A poll released today by NC Civitas shows Gaston County Commissioner Chad Brown has broken out to an early lead in the Republican primary for Secretary of State with a 15% margin over his two opponents, E.C. Sykes, and Michael LaPaglia. The race is in no way set in stone, as the poll shows a tremendously high number of voters are still undecided. The poll is still noteworthy because it shows Brown with a sizable lead over LaPaglia—the Republican’s 2016 nominee—even though Brown has no previous name recognition at a statewide level.
The Secretary of State race has the potential to be competitive in 2020 as LaPaglia received 2,163,185 votes to Democrat Elaine Marshall’s 2,368,091. LaPaglia reported raising a meager $27,772 to Marshall’s $460,017.
LaPaglia is hoping to be nominated a second time while E.C. Sykes (former Executive Director of the Faith and Religious Liberties Coalition for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign), and Chad Brown are running statewide for the first time.
Brown, who had served as Mayor of Stanley, NC before being elected to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners, started his adult life in baseball. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians as a left-handed pitcher from North Gaston High School in 1990, he opted instead to go to college. Two years later he was drafted a second time by the Toronto Blue Jays who took him in the 19th round from North Greenville University. He played in the minors for six years and finished with a career ERA of 4.24 and a WHIP of 1.456. It was through baseball that he made contact with Curt Schilling, who Brown announced will be joining him to campaign around the state in January.
After moving back to Gaston County he became frustrated with issues surrounding trash pickup in his home town of Stanley, and in 2009 he opted to run for mayor. He served one term and in 2011 when he refrained from seeking re-election. In 2014 he was elected to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners and was re-elected in 2018. It is a resume that sets him apart as the only Republican candidate for Secretary of State to have held elected office, a fact that he points out on his campaign website.
The results of the poll were: Brown 20%, Sykes 5%, LaPaglia 4%, and 71% undecided.