The dangers of unqualified candidates

Nov 14, 2012

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Republican Party, and perhaps the people of  the state, narrowly averted disaster on Election Day.

No, it wasn't their candidates who won. It was two who lost.

By just about any measure, Debra Goldman and Steve Royal were unqualified for the elected positions that they sought.

Both had beaten better qualified opponents during the May primaries. Both then lost to incumbent Democrats in last week's election.

Goldman, after a lot of unflattering, pre-election publicity about her private life, lost to incumbent Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood by 8 percentage points.

Royal, after talking about North Carolina joining other states in the creation of a regional currency, lost to incumbent Democratic State Treasurer Janet Cowell by the same margin.

Perhaps the results should be allowed to become two more footnotes of North Carolina political history, and interpreted to show that the state's electorate exercised some reasonable discretion.

Or, maybe instead we should think about what might have happened had Pat McCrory enjoyed longer coattails and been able to carry an entire slate of down-ballot GOP candidates to victory with him.

Goldman, with no accounting background and questionable claims of business experience, would have been put in charge of the state agency given the task of finding waste and fraud in state government.

Royal, with his regional currency plans, would have been made sole fiduciary of the $70 billion state pension fund, a pension fund with obligations to pensioners that taxpayers must shoulder when investment returns don't.

It is easy enough to imagine results that would not have accrued to the GOP's long-term political interests, nor those of the taxpaying public.

Democrats have certainly nominated their share of mediocre state candidates over the years.

Republicans have nominated their share of strong candidates, two of them currently heading executive branch agencies, Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler and Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry.

But nominating unqualified candidates for these executive branch positions is something more. It's dangerous business.

These aren't legislators, one of 50 or one of 120.

The positions are entrusted with serious responsibilities that affect the lives of North Carolinians in ways big and small. Once elected, for four years, the authority of the people in those positions is nearly absolute.

Yet voters often know little about the candidates beyond the R or D by their name.

I've argued before in this column that North Carolina has too many elected agency heads, that the governor should be granted the power to appoint some of the positions.

Making that happen would require changing the state constitution, and recent state leaders have shown no inclination to expend the political capital to convince voters that a change is needed.

Meanwhile, the political parties restrict themselves when it comes to weighing in on primary races.

That restraint is understandable in most instances.

Maybe, though, they need an exception, a loophole.

They could call it the "create your own political currency" loophole.





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