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Lexington native Cal Cunningham announced Tuesday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the lieutenant governor’s race in 2020.
Cunningham made the announcement on the campus of Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh Tuesday morning and later traveled to Lexington to give a speech in front of the Davidson County Historical Museum.
“I think it’s a trying time for our state,” said Cunningham, describing why he decided to run for office. “We’ve been through quite a bit. Among the things we’ve been through, we’ve missed a lot of opportunities to move our state forward, to invest in the future and try to make sure that we have the quality of life here in North Carolina that we’re used to and that really fulfills the promise of what this state can be.”
The 45-year-old Cunningham, who currently lives in Raleigh, grew up in Lexington and attended Lexington City Schools before graduating from Forsyth Country Day School. After high school, he received an undergraduate degree and law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
In November 2000, at the age of 27, he was elected to the N.C. Senate in a district that represented parts of Davidson, Rowan and Iredell counties. In 2010, he attempted to run for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary, but lost in a run-off to Elaine Marshall.
Cunningham is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
He is currently vice president of WasteZero, an environmental services and waste reduction company, and vice chairman of the Governor’s Crime Commission. He previously served on the Davidson County Community College Board of Trustees.
Cunningham said he wants to be a champion for children and families.
The candidate noted that he wants to expand Medicaid, take on the challenge of gun violence and work to provide clean air and water for residents.
Regarding children, Cunningham said he wants more educational resources and access for the young people of North Carolina.
“I believe the needs of children start in the first 2,000 days of their lives,” Cunningham said. “It includes making sure there’s well care and early childhood education opportunities for young people so that when they get into the school system, they are prepared to learn. Investing in public education is a very important next component of that, making sure that we are compensating our educators, that there’s a quality educator in every classroom and then when it comes time to go to college, that whatever your zip code or the size of your pocketbook, you’re able to afford college. It’s a critical part of plugging into the new economy and developing the skills needed to be a part of this very fast changing economy.”
The primaries for the office of lieutenant governor are not until March 2020.
However, Cunningham said he wanted to start his campaign early so that he can go on a listening tour throughout the state and speak with residents, particularly in areas that are heavily Republican.
“This is a fast changing state,” Cunningham said. “It’s a big state. There are lots of things to know and learn and I want to make sure that I develop relationships that can not only be important to being successful in the campaign, but make sure in office I’m well-equipped to be a voice for our fellow citizens. … I think starting early is important to make sure that if blessed with an opportunity to serve, that I’m ready to do so.”
Current Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s term will expire in 2020, and he is expected to run for governor against Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020. Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn, who represents most of Buncombe County, announced her bid for lieutenant governor in December.
Cunningham added that he believes in the promise of public service and that serving as lieutenant governor is an opportunity to make a difference.
“The challenges that are coming at us right now are very real and so I’m going to dig in and work to build the state that I think we know that we can have and that we should have,” Cunningham said.