Influence on business

If North Carolina had a file cabinet, it would be the Secretary of State's office.

The secretary maintains a host of records ranging from the list of current lobbyists to trademarks to business incorporations and commercial loan documents. The office regulates certain aspects of business and is responsible for ensuring that goods sold in the state aren't cheap knockoffs of the real name brands.

The candidates say the secretary of state, who runs a department with nearly 200 employees, can have a big influence on how business is done.

“It matters because this is where business is created in North Carolina,” said incumbent Elaine Marshall, a Democrat. “If people can start a business easily and at low cost, that means they can get on to supporting the economy and creating jobs.”

Her opponent, real-estate lawyer and Republican Jack Sawyer, said the office needs a new leader after Marshall's three terms.

“I think Secretary Marshall has grown very comfortable in her position,” Sawyer said. “My background is as a real-estate attorney. I have owned my own law practice. I know what it's like to manage employees and make a payroll and live within a budget.”