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Endorsements: Our choices among strong candidates in state auditor and NC treasurer primaries | Opinion

FEBRUARY 22, 2024

Beth Wood capably served North Carolina as state auditor from 2009 to 2023 until an off-hours accident in a state vehicle led to her resignation last year. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed former Wake County commissioner Jessica Holmes to replace her, and now six Republicans are running for a chance at the permanent role. Holmes is unopposed in the Democratic primary, as is Libertarian candidate Bob Drach.

The office uncovers waste and abuse of state tax dollars by conducting audits — many of which are mandated by NC law — of state agencies and private entities that receive state funds. GOP primary candidates include management consultant and former state senator Jeff Tarte; attorney, small businessman and UNC trustee Dave Boliek; small business owner Charles Dingee; and research assistant Jack Clark.

One candidate stands out and has an important endorsement. Jeff Tarte worked with the state auditor’s office during his time as state senator, and he authored legislation requiring the six largest North Carolina departments to undergo an independent financial audit every two years. He’s a moderate Republican who understands that the state auditor is not and should not be partisan. Among Wood’s many strengths as auditor was her independence — no public official, Democrat or Republican, received favor.

Wood, a Democrat, is endorsing Tarte and told the editorial board this month that Tarte is the candidate with the fullest understanding of the state auditor’s office and how it operates. She also appreciates that he won’t use the office as a partisan tool. We agree.

We endorse Tarte in the Republican primary for state auditor.


Voters have strong candidates to consider in both the Democratic and Republican primaries to replace NC Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is running in the GOP primary for governor.

Brad Briner, a money manager and UNC trustee, and longtime political activist and funeral home owner AJ Daoud would bring different approaches to the treasurer’s office. Daoud says he would continue Folwell’s work, including his avoidance of risk with state pension plan investments. Briner and other candidates believe North Carolina’s pension fund has underperformed for decades compared to other states, and he told the editorial board that he’s equipped to do better for NC employees without taking on unnecessary risk. He offers a detailed plan on how to do so on his campaign website.

Businesswoman Rachel Johnson did not respond to an invitation to interview with the editorial board.

Daoud has worked in several party roles and touts strong relationships with lawmakers, and he told the editorial board that he saved millions in spending while serving on a commission that supervises the state lottery. Briner has a quarter-century of investment and financial experience; among his clients was billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Briner and Daoud would each be very capable treasurers. We give a slight nod to Briner for his experience and depth of knowledge in the financial and investment sector.


Democrats Gabe Esparza and Wesley Harris would bring different types of the experience to the treasurer role.

Esparza is a former American Express executive who’s served in the Biden administration as associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. He has deep experience managing large organizations, as well as 25 years working and leading in the private sector. Harris has a Ph.D in economics and has worked in international tax accounting, and he’s a three-term member of the NC House. “There’s no doubt that having a relationship with the General Assembly is good,” he says.

As in the Republican primary, voters have two excellent choices here. Harris has the financial and legislative background that would serve him well. Esparza has a breadth of experience, strong financial acumen and is a relationship builder with a strong knowledge network in and outside North Carolina. He also would bring a fresh perspective and valuable diversity to the role and the council of state.

In a close call, we recommend Esparza.

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