In some election races, the candidates disagree about the greatest challenge facing the office they are seeking. That isn’t the case in the contest between A.J. Daoud and Michael LaPaglia, the two Republicans seeking to displace long-time Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
Both LaPaglia and Daoud think that the secretary of state’s office under Marshall imposes needless burdens on businesses, and just hasn’t kept up with the times.
LaPaglia said that the greatest issue facing the office is the need to modernize. He noted that its website design is 20 years old, and the processes it uses are outdated.
He would like to see the office refocused with a more user-friendly philosophy, and be more agile in how it oversees businesses.
“We need to reform the underlying bureaucracy,” LaPaglia said.
Daoud agreed that the office needs to be modernized.
“The Secretary of State’s Office is still analog while rest of the world is digital,” he said, referencing older models of electronic equipment versus newer technologies that are available.
He cited the requirement that corporations file a copy of their tax returns with the department as an example of the outdated, burdensome regulations being imposed. He said the fees the department charges are too high, and drive entrepreneurs to neighboring states.
Both LaPaglia and Daoud support allowing crowdfunding as a means for businesses to raise investment capital, and question the restrictions imposed on the practice under Marshall’s leadership.
“I think that crowdfunding is an essential form of free enterprise,” LaPaglia said.
Crowdfunding efforts “should be registered, but why do we need the regulation?” Daoud asked.
Another alternative form of corporate organization is a benefit corporation, commonly called a B-corporation.
That is a for-profit company that also pursues social or environmental goals in addition to seeking to make money. North Carolina currently doesn’t allow B-corporations.
Daoud thinks that should change. LaPaglia doesn’t believe that B-corporations are consistent with a free enterprise system, and that regular for-profit companies and nonprofits adequately fill this niche.
This is Daoud’s second run for the office. He also ran in 2012, finishing fourth of four candidates in the Republican primary.
“My opponent finished fourth of four in every county, including his home county,” said LaPaglia, arguing that Daoud isn’t the strongest possible candidate that the Republican Party can offer up against Marshall in a key Council of State contest.
Both LaPaglia and Daoud are small business owners.
Daoud runs a funeral company with locations in three states. He contended that his broad background, including time spent running his own business, service as a police officer, and experience in government as a lottery commissioner make him uniquely qualified to be secretary of state.
He holds an M.B.A. from Phoenix University, and currently serves as chairman of the state Republican Party’s 6th Congressional District.
LaPaglia operates a consulting practice aimed at museums, historical sites, and similar organizations, addressing both the operational issues and project-specific challenges the institutions face. He said that mix of business experience would serve him well in the secretary of state position.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Emory University, and a Master of Fine Arts in theatre from UNC-Chapel Hill. He served in Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson’s successful 1994 campaign for U.S. Senate.