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In Republican runoff, state auditor candidates offer contrasting visions for watchdog agency

Dave Boliek (left) and Jack Clark (right) have advanced to the runoff for the 2024 Republican nomination for North Carolina State Auditor.
Campaign Photos, Submitted Images
Composite by WUNC
Dave Boliek (left) and Jack Clark (right) have advanced to the runoff for the 2024 Republican nomination for North Carolina State Auditor.

Republican primary voters are headed back to the polls next Tuesday for a rare statewide runoff election for lieutenant governor and state auditor.

Until last week, most of the attention in this month’s runoff was focused on the 13th Congressional District. But after former President Donald Trump endorsed former federal prosecutor Brad Knott to be the Republican nominee there, Knott’s opponent Kelly Daughtry dropped out.

That could mean few voters show up for the remaining contests on the ballot — the first statewide runoff since 2012.

"I think we're going to see somewhere below half of the turnout from the first primary," said political scientist Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University. "So, these are really, really small numbers in terms of statewide voters. We may be at 4 or 5-6% of these eligible voters."

One of the remaining competitive races will determine the Republican nominee for state auditor, a position that often gets little attention. The auditor is the watchdog for state government, reviewing state agencies to find inappropriate spending and other management problems.

Jack Clark, a certified public accountant who works for N.C. Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes, came in first in the March primary. But his vote total wasn’t enough to avoid a runoff with Dave Boliek, an attorney who serves on the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees.

The key difference between the two candidates is their resumes. Clark says his CPA background makes him the best qualified for the job.

"I worked as an auditor for years, so I feel I have the background for this kind of niche role," Clark said. "We've elected two consecutive CPAs for the role with an audit background, so I just felt that was important."

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Jessica Holmes, an attorney and former Wake County commissioner who was appointed to the role in December following the resignation of Beth Wood.

Boliek’s background is also in the legal field.

"What I bring to the table is maturity," Boliek said. "I have led larger organizations, I've run businesses, I've got a master's in business administration as well as a law degree. So not only have I worked as a prosecutor, from traffic court all the way to handling murder cases and everywhere in between, but I have started a business from scratch, managed that business, sold a business."

Boliek touts his work on the UNC-Chapel Hill board, where he helped start an audit committee that addressed a structural deficit in the university’s budget. He wants to take a similar approach to problems at the Division of Motor Vehicles.

"It's a disgrace right now," Boliek said. "I have pledged this on day one: DMV is going to be audited for efficiency and economy. We're going to look for some best practices, and we're going to make recommendations to the governor and the legislature on how to make DMV better."

Boliek also wants to see the auditor's office create a "strike force or a rapid response team" to quickly look into issues like the financial problems at Durham public schools that resulted in staff losing their raises.

But Boliek’s opponent wants to approach the job differently. Clark says it’s not appropriate to pledge specific audits before taking office.

"I just think it would set the auditor's office up as more of a combatant, and it would kind of incentivize me to find things, even if there aren't things to find," Clark said.

Clark has also criticized Boliek for having been a registered Democrat and voting in that party's primary as recently as 2020.

"That brings up questions of his motives, of his sincerity," Clark said. "He's been pitching some of his conservative achievements in recent years and months, but voters are still definitely a little skeptical."

Boliek describes himself as a lifelong conservative, and records show he's donated to GOP candidates for the past decade (he donated to Democrat Walter Dalton's campaign for governor in 2012). House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger have endorsed Boliek, along with several of his primary opponents who didn't make the runoff.

"I think the Republican Party represents the way I have lived my life and the way I continue to live my life every day," Boliek said. "Donald Trump has done more to open up the Republican Party to people across all spectrums of life, probably more so than anybody since Ronald Reagan, and I count myself in that population."

While Boliek is trying to reverse a second-place finish in March, his campaign has had a major financial advantage. Ahead of the March primary, his campaign reported raising more than $500,000 (including $100,000 he loaned his campaign), while Clark raised just $18,000. But records show Bob Luddy, a Raleigh businessman and major Republican donor, is supporting Clark in the runoff.

"I think people really liked the CPA and the audit background," Clark said. "There were so many people on the ballot on the Republican side, that if you're only trying to do a couple minutes of research per person for the auditor's race, you see, 'oh, there's just one guy with the CPA and the audit background.'"

In addition to the auditor race, the GOP primary ballot also features a runoff for lieutenant governor. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill faces Hal Weatherman, a former aide to Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

Voters eligible to cast ballots include registered Republicans as well as unaffiliated voters who picked the GOP ballot in March or didn’t vote in that primary, according to Cooper.

"It's extremely confusing," Cooper said. "If you get confused, just check with your county board of elections."

In addition to the Republican ballot, there’s a non-partisan runoff for the Orange County school board where all voters in that school district can participate.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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