For months Republican Secretary of State candidate Chad Brown had been advertising an event with former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, but at the last moment Schilling cancelled for family reasons. In his place former Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart headlined the event. Stewart was the Panthers’ first-round draft pick in 2008, had a career 7,335 rushing yards, and was part of the Panthers team that went to the Super Bowl in 2015.
Stewart spoke of the importance of his faith, which allowed him to know that he mattered when he was a young man and the importance of contributing to future generations. As former athletes both Stewart and Brown have taken part in local charity events, and Brown spoke about how he’s been impressed by Stewart’s willingness to do the small things for the community.
Brown’s speeches tend to be more personal in nature, and last night he spoke about the first time he ever ran for office and how he waited until the last minute to file because he was afraid to fail. He spoke about the importance of people who had come alongside him and encouraged him in his run for Secretary of State—a seat that has not been held by Republicans since William Howerton left office in 1877.
Brown, a Gaston County Commissioner and former professional baseball player, was leading the field of primary candidates in a Civitas Institute poll that came out in December of last year. In the poll, Brown was at 20% while his opponents E.C. Sykes and Michael LaPaglia were at 5% and 4% respectively. Council of State seats, such as the Secretary of State, tend to receive less attention from polling firms than other races so it is difficult to tell how the landscape has changed since December.
Brown has attracted the support of most of the Republican officials in his home county of Gaston and the event was attended by several current and former county commissioners and municipal officeholders. Among those attending were Tracy Philbeck, who briefly considered a primary challenge to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, and Jason Williams, the former manager for Mark Harris’ congressional campaign. Philbeck currently serves on the board of commissioners with Brown while Williams had up until 2016 when his term expired.
The Secretary of State’s office is currently held by Elaine Marshall who was first elected to the seat in 1996 and was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010. In the 2020 election, Marshall defeated Republican nominee LaPaglia 52% to 47% in a race where LaPaglia reported raising $27,772 to Marshall’s $460,017.