Seven month forecast: stormy with a probability of was

Published March 14, 2024

By Tom Campbell

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the seven months before the November 5th general elections promise to be ugly, costly and divisive. They will impact our moods, our interpersonal relations, our work and normal events.  
Typically, after the primary elections is a period I call “reconciliation month.” To win primaries the candidates must reach out to the most extreme factions of their party. But to win the general election they must move to much more centrist positions and attempt to mend fences with those who might have felt neglected or excluded. Not this cycle.
Candidates have already “put on the combat pads,” are raising money and launching their campaigns. Super PACs and Independent expenditure groups, like 527s and 501( c)4s, are popping up like spring daffodils. They have neither the moral, legal nor spending restrictions candidates must follow. With obtuse sounding names required for identification slugs on broadcast, print and even web advertising, we have little idea who donates or how much. Sadly, these groups often have too much influence on election outcomes. Their only real restriction is they aren’t supposed to have direct contact or input with the candidate’s campaign - a “wink-wink” unenforceable stipulation.
Do you remember the fable about the scorpion and the frog? It teaches that vicious people cannot resist hurting others, even when it is in their own interests. It’s not hyperbole to compare Donald Trump to the scorpion. But Joe Biden, in his State of the Union Address, showed us a feisty and combative side, demonstrating he’s ready to put on the gloves and go the distance with 45. If the two agree to debate they will need EMS to mop up the blood. Most of us would prefer different candidates, but these are the two we’ve got.
North Carolina has several state races that promise excitement, emotion and controversy.
Mark Robinson is infamous because of his outrageous comments. Rob-a-bob-Robinson is an election and holocaust denier, advocates we return to the “good old days” when women couldn’t vote, demonizes abortion (though he paid for one for his own wife), quotes Adolph Hitler and has told Black Democrats they are modern day slaves who don’t even know who their masters are. To be sure there’s more coming.
Robinson won’t take this beating lying down. Count on him striking back at Democrat Josh Stein’s ultra-liberal politics, his refusal as AG to defend laws he didn’t support, his previous record in the legislature and as Attorney General. And there will be not-so-subtle insinuendos about Stein’s Jewish heritage.
This promises to be the costliest and nastiest gubernatorial contest we’ve experienced. But it might take a back seat to our Superintendent of Public Instruction election.
Michele Morrow upset incumbent Cathy Truitt in the biggest surprise of the primary, even though she has no experience in public education. Morrow, a nurse, participated in the January 6th march on the capital but says she left when instructed by authorities and never entered the building. She’s a MAGA supporter who home-schools her children and wants to cut funding for public education, declaring public schools indoctrinate children with left-leaning views of diversity, inclusion and history. She’s a fighter.
Her opponent is Democrat Mo Green, Superintendent of Guilford County Schools for seven years, then Executive Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. This donnybrook will pit traditional public school supporters against passionate voucher advocates. Already the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups are getting into the fray. Between now and November expect charges and countercharges, liberal vs. conservative politics, and experience vs. passion.
Before November’s main event there are two statewide runoffs on May 14th. A second primary for the Republican Lieutenant Governor’s nomination will feature Jim O’Neill, the District Attorney for the 31st prosecutorial district, and Hal Weatherman, former chief of staff for former Lt. Governor Dan Forest and before that for Congressman Sue Myrick. Neither will likely have lots of money so it will be interesting to see how they pursue the runoff.
The same can be said about the Republican runoff for State Auditor. First-time candidate Jack Clark is a CPA with auditing experience, running against Dave Boliek, Jr., with law and MBA degrees. Boliek demonstrated, as chair of the UNC Chapel Hill board of trustees, a willingness to be controversial. Clark came out on top first time around, but can he prevail in the runoff?
And we’ve not even mentioned legislative and judicial contests that might be interesting.
November’s elections promise all the mayhem of an Allstate TV commercial. We’re predicting they will be stormy with a probability of ugly. This will be one Thanksgiving we really will be thankful to enjoy.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at