This story is the first installment in our “Contenders” series, where we outline the strengths and weaknesses of the people most likely to run for higher office in the coming years. Want to keep up? Sign up for the weekly Longleaf Politics newsletter.
Why Dale Folwell is a contender
First-term state treasurer Dale Folwell has been mostly absent from the conversation of who might run for higher office, but that’s a mistake. The 59-year-old is quietly amassing the experience to make a successful run for governor or U.S. Senate.
Dale Folwell’s advantages
Fiscal conservative bona fides. The Tea Party still has influence, and fiscal conservatism in general is popular among Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Folwell is walking the walk on cutting spending.
Conservative enthusiasm. For some reason, the last two state treasurers have been unusually popular. Janet Cowell was well-respected across the aisle, and Folwell is garnering the same level of enthusiasm.
Support from state employees. The State Employees Association of North Carolina is an influential organization, and Folwell has been their advocate.
[Longleaf story: Dale Folwell passing major test of principles vs politics]
Statewide success. The state treasurer is elected statewide, and Folwell captured the seat despite big-name opposition from Dan Blue III.
Dale Folwell’s disadvantages
Limited scope. While Folwell does have considerable experience in the state legislature to lean on, his influence as state treasurer is somewhat contained. His name recognition is good for a state treasurer — but these folks are only so well known.
Fundraising. In his 2016 race for state treasurer, Folwell raised just $1.2 million. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s also still an open question how easily he could raise, say, $20 million.
True conservative. While this is nothing but an advantage on fiscal issues, in a broader campaign Folwell would run the risk of being tied too closely to the more rightward wing of the Republican Party.
The crystal ball
Dale Folwell will be a formidable political force over the next decade in North Carolina. Don’t count on him challenging Dan Forest for the Republican nomination for governor in 2020. Expect Folwell to easily win a second term for state treasurer, and then look at U.S. Senate in 2022 or the governorship in 2024 or 2028.