A seasoned incumbent and a first-time statewide candidate cast different visions for the role of secretary of state.
Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall, who is seeking a fifth term, is running on her lengthy record and touts her accomplishments in modernizing the department and cracking down on fraud.
Republican rival Ed Goodwin, a Chowan County commissioner who entered politics in 2008, said he wants to bring the office to businesses by traveling the state and meeting with business leaders and county managers in all 100 counties.
“We need businesses to see someone out there really fighting for them, someone who understands what they’re going through,” Goodwin said.
Marshall contends that she travels as much as practically possible and says that traveling to every county would achieve little. “I travel all over the state, and I talk to all kinds of business leaders,” she said. “I don’t think it’s possible to do more, and going out to a county just to go there doesn’t make sense.”
First elected to her current role in 1996, when she defeated Republican hopeful and NASCAR legend Richard Petty, Marshall is fairly well known in the state. She was a member of the state Senate before that, and a lawyer before politics. She also lost a high-profile U.S. Senate bid in 2010 to Richard Burr.
Goodwin, who defeated three GOP primary challengers, is running on his biography. He served in the Air Force and retired from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after a couple decades as a special agent. In campaign forums, he claims to have served on presidential protective details, hunted terrorists around the world and worked as a diplomat. He was awarded an Airman’s Medal for his service.
Goodwin is quick to criticize Marshall, particularly for her attendance at an Occupy Raleigh event and words she offered in support of the protesters. He said the group “advocate(s) for the overthrow of government,” which isn’t exactly the case, and he also claimed he was “disrespected and disgraced” as a veteran by Marshall’s attendance.
Goodwin also is trying to bring national issues into the race. His campaign website slams federal health care law, abortion and taxes, and he talks up the right to bear arms – all topics not directly related to the post he is seeking.
Goodwin disagrees: “People ask me all the time about these issues, and businesses do think about the whole picture when they’re thinking about relocating somewhere,” he said.
Marshall dismissed the criticism in a recent interview. “I can’t say I’m surprised,” Marshall said of Goodwin’s decision to bring the issues into the campaign. “But (it) doesn’t have anything to do with the office whatsoever.”
On the campaign trail, Goodwin has publicly applauded many of Marshall’s accomplishments, including a new secretary of state office website and a change in lobbying regulations, which prompted Marshall to joke on Facebook that she had picked up his endorsement.
Goodwin said he was annoyed by the faux endorsement, and he has regularly invoked a few of Marshall’s own words in a way that annoys her just as much: During her campaign for Senate against Burr, Marshall said “16 years is enough” for someone in Congress.
“I think she’s right,” Goodwin said, “16 years is more than enough, and it’s time for someone different.”
Marshall insists there is no comparison. She said almost anyone would run dry of fresh ideas over that much time in Congress – which she sees as a key to that job – but the secretary of state is an executive role where continuity of leadership is a great benefit.
“If you’ve been in place for that long and there’s little people can say about what you’ve done, it’s time to go,” Marshall said. “There’s a lot you can say about my impact here.”
Goodwin has raised about $60,000 compared to Marshall’s $300,000-plus, and the incumbent also leads 47 percent to 37 percent in the most recent poll of the race by Civitas Institute.