Democrats run anti-Morrow bill in NC Senate

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, asks a question during a committee meeting. (Image from N.C. General Assembly YouTube channel)

Listen to this story (4 minutes)

  • "While these two bills are unlikely to become law, Democrats should take a step back and reflect on the message they are sending with these two pieces of legislation.”  - Jim Stirling, research fellow, Civitas Center for Public Integrity

The Democrats’ minority whip in the North Carolina Senate has introduced a bill that could bar the Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction from serving in office.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, is running Senate Bill 867, Superintendent of Public Instruction Minimum Requirements. The measure mandates that the state superintendent “must have at least one year of experience as a teacher or school administrator in this State or a member of a local board of education or the State Board of Education.” The legislation notably leaves out homeschool educators.

The GOP’s nominee for state superintendent, Michele Morrow, has never served as a traditional school teacher, administrator, or on a local or state board of education. She ran unsuccessfully for the Wake County School Board in 2022, but has remained a grassroots activist on the state of education in North Carolina. Five of Morrow’s children attended public school, but she became a homeschool educator when public schools weren’t meeting her daughter’s needs. She works with teaching coalitions to guide other homeschool educators.

Under the North Carolina Constitution, the only Council of State office with a credentialing or experience requirement is attorney general. The Council of State is the 10-member executive body that includes offices like governor, lieutenant governor, and state labor commissioner.

In 1984, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution requiring that an attorney general be licensed to practice law in the state: “Candidates must be duly authorized to practice law in the courts of the state,” according to the NC Board of Elections.

Under current NC statutes, the agriculture commissioner and the members of the Board of Agriculture “shall be practicing farmers engaged in their profession,” but it’s unclear how “farmer” is defined.

Other offices have no requirements. For example, the current state auditory, Democrat Jessica Holmes, is not a Certified Public Accountant. The two most recent auditors, Les Merritt and Beth Wood, have been CPAs.

Attorney Paul “Skip” Stam, a former Republican leader in NC House, said that a change like that included in HB867 would need to be added to the state constitution. That process would require a three-fifths vote in both chambers of the General Assembly and a simple majority vote from voters.

In February, Chaudhuri announced plans to file a bill that would empower the NC State Board of Elections with the authority to remove a presidential candidate from voter ballots under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The measure would ostensibly give the state board the authority to block a candidate like former President Donald Trump from appearing on the NC ballot.

“While these two bills are unlikely to become law, Democrats should take a step back and reflect on the message they are sending with these two pieces of legislation,” said Jim Stirling, a research fellow at the John Locke Foundation’s Civitas Center for Public Integrity “Democrats have been expounding on their wish to ‘save democracy,’ but barring one’s political opposition from office is the furthest thing from a Democratic process. If you don’t like a candidate, beat them at the ballot box. Don’t promote an eleventh-hour change to block them from the ballot.”

Neither Chaudhuri’s office or Morrow’s campaign replied to an interview request on Tuesday.