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The Chronicle’s guide to national, statewide races on the ballot in Durham

North Carolina is once again a presidential battleground, but there are also other races on the ballot, including the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. 

With early voting kicking off Oct. 15 in North Carolina—including an on-campus early voting place at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center—The Chronicle has pulled together information on other national and statewide races that you’ll find on your ballot if voting in Durham. 

The ballot will also include judicial races in North Carolina, county offices and candidates for the state’s General Assembly. Information on General Assembly candidates can be found in One Vote N.C.’s voter guide

U.S. Senate

All eyes are on the Senate race, where Republican incumbent Thom Tillis, a first-term senator, is running against Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, a former state senator. With millions raised by both sides, the race has become one of the most expensive and closely watched contests in the country—and for good reason. 

The outcome could determine whether Democrats gain control of the Senate. If the Democratic presidential ticket loses, denying Democrats the vice presidency, they need at least four seats to flip the chamber.

A self-described “common-sense fiscal conservative,” Tillis has emphasized his record of cutting taxes, supporting small businesses and increasing jobs. Cunningham, an Army Reserve veteran, has promised to tackle corruption in the capital and to extend healthcare coverage. 

On Oct. 2, the race was thrown into turmoil when Tillis announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus and Cunningham admitted to sending sexually explicit text messages to a woman who is not his wife. Still, in an era of sharp political polarization, it’s uncertain whether the sexting scandal will sway voters—the latest polls largely still show Cunningham with a single-digit lead. After being cleared from isolation by a doctor, Tillis returned to Washington on Tuesday to attend the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.  

Also running are Constitution Party candidate Kevin Hayes and Libertarian Party candidate Shannon Bray:

  • Thom Thillis (R), incumbent
  • Shannon Bray (Libertarian Party)
  • Cal Cunningham (D)
  • Kevin Hayes (Constitution Party)

U.S. House 

Durham County is split between North Carolina’s 1st and 4th Congressional Districts. Both districts are rated “Solid Democratic” by the Cook Political Report and are seen as unlikely to swing right.

The 1st is currently represented by Democrat G.K. Butterfield, who has served in the House since a special election in 2004. He’s being challenged by Sandy Smith, whose website describes her as a “Pro-Trump” and “Pro-America” conservative. 

The 4th is represented by Democrat David Price, who has served in the House since 1987 with the exception of one term in the 1990s, when he won back the seat two years after losing it to a former Raleigh police chief. Republican challenger Robert Thomas lists three main issues on his website: the Second Amendment, the Constitution and “the wall.”

1st district 

  • G.K. Butterfield (D), incumbent
  • Sandy Smith (R)

4th district

  • David Price (D), incumbent
  • Robert Thomas (R)


Democrat Roy Cooper, the incumbent governor, is being challenged by Republican Dan Forest, the current lieutenant governor, as well as Libertarian Steven DiFiore and Constitution Party candidate Steven J. Fiore. In recent polls, Cooper has led Forest by 5 to 8%. The gubernatorial debate is Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.

While in office, Cooper has issued a Clean Energy Plan and executive orders implementing paid parental leave and banning workplace discrimination. He also worked with bipartisan congressional leaders to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial “bathroom law” that played a major role in Cooper’s election, also according to his campaign site.

Forest’s platform includes “defending the Second Amendment,” putting armed security guards in schools, combating illegal immigration and raising teacher pay. 

Cooper’s coronavirus response plan features prominently in the dialogue regarding the election, with Forest hosting numerous in-person campaign events and promising to loosen restrictions if elected. Forest has called for the reopening of all public schools without a mask requirement. 

  • Roy Cooper (D), incumbent
  • Dan Forest (R)
  • Al Pisano (Constitution Party)
  • Steven DiFiore (Libertarian Party)

Lieutenant governor

There is no incumbent in the race for lieutenant governor, with Forest stepping down to run for governor against Cooper. 

Republican Mark Robinson, a former small-business owner and manufacturing worker, rose to prominence as a gun-rights activist in 2018 and is only the second Black Republican candidate for statewide office in North Carolina in the past 120 years, according to records reviewed by The News & Observer. 

Robinson has been criticized in recent days for Facebook posts in which he makes derogatory comments about transgender people, Muslims and others. He has said he will not apologize for comments posted to Facebook in the past several years and has denied that the posts are offensive. 

Democrat Yvonne Holley, if elected, would be only the second woman to serve as N.C. lieutenant governor. She has served in the state House of Representatives since 2013 after working in state government. 

Either would become the first Black lieutenant governor in state history, and an East Carolina University poll from early October found the two in a dead heat, tied at 45% each. 

  • Yvonne Lewis Holley (D)
  • Mark Robinson (R)

Secretary of state

The main roles of the North Carolina secretary of state are to foster economic growth, ensure adequate levels of corporate transparency and provide infrastructure for business transactions.  

  • E.C. Sykes (R)
  • Elaine Marshall (D), incumbent

State auditor

The NC Office of the State Auditor is responsible for conducting account inspections for all state government bodies.

  • Anthony (Tony) Street (R)
  • Beth Wood (D), incumbent


The responsibilities of the N.C. Department of the State Treasurer include the administration of health-care and retirement programs for state employees, as well as the provision of fiscal advising to local governments. 

  • Ronnie Chatterji (D)
  • Dale Folwell (R), incumbent

Attorney general

The attorney general represents the state government in legal affairs, serves as the primary legal counsel to the General Assembly and the governor and manages criminal appeals from state trial courts.

  • Jim O’Neill (R)
  • Josh Stein (D), incumbent

Superintendent of public instruction 

The superintendent of public instruction oversees the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and works with policymakers to promote the interests of the state’s public school systems. 

  • Catherine Truitt (R)
  • Jen Mangrum (D)

Labor commissioner 

The state labor commissioner is responsible for regulating workplace conditions, conducting health and safety inspections and otherwise promoting the wellbeing of North Carolina’s workforce.

  • Josh Dobson (R)
  • Jessica Holmes (D)

For more election coverage from across North Carolina, visit One Vote North Carolina, a collaborative between The Chronicle and six other student newspapers that aims to help college students across the state navigate the November election.

Chris Kuo

Chris Kuo is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously enterprise editor for Volume 117.

Anna Zolotor | News Editor

Anna Zolotor is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.


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