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DAVIDSON COUNTY — A former area state legislator and candidate for the U.S. Senate is planning to make a bid for North Carolina’s second-highest office.
Davidson County native Cal Cunningham, a Democrat who grew up in Lexington, said he’s giving serious consideration to running for lieutenant governor in 2020. The seat will be vacated by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who intends to run for governor in two years and can’t seek another lieutenant governor term because of term limits.
“I’m taking active steps and having conversations with friends to put together a campaign for lieutenant governor,” said Cunningham, a veteran of the Iraq War who serves in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Cunningham told The High Point Enterprise that any formal announcement about his plans would come after the holiday season sometime next year.
Cunningham and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Raleigh this past summer for their professional careers.
Cunningham, who has a professional background as an attorney, is a businessman who runs WasteZero. The business based in Wake County works with cities and towns across the nation to develop recycling and sustainability policies.
The only other candidate to publicly announce interest in the 2020 lieutenant governor’s race is Republican Deborah Cochran, the former mayor of Mount Airy who works as an educator.
Cunningham told The Enterprise he would run for lieutenant governor in part to provide support to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who will seek his second term in 2020.
He also said the lieutenant governor post would give Cunningham a springboard to promote public education issues. Cunningham said as lieutenant governor he would sit on the state Board of Education and N.C. community college board.
“I want to make sure we give students the skills that they need in a changing and dynamic economy,” he said.
Cunningham served in the N.C. Senate last decade. When first elected in 2000 at the age of 27, he was among the youngest legislators ever serving at the N.C. General Assembly.
Cunningham relinquished his seat at the end of 2002. He gave up his state Senate seat after one term in anticipation of serving in Iraq, where he earned military decorations and commendations. He continues to serve in the Reserves, having risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel and also having served in Afghanistan.
In his last foray into elected politics, Cunningham pursued the Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate. He lost the 2010 party primary to Democratic N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who was defeated in the general election that fall by Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.