Stock photo via Getty Images. Understanding the down-ballet races.
Stock photo via Getty Images.

Here’s a guide to some of North Carolina’s lesser-known elected state positions on the ballot this year, and how it affects you.

When early voting opens Thursday in North Carolina, most voters likely have their minds made up when it comes to their choices for president or Congress, or even state executive offices like the governor and attorney general.

But there are many more elected officials on the ballot whose jobs affect the lives of North Carolinians on a day to day basis. 

Cardinal & Pine put together this guide for information on just what some of the lesser known statewide offices do.

Check it out, and then follow these instructions to get your own personal sample ballot before heading to the polls.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction  

What this office does: The NC Superintendent of Public Instruction heads the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and oversees the 115 public school systems of the state. 

Why it matters: The Superintendent of Public Instruction is in charge of making sure the state education agency runs smoothly. He or she also serves as a member of the State Board of Education, the body which holds most of the authority over setting education policy for elementary and secondary education in the state. 

Who’s running: Jen Mangrum (D) and Catherine Truitt (R). 

State Auditor

What they do: The State Auditor is an elected office that keeps track of how the state spends its money, and performs a variety of fiscal analysis to look into how taxpayer funds are being spent in many facets of state government, including education, health, transportation, computer systems, regulatory processes, and public safety. 

They do not audit individuals for tax compliance or examine individual tax returns.

Why it matters: The State Auditor’s office has the ability to examine records, files, documents and financial documents from every state agency as well as the power to require people to answer questions under oath. Their audits can help uncover waste and fraud among state agencies or private groups that receive state funds. 

Who’s running: Anthony Street (R) and Incumbent Beth Wood (D).

NC Commissioner of Agriculture 

What they do: The NC Commissioner of Agriculture heads  the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and chairs the Board of Agriculture. As an executive officer elected statewide, the commissioner is also a member of the Council of State.

Why it matters: The Commissioner of Agriculture works with the General Assembly to enact legislation that benefits agriculture and other matters that affect the well being of North Carolinians. This person is also responsible for many decisions affecting gas and oil inspection, state farm operations, food, drug, and cosmetic testing, agricultural marketing and promotion, and operation of the North Carolina State Fair. 

Who’s running: Incumbent Steve Troxler (R) and Jenna Wadsworth (D).

NC Commissioner of Labor 

What they do: The Commissioner of Labor heads the NC Department of Labor. Most North Carolinians will recognize the outgoing Republican Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, as a photo of her is featured on the inspection certification posted in every elevator in the state. 

Why it matters: The Department of Labor is charged to promote the “health, safety, and general well-being” of more than four million workers across the state including enforcing federal workplace safety laws.

Who’s running: Josh Dobson (R) and Jessica Holmes (D).

NC Commissioner of Insurance

What they do: The Commissioner of Insurance regulates the insurance industry in North Carolina including licenses insurance professionals in the state and handles consumer complaints. The Commissioner also serves as the State Fire Marshal.

Why it matters: The role of the Commissioner of Insurance is to protect the lives and property of North Carolinians. Insurance agents, adjusters, bail bondsmen, and building inspectors are all licensed by the Commissioner of Insurance. They also handle insurance-related complaints, including fraud. As State Fire Marshal, this person trains fire and rescue workers and grants funds to fire and rescue departments for equipment. 

Who’s running: Incumbent Mike Causey (R) and Wayne Goodwin (D)