North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall sought the support of Scotland County voters for herself as well as fellow Democrats running for the Council of State.
Marshall spoke to Friday’s meeting of the Scotland County Democratic Women, which was attended by some 35 of the group’s members.
She described the office of Secretary of State as a hybrid of the clerk of court and register of deeds, with responsibility for the entire state. The office is also charged with the responsibility of approving every new business formed in North Carolina - just over 200 a day.
“Things are filed with us that are financial records, business records, corporation records,” said Marshall. “We form all the corporations, limited liability companies, and nonprofits in this state.”
Marshall, a native of Maryland, moved to North Carolina after graduating from college, taking a job teaching home economics in Lenoir County. “I’m a product of the public schools and nobody in my family had been to college before,” Marshall said. “In fact, in my community there wasn’t an expectation for young people to get additional education.”
She later graduated from law school at Campbell University and practiced law for several years before representing District 15 in the N.C. Senate. Marshall has held the post of secretary of state since 1997.
“When I became Secretary of State, I inherited an office that was in trouble: it was out of date and employee morale was terrible,” she said. “People couldn’t get anything done through the office… Our databases are now the pride of this country. I have received national recognition for efficiency and the red tape that we’ve cut, because when I came in and the situation was what it was, we immediately embraced technology.”
Longtime Laurinburg City Clerk Dee Hammond, who retired last year, interacted with Marshall’s office filing clerk’s reports and annexation reports.
“I know that you have addressed the clerks’ association at the League of Municipalities for a number of years, and I know that the city clerks, town clerks, and village clerks appreciate all you do for them,” Hammond said. “She does a lot more than the things she talked about today.”
The Secretary of State’s responsibilities also include documenting most commercial loans made in North Carolina as well as preventing purveyance of counterfeit, illegal, and unsafe goods in the state.
Marshall said that although she is a Democrat, she operates her office in a nonpartisan fashion, as people of all interests interact with her office both politically and as private individuals.
“The office that I run is elected on a partisan basis, but I operate it on a nonpartisan basis because when somebody’s coming up, I never know if they are a hobby crafter who wants to be a corporation just because they think it’s the great thing to do and they’re going to have things at a few community street festivals - that’s fine if the want to be a corporation or an LLC,” she said. “But that person handing those papers across the desk may have the best new idea to transform my life or your life. They may be working on research and medicine, they may end up being patent holder on something that’s really going to be a groundbreaking achievement.”
Marshall runs against Republican Ed Goodwin for the secretary of state’s post.
She spoke highly of her fellow Democrats running in the Council of State races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction. All of those posts, excepting commissioners of agriculture and labor, are presently held by Democrats.
“This state has the strongest group of state-level administrators who are elected of any state that I can imagine, and we are all faced by Tea Party challengers,” Marshall said.
Having lost her Senate seat in an extraordinarily close race in 1994, Marshall impressed the importance of each individual vote.
“On election night it looked like I had lost by 10 votes,” she said. “On recount it went down to eight votes. When it was finished, it was a dead heat. If anybody tells you that one vote doesn’t count, I’m here to tell you - that’s bologna.”
Commissioner Carol McCall agreed, and encouraged Democrats not to be discouraged by Mitt Romney’s apparent lead in public opinion polls. At close of polls on Thursday, 4,190 ballots had been cast in Scotland County.
“Yesterday there was somebody on TV saying ‘if the election were held today,’ but the election is being held today because people are voting every day,” said McCall. “North Carolina is still a battleground state, and don’t let anybody on TV or the radio tell you any differently.”