Let the games begin

Published March 1, 2012

The May 8th primary elections promise contrasts, excitement and perhaps some revelations. Many races drew large fields of candidates but far too many legislative matches had little or no opposition. What should we have expected when the filing deadline fell on Leap Day?

It’s a shame most of the interest in our presidential primary might come from the seven Libertarians on the ballot. President Obama is unopposed and even with four big name Republicans the ultimate nominee will probably be determined before we vote.

At least four congressional contests are worthy of attention; three are open seats and redrawn district lines present new opportunities in others. Sue Myrick announced she was retiring from her 9th District seat and it should be fun to watch the eleven Republicans who signed up, including a former sheriff, a former legislator, an incumbent legislator, a city council member, a Tea Party activist and a pastor-skydiver. Democrat Heath Shuler decided to give up his 11th District seat after lawmakers made it the most Republican leaning district in the state. Three Democrats and eight Republicans are in the race. Brad Miller was redistricted out of his 13th District seat and two Democrats and three Republicans will wage battle, including the former Eastern District U.S. Attorney, the chairman of the Wake Commissioners and the 2010 GOP nominee. The makeup of our congressional delegation, currently seven Democrats and six Republicans, will likely become nine or ten Republicans in Washington when November’s results are final.

We can only imagine what the field might have been in the gubernatorial primaries had Governor Perdue not waited so late to announce she wasn’t running. Six Democrats, six Republicans and one Libertarian complete the field. Bob Etheridge has the name recognition but needs cash to prevail. Lt. Governor Walter Dalton has the cash but isn’t well known. Bill Faison has cash but has never run statewide and is the dark horse among serious Democratic contenders. The five challengers in the Republican primary will be a nuisance, perhaps forcing Pat McCrory to spend some of his war chest, but McCrory will prevail. Even though there was early speculation of candidates to run against Roy Cooper, the Attorney General drew no opposition. Other Council of State races will be competitive, but unfortunately won’t garner much attention, especially with the emotional marriage amendment on the ballot sucking up airtime.

The biggest disappointment came in legislative races, where 25 percent of the 170 seats are already decided. You have to wonder if Democrats couldn’t identify candidates or just gave up trying to retake control of the legislature. Come January, about one-half of our lawmakers will be first or second term members, virtually eliminating institutional memory in our General Assembly.

The real drama on May 8th might be who makes it to the runoff election, held this year on July 17th. It is all but certain there will be a runoff in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Candidates will want to spend enough to make sure they make the runoff but save funds for the runoff. Walter Dalton seems certain to be one of the two in the runoff, so the question is whether Etheridge or Faison will be the other candidate. The same strategy will hold true in congressional contests.

The big blessing is there is that there are only ten weeks before we vote, not a lot of time for candidates to make their cases, especially as the airwaves will be filled with candidate and issue advertising. Brace yourself for a plethora of ugly messages, many purchased by so-called 527 groups, nebulous organizations we know nothing about. While we welcome the free flow of ideas and embrace freedom of speech we should demand to know who is paying for this speech.

The filing is over, the candidates are set. Let the games begin.