GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – There’s a new Republican from Rockingham County entering the race for lieutenant governor in North Carolina, and it is not the person who might immediately come to mind.
Longtime defense attorney Seth Woodall announced Wednesday that he was launching his candidacy, and he has loaned his campaign $1 million and hired an adviser from Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the GOP frontrunner for governor.
That’s a lot of news from a county that is home to arguably the most powerful Republican family in the state, the Bergers: Senate Leader Phil Sr. and his sons, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Phil Jr. and county commissioner Kevin.
“I never imagined running for public office,” Woodall said in a release. “I’m a simple man who married his high school sweetheart and who has been blessed with a beautiful family and successful businesses.
“I am running because I feel that I have a responsibility to use the blessings that have been provided to me to serve the people of our state.”
A big field
Woodall, who also sent out a video announcement, has plenty of competition in 2024. The most recent update of Catawba College political science professor and blogger Michael Bitzer’s tracking database shows 12 confirmed candidates – Woodall makes the eighth Republican – and at least three or four others have been speculated. Formal filing is scheduled for December.
Along with Woodall and Page, the confirmed GOP candidates (in alphabetical order) are:
- Deanna Ballard, former state senator from District 45 who has a long history in government.
- Peter Boykin, owner of the conservative political website GoRightNews.com.
- Rivera Douthit, an evangelist from Mooresville.
- Jeffrey Elmore, the long-time representative in House District 94 who also teaches in Wilkes County Public Schools.
- Allen Mashburn, pastor of Asbury Baptist Church in Randolph County who is photographed on his website with Lt. Gov. Robinson.
- Hal Weatherman, who was chief of staff and campaign manager for former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who ran for governor in 2020.
The four confirmed Democrats are:
- Ben Clark, a former state senator from Chatham County who ran for Congress in the 9th District last November.
- Delmonte Crawford, a civil rights activist with no prior political experience.
- Rachel Hunt, a state senator from Mecklenburg County and daughter of former Gov. Jim Hunt.
- Raymond Smith Jr., a former representative for District 21 in the state House.
But Woodall has given himself a leg up in the race by launching his candidacy with $1 million in the coffers, which far exceeds reported cash-on-hand from any candidate in either party, including most candidates for governor. Hunt, for instance, reported about $313,000 in her July statement.
A spokesperson for Robinson said he has no plans to endorse in the lieutenant governor’s race at this time (he has supported Dan Bishop for attorney general). A request for comment from Phil Berger Sr.’s campaign did not generate an immediate response. Woodall was in court on Wednesday morning and unavailable for questions.
What this means
“I think it speaks to a couple of dynamics at play,” Bitzer said in response to questions from WGHP. “First, it’s a pure open-seat election, with no incumbent on either side of the political aisle seeking renomination or re-election. Those types of campaigns tend to bring in a larger group of candidates than if there are clear front-runners or incumbents in the mix.
“Second, I think the factor of folks willing to spend significant amounts of money to launch a candidacy speaks to the notion that novice candidates are willing to pursue a party nomination, even if they don’t have the resources or capabilities to win the nomination. Sometimes it’s for ego, sometimes it’s to prime an electorate for a future run (name recognition helps to build that).
“But the major factor nowadays seems to be both resources, as in campaign funding to raise name recognition and identification, and ‘creating the buzz’ of typically fear-invoking statements and appeals to hard-core partisans within a party base — again, focused on raising name identification. The back half of his video announcement launching his campaign plays right into this, with the social culture wars at full front.”
Woodall’s key issues
Woodall also contracted with political operative Conrad Pogorzelski III, who had been working as Robinson’s top adviser in the race for governor.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson since he first decided to run for office,” Pogorzelski said in the release. “I am excited to be working with Seth who I believe carries the same convictions of sacrificial public service.
“Seth is an amazing husband, father, and incredibly successful businessman who I know will never back down from a fight, and knows how to win.”
Woodall has been a full-service attorney in Eden since he joined Walker & Melvin in 2006. He became a partner and bought out the practice, starting Seth M. Woodall & Associates in 2019.
“I intend to fully focus on and support the economic interests of the families in this state, both state and local law enforcement, the 2nd Amendment, the lives of the unborn and better access to education for the children of this great state,” he said. “I will never stop fighting for my family, or yours. So remember y’all, vote Woodall.”
Said Bitzer: “Inherently, North Carolina’s lieutenant governor is notably weak in its formal powers of governing, but using the position as a stepping-stone or rhetorical vehicle to generate controversy and news is probably the more appropriate aspect to the office nowadays.”