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Opinion Reading the signs from election filings

RALEIGH – Election filing is over. Now the fun really begins, with what some around the state capital refer to as the silly season.

We can now look forward to stump speeches where candidates slip up and speak of visiting all 50 counties. We can enjoy mailboxes packed with fliers filled with grainy images making political opponents look as if they just emerged from an alley after beating a puppy. We can smirk as the TV news broadcasts are filled with 30- and 60-second interruptions that alternately make candidates look like George Washington and Osama bin Laden.

Before the merriment begins, the election filings themselves reveal a lot about the current state of politics in North Carolina.

Looking at who is running for what, you can see that the state remains in a period of remarkable political change and uncertainty. Plenty of people see that change as an opportunity to step into political office.

Part of the uncertainty is due to the once-a-decade changes in congressional and legislative district maps. Those new lines have caused some longtime officeholders to decide enough is enough. Others didn't need new lines to make the call.

Seventy-five candidates have filed to run for the state’s 13 congressional seats. Nearly one-third of those candidates are seeking two seats being given up by incumbents.

Eleven Republicans, one Democrat and one Libertarian are seeking the 9th congressional seat being vacated by Republican Sue Myrick in a district that runs through Mecklenburg, Union and Iredell counties.

Eight Republicans and three Democrats are seeking the 11th congressional district seat, in the western counties, that Democrat Heath Shuler decided to give up after the new lines took away parts of Buncombe County.

The jockeying to replace Gov. Beverly Perdue, after she decided not to seek another term, on the Democratic side of the governor’s race also became predictable. Six Democrats filed, with three – Lt. Governor Walter Dalton, former Congressman Bob Etheridge and state Rep. Bill Faison – holding or having held substantial elected offices.

A number of state legislators and former state legislators are also seeking down ballot statewide races.

That’s all the obvious stuff.

Less apparent from the election filings is that Democrats – though they wouldn’t admit it – seem to be all but conceding the state Senate to the Republicans for the next two years. They don’t seem to be giving up on the state House.

Just two years after losing control of the legislature, no Democrats filed in 10 Senate districts currently represented by Republicans. The lack of interest isn’t surprising in foothills districts that have long been GOP strongholds. It is a bit jarring Down East, where old-line, pro-business Democrats held sway until relatively recently.

In the House, meanwhile, Democrats have filed in 29 districts where incumbent Republicans are seeking re-election.

Some of those challenges, like one to former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, are probably exercises in futility.

Nonetheless, they show that Democrats haven’t given up on dreams of winning back a House majority.


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