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  • Theresa Opeka / Carolina Journal

Lieutenant Governor race: GOP runoff for Weatherman and O’Neill as Hunt locks democratic nomination

While State Sen. Rachel Hunt cruised to victory in her bid for the North Carolina Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, it may be a while before the Republican nominee is known as no one met the 30% threshold to clinch the nomination on Tuesday.

The crowded field of eleven Republican candidates, including Rivera Douthit, state Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, Allen Mashburn, Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page, Hal Weatherman, Seth Woodall, former state Sen. Deanna Ballard, Marlenis Hernandez Novoa, Jim O’Neill, Ernest Reeves, and Peter Boykin has been narrowed down to Weatherman and O’Neill as the two top vote-getters.

The two will face off in a May 14 runoff election.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Weatherman received 19.6%, while O’Neill received 15.8%.

Hunt won with 70% of the vote, while fellow challengers Ben Clark and Mark H. Robinson received 16 and 13% respectively.

Hunt has served as a state senator since January 2023. Before that, she was in the North Carolina House from January 2019 to December 2022. Hunt, the daughter of former four-term North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, also owns Hunt For College, L.L.C., and was a private practice attorney.

Her opponent Clark, an Air Force veteran, served in the North Carolina Senate for five terms and did not seek reelection in 2022; instead, he turned his sights to Congress. He lost to Republican Richard Hudson in NC-9. Robinson is a Navy veteran and entrepreneur.

Weatherman was among the seven Republican candidates who attended a forum hosted by NC Values Coalition in February. O’Neill was not present.

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.

He also said he would lobby the governor to remove Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) offices from every school in the state and would recommend not only pulling out of the American Library Association (ALA), but he would also lobby the North Carolina General Assembly to create a full-time equivalent position in every county with the sole authority to pick the books.

In addition, he 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.

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

O’Neill is in his fourth term as the Forsyth County district attorney. He was appointed to the position in 2009 by then-Gov. Bev Purdue. Before becoming DA, he served as an assistant DA.

In 2020, he ran unsuccessfully against current Attorney General, and Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Stein.

Whoever wins the general election will replace current Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who won the Republican nomination for governor and will face off against Stein on November 5, 2024.

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