North Carolina GOP faithful reach to the far right for state superintendent nominee

Published March 7, 2024

By Greg Childress

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s shocking primary loss on Tuesday shows the extent of North Carolina’s dramatic shift to the right on matters of public education.

The state’s Republican voters ditched a conservative incumbent in Truitt for a far-right conservative in Michele Morrow, who boasts a campaign website populated with videos in which Morrow rails against critical race theory, President Joe Biden’s border policies and other hot-button conservative issues.

Critical race theory is an academic discipline that examines how American racism has shaped law and public policy. Most teachers say it is not taught in K-12 classrooms.

Catherine Truitt speaks to a state House committee
State Superintendent Catherine Truitt addresses the House Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. (Screenshot: stream)


Truitt lost even though she appeared to do and say all of the right things to win the Republican nomination. The superintendent has championed a return to phonics-based reading instruction and enthusiastically supported school vouchers, charter schools and the state’s controversial Parents’ Bill of Rights.

“While last night’s election did not go the way I had hoped, I’m deeply proud of what we accomplished and I am gratified by the support of educators, parents, school and legislative leaders and so many others from across the states,” Truitt said in a statement.

She told the GOP that the state’s public schools under her leadership “bounced back from the pandemic faster than the rest of the nation. We put phonics-based reading back in classrooms, we prioritized workforce readiness to align the K-12 system with our rapidly changing job market, and we championed and delivered choice for families.”

Support for those GOP staples are essential for success in the state’s Republican Party. It was not enough, however, on Tuesday, for Truitt to hold off Morrow, a former nurse turned stay-at-home mother and homeschool teacher from Cary, who now works as a child advocate with an organization that professes to protect children from child pornography.

Michele Morrow
Michele Morrow (Photo: Screenshot from Twitter)


Morrow is a self-described Christian conservative who gained notoriety in 2022 when she unsuccessfully ran for a Wake County Board of Education seat. In that race, she was endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party and Moms for Liberty.

In Tuesday’s primary, she was endorsed by several Christian leaders and far-right organizations such as Moms for America, a national group that has fought against teaching of critical race theory in K-12 classroom. The group also fights agains what it considers the political and social indoctrination of children in schools.

Twitter posts showed that Morrow was confident going into the primary. “The people of North Carolina are ready to renew K-12 public education,” she wrote on Monday. “The process begins tomorrow when I become the Republican nominee for Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

Morrow won 52.1% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary to Truitt’s 47.9%. That translated to 455,245 votes for Morrow and 418,575 for Truitt, a 36,670-vote difference.

Morrow ran strongest in the western part of the state, but did manage to edge Truitt in Wake County: 40,166 votes to 36,635, a 3,531-vote difference. She also found success in the Piedmont and on the state’s coast where Truitt campaigned extensively ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Truitt ran strong in parts of eastern North Carolina, the Sandhills and the Northeastern quadrant of the state. She won Brunswick, as well as Pamlico, Hyde, Tyrrell counties on the coast.

Morrow’s primary victory shows the extent to which the far-right has taken over the state’s Republican Party, said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake. Parents with children in North Carolina’s public schools should be alarmed Chaudhuri said.

“I cannot recall in my 25 years of public service where we have had two candidates at the top of the ticket — [Lt. Gov.] Mark Robinson and Michele Morrow — who are more anti-public education running together,” Chaudhuri said.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday night, Robinson promised to remove what he called the “woke agenda” from classrooms and to provide children with a classical education that includes reading, writing, mathematics, civics and history and “all those things that teach our children how to be great citizens of this constitutional Republic.”

Robinson, who is from Guilford County, will square off against State Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, in the governor’s race in November.

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri
Sen. Jay J. Chaudhuri – Photo:


Chaudhuri said the far-right wing of the state’s Republican Party flexed its muscle on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, the extreme MAGA base turned out and elected to nominate a superintendent candidate who has called public education socialism and was at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 [2021] and has called for arming our school teachers,” Chaudhuri said. “Maybe Morrow’s outcome wasn’t surprising because it tracks the complete dominance of former President Donald Trump’s in the Republican primary.”

Morrow will face Democrat Mo Green in the Nov. 5 election. Green is endorsed by former governors Jim Hunt and Bev Perdue and the NC Association of Educators (NCAE). He became the first Black superintendent of Guilford County Schools in 2008. He resigned in 2015 to lead the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.

Mo Green
Democratic nominees for Superintendent, Maurice “Mo” Green (Courtesy photo)


Chaudhuri said that the “good news” for Democrats, Republicans and independent voters is that Democrats are sending an “eminently qualified” candidate for superintendent into the General Election.

“Just as there couldn’t be a clearer contrast between candidates at the top of the ticket [Robinson and Stein in the governor’s race], I think after last night, there’s not a clearer contrast in the candidates that we have for state superintendent.”

Late Tuesday, as the primary smoke cleared, the N.C. Association of Educators sent this message in support of the candidates it endorsed and presumably warning voters about the danger of supporting extreme far-right candidates such as Morrow and Robinson:

“The 2024 general election will be critical to the future of public education in North Carolina,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said. “While anti-public school politicians want to tear down our schools, we need elected officials who will build them up. “These candidates will help us build a movement to bring the guarantee of excellence in public education to every child in North Carolina, no matter their race, gender, income, or neighborhood.”