Bill Brawley (R)

Brawley is back after the back-alley brawl that was 2018, in which Hunt unseated him in a narrow win. Hunt has been busy sponsoring bills since, while Brawley is itching to get back to his key focal points: human trafficking, education and state road improvements.

Bill Brawley is running to reclaim his seat as N.C. representative in District 103 in the 2020 elections. 

N.C. State House District 104: Brandon Lofton (D) vs. Don Pomeroy (R)

One-termer Lofton says he want to focus a second term on per-pupil spending, expanding healthcare, and supporting infrastructure improvements, while Pomeroy would prioritize expanding transportation and public safety infrastructure and investing in education, specifically community colleges.

N.C. State House District 105: Wesley Harris (D) vs. Amy Bynum (R)

As the only PhD economist in the NCGA, Harris wants to focus on helping stimulate the economy again after COVID-19. Bynum has similar aspirations, with a more conservative plan to do so.

N.C. State House District 107: Kelly Alexander (D) vs. Richard Rivette (R)

If there’s one thing we can county on from Alexander, it’s an annual bill to legalize marijuana in N.C. Rivette is running on a law-and-order campaign and said he “never knew a police officer to overstep their bounds.” (Listen to Alexander’s appearance on our Nooze Hounds podcast.)

NC Rep. Kelly Alexander records an episode of Q.C. Nerve’s Nooze Hounds podcast. He’s running to keep his seat as N.C. representative in District 107 in the 2020 elections. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

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