The Republican field for North Carolina governor next year has been winnowed further as a retired health care executive who announced his bid three months ago is instead now running for secretary of state.
Jesse Thomas of Cary said Wednesday that he decided to suspend his gubernatorial campaign and compete for the seat held by longtime Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.
Thomas is the second GOP candidate for governor in as many weeks who has decided to run for another post. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who entered the gubernatorial field in May, said last week that he would instead seek to return to Congress by running for a Greensboro-area district.
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The 2024 Republican field for governor still contains candidates like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former state legislator Andy Wells and attorney Bill Graham.
Thomas didn’t say in his news release why he was making the change. Walker acknowledged last week that he no longer saw “a clear path forward” to win the gubernatorial nomination.
Robinson has been considered the frontrunner, and entering the summer was the top fundraiser among Republicans. Graham said last month that he was prepared to spend millions of dollars in personal funds on his campaign. The primary is March 5.
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Thomas, a Mississippi native, had a career in health care for over 30 years. He previously led the Medicaid plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to hundreds of thousands of consumers.
Marshall has been secretary of state since 1997, leading an office that registers corporations, oversees legislative lobbyists, commissions notaries and investigates securities fraud.
In a news release announcing his campaign change, Thomas said if elected he would seek to modernize the agency’s business systems, focus on economic development and urge the General Assembly to advance term limits for the secretary’s position. Such a change would require a constitutional amendment approved by voters.