Watauga County Democratic Ballot: Bios and Key Issues for the Candidates

February 24, 2020

Table of Contents:

Presidential Candidates

United States Senate

United States House of Representatives District 5

North Carolina Governor

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor

North Carolina Auditor

North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

North Carolina Treasurer

North Carolina House of Representatives District 93


Presidential Candidates

Current: Donald Trump (R) 

Term: Four years

Candidate: Bernie Sanders 

Bio: Sanders served 16 years in the Vermont House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went to Brooklyn College and the University of Chicago. He was first elected to a public office in 1981 as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Sanders lives in Burlington with his wife and four children. He also has seven grandchildren. 

Key Issues: Some of Sanders’ key issues include creating a Medicare-for-all plan; passing a Green New Deal; and guaranteeing tuition and debt-free public colleges, universities, HBCUs, minority-serving institutions and trade schools. 

Campaign Website: https://berniesanders.com/

Candidate: Pete Buttigieg 

Bio: Buttigieg was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana where he currently lives with his husband. He worked in the private sector before being elected as mayor of South Bend. He served in the Navy and was deployed during his first mayoral term as a lieutenant in Afghanistan.

Key Issues: Some of Buttigieg’s key issues include fighting climate change; supporting Medicare for all who want it; a Douglas plan which includes dismantling racist structures and systems; and center approaches to education on the students, teachers and parents.  

Campaign Website: https://peteforamerica.com/

Candidate: Tulsi Gabbard  

Bio: Gabbard was born in American Samoa and lives in Kailia, Hawaii. She is a four-term congresswoman who represents Hawaii’s Second District. She served in the military and was deployed to Iraq in 2004 as part of the 29th Brigade Combat Team. She has served on the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees as a representative. 

Key Issues: Some of Gabbard’s key issues include reforming the criminal justice system, protecting civil liberties and the right to privacy, and securing elections by strengthening campaign finance laws, protecting voting rights and protecting against election interference. 

Campaign Website: https://www.tulsi2020.com/

Candidate: Amy Klobuchar  

Bio: Klobuchar was born in Plymouth, Minnesota. She became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 2006. Klobuchar was the attorney of Hennepin County, the largest prosecutor’s office in Minnesota, in the eight years before becoming a senator. 

Key Issues: Some of Klobuchar’s key issues include supporting a universal health care for all Americans plan, co-sponsoring the Green New Deal, and supporting a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes the DREAM Act. 

Campaign Website: https://amyklobuchar.com/

Candidate: Joseph R. Biden 

Bio: Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and is the eldest of four children. He has called Delaware home since his family moved there when he was 10. Biden became a U.S. Senator at age 29. In 2008, Biden became the 47th vice president under former President Barack Obama. Biden served as vice president for both of Obama’s terms. 

Key Issues: Some of Biden’s key issues include ending violence against women; ending gun violence through measures including universal background checks and closing gun loopholes; and immigration policy that provides security and a fair and just system. 

Campaign Website: https://joebiden.com/

Candidate: Michael R. Bloomberg 

Bio: Raised in Medford, Massachusetts, Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg L.P., a news and data company. He is the ninth-richest person in the world, according to Forbes. Bloomberg was also the mayor of New York City, elected weeks after 9/11. He ran for mayor first as a Republican, after previously being registered as a Democrat, and registered as an independent midway through his time as mayor. He attended Harvard Business School.

Key Issues: Some of Bloomberg’s key issues include rebuilding America’s infrastructure with 100% clean energy; reforming the criminal justice system; making two-year public college tuition-free for all and four-year public college free for lowest-income students and affordable for middle-class students. 

Campaign Website: https://www.mikebloomberg.com/

Candidate: Elizabeth Warren  

Bio: Warren was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She has served as Massachusetts U.S. Senator since 2013. Warren taught law for over 30 years at Rutgers University, the University of Houston, University of Texas-Austin, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. Warren was registered as a Republican until 1996 when she switched. 

Key Issues: Some of Warren’s key issues include creating a wealth tax, canceling most student loan debt, fighting climate change and building a greener economy, and she is in favor of a Medicare for-all plan. 

Campaign Website: https://elizabethwarren.com/

Candidate: Tom Steyer 

Bio: Steyer was born in New York, New York, and currently lives in San Francisco. He graduated from Yale and earned his MBA from Stanford. He started an investment firm in the late 1980s in San Francisco. Steyer is married and has four children. According to Forbes, Steyer’s real-time net worth is $1.6 billion. 

Key Issues: Some of Steyer’s key issues include repealing Citizens United and restructuring the Federal Election Commission to reform the election system, focusing on the climate through a “justice-centered climate plan,” and free public education from pre-K through higher education that includes workforce and technical training. 

Campaign Website: https://www.tomsteyer.com/


United States Senate

Current: Thom Tillis (R)

Term: six years 

Candidate: Erica D. Smith 

Bio: Smith represents District 3 in the North Carolina State Senate. She was first elected into the North Carolina General Assembly in 2014 as the first woman to serve her district in the Senate. She attended the North Carolina School of Math and Science for high school and NC A&T for a degree in mechanical engineering. She received her Master’s in religious studies from Howard and a doctorate of ministry from Eastern North Carolina Christian College and Seminary. 

Key Issues: Some of Smith’s key issues include the environment and supporting the Green New Deal, providing a strong K-12 education and making community college as affordable as possible, expanding Medicaid; and implementing universal background checks to aid gun control. 

Campaign Website: https://ericaforus.org/

Candidate: Steve Swenson

Bio: Swenson does not have much information on his website or on his social media. 

Key Issues: His website states he supports codifying Roe v. Wade; passing a $2 trillion, 80 year African Americans restoration and appropriations act; repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001; and passing a national security and reconciliation and accountability act.

Campaign Website: https://steveswensonforsenate.org/

Candidate: Cal Cunningham 

Bio: Cunningham was raised in Lexington and earned his undergraduate and graduate law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. He served three active duty tours as a member of the Army reserves. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award in part for his work prosecuting contractors for criminal misconduct. He was elected at 27 years old to serve as a state senator representing Davidson, Rowan and Iredell counties. Gov. Roy Cooper  also named him Vice Chairman of the Governor’s Crime Commission. 

Key Issues: Some of Cunningham’s top priorities include more inexpensive and more accessible health care, improving education by working for a raise in teacher pay, taking on climate change, and preventing gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.  

Campaign Website: https://www.calfornc.com/

Candidate: Trevor M. Fuller 

Bio: Fuller was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and is the eldest, and only, son of four children. He attended Hamilton College for his undergraduate degree in English literature and earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. He specializes in employment litigation, and business and commercial litigation. Fuller and his family moved to Charlotte nearly 18 years ago. 

Key Issues: Some of Fuller’s key issues include Medicare for all, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, universal pre-K from birth to 5 years old, debt-free college; and passing the Green New Deal. 

Campaign Website: https://www.fullerfornc.com/

Candidate: Atul Goel

Bio: Goel earned his bachelor’s degree from Clarkson University in civil and environmental engineering and his master’s in business administration from ECU. He earned his doctorate degree from State University of New York Upstate. He served as an active duty flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and separated from the military with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He has worked at hospitals in Raleigh and as a medical consultant for social security disability adjudication. 

Key Issues: Some of Goel’s key issues include health care for everyone, reducing gun violence, fixing the veterans’ hospital system, and developing human immigration policies. 

Campaign Website: http://www.atulgoelforsenate.com/


United States House of Representatives District 5

Current: Virginia Foxx (R)

Term: two years 

Candidate: David Wilson Brown 

Bio: Brown is from Charlotte and graduated from App State with a degree in political science and communication. He interned on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC9) while he was in school. He worked at WBTV for a year and is now a full-time IT consultant specializing in business productivity. Brown is married with two kids and lives in McAdenville. 

Key Issues: Some of Brown’s key issues include encouraging green energy jobs, and wind and power solutions, giving teachers more competitive salaries, and improving the Affordable Care Act. 

Campaign Website: https://dwb4congress.com/

Candidate: Eric Nathan Hughes

Bio: Hughes is from Gaston County. He attended NC A&T for business and received his associate degree in business from Central Piedmont Community College. This is his first time running for political office.

Key Issues: Hughes’ campaign website states: “If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong, and I’ll vote against it. If it’s right, I will vote for it. Simple, no agenda, just righteousness.”

Campaign Website: https://www.erichughesforuscongress.com/


North Carolina Governor

Current: Roy Cooper 

Term: four years 

Candidate: Ernest T. Reeves 

Bio: Reeves is a native of North Carolina and graduated from St. Augustine’s College. He served as a military officer at the Pentagon and is a former escort officer for U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2014 and 2016 and lost. He also worked in management at United Airlines. 

Key Issues: Some of Reeves’ key issues include expanding Medicaid and Medicare in North Carolina, improving help for veterans, and supporting lower tuition costs for students. 

Campaign Website: https://www.ernestreeves.com/

Candidate: Roy Cooper

Bio: Cooper was born and raised in Nash County before attending UNC-Chapel Hill on a Morehead scholarship and earned his law degree. He later returned to Nash County with his wife to practice law and raise their three children. He was in the North Carolina House and Senate where he wrote the first children’s health insurance initiative. He was elected to serve his first term as governor in 2016. 

Key Issues: Some of Cooper’s work as governor include repealing HB2; improving teacher pay; expanding pre-K programs; and re-establishing the Teaching Fellows Program. 

Campaign Website: https://roycooper.com/


North Carolina Lieutenant Governor

Current: Dan Forest (R) 

Term: Four years 

Candidate: Allen Thomas 

Bio: Thomas is a North Carolina native and lives in Pitt County with his wife and three children. He earned his bachelor’s degree from ECU and earned his master’s in business at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also earned a full scholarship to attend the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He also served three terms as mayor of Greenville. 

Key Issues: Thomas’ key issues include ensuring affordable health care and cutting the cost of prescription drugs, expanding broadband internet access, expanding access to quality education, trade and certification programs, and providing resources to the military population. 

Campaign Website: http://www.allenthomasjr.com/

Candidate: Bill Toole 

Bio: Toole grew up in Winston-Salem with his parents and three siblings. He attended Haverford College and earned his degree in English literature. He later worked as a journalist for the Rural Hall Independent in Forsyth County and then as a carpenter and commercial fisherman. He went to Wake Forest University where he earned Juris Doctor of Law and MBA. After graduating, he clerked for North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Meyer.

Key Issues: Some of Toole’s key issues include lowering class size in schools, creating policy to help with the opioid epidemic, expanding medicaid, and legalizing recreational marijuana. 

Campaign Website: https://votebilltoole.com/

Candidate: Terry Van Duyn 

Bio: Van Duyn graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Illinois and moved to Asheville in 1992. Her son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism which led her to volunteer in schools and advocate for the autistic community. She was appointed to the North Carolina Senate in 2014 after the death of Senator Martin Nesbitt. She was elected Democratic Whip by her peers her first year in office. 

Key Issues: Duyn is part of six standing or select committees including health care, judiciary, finance and prison safety. She was also the primary sponsor on 17 bills including making the general election day a holiday. 

Campaign Website: http://votevanduyn.com/

Candidate: Chaz Beasley  

Bio: Beasley was born and raised in the foothills of North Carolina and is serving his second term as representative for District 92. He graduated from Harvard with honors and attended Georgetown for law school. He currently lives in Charlotte. 

Key Issues: Some of Beasley’s key issues include paying teachers more; providing students with real-world education; and keeping education, from pre-K to college, affordable. 

Campaign Website: https://chazbeasley.com/

Candidate: Yvonne Lewis Holley

Bio: Holley is a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives where she represents District 38, and will until Dec. 31. She was first elected in 2012. She received her undergraduate degree from Howard University. Holley was born in Raleigh, and she was one of the first students of desegregation in the Wake County school system.  

Key Issues: Some of her priorities include creating affordable living through affordable and attainable housing, access to affordable and healthy food, economic and workforce development, and public education. 

Campaign Website: https://yvonnelewisholley.com/

Candidate: Ronald Newton

Bio: Newton was born in White Plains, New York, and moved to North Carolina in 1975. He went to Hofstra University and earned his degree in finance and accounting. He received three degrees from North Carolina Central University in political science, criminal justice and law. He has worked as a public safety officer for Durham, the CEO and sole owner of State of the Art Financial Services and Litigation Investigator for the Westchester County Legal Aid Society. 

Key Issues: Some key issues include supporting universal health care despite pre-existing conditions; criminal justice reform, such as rewriting sentencing guidelines; increasing funding for public education by 50%; and eliminating fossil fuels and promoting clean energy. 

Campaign Website: https://www.electronaldlnewton.com/

North Carolina Auditor

Current: Beth A. Wood

Term: four years 

Candidate: Luis A. Toledo 

Bio: Born in Houston, Texas, Toledo later moved to Marion, where he attended public schools in McDowell County. He served four years on active duty with the United States Air Force. Toledo worked on presidential initiatives like global hunger in the State Department. Toledo started working for the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor in 2012. He is currently an audit manager at Ernst & Young — a global accounting firm. 

Key Issues: “I’m running for State Auditor because accountability in North Carolina is not where it needs to be and critical programs are being overlooked. As a former Assistant State Auditor, I want to fix that.” (from his website) 

Campaign Website: https://www.luistoledofornc.com/

Candidate: Beth A. Wood

Bio: Wood has served as state auditor since 2009, when she was the first woman elected to the office. She worked with Rayovac Corporation, as a CPA with McGladrey & Pullen, and as the CFO for a North Carolina-based furniture company before working in the government. She graduated from Eastern Carolina University with a degree in accounting. 

Key Issues: From her mission statement: “I remain undeterred in my mission to protect taxpayers every step of the way. From start to finish, I vow to safeguard how your tax dollars are spent.” 

Campaign Website: https://www.bethwoodcampaign.com/


North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture

Current: Steve Troxler

Term: four years 

Candidate: Walter Smith 

Bio: Smith graduated from NC State with a degree in agricultural engineering. Smith was the executive director of a field office in Yadkin County for the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he administered the tobacco, federal farm, conservation and disaster programs. He also made loans to farmers. 

Key Issues:  Some of Smith’s key issues include legalizing medical marijuana, saving family farms, protecting animal welfare, protecting research stations, protecting the environment, and food and consumer safety. 

Campaign Website: https://www.votewaltersmith.org/

Candidate: Jenna Wadsworth

Bio: Born in Raleigh, Wadsworth grew up at her grandparents’ farm in Johnston County. She attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics for high school before graduating from NC State with majors in political science and women’s and gender studies and a minor in English. She became the youngest woman elected to public office at 21 when she was elected to the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors in 2010. 

Key Issues:  Some of Wadsworth’s key issues include environmental education in public and private schools, farmland preservation, climate change, food science research, and water quality. 

Campaign Website: https://www.jennawadsworth.com/

Candidate: Donovan Alexander Watson

Bio: Watson was born and raised in Durham County and has been involved with his family’s produce market since grade school by helping his grandfather purchase produce at the State Farmers Market.

Key Issues:  Some of Watson’s key issues include maintaining and increasing the number of farms in North Carolina, collaborating with state research institutions, and expanding agricultural opportunities for the younger generation. 

Campaign Website: https://watsonfornc.com/


North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction 

Current: Mark Johnson

Term: four years 

Candidate: Jen Mangrum

Bio: Mangrum grew up in North Carolina and is the daughter of two elementary-school teachers. She studied elementary education at UNC-Wilmington and received her master’s in early childhood education at East Carolina University. She taught elementary school in Onslow and Guilford Counties for 14 years before receiving her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from UNC-Greensboro, where she is currently a professor.

Key Issues:  Some of Mangrum’s top priorities include providing a strong foundation for schools through funding, expanding equity across school districts, providing a safe and healthy school environment, and increasing teacher pay to the national average.

Campaign Website: https://www.jenmangrumfornc.com/

Candidate: Michael Maher 

Bio: Maher taught high school science in Forsyth and Wake counties before moving to a university role at Saint Augustine’s University and then an administrative role at NC State. He is the president of the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators and serves as the vice chairman of the North Carolina Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission. 

Key Issues:  Some of Maher’s key issues include increasing literacy, school safety, teacher pay and technology in the classroom.

Campaign Website: https://www.maherfornc.com/

Candidate: Constance (Lav) Johnson 

Bio: Johnson is a former teacher, school counselor and school administrator and is the owner of CityPolitical Magazine. Johnson completed her education at the University of Maryland’s education department in guidance and counseling. She also served as a student representative for hiring new faculty and staff. 

Key Issues:  Some key issues include increasing teacher pay, recycling more in schools, and free lunch and meals for all students.

Campaign Website: https://constancelavjohnson.com/

Candidate: James Barrett

Bio: Barrett attended elementary, middle and high school in North Carolina and his mother taught reading in high schools in North Carolina for over 20 years. He has been the chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school for two years, and worked there for eight. 

Key Issues:  Barret’s key issues include more resources for teacher pay and support for students, overhauling testing, eliminating barriers to education and increasing school safety. 

Campaign Website: https://barrettforschools.com/

Candidate: Keith A. Sutton 

Bio: Sutton earned his bachelor’s in industrial relations from UNC-Chapel Hill and his master’s in education entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania. He founded FocusED LLC, which supports organizations in the improvement and transformation of education. He currently serves as an education innovation consultant.

Key Issues:  Some of Sutton’s key issues include targeted support for underperforming schools, enhancing school safety, providing equity of opportunity to students in rural schools, raising wages to $15 per hour for support personnel, and funding rural schools and those impacted by race and poverty. 

Campaign Website: https://votekeithsutton.com/


North Carolina Treasurer

Current: Dale Folwell 

Term: Four years 

Candidate: Dimple Ajmera 

Bio: Ajmera is a two-term Charlotte councilwoman and has managed multimillion-dollar budgets. She has also worked with the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. Ajmera went to University of South Carolina and later became a CPA. 

Key Issues:  Some of Ajmera’s key issues include providing affordable and accessible health care for all; protecting taxpayers’ money; restoring respect for teachers, police and public employees; and championing sustainable infrastructure and a resilient future.

Campaign Website: https://www.dimpleajmera.com/

Candidate: Ronnie Chatterji 

Bio: Chatterji is an economist and professor of business and public policy at Duke University. He served as a senior economist in the Obama Administration Council of Economic Advisers. He is also an appointed member of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Entrepreneurial Council and the NC First Commission. Chatterji lives in Durham with his wife and three children. 

Key Issues:  Some of Chatterji’s key issues include investing responsibly in companies that expand opportunities, leading the fight to protect the environment and increasing equity, expanding access to financial services for North Carolinians, and making the state health care system a model for the nation.

Campaign Website: https://www.ronniechatterji.com/

Candidate: Matt Leatherman

Bio: Leatherman was born and raised in Rowan County and worked with former treasurer Janet Cowel on expanding health care access in rural areas, starting conversations on municipal resilience and implementing policy for roughly $100 billion in assets managed by the treasurer’s office. He most recently worked with a non-profit organization on retirement security. 

Key Issues:  Leatherman’s key issues if he is elected are to expand access to affordable health care, value educators and the “important work they do for our children,” and plan responsibly for future communities.

Campaign Website: https://mattfornc.com/


North Carolina House of Representatives District 93

Current: Ray Russell (D) 

Term: two years

Candidate: Ray Russell 

Bio: Russell has been a computer science professor at App State since 1991 and is the founder and president of RaysWeather.com. He grew up in Manchester, Tennessee, but has lived in western North Carolina for over 25 years. He has been married to his wife for 39 years and they have two children together. 

Key Issues:  Russell’s key issues include ending gerrymandering, protecting natural resources, improving education and health care and creating an economy that works.

Campaign Website: https://rayfornc.com/about/

Candidate: Turner Doolittle

Bio: Doolittle is 20 years old and studied at App State as a computer science major. Doolittle identifies as nonbinary and goes by they/them/their pronouns, according to ballotpedia.org. 

Key Issues:  Doolittle wants to bring legislative focus to western North Carolina, reduce homelessness and poverty in the state, and legalize marijuana and expunge related charges.

Campaign Website: N/A

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