Here are the Observer's recommendations for insurance commissioner, secretary of state and state school superintendent.
Wayne Goodwin for insurance commissioner
Voters in the race for commissioner of insurance have a clear choice. The Republican in the race is Raleigh businessman John Odom, a former Raleigh City Council member and deputy mayor. He was known as a common-sense member of the City Council who worked across partisan lines to resolve disputes and get things done. Libertarian Mark McMains of Fuquay Varina is also running.
Their opponent is former state Rep. Wayne Goodwin, a lawyer. He has worked to improve public schools and workplace safety, and to reform the political process. He has performed well as assistant commissioner of insurance under the outgoing incumbent, Jim Long. Goodwin's understanding of the complicated insurance laws, his commitment to adequate regulation of insurance companies and his personal concern for firefighters and first responders overseen by the insurance department make him the better choice. The Observer enthusiastically recommends Wayne Goodwin for insurance commissioner.
Elaine Marshall for
secretary of state
Elaine Marshall has served the state well. Her opponent, Republican Jack Sawyer, is a bright lawyer with a variety of experiences in finance and real estate. But Marshall's depth of experience as a lawyer, a state legislator and as secretary of state since 1997, when she became the first woman elected to statewide office, qualify her for another term. In particular, Marshall's decision to appoint a study commission to examine North Carolina's system of regulating lobbyists was prescient. That was before revelations of wrongdoing, influence peddling and corrupt fund-raising practices tainted the legislature. Her sound judgment about what works and what needs fixing in Raleigh merits her another term. We recommend Elaine Marshall for secretary of state.
Tossup on schools chief
North Carolina's structure for public school governance is dysfunctional. The Constitution requires an elected superintendent of public instruction, but in reality the office is largely ignored. The State Board of Education makes policy. It's chairman is appointed by the governor, and not long ago the board hired a chief operating officer to do its will. This system won't change until someone has the backbone to lead a consensus to make the office appointive and accountable to the governor.
Incumbent June Atkinson is a veteran educator with good ideas, but she has been ineffective for two reasons: she has been marginalized by a governance system that doesn't allow the elected superintendent to fully do the job and she has failed to use the bully pulpit the office does afford.
Her opponent, Republican and former House co-speaker Richard Morgan, supports a change that would give the appointment to the governor. While we do not agree with all of his positions on education, such as experimenting with even the limited use of vouchers, his ideas are substantive. Morgan was a ruthless negotiator in the House, and could be something of a bully. Yet he shows evidence he has tempered that tendency into a more workable leadership style.
Both candidates are interested in lowering the dropout rate, boosting graduation and improving teacher salaries. Yet the key question is whether the state will resolve its goofy governance impasse. If you believe the superintendent should be elected, support June Atkinson and preserve the current system. If you believe in change, vote for Richard Morgan. But until the state takes action on this question, it won't matter much who's in this office.