Seven of the leading Republican candidates for lieutenant governor in North Carolina’s March 5 primary discussed topics like education, critical race theory in schools, and abortion at a recently held forum hosted by NC Values Coalition.

Rivera Douthit, state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, Allen Mashburn, Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, Hal Weatherman, Seth Woodall, and former state Sen. Deanna Ballard were among the seven of the eight candidates invited to participate at Christ Baptist Church in Raleigh. Invitations were extended based on campaigning and fundraising metrics. The remaining four candidates in the running are Marlenis Hernandez Novoa, Jim O’Neill, Ernest Reeves, and Peter Boykin.

Mashburn, a pastor and former businessman, said he wanted to get involved in politics after his father died in a nursing facility that was closed due to the COVID shutdown in the state in 2020.

Douthit, a former critical care nurse who now owns a small business with her husband, stated that while she is not a politician, she was called by God to run for office, wants to defend education, and would love to see the Bible and prayer re-instituted in schools and sex trafficking ended in the state.

Page said his 42 years in law enforcement, including the last 26 years as sheriff, make him the best candidate because he has the experience of running a $17 million operation with 155 employees who help protect 92,000 people in his county.

Ballard said her experience as a state senator from 2016-2022 gives her an edge in the race. She pointed to an example of a bill she introduced to reopen schools that she negotiated with Democrat Gov. Cooper, who originally vetoed it, and led to their reopening.

Former state Sen. Deanna Ballard at Lt Gov candidate forum held by NC Values Coalition. Source: Carolina Journal.

Woodall said his experience as an attorney and a business owner in a real estate investment company and a development company qualify him for the role He said he intends to stand up for law enforcement, first responders, the Second Amendment, election integrity, and taking the politics out of education.

Weatherman stated that his years in politics, including as chief of staff for former lieutenant governor Dan Forest and former US Rep. Sue Myrick, and as a campaign manager, along with being the founder of a charter school, make him a sound choice for the position.

Elmore said his ten years in the legislature, including as one of the chief budget writers in the House, gives him an understanding of all of the functions of state government. He said the lieutenant governor is a liaison between the legislative and executive branches, and having good relationships with all legislators is key. He jokingly added that he wouldn’t be “dancing on TikTok or making videos” if he was elected.

Mashburn said the American Library Association (ALA) “loves to hide behind the First Amendment” and would advise withdrawing from the Association as a state member.

Weatherman agreed with Mashburn’s suggestion to pull out of the ALA, but he would also lobby the General Assembly to create a full-time equivalent position in every county with the sole authority to pick the books.

Hal Weatherman at Lt Gov candidate forum held by NC Values Coalition. Source: Carolina Journal.

He also said he would lobby the governor to remove Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices from every school in the state.

Ballard said she would strengthen penalties that school boards and districts face for not complying with the Parents’ Bill of Rights law.

The panelists were asked how they would make sure students are prepared for the workforce, instead of being taught how to be woke, regarding the lieutenant governor’s role in the community college system and State Board of Education.

Ballard said she would focus on skills training and expanding apprenticeships and would put more of a focus on trades for students.

Woodall agrees with Ballard in supporting the trades and taking the stigmas away from being a tradesperson, adding that he got his start at Rockingham Community College.

Weatherman said he wants to introduce a “two and two degree”, where students can go to trade school for the first two years after they graduate high school and the remaining two years at a university to take courses that will prepare them for a successful career. He also added that he is a homeschool advocate.

Mashburn stated many school board meetings he attends have empty seats and urged parents to get involved, either as an audience member or run for a seat on the school board themselves.

The next question centered on abortion and how each candidate would promote life and how far North Carolina should go to protect life. The context: Rachel Hunt, one of the leading Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, according to hosts Steve Noble and Courtney Geels, said she was running to promote abortion. All of the candidates agreed that they were pro-life, but with varying viewpoints.

Page said that he opposes abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or medical conditions for the mother. He also said that as a law enforcement officer, he has to follow any laws on the books but told Carolina Journal after the forum that laws can be changed through the legislature, and he supports adoption.

Woodall agreed with Page on the circumstances that may justify abortion but that he is pro-life. While he supports the current 12-week law, Woodall said it should go further and supports a six-week regulation or “Heartbeat Bill.”

Ballard said she supported the Second Chance For Life and Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment bills while she was in the state Senate. She added that her record speaks for itself in terms of supporting things like pregnancy centers. She supports the current 12-week bill, saying that it is better than remaining at the 20-week mark.

Weatherman said he supports a “Heartbeat Bill,” the foster care system, and making adoptions easier.

Mashburn is also an advocate of adoption, but more should be done to cut restrictions and fees, he said. He also stated he wasn’t certain if the abortion issue would come up again in the next four years because of what has already been accomplished.

Elmore had his own touching story on why he is pro-life. Not only was his mother adopted, but she was told to abort Elmore because of blood pressure issues she had while pregnant with him.

State Rep. Jeffrey Ellmore at Lt Gov candidate forum held by NC Values Coalition. Source: Carolina Journal.

“My mother took the gamble and chose life,” he told the audience. “I wouldn’t be here today if those two strong women (Elmore’s mother and her birth mother) had not chosen life.”

Elmore said they have saved a lot of babies with the 12-week bill, but he, too, supports a “Heartbeat Bill.” He also reminded the audience to be aware of who they vote for in the state Senate and House.

Douthit said she is in favor of abortions being completely done away with. She claimed the “my body, my choice” rhetoric is all a lie because women deal with the emotional aftermath of having an abortion for the rest of their lives.

The primary election date is March 5. Early voting, currently underway, runs through March 2.