Elect 2012: The race for lieutenant governor
RALEIGH — The race for lieutenant governor in North Carolina pits two candidates who’ve never before sought statewide office — a Tea Party favorite who is the son of a longtime Republican congresswoman against a state government insider and former aide to Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.
Republican Dan Forest, the son of retiring U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte, is an architect who has leaned on his party’s Tea Party and evangelical blocs. Democrat Linda Coleman, 63, has been a state worker for more than 30 years and was most recently Perdue’s state personnel director before stepping down to run for the state’s No. 2 office.
Coleman is a champion of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, or SEANC. the union for 55,000 state workers and retirees. SEANC and its national parent backed Coleman with nearly $400,000 for television and radio commercials, mailers, and signs to help her win the Democratic Party primary in May. That dwarfed the $66,000 Coleman reported raising through the end of June, according to documents filed with the State Board of Elections.
SEANC and the North Carolina Association of Educators, the state’s main teacher lobbying group, remain lynchpins of her support even though North Carolina has the nation’s lowest rate of union membership.
Forest’s campaign reported raising $528,000 through the end of June, before he got fundraising help from Ralph Reed and Mike Huckabee, two leaders among Christian conservatives. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate who now hosts a cable talk show, made a recent online video describing Forest as a “business person” and Coleman as a “union-backed career politician” who “has spent her entire working career working for the state.”
Forest, who turns 45 on Monday, then hands Huckabee a Chik-Fil-A sandwich while Forest sips a drink bearing the logo of the fast-food restaurant. The opposition of the fast-food company’s president to same-sex marriage became a flashpoint in the country’s culture wars.
“Just vote your values,” Huckabee says.
Coleman was one of the first North Carolina candidates to take a stand against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which voters passed in May.
Coleman said she’s been a SEANC member for 28 years and that over a 33-year career in state government she’s dealt with the organization as both a worker and a manager. She notes that state workers and other public employees don’t have the right to bargain as a group over pay and conditions. The union directs its members and political-action money to sway politicians.