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Republican primary: Michele Morrow defeats incumbent State Superintendent Catherine Truitt

Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.
Michele Morrow campaign
Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.

In a surprise, incumbent State Superintendent Catherine Truitt was defeated by challenger Michele Morrow in the Republican primary on Super Tuesday.

Morrow defeated Truitt by about 4 percentage points, making it one of the closest Council of State races of the night in North Carolina.

Morrow has never before held public office. In 2022, she lost a bid for a seat on the Wake County school board. She touts her 16 years of homeschooling experience and was formerly an emergency department nurse and Christian missionary in Mexico.

Morrow casts herself as more conservative than Truitt. In a chart Morrow displayed on her website, she portrays herself as further right on issues of critical race theory, school safety and parent rights. For example, Morrow points out that Truitt delayed implementation of the Parents Bill of Rights, a bill that Truitt also strongly supported and helped pass.

Morrow participated in the march on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to protest Joe Biden as the 2020 presidential winner, but she said she left the area when ordered by authorities and didn’t enter the building, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

At a recent election forum that Morrow posted on her YouTube channel, she said she was running because she believes, “the biggest threat to our constitutional republic is the indoctrination happening right now in the public educational system in North Carolina.”

Truitt has been a reliable supporter of Republicans in the General Assembly and an advocate of school choice and training public school teachers in the instruction of phonics. Her campaign donors include charter school advocates and some Republican party chapters and clubs.

"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 state," Truitt said in a statement. "It has been one of the great honors of my life to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Our students deserve the absolute best, and I'm committed to delivering for them during the remainder of my tenure."

Truitt declined a request for comment on the election at the monthly state board of education meeting Wednesday morning. She says her administration has a policy that it does not discuss election or campaign-related matters inside the NC Department of Public Instruction.

Neither Truitt nor Morrow spent much money on the election compared to other statewide races. Most of the contributions to Morrow’s campaign in her most recent finance report come from individual donors giving $500 or less.

Morrow told WUNC’s Due South before the election that she believed she would defeat Truitt in the primary with an 80-to-20 percent margin.

“I come to that number only because as I have been praying about what we’re doing, that’s the number that came to me,” Morrow said.

Morrow will face former Guilford County Superintendent Mo Green, who won the Democratic nomination, in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with information regarding Morrow's participation in the events on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email: lschlemmer@wunc.org