In the N.C. constitution, the duties of the governor are spelled out over two pages.
The duties of the lieutenant governor get less than four lines.
Maybe that’s why the holder of the office so often struggles for public attention.
Most people understand that the real purpose of the office is to create a placeholder in case something happens to the governor. That doesn’t prevent the candidates for the office from proclaiming their plans to shape public policy in North Carolina.
Even if they don’t get much of an opportunity to turn those plans into reality in the one office, lieutenant governors have a way of becoming governors in North Carolina.
This year, seven major party candidates – five Republicans and two Democrats – are vying for the job as current Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton seeks the Democratic nomination for governor.
The five Republicans include two current members of the N.C. House, a local officeholder and two men who have never held public office.
N.C. Rep. Dale Folwell, 53, a Winston-Salem private investor, is the House speaker pro tem. He has been in the House since 2005. Folwell is a conservative, having been a key supporter of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, but enjoys a reputation for working across party lines to get legislation passed.
He helped put together a bipartisan bill reworking workers’ compensation laws.
N.C. Rep. Grey Mills, 46, is a Mooresville lawyer and two-term House member. Mills wants to cut corporate tax and business regulation, but also supports putting more money into community college worker training programs as a way to spark economic growth.
Tony Gurley, 56, is a pharmacy owner and Wake County commissioner. He is touting his business experience and says he will be a champion for small business as lieutenant governor. He has been actively aligning himself with the Tea Party movement.
Dan Forest, 44, is a Raleigh architect. He has been campaigning with a get-tough approach to illegal immigration and is pushing for more school choice options, including tax breaks for families that send their children to private schools.
Arthur Jason Rich, 35, is a Bladen County accountant. He wants to encourage economic growth with additional tax breaks for the buyers of new or foreclosed homes, and believes teachers and state employees need pay raises.
In the Democratic primary, former N.C. Rep. Linda Coleman, who recently resigned as state personnel director, is taking on first-term N.C. Sen. Eric Mansfield.
Coleman, 62, was a key advocate for state workers when in the legislature and is being backed by the State Employees Association of North Carolina. As lieutenant governor, she would push for better-funded, better-run job training programs.
Mansfield, 47, is a Fayetteville doctor, minister and former Army medical officer. He has been running on a theme of trying to end bitter partisanship with common-sense approaches to policy.