October 18, 2012
So much attention is being focused on the presidential race, it's easy to overlook the numerous state and local races.
Those who claim to know these things say Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory should win pretty handily over his Democratic opponent Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. The latest polls show McCrory up by over 10 points.
Dalton does have a handicap; he has the state Democratic party hanging around his neck. Democratic Gov. Bev "Dumpling" Perdue has been a disaster. Poor Dalton can't get Perdue out campaigning for him because it would just remind voters that Perdue's campaign staff keeps pleading guilty to crimes committed to help her get elected in 2008, when she narrowly defeated McCrory. In fact, the message that would send is that if Perdue had played by the rules then she might not have won.
Then there is former Gov. Mike Easley, who had to accept a conviction on a felony charge to keep from going to prison himself, so you can't get him out on the campaign trail. Nor can Dalton rely on former Speaker of the House Jim Black, who did have to go to prison but is out. But having someone who was convicted of bribing a fellow legislator just doesn't go over well on the campaign trail. Former Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps would fall into the same category.
Dalton has had to go back to Gov. Jim Hunt to find a former governor or someone of similar stature who won't do more harm than good out on the campaign trail.
So it looks like North Carolinians want a change in Raleigh and are going to elect McCrory governor and reelect a Republican majority in the state House and state Senate.
What is odd is that the political pundits have been reporting that it appears the Council of State may continue to be largely Democratic, with the incumbents who are mostly Democrats ahead in the polls.
Of course, the top of the national ticket has in the past two weeks gone through a remarkable change with Mitt Romney making a tremendous surge following the debate debacle two weeks ago. The top of the ticket has a huge effect on down ticket races, and if Romney wins big that could make the polls taken in late September or early October obsolete.
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Dan Forest has run a good campaign, and it seems like people would want McCrory to have a lieutenant governor he could work with. But according to the polls that race is within the margin of error, although Forest has pulled slightly ahead. The Democratic candidate, Linda Coleman – the former director of state personnel and a long time bureaucrat who has the support of state employees – appears to be losing ground.
It goes on down the line. Wake County school board member and Republican school superintendent candidate John Tedesco wants to bring reform to the state Department of Public Instruction. Democratic State Superintendent June Atkinson, who is running for reelection, has been down in Raleigh forever and plans to bring more of the same.
One poll showed Tedesco down by 10 points, which if voters want reform in Raleigh seems strange.
Republican candidate for secretary of state Ed Goodwin was down seven points to Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who is running for reelection. Once again if voters want some reform in Raleigh they shouldn't be reelecting the folks who need to be reformed, but that is what the polls say.
One explanation particularly in these Council of State races is name recognition. Marshall ran in 2010 for the US Senate against Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who didn't have much trouble getting reelected.
Here is what the endorsement for Marshall in that Senate race in The Chronicle at Duke University says: "Although she is not the most charismatic or politically astute candidate …" and that is what her friends say.
But she did get name recognition from that race and has name recognition for her previous statewide races.
Goodwin, chairman of the Chowan County Board of Commissioners, had very little statewide name recognition starting out, but is both charismatic and politically astute, so maybe the voters of North Carolina by Election Day will realize that. The race appears to be tightening. One poll in September showed Goodwin down by 10.
In the race for Insurance commissioner, Republican challenger and Guilford County resident Mike Causey according to one poll is down by eight points to Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, who is running for reelection.
Once again if people want reform down in Raleigh they can't continue to elect the same old Democrats who have been running things for over 100 years, although Goodwin hasn't been there that long and is only running for his second term.
Causey should win Guilford County, but it is tough to run a statewide campaign for these Council of State offices because it is really difficult to raise money.
The Republican challengers don't have the name recognition that comes with holding a statewide office and can't raise the money to run the kind of campaign that raises people's awareness. But a big win at the top of the ticket could change all of that.
Republican candidate for state auditor Debra Goldman is in a little better shape, down by four points to Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood, who is running for reelection. Wood has the advantage of incumbency and over a decade working for the state auditor's office.
Goldman is a member of the Wake County school board who wants to bring reform to the state auditor's office. If people want reform in state government, and it appears they do, then they need to elect Republicans rather than the Democrats who have run Raleigh forever.
In the state treasurer's race, Republican candidate Steven Royal is down five points to Democratic State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who is running for reelection, and that race is also one that has tightened quite a bit. In September Royal was down by 12 points.
Once again Royal promises to bring reform to the office and Cowell promises to keep running things like she has. Royal said that the state pension, which was overfunded, is now drastically underfunded.
One thing the polls do show is that North Carolina voters are consistent and are in favor of incumbents in the Council of State offices. Brown Summit farmer and Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler is up 10 points over Democratic challenger Walter Smith. Troxler has gotten a jumpstart on bringing Republican reforms to Raleigh. Smith worked for the US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency for over 30 years, so he certainly knows bureaucracy from the inside.
Republican Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry is up by five points over Democratic candidate John C. Brooks.
Berry has her name in every elevator in the state, which gives lots of us with short attention spans a smile every time we take an elevator ride.
Brooks had served as commissioner of labor for 16 years and is 75 years old. Not as old as some people running for office, but it's not usually an age where people are taking on new jobs. ...continued on page 2