State Superintendent Mark Johnson has officially joined the crowded field of candidates vying to become North Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.
Johnson, the first Republican state superintendent in a quarter-century, filed for election to the lieutenant governor’s seat on Wednesday.
He joined a field that, as of Thursday morning, already included eight Republican candidates and eight Democrats. Johnson is the ninth Republican to join the race
“I have been in the bureaucracy the past three years fighting, quite frankly, the North Carolina deep state,” Johnson told Osborn. “It’s real and they want to tell you have to educate your children and they also want to have their bureaucratic fiefdoms in Raleigh.”
The winner will replace Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who will challenge Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper for the governor’s seat.
The filing period for the November 2020 election closes at noon Friday. A primary election to trim the list of candidates will be held March 3.
In a Facebook interview earlier this month with North Carolina journalist Jill Nelson Osborn, Johnson said he is running for lieutenant governor to continue the fight against complacency in state government.
“I have been in the bureaucracy the past three years fighting, quite frankly, the North Carolina deep state,” Johnson told Osborn. “It’s real and they want to tell you how to educate your children and they also want to have their bureaucratic fiefdoms in Raleigh.”
He pledged in a press release announcing his filing to fight to make state government more accountable, efficient and transparent.
“I’ve seen first-hand how bad state government can be,” Johnson said. “I’ve already been in the trenches fighting the deep state in state bureaucracy. They pulled out all their tricks to protect their status quo standards, toll, and strategies. They were content to stand in place rather than move forward.”
Johnson found himself at odds with the State Board of Education over the powers of the superintendent almost immediately after defeating June Atkinson in the 2016.
The Republican-led General Assembly expanded the powers of the state superintendent, which led to a lengthy legal battle that ended with the State Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of a House bill that rearranged the responsibilities of the superintendent and transferred certain powers of the state board to Johnson.
More recently, Johnson has been embroiled in a legal dustup with the State Department of Information (DIT) over the state’s K-3 reading assessment tool awarded Istation.
A former high school teacher and school board members from Winston-Salem, Johnson has often been targeted for criticism by North Carolina educators who question his credential to be superintendent and support for teachers.
“After years of making bad decisions for our public school students and educators, we are glad that Mr. Johnson has realized that the role of state superintendent was not a good fit for him personally or professionally,” NCAE President Mark Jewell said in a written statement shortly after Johnson announced in November that he would not seek reelection.