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

Moss Brennan, Jackie Park, and Tucker Wulff

Table of Contents:

Presidential Candidates

United States Senate

North Carolina Governor

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor

North Carolina Attorney General

North Carolina Auditor

North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance

North Carolina Commissioner of Labor

North Carolina Secretary of State

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

Presidential Candidates

Current: Donald Trump

Term: Four years

Candidate: Donald Trump 

Bio: Trump is the 45th President of the United States. A native of New York, New York, Trump attended the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. Trump worked in real estate development in New York City, Chicago, Florida and Washington, D.C., and wrote more than 10 books before entering the White House. Trump’s work has focused, thus far, on issues like immigration, taxes and the military. He has been married to his wife, Melania Trump, for 12 years and they have a son together. Trump also has four other children and 10 grandchildren.

Key Issues: Trump, if reelected, would focus on economic growth by minimizing regulations, enforcing immigration laws and helping veterans.

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

Candidate: Bill Weld 

Bio: Weld is a two-term governor of Massachusetts where he worked to cut taxes, balance the budget and create jobs. His campaign website mentions creating strong relationships across parties as a “hallmark” of his office. Early in his career, Weld was a staff member on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, worked for Sen. Jacob Javits and eventually served in President Reagan’s Justice Department as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts and Assistant U.S. Attorney General. 

Key Issues: Weld’s campaign website lists income inequality, debts and deficits and climate change as his key issues, but recognizes that each of those comes with several, more specific, issues. 

Campaign Website: https://weld2020.org/

United States Senate

Current: Thom Tillis (R)

Term: six years 

Candidate: Thom Tillis 

Bio: After graduating high school, Tillis could not afford the typical 4-year college experience and instead got a job as a warehouse records clerk. Tillis eventually earned his degree at 36 and became an executive at PwC, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, and IBM. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2006, selected as Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2014 and was elected U.S. Senator in 2014. 

Key Issues: Tillis wants to focus on agriculture, climate and conservation, criminal justice reform, and education to name a few from his campaign website.  

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

Candidate: Paul Wright 

Bio: Wright was born and raised in Buncombe County. Wright attended college at both Furman University and Wheaton College, both of which he studied history. He also studied at Westminster Seminary and Duke Law School.Wright was a judge of the district court for Wayne, Lenoir and Greene counties. Later, he was elected to serve on the Superior Court of North Carolina. Now, he is retired and married. He and his wife, both widowers, have eight children together.

Key Issues: Wright believes in the right to bear arms, restoring Christianity to the people and enforcing immigration laws.

Campaign Website: http://wrightforussenate.com/

Candidate: Larry Holmquist 

Bio: Holmquist was born and raised in Joliet, Illinois. He graduated from Drake University, where he earned a degree in business administration. Since graduating, Holmquist has worked in a number of fields. Early in his career he worked for a commercial bank and a savings and loan association and later became an outside sales representative, working in several industries. He has volunteered with various political campaigns, managed a campaign and ran in the North Carolina Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in 2016. 

Key Issue: Some issues Holmquist would like to focus on while in office are: national defense, pro-life funding and pro-choice defunding, limited government, and second amendment rights.

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

Candidate: Sharon Y. Hudson

Bio: Born in Charleston, West Virginia, Hudson and her family moved around the Eastern United States while she was growing up until they settled in North Carolina. She graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a degree in English and also has certification in secondary teaching. Hudson is a former first vice president of North Mecklenburg Republican Women, a club that aims to inform the public and increase the effectiveness of women in government positions, and a founder of Lake Norman Conservatives.   

Key Issues: Hudson’s campaign website lists some of her key issues as jobs and the economy, gun control, healthcare and education. 

Campaign Website: https://electsharonhudson.com/

North Carolina Governor

Current: Roy Cooper (D)

Term: four years 

Candidate: Dan Forest 

Bio: Forest was raised in Charlotte and attended UNC-Charlotte, where he graduated with a degree in architecture. After graduating, Forest spent several years as an architect and became an office president at an architecture firm. In 2012, he was elected lieutenant governor of North Carolina. Forest was the second Republican since 1897 to be elected as the lieutenant governor in North Carolina and he was reelected to the office in 2016. 

Key Issues: According to Forest’s campaign website, he supports policies that encourage economic growth and create jobs. He also has a particular focus on education including issues such as school choice and free speech on college campuses. 

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

Candidate: Holly Grange

Bio: Grange is the descendant of multiple military veterans and was in the third class of female cadets to graduate from West Point. Some of her military accomplishments include leading an all-male platoon at Fort Bragg, commanding an airborne company and attaining the rank of Captain. Now, Grange is the only female military veteran member of the North Carolina House of Representatives. 

Key Issues: Grange’s campaign website mentions jobs and economy, immigration, veteran care and first responders and pro-life as some of her priorities. 

Campaign Website: https://hollygrangenc.com/

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor

Current: Dan Forest (R)

Term: Four years 

Candidate: John L. Ritter 

Bio: A native of North Carolina, Ritter graduated from community college in Troy in 2001, after which he attended UNC-Chapel Hill to earn degrees in journalism and law in 2003 and 2006, respectively. He currently works as a private practice attorney in Moore County, where he lives with his wife and son.

Key Issues: If elected, Ritter hopes to focus on vocational and technical education in high schools and community colleges, improving infrastructure and budgeting with taxpayers in mind.

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

Candidate: Mark Robinson 

Bio: Robinson was raised in Greensboro alongside nine siblings in a low-income family. After spending some time in the foster care system, Robinson moved back in with his mother, a religious woman whom he credits for shaping the man he is. Throughout his life, Robinson has navigated between a slew of factory and warehouse jobs as well as briefly pursuing a teaching career. Since April, 2018, when he gave a speech to the Greensboro City Council, he has pursued a career in politics.

Key Issues: Second Amendment rights, pro-life, education and jobs are some of the key issues that are listed on Robinson’s campaign website. 

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

Candidate: Scott Stone

Bio: Stone, who currently represents Mecklenburg County in the North Carolina House of Representatives, is a graduate of Clarkson University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering, and earned his MBA from Marymount University. Stone is the current president of American Engineering, a civil engineering and survey firm in Charlotte. He is also the chairman and founder of the North Carolina Heroes Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial help to military families. 

Key Issues: Stone hopes to focus on reducing regulations and personal income taxes, enforcing ICE regulations through sheriffs and defending the Second Amendment.

Campaign Website: https://electscottstone.com/

Candidate: Andy Wells 

Bio: Wells, who is from Virginia, has lived in Hickory since 1969. Wells attended NC State, where he earned two degrees in engineering. Wells was a furniture manufacturing manager before serving in the North Carolina House of Representatives for the 96th district, representing northwest Catawba County. Now, Wells is a senator for District 42, which includes Alexander and Catawba counties, and is the owner of Prism Development, a real estate brokerage firm in Hickory. He and his wife have three sons together.

Key Issues: Wells wants to prioritize job creation and economic development in the private sector, minimizing government spending and clarifying government regulations.

Campaign Website: https://andywells.org/

Candidate: Buddy Bengel 

Bio: A native of New Bern, Bengel is a former professional baseball player and current restaurant owner in his hometown. He is also a philanthropist and helped raise funds and supplies for residents of New Bern after Hurricane Florence. Bengel currently serves as the marketing and gaming chair for the Education Lottery Commission, appointed by former Governor Pat McCrory. Bengel is an alumnus of Quinnipiac University.

Key Issues: Bengel’s priorities include job creation and economic development, creating opportunities for veterans and active military, and bolstering community colleges in the state to prepare students for the workforce.

Campaign Website: https://buddyfornc.com/

Candidate: Deborah Cochran 

Bio: Cochran was born and raised in Mount Airy and served as the County Commissioner and as a two-term mayor for Mount Airy from 2007 to 2015. She worked as a radio broadcaster for 30 years. She also worked part-time at a community college for 18 years and four years as a Future Business Leaders of America Advisor at a high school in Winston Salem. 

Key Issues: One of Cochran’s main goals is to be a voice for all people in North Carolina. She does not list her key issues or priorities on her campaign website.

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

Candidate: Renee Ellmers 

Bio: Ellmers was born and raised in Michigan and attended Oakland University and graduated with a degree in nursing. She was elected in 2010 to serve as the U.S. House of Representative for North Carolina’s second congressional district and served for three terms.  She served on the Health Subcommittee, Energy & Power Subcommittee, and the Communications & Technology Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee while in congress. In 2017, she was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Regional Director of Region 4. 

Key Issues: Ellmers does not list any priorities or key issues on her campaign website. 

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

Candidate: Greg Gebhardt 

Bio: Gebhardt is a 2006 graduate of the United States Military Academy and current major in the North Carolina National Guard. After serving in Haiti and Iraq, Gebhardt earned his MBA through distance learning and started a real estate business with his wife. Gebhardt has also served as a policy adviser for the North Carolina House of Representatives, helping craft legislation for voter ID and a tax code overhaul. He lives in Holly Springs with his wife and three daughters.

Key Issues: Gebhardt wants to focus on illegal immigration, gun rights and limiting the involvement of government in health care.

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

Candidate: Mark Johnson

Bio: Johnson was elected to serve as the Superintendent in 2016. Before he was elected in 2016, he began his education career as a high school teacher and later as a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education. His campaign bio states: “He won’t need any on-the-job training. As your NC Superintendent of Public Instruction, he’s already been in the trenches fighting the Deep State in state bureaucracy.”

Key Issues: Some of his key issues include making the government more accountable, transparent and efficient; and making North Carolina a 21st century leader. 

Campaign Website: https://markjohnsonfornc.com/

North Carolina Attorney General

Current: Josh Stein (D) 

Term: four years 

Candidate: Christine Mumma

Bio: Mumma earned her degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in business administration and later graduated from there with a law degree. She clerked in North Carolina Court of Appeals and passed the bar exam. Mumma joined the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence in 2001 and rose to become the executive director. 

Key Issues: Mumma does not list her top priorities on her website, but mentioned criminal justice reform as a top issue across the country. 

Campaign Website: https://christinemumma.com/

Candidate: Sam Hayes 

Bio: Hayes is a native of Kernersville and a 1994 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. In 1997, he received his law degree from Wake Forest University. He began his legal career in Washington, D.C. at an international law firm. In 2015, Hayes began serving as the general counsel of the Department of Environmental Quality under former Governor Pat McCrory. In 2017, he began his most recent position as general counsel for the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer, where he worked until December. Hayes lives in Raleigh with his wife and 2 children.

Key Issues: Hayes’ primary issues include a mandated voter ID, clearing backlogs of rape kits and enforcing sanctuary cities.

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

Candidate: Jim O’Neill 

Bio: O’Neill is the current Forsyth County district attorney, where he has served since 2009. O’Neill earned his bachelor’s degree from Duke University and his law degree from New York Law School. O’Neill lives in Winston Salem with his wife and three children.

Key Issues: O’Neill wants to focus on clearing backlogs of untested rape kits, defending capital case murder convictions and fighting the heroin and opioid crisis.

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

North Carolina Auditor

Current: Beth A. Wood

Term: four years 

Candidate: Tim Hoegemeyer

Bio: Hoegemeyer grew up in rural Nebraska and attended Northwestern University. He was an artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps which brought him to North Carolina in 1992. He has been in North Carolina since then. He earned his law degree from Campbell University and also earned a master’s in public administration from NC State. He worked in the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Investigative Division in the state auditor’s office for 12 years. He currently lives in Fuquay-Varina with his wife and three children. 

Key Issue: Some of Hoegemeyer’s key issues include increasing the state auditor’s impact within government, focus on high impact audits and proactively pursue fraud, waste and abuse. 

Campaign Website: https://www.hoege4auditor.com/

Candidate: Anthony Wayne (Tony) Street 

Bio: Street’s public service has included working on the Brunswick County Soil and Water Board where he is currently in his second term. He completed his undergraduate degree at UNC-Wilmington and earned a master’s in public administration from UNC-Pembroke. He is from North Carolina and lives in Brunswick County. 

Key Issues: Some of Street’s key issues include spending tax dollars in a “conservative, effective and efficient manner.” 

Campaign Website: https://streetfornc.godaddysites.com/?fbclid=IwAR1Yp71-3yWuchmSgcOy3OhCziiguHQ5jucWDZ8enV6Jy_8-_HPaCky408I

North Carolina Commissioner of Insurance

Current: Mike Causey 

Term: Four years 

Candidate: Mike Causey

Bio: Causey is a native of Guilford County and lives there today with his wife on the farm he grew up on. He received his civil and environmental engineering degree from UNC-Charlotte and earned his MBA from High Point University. He served as a military policeman in the United States Army and played trombone in the Army band. He took office in January 2017.

Key Issues: Some of Causey’s key issues include more competition in the insurance industry, putting people first and reforming the Rate Bureau.  

Campaign Website: https://mikecauseync.com/

Candidate: Ronald Pierce 

Bio: Pierce was born in Ohio and joined the Army after graduating high school. He then spent 6 years on active reserve and became certified as an airframe and power plant mechanic. In 2005, Pierce volunteered in Louisiana to clean up after Hurricane Katrina. After this, he returned home to Charlotte and started his own company, called Clear Choice Construction, and “began realizing what was, and what was not, in the protection of both consumers and contractors.”

Key Issues: Pierce’s priorities lie in getting corruption out of the department of insurance, supervision of insurance companies and insurance rate fixing.

Campaign Website: https://www.pierce4insurance.com/

North Carolina Commissioner of Labor

Current: Cherie Berry

Term: four years 

Candidate: Chuck Stanley 

Bio: According to the News & Observer, Stanley is a construction company manager in Columbus County. Stanley does not have a website or social media presence.

Key Issues: Stanley does not have a website or social media presence.

Campaign Website: N/A

Candidate: Josh Dobson 

Bio: Dobson has served in the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2013, representing Avery, McDowell and Mitchell counties. Before joining the House, Dobson served as a McDowell County Commissioner. Dobson’s bachelor’s degree is from Gardner-Webb University and he earned his Masters in Public Administration from App State. Dobson lives in Nebo with his wife and daughter.

Key Issues: Dobson hopes to work with employers to keep North Carolinians safe. Dobson does not have a big social media or website presence. 

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

Candidate: Pearl Burris Floyd

Bio: Floyd served as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly from 2008-2010. She is currently on the UNC board of governors and CaroMont Regional Medical Center board of directors. Floyd received degrees from UNC Chapel Hill in Biology and cytology. She later earned her master’s in health administration from Pfeiffer University. 

Key Issues: Some of Floyd’s key issues include supporting policies that allow job creators the opportunity to prosper and modernize the Department of Labor to make it more efficient. 

Campaign Website: https://pearlfornc.com/

North Carolina Secretary of State

Current: James Glasgow

Term: Four years 

Candidate: E.C. Sykes 

Bio: Sykes, a Durham-native and graduate of North Carolina State University, is the current founder and general partner at Aslan Ventures, a Raleigh-based real estate firm. In 2015, Sykes volunteered full-time on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign and eventually became his executive director on faith and religious liberty. Sykes lives in Raleigh with his wife and has two children and three grandchildren.

Key Issues: Sykes wants to focus on removing barriers to economic growth, creating jobs and improving business environments.

Campaign Website: https://ecfornc.com/

Candidate: Chad Brown 

Bio: Brown was born in Gastonia and has two children. He is a full-time salesman for Pennsylvania Steel. He was elected mayor of Stanley in 2008 and then elected as Gaston County Commissioner from the Riverbend Township in 2009. In 2017 he was elected chairman of the board. Before politics, he was a Class AAA minor league baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. 

Key Issues: Some of Brown’s key issues include working with “a Republican Governor hand in hand to let others know that North Carolina is open for business with a thriving economic development market.” He also states he is pro-life and pro 2nd Amendment. 

Campaign Website: https://electchadbrown.com/

Candidate: Michael LaPaglia

Bio: LaPaglia has been married to his wife for 18 years, and they have a 13-year-old son. LaPaglia received his undergraduate degree in political science from Emory University. He sees himself as a “a limited government free-enterprise advocate,” and “sees a need to reduce unnecessary regulation and ease the regulatory burden on business.” He was the republican nominee for secretary of state in 2016. 

Key Issues: LaPaglia sees small business as the backbone of North Carolina’s economy and wants to work to get the government out of the way to allow “business owners to thrive.” 

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

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction 

Current: Mark Johnson

Term: four years 

Candidate: Catherine Truitt 

Bio: Truitt, current chancellor of the nonprofit Western Governors University North Carolina, got her start in education as a high school English teacher. In 2015, former Governor Pat McCrory appointed Truitt to be his senior adviser on education. Truitt graduated with her bachelor of arts in English from the University of Maryland in 1994. In 1997, she graduated from the University of Washington with her master’s in education. Truitt lives in Cary with her husband, children and dog.

Key Issues: Some of Truitt’s priorities include preparing students with a 21st century education, granting schools, superintendents and principals flexibility in decision making and find a solution to provide equitable funding for public schools.

Campaign Website: https://catherinetruitt.com/

Candidate: Craig Horn

Bio: Horn is a retired Russian linguist in the United States Air Force and is currently serving his fourth term in the North Carolina General Assembly representing District 68. He is the co-chairman of the House Committee on Education Appropriations and the House Education Policy Committee for K-12 Education. He also serves as the house chair of the Joint Task Force on Education Funding Review among others. He and his wife live in Weddington, North Carolina. 

Key Issues: Some of Horn’s key issues include focusing on digital education initiatives, improve literacy and school safety, and “get Raleigh out of our students’ classrooms.”

Campaign Website: https://craighorn.com/