D.G. MARTIN: Others News Getting Overshadowed by Candidates
The "tidal wave" of the presidential primary washed away some of the other important stories from the May 6 elections.
Let's talk about a few stories that might have made headlines in any other year.
While Hillary Clinton lost in North Carolina on May 6, other women continued an amazing surge to dominance in statewide electoral politics. Because the Democrats nominated Kay Hagen to run against Elizabeth Dole, a woman is certain to win that high-profile Senate race. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue's victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary makes it possible, perhaps likely, that the state will have its first woman governor.
No woman ever served on the Council of State until 1996. As a result of the May primaries, they could become a majority. Perdue, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson already give women a strong presence.
Democrats nominated Janet Cowell for state treasurer and Beth Wood for state auditor. If they win and the incumbent women hold their seats, men will be a minority on the Council.
On the other hand, Barack Obama's decisive victory concealed the fact that, except for judicial races, no African Americans won a place on the statewide ballot for November's general election. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory's victory in the Republican race for governor broke several "rules": (1) Charlotte mayors can't win statewide elections. (2) Big money wins big races. (3) To win a North Carolina governor's race, a candidate has to start very early.
Of course, the so-called "Charlotte Rule" applies, if at all, to general elections. And McCrory, although he did not have the personal wealth of Fred Smith and Bill Graham, had plenty of wealthy supporters who gave him the resources to compete. Finally, although McCrory did not officially enter the governor's race until this year, he had been "preparing the way" long before Smith and Graham began their preparation.
When McCrory tests the "Charlotte Rule" again this fall, there will be an extra twist. The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, State Sen. Robert Pittenger, is also from Charlotte. This rare possibility of a "double dose" from Charlotte could increase the chances that voters in other parts of the state will worry again about Charlotte and "the Great State of Mecklenburg."
Richard Morgan's return to statewide politics as winner of the Republican nomination for superintendent of public instruction was one of the most interesting "overlooked" stories. As Co-Speaker of the state House of Representatives, he was once one of the most powerful Republican legislators. But because he cooperated with Democrats to gain his position, he was ostracized by many in his own party. Two years ago, he lost his legislative seat in a Republican primary election in his Moore County home. Now, he is a winner again. Did the Republican voters forgive -- or forget?
North Carolina's congressional incumbents rarely face strong challenges in primaries. So Third District Republican Congressman Walter Jones' victory against his primary challenger would have been big news in any other year. Because Jones, who was an early supporter of the war in Iraq, has become a critic, some of his former supporters deserted him. Still, he gained a solid victory in the primary, showing perhaps the power of incumbency, or Jones' personal popularity, or perhaps a growing skepticism about the war even among Jones' conservative Republican constituents.
Finally, the close results in the Democratic primary race for labor commissioner have set up an interesting situation. Mary Fant Donnan led with 27.54 percent of the vote. Since she did not secure the necessary 40 percent, the second-place candidate is entitled to call for a runoff. But who is the second-place candidate -- John, who got 24.36 percent, Ty Richardson with 24.18 percent, or Robin Anderson with 23.92 percent? The answer is John Brooks, unless a recount shows that Richards or Anderson is actually in second place.
Ordinarily, a candidate who loses by less that .5 percent can call for a runoff, but a quirk of election law makes it uncertain which of these candidates, if any, can call for the recount.
All these stories, and more, would have been headliners in any other year. If you missed them, blame Clinton and Obama.
D.G. Martin is the host of UNC-TV's "North Carolina Bookwatch," which airs Sundays at 5 p.m. This week's (May 25) guest is William Powell, editor of "Encyclopedia of North Carolina."
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