North Carolina’s primary election Tuesday has lost some of its fizzle.
When former Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich decided to suspend their campaigns, the air began to leak out of the Republican Presidential Primary race. No cherry bomb speeches. No flood of negative TV ads.
The Democratic race for governor has heated to a slow simmer. Lt. Governor Walter Dalton has proved himself to be the best fundraiser of the top two candidates, and his TV advertisements account for his quick rise in the polls, from 15 percent three months ago to 36 percent last week. Former Congressman Bob Etheridge is the other serious candidate.
State House Representative Bill Faison never got past the starting blocks, despite a decent and feisty showing in the three televised debates.
Etheridge, 70, had a veteran’s command in the debates, but the party’s money people apparently never showed up for him. The thinking is that the party is looking to a younger generation, and heavy-hitters such as Bob Eubanks in Chapel Hill, former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell, and publisher Frank Daniels Jr. are supporting Dalton, 62. He has raised about $1.4 million to Etheridge’s $310,000.
Any Democrat will have a formidable opponent in former Charlotte Mayor and 2008 Republican nominee Pat McCrory. He’s on the payroll of a big Charlotte law firm, but he’s been allowed to use the past three or four years to run for governor. And he has.
McCrory raised about $1.5 million at the end of 2011, and he has raised another $1.7 million in the last quarter. He’s well known compared to his Democratic opponents and comfortable with TV. He likes campaigning and that comes across to voters. McCrory will breeze through this primary.
There are a number of new names on the primary ballot for other Council of State offices and some familiar ones such as Linda Coleman for the Democratic lieutenant governor position and Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley and House member Dale Folwell for the Republicans.
In the Triangle, two Jesse Helms’ protégés, Republicans Paul Coble and George Holding, are battling over the 13th Congressional District with 2010 nominee Bill Randall. There’s a spirited fight among Republicans to succeed Congresswoman Sue Myrick in Charlotte’s 9th District.
The race that seems to have the most energy and is spending the most money is the contest to approve or reject Amendment One, the ban on gay marriage. It has drawn notice from the New York Times and money from all over. Opponents have raised over $700,000 and the proponents half that.
Some political observers believe the Amendment One campaign will draw more conservative and liberal voters to the polls than the candidate races. One can hope the conversation stays polite even if it’s a bald case of mixing religion and politics.