Political opponents can come together on this

From Wayne Goodwin and John Odom, candidates for N.C. Insurance Commissioner:

It might be surprising to see two candidates running against each other writing a joint column shortly before a major election.

While we don't agree on much, we do agree on this: Candidates running for commissioner of insurance shouldn't rely on big checks from the insurance industry to finance campaigns

That's why both of us have enrolled in North Carolina's first-ever Voter-Owned Elections program for Council of State. The program is available to candidates for Commissioner of Insurance, State Auditor, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. It allows candidates to get a public campaign grant if they can first prove broad support by collecting hundreds of small donations and also agree to strict spending and fundraising limits.

Because we're using the program, we've been able to refuse every check over $200. While other candidates are begging for money, we're out campaigning in a grassroots way . And because we both signed up, we are competing on a level playing field. The quality of our ideas and our experience, not the size of our wallets, will determine the election outcome.

This program is part of a growing trend to provide an alternative to the broken, billion-dollar campaign money chase – a price tag which grows larger every year, pricing out ordinary citizens and many well-qualified candidates. In North Carolina, we've had a publicly financed system for our appellate judges since 2004, and it has had tremendous success, drastically reducing the dominance of a narrow group of donors over our judicial system. So too, we hope this program will restore faith in our top offices, return elections to the people, and ensure that our public officials serve the public, not groups that use donations to gain influence.

Every day we wake up without the burden of raising thousands of dollars from perfect strangers. Every day we know there's no need to schmooze with powerful industry leaders. Every day we are relieved that we can spend the entire day listening to voters.

Because of Voter-Owned Elections, we've gotten to travel all across this state and hear people's perspectives on everything from hurricane relief and auto insurance premiums. The program has even helped revive some of the old retail-style politics of yore. And it has allowed us to spend more time thinking about the problems and opportunities this job would entail, preparing us for our service should we be elected.

So during the last two weeks of the election – as pretty much every other office is inundated with campaign cash – you can rest assured that we're running the clean way. No matter which one of us wins on November 4, there need not be any concern about the debts owed to wealthy donors or lobbyists by the state's top insurance regulator.

This year our campaigns have been accountable to only one owner – the public.