It was in early May when I predicted Elaine Marshall would win the Democratic nomination for United States Senate, and yesterday, about six weeks after she almost won in the opening primary, the current North Carolina Secretary of State won overwhelmingly over Cal Cunningham, the darling of the Washington Democratic Senatorial Leadership. Can you say Harry Reid?
This result shows how little influence President Barack Obama and the “new/old Democratic leadership in Washington has in North Carolina. And, that may be a blessing in disguise for Marshall as she heads into the fall campaign and a date with incumbent US Senator Richard Burr, the Republican nominee. And that Burr is the incumbent, even though he’s the closest of the two of being an activist conservative, may work against him.
Marshall, who has been in entrenched in North Carolina politics for a lifetime, was not the establishment candidate, the one that challengers point to as the leaders of the problems facing our country today. Marshall had the support of many longtime members of the North Carolina Democratic Party but it was Cunningham who was tabbed as the Democratic salvation, the anointed one who would lead the Party of the Donkey to a second US Senate seat in North Carolina.
What the Party bosses in Washington did not figure was that a low-key campaigner without much money such as Marshall would get into the race, much less lead the initial primary. Once that happened, there was no way short of a scandal that would keep Marshall from the appointed victory because in the run-off there was no big deal confronting the voters, and the only voters that really cared were those with long-time ties to North Carolina Democratic politics who wanted one of their own in place and not one of Harry Reid’s selected few. Those voters went to the polls Tuesday.
Even though in reality Marshall is the establishment, it seems as if the electorate is tired of the status quo, and we’re seeing a huge change in who will be in charge of our elected spaces next year. Just a short look at some races of interest in our backyard:
In the 8th Congressional District of North Carolina, former sportscaster Harold Johnson, who I remember as a jovial broadcaster who was less than controversial on any sports subject, won the runoff yesterday for the Republican nomination to meet democratic incumbent Larry Kissell, a first-termer who knocked out established GOPer Robin Hayes two years ago. This will be an interesting race in the fall because the national Democratic Party has decided to target the 8th District to try to make sure it stays in the “D” column.
But, with Democratic leadership tossing the rabbit in the briar patch, there’s a good chance Johnson can win in November. Here’s what NC Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen said of Johnson: "His admission that he shares the extreme views of his right-wing primary opponent is downright scary and something that should give pause to voters.” From where I sit, that’s one of those high and mighty statements that Democrats, if the intention is to win, should not be made. At some point, the leadership will realize that the extreme views are those coming out of the Democratic leadership in DC and that North Carolina voters in general do not relate.
Even after just one term, Kissell will be one of those “through the bums out” candidates, one of the problems not the solutions, by fall. Here’s what Johnson said after the win last night: “Is there a plan anywhere in this administration or from Larry Kissell that says: We're going to put this district back to work? We have people in this district who are eager to work, who want work, and what is the plan?” Unfortunately, even if he had the best ideas in the world, Kissell is having to toe the Nancy Pelosi line and will be tagged as her man in the fall elections.
In the 13th District, Bernie Reeves, who is a likeable fellow who I’ve known for a long time, was the establishment candidate (even in his first run for office), trying to give the GOP a leader with more of a business slant than a Tea Party look. It didn’t fly, even though the first primary vote has been close between Reeves and eventual winner Bill Randall who moved to North Carolina just 19 months ago. Randall took hold of the Tea Party banner and ran with it. He now faces Democratic incumbent Brad Miller. What’s really interesting is that Randall is black and a Republican.
Which brings us to South Carolina where Republicans chose Tim Scott, also black, over Paul Thurmond (Strom’s son) to lead the GOP in the 1st District race. Scott, who was the first black Republican in the South Carolina legislature in over 100 years when he was elected two years ago, received 69 percent of the vote in that race yesterday. He was endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and will be heavily favored over his Democratic opponent who is also black. Scott wants to cut federal spending and simplify the tax code. Bingo!
When the fall results come in, we may well have a new United States Senator, but we may also have new Congressmen, not only in North Carolina but throughout the nation. There's a chance the Republicans can take over the US House. The electorate is on a roll when it comes to national leadership. When Obama was elected, it was for change, we were told. The voters thought the change would be in the way government functioned and the way laws are made. That has not and will not happen until those who were are there now are defeated and those who are elected now do not win re-election.
Hopefully we are beyond voting for candidates who say to vote for them and they’ll take care of us when they get to office. We are definitely beyond voting for candidates because the Party Leadership says so. As a matter of fact, in today’s political climate, that’s probably the kiss of death. Just ask Cal Cunningham. His results in the US Senate race might have been different had he not been the establishment—Washington or not—candidate. Today, it’s simply a bad label to have.