RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Focusing his agenda on what he called “woke corporations,” Darren Eustance, former chair of the Wake County Republican Party, on Friday announced he wants to be North Carolina’s next secretary of state.

Eustance joins Gaston County Board of Commissioners Chair Chad Brown as announced candidates for the job that Democrat Elaine Marshall has held since 1996. Marshall, who will be 78 in November, has not announced if she will seek an eighth term, and no one else has been suggested as a potential candidate.

Darren Eustance, GOP candidate for NC secretary of state. (CAMPAIGN)

Eustance – whose announcement points out the pronunciation is “YOU-STANCE” – condemned “woke corporatism,” a conservative political reference that he didn’t define but seemed to relate to “the left’s hostile takeover of corporate boardrooms and its resulting effects.”

He didn’t specify which companies those are or what specifically they were doing.

“I’ll tell corporations that their jobs are welcome in North Carolina; Woke Corporatism is not,” Eustance said in the release. “No North Carolinian should be at risk of losing their job because they refuse to go along with woke orthodoxy or be coerced into DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] training that violates their beliefs or their conscience.”

Eustance calls himself a small business owner – LinkedIn says he owns Malleus Political Strategies – and a political researcher and consultant. He lives in Raleigh and led the Wake Republicans in 2019-2020. This is his first attempt at statewide office.

The secretary of state in North Carolina is responsible for the business community and its ethical and regulatory policies. Eustance said, if elected, he would focus on China’s expanding influence in North Carolina.

He cited House Bill 463, recently passed unanimously by the House and waiting since April 27 in the Senate Rules Committee, which prohibits China from buying land within 25 miles of a military base. Eustance indicated a need to guard against shell companies and local residents from being used to circumvent such policy.

“I’ll issue an annual report on land and corporate holdings by China and other adversarial nations,” he said. “We need to get serious about protecting or state and country from hostile local powers.”

Brown ran for the seat in 2020, losing in the GOP primary by about 5 percentage points to E.C. Sykes of Durham. Marshall received 51.2% of nearly 5.4 million votes to win re-election.